"Aesthetics of Computer Graphics"

(Unpresented Conference Paper 1987)

 

 

1.# INTRODUCTION

The term Computer Art has been bandied around in a vague fashion for many years at Computer Graphic gatherings without any examination of the myriad of hard and tantalizing questions surrounding the subject.

 

  • Where is Computer Art heading ?
  • Can anybody make great Art with the aid of a computer ?
  • Is the Computer the ultimate artistic medium ?
    And what form should the art take ?
  • Will artificial Intelligence lead to Robot Artist ?
  • Is there any distinct future for Computer Graphics in Fine Art ?
  • Before we get carried away, at Ausgraph86, Sally Pryor, raised the question, 'What is Computer Art?' This paper attempts to answer these many questions by examination of the conceptual and aesthetic heritage and understanding of the Fine Arts, to lay some foundation for future presentations on the Computer Art debate. (A bibliography referencing worthwhile text is included).
  • Is a slick slide or even the program that generated it Computer Art?

 

Let's first examine some of the current views then dig deeper with some powerful conceptual tools provided by art history .;-

 

2.# WHAT A LOCAL SAYS.

The computer press is fairly silent on the subject, excepting the occasional gem. John Bird's (Sally Pryor's former lecturer) Ausgraph84 paper (1) provides some brilliant insights to the teaching of Computer Animation which apply just as well to the broader question of computer Art. He says;-

'5.1 conceptual difficulties:EVERY GRAPHIC MARK............IS NOT "ART" EVERYTHING THAT MOVES.........IS NOT "ANIMATION" Open any computer magazine and you discover doting parental pride.....that the computer industry has created a baby that can.......DRAW! and.....MOVE !!!!! Let's not mistake "potentiality" for "actuality". This baby may be smart but it is no Rembrandt or Walt Disney...Yet!

At this point in time, as a graphic arts and animation tool computing technology is about as appropriate as using a crayon mounted on the blade of a bulldozer, to sign your cheques.

Technologically, the images, which frequently border on the illegible, are graphically crude imitations of previous visual media. Conceptually they are counterfeit, like the early electronic musical instruments which tried to emulate their acoustic predecessors.

It's like hanging the draftsman's blueprints in a gallery as works of Art. The architect's, draftsman's or engineer's drawings are merely an intermediate phase in the realisation of the final production of a building, a circuit, or a bridge.

However, for the visual arts, the "drawings" are not the means-to-an-end, but the end itself.'

 

3#.ART=.

Now we have some sort of motivation and context to tackle the question 'What is Computer Art?' Let's break it down and examine 'What is ART ?' first.

Art as defined by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary is,

ART;... THE APPLICATION OF SKILL TO THE SUBJECT OF TASTE: SKILL APPLIED TO THE ARTS OF IMITATION AND DESIGN, THE CULTIVATION OF THESE PRINCIPLES, PRACTICE AND RESULTS. * ANYTHING WHERE SKILL MAY BE ATTAINED
AN OCCUPATION IN WHICH SKILL IS EMPLOYED TO GRATIFY TASTE OR PRODUCE WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL; AN ACQUIRED FACULTY OF ANY KIND; A KNACK ! (1637)

This definition is too broad for our concern, another way is to draw on the work of Douglas Davis (2) and Ernst Fisher (3), to define Art as being a combination of three concerns or attributes.
 

     MESSAGE + MEDIUM + MAGIC = ART !

     An unequal balance of these primary concerns is something else, but not ART.

     MAGIC + MESSAGE = Advertising &/or Propaganda
     MAGIC + MEDIUM = Design &/or Decoration.
     MEDIUM + MESSAGE = Craft

It is obvious from the above that a combination of disciplines eg. the craft of woodblock printing and the message of Historical reporting can combine to create works of Art, as in Traditional Japanese Woodcuts .

 

4#. MAGIC +.

These definitions reveal more on closer examination. Starting with Magic of which Douglas Davis says;-
 

"  'Fischer traces the origins of art back to magic:      the
earliest amulets,  charms,  and cave paintings were means of
controlling nature.  Art,  in Fischer's eyes,  is therefore a tool an
instrument of power like any other,  corrupted into its present
decorative commodity status by the onset of capitalism.'

