The Work of Art in the ‘Age of the Smart Machine’
Brian Bloomfield and Theo Vurdubakis (CSTO Lancaster University)
Nearly three-quarters of a century ago, Walter Benjamin described modernity as ‘the age of mechanical reproduction’, in which the ‘aura’ of the original is steadily eroded by modern technology. The struggle between copy and original has been provided the vocabulary for narrating the relationship between humans and machines – long the focus of literary and philosophical speculation and unease. The putative ability of machines to mimic human intelligence appears to call into question the stability of morality charged boundaries between subject/object, identity/similarity, freewill/determinism, reality/simulation, etc.
Against this backdrop art – perhaps the native domain of the vocabulary of copies and originals – is commonly seen as a kind of limit case for attempts to technologise ‘intelligence’. Described (in romantic literature and popular discourse) as representing all that is quintessentially human, artistic creation is often seen as intrinsically resistant to mechanisation. ‘Art’ thus constitutes a fruitful vantage point for exploring the ways in which engagements with ‘intelligent’ artefacts also constitute occasions where occidental modernity’s cultural preoccupations are rehearsed.
The proposed paper takes as its starting point of a number of recent developments in artificial intelligence and computer generated art (painting and music) in order to explore how art and its relation to the human subject is being re-written in the wake of computational advances (intrusions?) into domain of artistic creation.