Art, Robots, and the Industrial Age – Matt Pham

The Industrial Revolution was particularly important for art because it allowed art to spread much faster than it ever could before. Average people could afford to put Grant Wood’s American Gothic in their living rooms, or at least derivatives of it. Technology has made art accessible to everyone, not just the upper class. For example, you probably have some kind of art as your desktop wallpaper. Music is easily stored as mp3 files. Art is pretty much everywhere, though most people do not realize it. I think that the development of miniaturization and the assembly line, which were spawned from the Industrial Age, has freed up enough time and space for products and projects to take on a more artistic form.

Art does not only consist of oil paintings made by guys wearing berets. Throughout history, there have been many mediums of art, from caveman scratchings to marble sculpture to computer generated graphics. As technology progresses, only more mediums can arise. Kinetic art was particularly interesting to me because it shows that art does not have to be static and unchanging. It is a great example of the power of technology combined with human creativity. They can be interesting and even fun to watch, like Rube Goldberg devices:

It’s not advisable to watch the whole thing because time will fly right by.

Ever since the advent of robots, humans have been trying to make robots that are like humans. However, is that a line that can ever be crossed? Are there things that a human can do that a machine will never be able to do? In class, the RAP (Robotic Action Painter) was mentioned and some of its paintings were shown. At its basest level, however, it was only following its programming. Many would argue that this is not art, but I think that it is, but the true credit for the paintings should go to the engineers who made RAP. I do not know if an artificial intelligence can ever truly create art, because we understand so little about the human creative process. In “For a Breath I Tarry,” Roger Zelazny writes about a robot trying to become human. The machine tries to understand humans by creating art, so it creates a miniature replica of itself and is met with criticism:

“You assembled parts of other things you knew into an economic pattern, to carry out a function which you desired.”
“Art, as I understand its theory, did not proceed in such a manner. The artist often was unaware of many of the features and effects which would be contained within the finished product. You are one of Man’s logical creations; art was not.”
“I cannot comprehend non-logic.”
“I told you that Man was basically incomprehensible.”


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