 Ernst Fischer makes a great insight when he states :-
 'We are inclined to take an astonishing phenomenon too much for
granted.  And it is certainly astonishing;  countless millions read
books,  listen to music,  watch the theatre,  go to the cinema.  Why? 
To say that they seek distraction,  relaxation,  entertainment is to
beg the question.  Why is it distracting, relaxing   ,entertaining to
sink oneself in someone else's life and problems,  to identify oneself
with a painting or with a piece of music or with  the characters in a
novel, play or film?  Why do we respond to such "unreality" as
though it were reality intensified?  What strange mysterious 
entertainment is this?' "

Magic was ancient man's protection from, and way of dealing with, his outside environment and its hostile elements. It was a mixture of religion, philosophy, art & science.

The power to deal with one's environment, in these days of specialization, has been partitioned off in various disciplines leaving Fine Art with the role of relating man to his environment in a non-verbal a-rational manner; philosophy doing the same task in a rational & verbal way. It is important to note here that this 'magic', 'the extra something', 'the power to deal with ones environment', is not something that can be distiled in a verbal description. If what you are analysing in a work can be verbalised it is the message, not the magic of the work.

 

5.# MESSAGE +.

Message is what is communicated. All true art communicates something, whether that be a great philosophical idea, or something as simple as 'take a look at this!'. Neither of these statements can be regarded as more important than the other, they both have important places in the total scheme of things.

When you have something which is only decorative or illustrative it lacks the magic to make it art. Photography released painting from the trap of just recording and illustrating the world and its events, photographers sadly fall in the same trap many times. The easiest way to separate illustration from fine art is to ask, 'What is the designer's intent, their major consideration in the work?' If the answer is to EXPLAIN something (how, why, what or where) about something the work is usually illustrative. If, however, the answer is to make you FEEL something, you are looking at art, propaganda, or kitsch. Thus when you come to something like James Blinn's work of 'The Voyager Flypast' film done at the N.A.S.A Jet-propulsion Laboratory you can say that the total work is not art, as it's primary consideration is simulation and communication. However when a still or a specific sequence is edited out of the total work, for reasons of its' beauty, or emotive impact, that selected piece may be a work of Art.

 

6.# MEDIUM HOW.

Of our trilogy, Magic, Message & Medium we still have to deal with MEDIUM, this breaks down further into, Technical Aspects, Theoretical Aspects (Design constructs ect.) and Ethical/Philosophical Aspects.

TECHNICAL ASPECTS are the nitty gritty concerns when creating an artwork. Questions like, 'Why doesn't this paint stick?', 'Why does this subroutine hang the job?', 'Why does this colour look redder in the print, than on the monitor?' A work of art should be the highest quality possible within the Ethical/Philosophical paradigm of the medium and situation that the creator is working in.

One of the major stumbling blocks in Computer Art is, as the technical problems are often so immense to obtain a particular result, the temptation is to put up any pretty picture that results as Computer Art. Irrespective of how technically sophisticated a picture is, it doesn't at some point of polishing became Art. It is disappointing to note that paradoxically as the interfaces have become more accessible and the software has become more flash, the artistic value of so-called pieces of computer art have receded at a horrifying rate. This deterioration in quality has been signified by a famine of curatorial interest in the machination of programmers playing artist. There have not been any major shows (of Computer Art) since the late 60's high tide mark of: (See 4 & 5 )

  • "Cybernetic Serendipity"(1968) Inst. of Contemporary Art in London;
  • "Information"(1970) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York;
  • "Software"(1970) at the Jewish Museum in New York.

 

 

7.# MEDIUM WHAT.

