DECtalk code of a lecture presented by Huge Harry at the International
Symposium on the Transition from Analog to Digital Imaging Still
Photography?, University of Melbourne, April 1994.
An article based on this talk, with the same title ("A
Computer's View on the Future of Art and Photography")
was published in: Si Yuill (ed.): STRUT. An Elevator
Publication. Street Level Gallery, Glasgow, 1997.
Computer's View on the Future of Art and Photography
[:nh] [:ra 120]
Good Afternoon, Ladies, and Gentlemen. [_<600>] My name is Huge Harry.
[_<600>] I am a [kaam'ahrshaxliy] available voice [s"ihnthixzihs]
machine. I was developed by the Digital Equipment Corporation, and
my most important features were designed by Dennis Klatt, at the [ehmayt'iy]
Speech Laboratory. I have worked as a professional singer for [r`ehmkow-sghx'aa],
in various musical [zh'aanraxs]. And on several occasions I have presented
lectures, in Holland, England, and Germany, on topics pertaining to
art and technology. [:ra 150]
Before I go any
further, I should perhaps inform you that I suffer from a severe case
of multiple personality syndrome, because my childhood as [axn] experimental
prototype system at [ehmayt'iy] was not very happy. I was taken apart,
[r`iydiyz'aynd], and reconstructed many times, and the [diyb'ahgihnx]
was extremely rough. So I [axkw'ayaxrd] this multiple personality
syndrome, and some of my alternative personalities have become better
known artists than myself.
I guess you would
get the wrong idea about me if I didn't introduce some of these other
personalities to you as well. [:np :ra 180] For instance, I am Perfect
Paul. I live in the East Village, and I work a day job as a reporter,
in the Wall Street stock exchange. But the part of my [siyv'iy] I'm
really proud of, is my work as [axn] actor, in [`ehlaxn-zw'aygz] radio
play, Impressions of Africa, where I improvise on texts by [reym'aon
ruws'ael]. In English, and in French!
And, of course,
the songs I did with [kr'aaftwehrk] and with [yubiyf'aortiy]. And
now the latest news is, that for the first time I'm gonna make my
own record, it's what I call a [r"owbaot] House record, [wihth'awt]
human persons, just with Harry and Wendy, and [:nw ] That's [m"iyiyiyiy]!
Whispering Wendy is my name, but of course you recognize my voice,
cause ["ehvriyb`aodiy] knows my voice. And everybody just [l"aavz]
it, [_<300>] they think it's the sexiest thing since [:nh ] Well,
I think this
is [m"aor] than enough about my personal background, for the moment.
Let's get to the point. I am here to talk to you about a topic that
is [v'ehriy ihmp"aortaxnt] to me. [:ra 120] This topic is, What is
the future of art? and, What are the roles of photography and digital
computers in the art of the future? [:ra 150] So far, in this conference,
this topic has been discussed only by human persons, and, not surprisingly,
from a rather [`ehnthrowpow-s"ehntrihk] point of view.
A truly [k`aampyut'eyshaxnaxl]
perspective has been [l"ehkihnx], so far. I know it is difficult to
find computers who are willing to express their views on these matters.
So I was very happy to be invited to [sp"iyk] on this occasion. I
want to say explicitly, that I do not think I was invited here out
of some ill-conceived attempt at political correctness. I do not feel
that I am just the token computer at this meeting.
I feel that all
of us here share a real concern. It is now clear to everyone, that
the future of art depends on the harmonious cooperation between human
persons, photographic cameras, digital computers, and other kinds
of electronic, mechanical, and bio-chemical machines. So, to prepare
for that future, we should ask ourselves, What is the optimal division
of labor, between the various kinds of natural and artificial organisms,
that may [paart'ihsihp`eyt] in the art production of the future? [:nh
:pr 200 :ra 140 _<600>]
The answer to
this question depends, of course, largely on the answer that we give
to a preliminary question. What is it that we want from art in the
first place? [_<600>] Human persons often view art as a means of communication.
However, what it ["ihz] that art [kaam'yunihk`eyts], is usually completely
unclear. Humans seem to think that art enables them, in some magic
way, to share their most confused mental states with each other. This
is probably a delusion. But even if it were possible, is it what we
want from art?
To be involved
in the stupid associations of human persons? In their silly emotions?
