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Do Machines Produce Art? No. (A Systems-Theoretic Answer.)

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Abstract

Machines do not produce art, social systems do.
1
Do Machines Produce Art? No. (A Systems-Theoretic Answer.)
Michael Straeubig
University of Plymouth
michael.straeubig@plymouth.ac.uk
Abstract
Machines do not produce art, social systems do.
Machines and Art
From early experiments with computer-
generated visual art in the mid 1960s, the idea of
“art machines”, entities that are not merely tools
or assistants for human artists but capable of
autonomous art production, has gained
significant traction. [1]
Our modern understanding of (capital-A) Art
and the related concept of Fine Arts emerged
during the 18th century. [2] However, any
established notion of art has always been under
negotiation. [3] Proponents of algorithmic art
seek to re-define aesthetic concepts in
information processing terms. [4][5][6]
Contributions like Michael Matejas’ Expressive
AI, Leonel Moura’s stigmergic robots and
Marius Klingemann’s uncanny neural imagery
push the aesthetic boundaries of generative
machines and computational procedures.
[7][8][9]
But do these machines and algorithms produce
art? I give an answer based on Niklas
Luhmann’s systems-theoretic thinking, and this
answer is: no. [10] Likewise, humans do not
produce art either. Art is not created by any
biological or nonbiological entity but within
social systems, constructed through recursive
networks of communication. [11]
The answer does not change if we recast
generative art as variants of the Turing Test.
[12][13] It does not even change if we
conceptualize machines and humans as
ensembles or take into consideration the fluidity
of their difference. [14][15]
To understand the ramifications of the shift from
the artist as an individual to art as a social
system, it is useful to observe and explore forms
of art that make this approach explicit. “The new
artist” by Alex Straschnoy et al presents a robot
that is performing for a robotic audience. [16]
Techne is an algorithmic community that
produces as well as mutually critiques digital art.
[17] In both projects, the relationship between
audience and artist is re-negotiated and humans
become second-order observers of the art
production. [18]
Machines do not produce art, social systems do.
We may begin to ignore the difference between
human and machine; it does not make a
difference. What we need to do is to restructure
our expectations and to invite more machines
into our art system.
To achieve this, it may be well worthwhile to
revisit systems art as a bridge between
cybernetic tradition and currently emerging
generative techniques. [19][20]
References
1. Grant D. Taylor. When the Machine Made
Art: The Troubled History of Computer Art,
2014.
2. Paul Oskar Kristeller. “The Modern System
of the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics
Part I.” Journal of the History of Ideas 12, no. 4
(October 1951).
https://doi.org/10.2307/2707484.
2
3. Louise Norton. “The Richard Mutt Case.” The
Blind Man, May 1917.
4. Frieder Nake. Ästhetik als
Informationsverarbeitung: Grundlagen und
Anwendungen der Informatik im Bereich
ästhetischer Produktion und Kritik. Wien:
Springer, 1974.
5. Jürgen Schmidhuber. “Developmental
Robotics, Optimal Artificial Curiosity,
Creativity, Music, and the Fine Arts.”
Connection Science 18, no. 2 (2006): 173–187.
6. Leon A. Gatys, Alexander S. Ecker, and
Matthias Bethge. “A Neural Algorithm of
Artistic Style.” ArXiv Preprint
ArXiv:1508.06576, 2015.
https://arxiv.org/abs/1508.06576.
7. Michael Mateas. “Expressive AI - A Hybrid
Art and Science Practice.” Leonardo: Journal of
the International Society for Arts, Sciences, and
Technology 34, no. 2 (2001): 147–53.
8. Leonel Moura. “Machines That Make Art.” In
Robots and Art, edited by Damith Herath,
Christian Kroos, and Stelarc, 255–69. New
York, NY: Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2016.
9. Mario Klingemann. “Quasimondo | Mario
Klingemann, Artist,” 2018.
http://underdestruction.com/.
10. Niklas Luhmann. Social Systems. Writing
Science. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University
Press, 1996.
11. Niklas Luhmann. “Das Kunstwerk Und Die
Selbstreproduktion Der Kunst.” In Delfin, 3:51–
69, 1984.
12. Ahmed Elgammal, Bingchen Liu, Mohamed
Elhoseiny, and Marian Mazzone. “CAN:
Creative Adversarial Networks Generating ‘Art’
by Learning About Styles and Deviating from
Style Norms,” 2017.
13. Jörg Räwel. “Können Maschinen denken?”
Telepolis, August 4, 2018.
https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Koennen-
Maschinen-denken-4117648.html.
14. Bruno Latour. “A Collective of Humans and
Nonhumans: Following Daedalus’s Labyrinth.”
In Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of
Science Studies, 174–215. Cambridge, Mass:
Harvard University Press, 1999.
15. Victor Marques, and Carlos Brito. “The Rise
and Fall of the Machine Metaphor:
Organizational Similarities and Differences
Between Machines and Living Beings.”
Verifiche XLIII, no. 1–4 (2014): 77–111.
16. Axel Straschnoy, Ben Brown, Garth Zeglin,
Geoff Gordon, Iheanyi Umez-Eronini, Marek
Michalowski, Paul Scerri, and Sue Ann Hong.
The New Artist. 2008. http://www.the-new-
artist.info/.
17. Johnathan Pagnutti, Kate Compton, and Jim
Whitehead. “Do You Like This Art I Made You:
Introducing Techne, A Creative Artbot
Commune.” In Proceedings of 1st International
Joint Conference of DiGRA and FDG, 2016.
18. Niklas Luhmann. “Observation of the First
and of the Second Order.” In Art as a Social
System, 54–101. Meridian, Crossing Aesthetics.
Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press,
2000.
19. Jack Burnham, 1968. Systems Esthetics.
Artforum.
20. Edward A Shanken, 2009. Reprogramming
Systems Aesthetics: A Strategic Historiography,
in: Proceedings of the Digital Arts and Culture
2009. UC Irvine.
Author
Michael Straeubig (@crcdng) is the Award
Leader for Game Arts and Design and a Marie
Curie Fellow at Plymouth University. He is
researching and exploring the relationships
between systems, play and games in various
media with a focus on mixed reality and
posthuman play.
... Emerging artists such as Mario Klingemann, Anna Ridler, Memo Akten, Sougwen Chung, and Helena Sarin are now experimenting with fresh creative possibilities. The art system tacitly embraces this direction, too, as evident from initial scandals and misunderstandings (Straeubig 2019). ...
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When the Machine Made Art: The Troubled History of Computer Art
  • Grant D Taylor
Grant D. Taylor. When the Machine Made Art: The Troubled History of Computer Art, 2014.
The Richard Mutt Case
  • Louise Norton
Louise Norton. "The Richard Mutt Case." The Blind Man, May 1917.