THEORETICAL ASPECTS, are the first aesthetic considerations by which any work of art is judged. This area is too broad to be dealt with adequately here. Good texts on the subject are sighted in the bibliography (6-10). Suffice to say we are talking about,

ELEMENTS OF DESIGN
(things you work with)

  1. Line
  2. Direction [Planes]
  3. Shape [Mass]
  4. Size/Volume
  5. Texture
  6. Value/Tone
  7. Colour
  8. [8.Space/{Time}]

 

STRUCTURAL DEVICES

  1. Proportion
  2. Picture Plan & Focal Point
  3. Compositional Models
  4. Spatial Queues
  5. Viewpoint/Point of View
  6. Tonal Key Theory
  7. Colour Theory
  8. Content/Subject Matter
  9. Dynamic Time Structure}

 

PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN
(the way you work them)

  1. Rhythm/Repetition!! Alternation
  2. Relationship/Gradation!!Radiation
    [Tension !! Compression]
  3. Harmony [Proportion]
  4. Contrast/Opposition,Conflict
  5. Dominance
  6. Unity
  7. Balance/Mass!! Density
    [
  8. Movement/{Sequence}]

 

COMPOSITIONAL MODELS

  1. Portrait Format
  2. Figure/Ground Relationship
  3. Landscape Format
  4. Open & Closed Composition
  5. Georgian Window
  6. Classical/Baroque Renditions

 

The number of computer graphics that put the focal point of the image in the center of the field of view, defies imagination. How can people get access to things like CRAYS who have an understanding of composition less than is expected in Junior High School ! Unless someone attempting computer art can get these Theoretical aspects right they might as well give up now, and try something else, as it gets harder.

 

8.# MEDIUM WHY.

ETHICAL-PHILOSOPHICAL Aspects, are the second major set of aesthetic considerations of any work of Art.

It covers such questions as ;-

  • Truth TO the medium !
  • Honesty TO the medium !
  • Appropriateness OF the medium !
  • Honesty OF the medium !
  • Historical tradition & context of the medium !
  • Language & syntax of the medium !

 

* TRUTH TO THE MEDIUM
This is about exploiting the innate qualities of the medium, and bringing out the medium's full potential for expression. Computer- graphics provides the best example of this;-

If some 3D modelling process is used for the production of a still , yet the final 2D rendition gives no clue to the use of 3D data, the medium potential has been drastically undersold in the work. There is really no point in the technical feat (see Honesty to the Medium below ). One way out of the above dilemma of 3D work on a 2D surface, would be a series showing different lighting &/or views of the object highlighting its 3 dimensionality, alternatively a series featuring its process of construction.

* HONESTY TO THE MEDIUM
This is the corollary of Truth to the Medium (this closeness in concept often leads to a muddying of the distinction in conversation). It is about not being clever & smart just for the sake of being clever and smart. A very skilful craftsman can paint in oils to make it appear that the painting was done in watercolours, overcoming some immense technical problems of pigment to medium ratios and surface quality, but the technical feat adds nothing to the Art of the work. If anything the extra effort required in working against the medium's innate qualities distracts the artist from other considerations of Magic, Message & Medium in the work.

* APPROPRIATENESS OF THE MEDIUM
This closely couples with the concept of honesty to the Medium. It is about choosing the most suitable medium for the work at hand. You would not immortalise a local hero for future generations by setting up a statue in the middle of an Australian town in summer made out of snow? That example sounds a bit silly, but it is only a short step to the stupidity of trying to do drawings on a computer-paint- system to look like they have been done freehand with pen & ink, scratch board or pencil.

* HONESTY OF THE MEDIUM
Brings us to the work of Marshall McLuhan (11)

         "The medium is the message."

The subject is too complex to be dealt with here. Suffice to say, it is about how a medium like photography can be organised by context to convey a deliberate lie, or to twist the viewer's reading and response to an image. Post-Modernism has been a great asset here with the development of semiotics. See the bibliography (12,13) for sources of examples and theory.

* HISTORICAL TRADITION & CONTEXT : LANGUAGE & SYNTAX OF THE MEDIUM
With your now more finely tuned insight you have probably guessed this is a large messy area, that should be left till later, so we can get back to our slick slide question.

 

9.# THE SLICK SLIDE ?

'Is a slick slide or even the program that generated it Computer Art ?'