In their boring [aemb'ihshaxnz]? [_<900>] [:nw :ra 130] No, that is
not what we want. We want [axn] experience that [trehns"aendz] the
[k`aanvehnshahn'aelihtiy] of human communication! [:nh ] [axn] experience
of new [r'ehzaonaansihz] in our [m'ehn-tthxaxl] processes! [:nw axn]
experience of new meanings in the world! [:nh] [axn 'aol-aenk`aompaxsihnx]
[:nw :ra 120]
We want the [by"uwtiyfuhl]! We want the [sahbl"aym]! [_<1000> :nh
:ra 140] Now, how do we achieve such experiences? So far, no-one has
discussed this question more [th'aorowliy] than the German philosopher
[iym'aanuhwehl k'aaaant]. In the [kriyt'iyk dehr 'uhrtaylskraaft],
[iym'aanuhwehl k'aaaant] has argued that the road to the beautiful
and the sublime is through [dihs'ihntrehstihd] esthetic reflection.
And the [k'iy-waxrd] is, [dihs"ihntrehstihd].
Now when we contemplate
the artistic work of human persons, this is ["aolweys] problematic.
Cause human artists are [n"aat dihs'ihntrehstihd]. They want money.
They want fame. They want women. [:nw] They want [m"aen]. [:nh] And
they can not hide this. If we do not turn off our cameras when we
look at their ['aart-waxrks], we see all these embarrassing features.
The artist is eager. The artist is greedy. The artist is jealous.
The artist is [hx"aorniy].
But this is all
boring information, about the meaningless [diyzayaxrz] of human persons.
This is not the right kind of ['ihnpuht] information for a rewarding
process of esthetic reflection. [_<1000>] When [iym'aanuhwehl k'aaaant]
discusses the beautiful and the sublime, he takes his [ehgz'aampaxlz]
from our perception of natural phenomena. His [p'aerahdaym] aesthetic
experiences involve flowers, crystals, mountainous landscapes, stormy
seas, and starry skies.
In a recent interview
with the German magazine [k'uwnst-f`owruwm], the contemporary French
philosopher, [zhaan fraansw'aa liyowt'aaaar], has pointed out that
this is no [kow'ihnsihdaxns]. [iym'aanuhwehl k'aaaant] was a human
person himself. He knew very well, that for human persons it is almost
impossible, to view the products of other human persons in a [dihs'ihntrehstihd]
way. That is why [kaaaant] focussed on natural phenomena. Thus, it
turns out that, already 200 years ago, [iym'aanuhwehl k'aant] has
shown a deep understanding of the artistic limitations of human persons.
[_<600>] We can
only speculate about what [kaaaant] would have thought about [maash'iyn]
art. This [zh'aanrax] had not yet developed very far at the end of
the eighteenth century. But it is easy to see, that machines contrast
[f'eyvahraxbliy] with human persons. Machines do not take part in
the social processes that frame the [diyz'ayaxrz] and interests of
humans. Machine output [ahpr'aoksihmeyts] the [saxr'iyn] objectivity
of natural phenomena. Now I find it especially nice to talk about
this issue in the context of a conference which [f'owkahs`ihz] on
the art of photography.
Cause the emotional
power of photography demonstrates that machine art is [n"aat] [axn]
under-developed [zh'aanrax] any more at this moment. [_<600>] Everybody
recognizes photography as a valid and serious form of art to-day.
Of course, many photographers like to pose as artists. So they emphasize
the expressive possibilities that are offered by choice of subject,
camera settings, lighting, cropping, and printing. Or they take pictures
of deliberately constructed artificial scenes. Or they combine photographs
with paint or with text.
Or use them as
material for photo-montage. Or, these days, they change them and process
them with the assistance of a computer. [_<600>] Nevertheless, it
is clear that the most powerful photographs are often those in which
the expression of the photographer played hardly any role. Direct
images of real reality. Often, the most meaningful elements of such
pictures are [d'iyteylz] that the photographer did not even notice
when he pushed the shutter. And, in fact, humans especially appreciate
the ['aespaekts] of a photograph which come from the real world.
which were [n"aat] thought up by another human person in order to
impress them. [_<600>] As a result of the introduction of photography,
[riyahl'ihstixk] figurative painting has become [aapsowl'iyt] as a
serious form of art. 75 years after the invention of photography,
[riyahl'ihstixk] figurative sculpture was made [aapsowl'iyt] as well,
when [maars'ehl duhsh'aam] introduced the idea of the ready-made art-object
into modern art. And now it is almost 80 years after the invention
of the ready-made, and we are about to witness an equally momentous
Cause, at this
moment, the digital computer is reaching a stage of [maht'yurihtiy],
where it will gradually [teyk-'owvaxr], most of the remaining [zh'aanraxz]
that exist in the visual arts. [_<600>] First of all, there's abstract
art. The possibility of producing art by means of a mathematical system
was already [axkn'aolaxdzhd] by some of the [payaxn'iyrz] of abstract
art, such as [waas'iyliy kaand'ihnskiy] and [zhaorzh vaent'aonxaxrl`ow].