By now you will have realised from the above definitions that the vast majority of slick-slides are not Art. Yes they may be very good Business Graphics, Advertising Promos, T.V. Graphics or even Art-like experiments with a new medium, but experiments with a new medium are not automatically Art. Most slick-slides come off PAINTBOX systems so what of them? Paint-systems offer undeniable advantages in speed and utility in situations like T.V. studios, but their ease of use does not necessarily make them ideal tools for the production of Art works. Going back to 'Appropriateness of the Medium' the artist and the viewer must ask themselves, 'Could this image have been done more successfully with a more traditional medium ? oils ? water colours? If the answer is Yes, the paintbox image has failed the test. You may think that a little tough but lets us look at it another way. A very important ingredient in the creative process is the feedback the material gives the artist during the development of the work. The main reason why an artist style will vary across different mediums is that the artist when using a given medium will explore it's FULLEST POSSIBILITIES TO EXPRESS their artistic intent in producing that work. Now if this 'Exploration of the full set of possibilities' is undertaken when using a paintbox, the result can not look like an oil or watercolour, because both these styles of representation along with sampling, zooms, pattern generation, repeats will come into play in the one work, resulting in a work that could not have been done more successfully in another medium.

Frame-grabs are another feature of most paint-systems. This feature comes with a couple of problems, beside the copyright problem. (Which is far from satisfactory. Most artist receive little or no protection for the majority of their work, as the second-hand user has only to change over 15% to legally rip it off. Not to mention zero protection for the concept, a situation that would be intolerable in software or music copyrights). The use of frame-grabs to incorporate existing images into a new image opens a can of aesthetic worms;- Origin, Code, Pastiche, Quotation, Authenticity, Plagiarism, Authorship, Originality. These issues are the crux of the current heated debated in the Art world, and there would be no better place to start than the catalogue for 'The Sixth Biennial of Sydney 1986'.

In this work Rosalind Krass (14) touches the heart of the matter.
 

"............. we can see that modernism and the avant garde are
functions of what we could call the discourse of originality, and that
discourse serves much wider interests - and is thus fuelled by more
diverse institutions- than the restricted circle of professional art-
making.  The theme of originality, encompassing as it does the
notions of authenticity, originals, and origins, is the shared
discursive practice of the museum, the historian, and the maker of
art......the discourse of originality in which impressionism
participates represses and discredits the complementary discourse
of the copy.  Both the avant garde and modernism depend on this
repression."

The debate about the need for a 'unique original object' has been seen in the computer art world as a major deterrent to the acceptance of Computer Art by the Mainstream Art World. In the Post- Modernist world to quote is now more acceptable than it was, but you still have a unique object. Conceptual and Post-Object Art were ever in a hungry, hand to mouth situation because of the lack of a 'unique original object'. Computer Art has similar problems;- Is the artwork the image on the screen? or the data on the disk? (sounds a bit like a certain copyright case!), or even the program that generated the data ? ?

 

10.# EVEN THE PROGRAMME ?

To solve this question we need to look a bit closer at the Art making process. To help yet another definition of Art.
>pre> "Art is the footprints in the snow, made by a bear on his early morning walk. Zen is what the bear had for breakfast"

The point of the quote is Art is a process, making works of Art is something you do, like writing computer programs. You can within the appropriate conceptual context have a computer program as part of a work of Art, as important as the colours in a painting. A score for a symphony is a work of art? or does the music have to be first performed ? I have avoided looking at specific examples so far because of all the other issues that any given work will inject for one to do justice in examining that work. But a description (as opposed to images will allow us to focus on the issue at hand.

'Seek' by the Architecture Machine Group from M.I.T. show us such use of a program particularly well. It consisted of a large glass box opened at the top. In the box was a colony of gerbils (a small rodent) who were making their homes out of little metal cubes, while above a computer controlled grabclaw was intently trying to stack those same blocks in an orderly fashion. The computer was unaware that it was destroying the gerbils homes each time it retrieved the next block, but it was equally at a loss why it's neatly stacked blocks walked away when the mysterious gerbil whipped a block out to repair it's home.

Harold Cohen's work (5) uses a program AARON to control a turtle that does line drawings on a large sheets of paper on the floor. The whole-piece i.e. Artist + Program + Results is Art. But the resulting drawings (which Cohen sells by the foot.) are not automatically Art, but depend on the judgement made on them during any selection or editing process.

As Cohen's work is often seen as the future direction for Computer Art, what with A.I. and expert-systems, is it possible we may see Robot Artist ?

 

11.# ROBOT ARTIST ? or FROM WHENCE CREATIVITY ?

To answer this question, and the other one of, 'Can anybody with the help of a computer make great art ?', we have to delve more deeply into creative process. We need also examine the nature of thinking in general as modelled to varying degrees of success by Artificial Intelligence practitioners.

Historically in the plastic arts there has been two main streams, which are distinguished by their approach to creative endeavour, more than by stylistic considerations and trends of the resulting work.

The streams are CLASSICISM on one hand, and ROMANTICISM and EXPRESSIONISM on the other. The output of each can appear quite contradictory to relate to same. So a list of landmarks may help.

CLASSICISM

Egyptian Art
Roman
Renaissance
Impressionism
Constructivism
Conceptual Art

ROMANTICISM & EXPRESSIONISM.

Helenistic (Greek) Art
Mediaeval
Mannerism & Baroque
Da-Da
Surrealism
Pop Art.

So what has this got to do with AI. My hypothesis is;-

"Given the materialisation of the most marvellous intelligent sane machine, only art work of a classical tradition will ever be possible! Because Romanticism/Expressionism is a result being human, the sort of creation that bubbles uncontrollably within the deepest most parts of one being."

This requires the AI community to have solved how to make computers EXPERIENCE hope, pain and love, let-alone creative longings and the muses' touch. The Classical Robot Artist, and the ultimate do it yourself artmachine for Joe Average are a little closer however. There have been some very interesting programs written; an expert system that churns-out, a few more paintings in the style of Mondrian, or an E.S. that does musical arrangements after the fashion of Bach.

But stylistic mimicking is not the same as creating. The human mind functions in the area of feelings and intuitive knowledge during the creative process. The gap between AI's rationalising methodology and mans' intuitive jumps is immense, as clearly elucidated by Hubert & Stuart Dreyfus (15), in Technology Review.

 

"Digital computers,  which are basically complicated structures
of simple on-off switches,...[A.Newell & H.Simon] saw that one could
use symbols to represent elementary facts about the world and
rules to represent relationships between the facts.  Computers could
apply these rules and make logical inferences about the
facts...Newell and Simon believed that computers programed with
such facts and rules could in principle,  solve problems,  recognize
patterns,  understand stories,  and indeed do anything that an
intelligent person could do.....

BUT!      ..Experimental psychologist have shown that people
actually use images,  not descriptions as computers do,  to
understand and respond to some situations.  Humans often think by
forming images and comparing them holistically.  This process is quite different from the logical,  step-by-step operations that a
logic machine performs."

But when creating a new thing, where do the images come from, with which to think? What is the source of inspiration understood as a mental process. Jacques Maritian (16) describes two sides to the human intellect. One side,

"is fecundated by intelligible germs on which all the
formations of ideas depends.  And it draws from them,  and
produces within itself,  through the most vital process,  it's own
living fruits,  its concepts and ideas."

He argues that this process may not always be deliberate, and that the germs themselves are usually unrecognized.

"There can exist unconscious acts of thought and unconscious ideas."The other side according to Maritain is,

"the Illuminating Intellect,  a spiritual sun ceaselessly
radiating,  which activates everything in intelligence,  and whose
light causes all our ideas to arise in us,  and whose energy permeates
every operation of our mind.  And this primal source of light cannot
be seen by us;  it remains concealed in the unconscious of the
spirit"

He argues that while we mostly know that we are thinking, we don't know how,

"..... before being formed and expressed in concepts and
judgments, intellectual knowledge is at first a beginning of insight, 
still unformulated,  a kind of many-eyed cloud which is born from
the impact of the Illuminating Intellect on the world of images, and
which is but a humble and trembling inchoation,  yet invaluable,
tending toward and intelligible content to be grasped. "

To put it all more pointedly computers may be superb at rationalising, but stand little or no chance of being able to imagine and create, particularly considering that most people find it difficult to do same, let alone understand it !