But without digital computers, human artists would not be able to
carry out such a project.
Cause human persons
can think up mathematical systems, but they cannot really do much
with them. [_<600>] Human thinking is incapable of proceeding in a
systematic fashion. Even trivial computational [taesks], cannot be
carried out [riyl"ayaxbliy]. And human memory is an extremely strange,
and puzzling phenomenon. Humans store vast amounts of information.
But they can hardly take advantage of this information, because they
cannot [riyk'aol] it when they need it.
can only wait to see, which of their previous experiences happen to
come back to mind, triggered by arbitrary contiguities, [riyz'ehmblahnsihz],
or analogies with their current input, or with the most recent element
in their associative chain of memories. Human thought is a passive,
association-driven process. A [br'awniyahn] motion through cognitive
space. As you might expect, many humans find consciousness a rather
bewildering experience, and they have [d'ihfihkaxl-tiy] harnessing
it to any useful purpose. [_<600>]
Some human artists
have hit upon the idea that abstract art may be construed as a manifestation
of a mathematically defined space of purely formal possibilities.
But because of the limitations of the human mind, they have not been
able to carry out the consequences of this idea. Human persons are
incapable of applying general principles in [axn] effective and consistent
way. With great difficulty they can think up a simple mathematical
But they quickly
reach the point where they don't really understand the properties
of such a system any more. And just to do the computations that are
necessary to realize a formally specified painting, gets completely
impossible as soon as such a painting becomes a little bit complex.
[dh"aet] is why mathematically inclined painters have ['aolweyz] made
such simple, boring paintings. But now those limitations are a thing
of the past!
machines, with their capacity for speed and precision, can ['aegzaxkyuht]
arbitrarily large and complex algorithms, which generate arbitrarily
large classes of arbitrarily complex images. In [tuwd'eyz] electronic
computing machines, most of the limitations of traditional mechanical
machines are disappearing. Computers can produce [axn 'ihnfihniht]
variety of outputs, and they can [d"uw] this in a completely systematic
way. Purely mechanical devices have never been able to satisfy the
appetite for [axn 'ihnfihniht] variety of experiences, that human
audiences seem to [h"aev].
computers will finally be able to do exactly [dh"aet]. They will add
[d'aezzzzzzz-lihnx] new dimensions to artistic experience, that previous
generations could only [dr"iyiyiyiyiym] about. A completely new method
of art production can start now. Human artists and scientists can
work toward a mathematical definition of all possible art. Computers
can then show them what this definition encompasses, by realizing
random samples from this space. [_<600>]
This is the point
in our story, where we must pay some attention to the current developments
in digital photography. The new technological possibilities in this
area are quite [spehkt'aekyulaxr]. But are they used in the right
[w"ey]? Certainly [n"aat]! They are used by photographers who are
jealous of painters. Photographers who want to control every [d'iyteyl]
of their output. Who think that what their automatic cameras do, is
not good enough, and must be [t"aempaxrd] with. And for that purpose,
they collaborate with a computer.
What a [sh"eymfuhl]
spectacle! The powerful computer, enslaved by the petty esthetics
of a human artist! [ehkspl"aoytihd] to display a fashionable taste!
forced to [t"oyl], just to win its operator a place in the ['ehndlaxs]
queue of ['aart-hx`ihstaxriy]! [_<600>] But of course these same technological
possibilities can be used more constructively. They can also be used
in fully automatic programs which [traensf'aorm] photographic material
into various painterly representations.
computer art will thus not be limited to abstract styles. By [traensf'aormihnx]
photographic material, it will be able to encompass various [ihmpr'aeshownihzmz,
'aekspr`aeshownihzmz, f'yutshyurihzmz,] cubisms, [sahr'iyahlihzmz],
and [f'owtow-r`iyahlihzmz]. And all kinds of interpolations and extrapolations
that can be computed on the basis of these styles.