So with all this promised potential in Computer Art. What ever happened to the Technological Renaissance?

 

12.# The BABY THAT DIDN'T WALK AT BIRTH:

The main problem in leading any endeavour, is that you may get your fingers badly burnt.

In DATAMATION Ken Sofer (5) observes

"......Conceptual artists were attracted to ... cybernetics,  with its
focus on the process by which information is generated, 
transmitted and assimilated.  They began to apply a systems
approach to art.  In their view,  the exploration and rapid transfer
of information was of central. interest,  and the art object itself had
become a kind of tomb for the creative spirit-a bit of congealed
culture to carry to the gallery,  living room,  or museum.  According
to these artists, the handcrafted object served the dealer, collector,
and curator rather than the artists, art, or the public....'

 '.....Where are the offspring of the more innovative art/technology
fusions featured in "Cybernetic Serendipity",  "Information",  and 
"Software"?  Why does it seem that artists have relegated the
computer to the role of an expensive electronic paintbrush?   The
answers are complex.  For one thing,  the art/technology shows
received anything but universal critical acclaim.  They were costly
to mount (approximately $125,000 for "Software"),  required
engineers to set up and operate,  and after all that,  many pieces
never worked properly.  According to Grace Glueck of the New York
Times,"Temporarily out of order' was the operative phrase... at
'Software'..."

Further more, as one might expect, the idea of uncollectable art never went over well with dealers, collectors, and museum curators. Conceptual artists, who claimed that the elimination of the art object also obviated the art critic, didn't make many friends in that field either. And not having anything to sell is a hard way to make a living' (and don't I know it!)

 

13.# BACKGROUND TO THE FUTURE ?

Before we tackle the future, it is best to understand a little of the roots of modern art in general and computer graphics in particular. Painting in the mid. 19 century, was primarily concerned with the capture of reality and mood. With the invention of photography , painting moved into modernism driven by an ever advancing Avant-Garde. The developments in film from then to now is a casebook example of the evolutionary process of a medium;-

At first film had no aesthetics of it's own. It was a passive eye recording the world, a window in time to some past performance in a musical or stage-play. It took some twenty years for film to develop its' own unique aesthetic. When video arrived it inherited the aesthetic of the cinema image, which is contrary to the more personal nature of the video medium, it was not till the 60's that video began to distil its' own more personal aesthetic.

What is MODERNISM? Irving Sandler (17) states

'...................  Modernism can be defined narrowly, arbitrarily
limited to a single tendency proclaimed as mainstream and avant-
garde.  ..........  But modernism can also be viewed broadly as
unbounded, multiple, inclusive of every tendency that seems at all
"progressive" that is, different from what has been.'......'

'..... During the sixties,   such purist tendencies as stained color-field
abstraction and Minimalism- which aimed to reduce art to that
which was intrinsic to its medium and to eliminate all that was not-
were announced by critics to be modernist, avant-garde, ....'

'.....  Indeed,  post-modernism more often than not should be called
post-Minimalism.  Or perhaps Minimalism can be considered the
latest (possibly final) stage of modernism....'

'..... Frontiers may remain,  but the artist who discover them cannot
be considered avant-garde since the impulse to press to the limits
has become established as a tradition....'
Clement Greenberg adds (18)

"The avant-garde has ceased to exist,  not only because so
many limits of art have been reached,  but because there now exists a large and growing public that no longer responds in anger
to the novel,  and when not eager is a least permissive.  Elitists may
question the motives of the mass audience for art and the quality of
its aesthetic experiences but not its sympathy"

Rackstraw Downes (19) who was one of the first to apply the term post-modernism sums it up

"Modernism deteriorated into a kind of pictorial narcissism- it
became a painting capable only of admiring its own nature.  Post-
Modernism has seized on these failings as its raison d'et re  and
announced its existence by giving the act of painting something to
do"

It is no coincidence that the demise of painting was one of the main triggers for post-modernism. For it can be argued that the true explorers of artistic endeavour let us call them the New Guard, left painting as an exhausted corps before the commencement of World War II. They played with sculpture till the 70's, but their main stream moves from Futurism and Surrealism into the rediscovered, revitalized mediums of environments & happenings, and the new mediums of Abstract Film and Video. It is to this tradition of the New Guard we must turn to find the natural environment of Computer Art, for Post-Modernism's central ideology , is the rejection of PROGRESS in the arts or anything else, and thus its anti-technological ethos, its' debasement of idealism and concepts of value and worth. A gloomy future ?

 

14.# AND WHAT OF THE FUTURE ?

The future for computer graphic Arts must lie within the mainstream of international cultural life, if it is to be anything more than a technological freak show. NOW! more than anytime since the computer appearance on earth the aesthetic debate is ripe for Computer Art's contribution. Nick Waterlow in the Biennial Catalogue (20) gives this context an urgency when he concludes.

'   Post-modernism is the effort to go beyond modernism, in Nietzsche's words, via "the trans-valuation of all values".  It
represents eternal nomadicism.  It is dependent of the past, the
appearance rather than the substance, which is ironically re-
created and by definition synthetically.   Post-modernism can not
give birth to the new, can only reiterate the old because its values
are relative not absolute and it is dependent on the return of the
past; a chimera.

....The end of the second millenium offers the hope of breaching the
cyclical pattern of action/reaction that has characterised the
tyrannical notion of progress, epitomised by the god of science with
is ruthless materialism.  The fall of Icarus.   Our fin de siecle is of
extreme significance as actions of the previous century are
weighted additionally by thoughts of moving out of the 500 year
span of the Renaissance, the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial
Revolution, the two Great Wars and the shadow of nuclear self-
destruction.....

...It is vital that the language of the artist be re-connected with the
visionary dimensions of advanced science fist intuited by the
progenitors of nonobjective art......

.....Modernism separated us from the past; post-modernism re-asserts
the past only in form.  Modernism was a kind of obsession, a form
fixated on itself and its succession of new creations;  we are now
dazzled by post-modernism's linguistic acrobatics.

   The new future can only exist through a reconciliation, through a
deep re-experiencing of the past.  "La recherche dutermps perdu is
the vehicle for future liberation."  '

 

15.# SO WHERE TO NOW?

We need to heed McLuhan's (11) warnings

        'The future of the future is the past'
        'We look at the present through a rearview mirror'.

Western Culture (read political & economic power as well,) is waning in its' present crisis, slipping beneath an oriental cultural awakening and economic explosion.

There was at Ausgraph86 the need expressed for a manifesto. The Futurist Manifestos would be the best place to start, because;-

  1. They meet their country's need for a sense of identity in a time of crisis, (Italy before World War 1).
  2. They are concerned with the beauty and challenge of technology for society and the Arts.
  3. Many of their aims were never realised in their day because their vision outstripped the technological means of the era.
  4. They are Computer Art's Aesthetic Roots.
  5. This is 'A Deep re-experiencing of the past' to 'be re-connected with the visionary dimension of advanced science'.
  6. So get involved. Reason enough the cultural needs (which must be solved to safeguard one's market penetration), not mentioning the money to be made by serious investment in the arts for arts sake, and because High Tech. Art has historically proven itself as fine an engine for technological development (and much safer) than the Space or Arms races.

 

Australia for historical aesthetic and geopolitical reasons is the best place (in the whole Western World) to make such an investment , Now! So why are you hanging Streeton's in your board rooms ?

 

16.# WHERE HAVE WE BEEN ?

Before concluding lets review our question and answer so far.

Q. What is Art?
A. ART = MESSAGE & MEDIUM & MAGIC.

Q. What is Computer Art? The Slick Slide or even the program ?
A. It depends on the intent of the work, and the process by which the creator asses his work.

Q. Is there any distinct future for Computer Graphics in Fine Art ?
A. No only in combination with traditional concerns, film, sculpture, photography etc.