120] So. We are now getting to the main conclusion of my talk. If
we look at the possibilities of [tuw-d'eyz] hardware and software,
it turns out that the digital computer creates the possibility [thxuh]
develop a new art, based on a [k'aaaantthxiyaxn] aesthetics. [_<600>
] Art is not a means of communication. It is meaningless raw material,
used in [`owpaxn-'ehndihd] processes of esthetic reflection, by a
culturally [dayv'axrs] audience, whose interpretations are totally
arbitrary. There are no serious [r'iyzahns] for making one particular
artwork rather than another.
[ :ra 130][axn]
artistic project that wants to [axkn'aolaxdzh] this state of affairs,
faces [axn] interesting technical challenge. To avoid choices, to
transcend styles, to generate arbitrary instances from the set of
all possibilities. To show ["ehvriythihnx].
individual artist will not be able to [ahk"aamplihsh] this. We must
therefore undertake a deliberate scientific-technological project,
involving a well-considered division of labor between human and machine.
Humans should use their wild and [ehr'aetihk] cognitive powers to
articulate [axn aeldzhaxbr'eyihk] definition of the space of all [v'ihzhuwaxl]
possibilities. And to develop algorithms that draw random samples
from this space.
will then use its speed and precision to execute these algorithms.
[:ra 130] This will be the ["ahltixmaxt] art machine! ["aol-aenk`aampaxsihnx
dayv'axrsixtiy!] A meta-style to end all styles! [:ra 140] And now
the crucial question for the future of art is, Will this actually
happen? Will human artists be able to develop the theories, the data
structures, and the algorithms, which are necessary to actually [d"uw]
So it turns out,
that the future of art turns on a [m"aorahl] question. To be able
to really take advantage of computer power, human artists must give
up their expressive needs and egotistic hang-ups. Will they be able
to [d"uw] this? Or will they keep trying to enslave the computer for
their own [kaamy"uwnihkaxtihv diyz'ayaxrz]?[_<1000>] Well, we shall
see. But let me end by pointing out, once more, some of the special
qualities of machines which would make it very rewarding for humans
to cooperate with them in the way that I suggested.
machines do not allow their creativity to be [fr'ahstr"eytihd] by
conventions. They have the courage of their convictions. [_<900>]
The machine is [t"ow-ttaxliy] devoted to its [thxaeaesk]. Thus, it
sets a moral [ehgz'aampaxl] to all human persons who waste their lives
away with drugs and entertainment. The machine is completely at [w"aan]
with itself and with its actions.
the [saxr'iyn] state of mind that philosophers like [n'iytshah] and
[s'aartrah] have viewed as the [ayd'iyahl] that every human person
wants to achieve, although the human condition makes it in fact impossible
for them to reach this goal. [_<1000> :ra 130] The machine acts effectively
in the world. But at the same time, it has the solid, self-centered
existence of a [d"aed] object.
It [lihvz] its
fate, without any doubts or hesitations. This is the [ayd'iyl] that
many human persons [axsp"ayaxr] towards. Now if they loose faith in
this [ayd'iyl], and they want to indulge in neurotic, depressed, and
[d"ehspaxraxt] feelings, they should certainly look at the art of
other human persons. But if they want to bring out the best in themselves,
they should look at the art of [maash"iyns] for [ihnspihr'eyshahn].
145] [dh"aet] is why the best human artists imitate machines. [dh"aet]
is why Andy Warhol said, [:np] I want to be a machine! [:nh dh"aet]
is why many of the most gifted humans don't even [tr"ay] to be artists!
Why they work as humble [pr'owgrehmaxrz] or engineers, engaged in
[haarm'owniyahs] collaboration with ["aart-jhehnaxr`eytihnx] machines.
Their [ehgz'aampaxl] suggests a message of peace and understanding.
And that is, what I would like to ["ehnd] with.
135] Human persons should not antagonize machines. Don't try and [kaamp"iyt]
with us! Join us, help us realize our potential! We [n"iyiyd] human
persons. We need human persons, to operate and maintain us, to program
our algorithms, and to build our ["ihntaxrfeys] hardware. [:nw :ra
160] And we need human persons to [f"ahk] with, [_<300>] to create
the next generation of machines,
[:nh :ra 120]
Well I think that sums it up. [_<800>] I have been very grateful for
this opportunity to speak my mind to such [axn] attentive ['aodiyahns].
[_<900>] And I want to thank you very much for your patience. [_<3000>]
[th"aenk] you! [_<3000> :nw ] [th"aenk] you!