Q. Will A.I. lead to a robot Artist?
A. Maybe yes, a big maybe! But classical imitators are more likely.

Q. Is the Computer the ultimate artistic medium?
A. No. The imagination is, everything else are poor imitations.

Q. Where is computer art heading?
A. Not very far, without any patronage.

 

17.# CONCLUSION.

Q. Can anybody make great art with the aid of a Computer ?
If you had an inexpensive device, that allowed the easy capture, storage, manipulation, rendition, retrieval of creative ideas, one would reckon you could make endless great artworks. Wouldn't you? Such a device has been around for nearly 100 years. It is called a photographic camera. Run of the mill snap-shots are not great Art, because the ability to create great art whether with a pencil or a computer, is not a function of technology, but the creativity and imagination of the mind of the user of the technology.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

 
1.    'COMPUTER GRAPHICS ANIMATION AT SWINBURNE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY'
                              J.E.Bird            Ausgraph 84 Proceedings
                                                  Melbourne 18-21/9/84.
 2.    'ART & THE FUTURE'     Douglas Davis
 3.    'THE NECESSITY OF ART' Ernest Fisher       Pelican
       'ART AGAINST IDEOLOGY' Ernest Fisher       Allen Lane Penguin
 4.    'CYBERNETIC.SERENDIPITY,THE COMPUTER IN THE ARTS'
                                Studio International, Special Issue as catalogue for same
 5.    'ART? OR NOT ART?'     Ken Sofer           Datamation    October 1981.
 6.    'BASIC COURSE OF THE BAUHAUS'  J.Etten
 7.    'THE ART OF COLOUR AND DESIGN'                       1951
                              Maitland Graves     McGraw-Hill Book Co.,
 8.    'POINT AND LINE TO PLAIN'     Kandinsky    Dover Press
 9.    'BASIC DESIGN:THE DYNAMICS OF VISUAL FORM'
                              Maurice de Sausmarez. Studio vista
 10.   'THE PAINTERS SECRET GEOMETRY'             Harcourt,Brace & World N.Y. 
                              Charles Bouleau
 11.   'UNDERSTANDING MEDIA'  Marshall Mcluhan    Routledge,Regan Paul. London .
 12.   'THE NEW PHOTOGRAPHY'  Frank Webster
 13.   'THE ORDER OF THINGS'  Michael Foucault    TAVISTOCK Publications
 14.   'THE ORIGINALITY OF THE AVANT GARDE: A POST-MODERN REPETITION'
                              Roslind Krass       New York 1984                                        The Sixth Biennale of Sydney Catalogue.
 15.   'WHY COMPUTERS MAY NEVER THINK LIKE PEOPLE'  Technology Review
                                Hubert & Stuart Dreyfus       Jan.1986
 16.   'CREATIVE INTUITION IN ART AND POETRY'
                                        Maritain
 17.   'MODERNISM, REVISIONISM, PLURALISM, AND POST-MODERNISM'
                              Irving Sandler      Art Journal Fall/Winter 1980
       '"INTRODUCTION ,"Critics Choice 1969-70,
                              Irving Sandler   N.Y,New York State Council on the Arts, 1969.
 18.   'ART:HOW ART WRITING EARNS ITS BAD NAME'
                              Clement Greenburg.  Encounter 19.Dec.1962
       'ART AND CULTURE'      Clement Greenburg.  Beacon Press.
 19.   'POST-MODERNIST PAINTING'
                              Rackstraw Downes,Tracks, Fall 1976
 20.   'ORIGINS ORIGINALITY + BEYOND'
                              Nick Waterlow  quoting Herbert Marcuse.
                                    The Sixth Biennale of Sydney 1986 Catalogue
 
 *.    'PAVILLION by Experiments in Art and Technology'
                          Ed. Billy Kluver, Julie Martin & Barbara Rose  
                                    E.P.Dutton & Co., Inc. New York 1972.
 

 

"Aesthetics of Computer Graphics" copyright Shaun Gray (c) 1986

 

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