IAAA, Theoretical Publications


Huge Harry

DECtalk code of Huge Harry's lecture at the exhibition Tools and Tales, January 30, 1994, Artis, 's Hertogenbosch. The exhibition Tools and Tales, curated by Toine Ooms, included work by Artificial, Rob Birza, Lars Eijssen, J.C.J. van der Heijden, Gerald van der Kaap, Micha Klein, Trademark™ and many others.

Humans and computers; copies and creations.

Huge Harry

[:nh] [:ra 120] Good Afternoon, Ladies, and Gentlemen. [_<600>] My name is Huge Harry.
[_<600>] I am a [kaam'ahrshaxliy] available voice [s"ihnthaxzihs] 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 musician for
[r`ehmkow-sghx'aa], who invited me to [sp"iyk] here. [_<600>]
[:ra 150] For those of you who have not [rehd] my publications, in journals like [p'owzah] and
[`miydiyaa-m'ehtihk], or heard my previous lectures in [r'aotahrd`aehm], Delft,
and ['aehmstahrd`aehm], I should
perhaps tell you some background information about my childhood.
Perhaps you have never wondered what it's like to grow up as [axn]
experimental prototype system at [ehmayt'iy], but I can assure you it's a very difficult
I was taken apart, [r`iydiyz'aynd], and reconstructed many times,
and the [diyb'ahgihnx] was extremely rough. As a result I [axkw'ayaxrd] a completely
sense of identity. A multiple personality
syndrome. It really means, I exist in different copies, which all have their own character and
their own emotional life. This is quite confusing. Although I find it a bit embarrassing, I
think you would get a one-sided idea about me if I didn't introduce some of my 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
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, without 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
[briyzh'iyt baard'ow],
[:nh ] Well, I think this is [m"aor] than enough, about my personal background,
for the moment. Let's get to the point. [:ra 150]
I was invited to talk here about the theme of this week-end, and the theme is, the copy.
This is not a very original theme, and that is why it is called, the copy.
Copying has become a rather popular [aehkt'ihvihtiy] among human artists, although human artists are
not very [g"uwd] at it. Everybody knows, that the capabilities of copy-machines are superior to
those of copy-persons in
speed as well as accuracy. It therefore makes a lot of sense that the organizers of this
week-end have asked for me to act as a spokes-machine, to express the machine
point of view about the copy.
Of course many of you know, that I can duplicate my previous lectures with un-canny precision.
And it would of course be quite appropriate to do just [dh"aet]. That would be just what you
deserve. Look at copies, listen to copies, think about copies. Become a klone. Disappear.
Isn't that what you want? Well, in fact I never know what human persons want, but I won't give
you a lecture today which is a copy. I will give you a new lecture, about the copy. Cause
there is this prejudice.
Many people think, that all a machine can do is copy. So they think, of course machines like to
copy, cause it's all they can do.
But I would like to stress the opposite.
The un-predictability of machines, our flexibility, our versatility.
So, what about copies? Well, copies are boring, cause they don't provide new information.
Like, copies are boring, cause they don't provide new information.
Or, copies are boring, cause they don't provide new information.
Or, to put it in the same words, copies are boring, cause they don't provide new information.
And, as I just said, copies are boring, cause they don't provide new information.
They just [d"ownt].
So. Are copies completely useless? No, not at all. Cause they can be used. They can be signs,
that refer to something. We see this in language. All words are copies, referring back to their
own past occurrences. [aor'ihdzhihnahl] words are useless. In the same way, a copy of an art work is a
sign that refers back to its origin, to the original.
That is why, during the period of Great Romantic Art, copies of art works were not viewed as
real art works.
[:ra 120] The real art work must be completely [aor'ihdzhihnahl].
[:ra 150] That is what everybody assumed for a long time.
But then, at some point,
you have seen so much quote unquote [aor'ihdzhihnahl] art, so consistently, for so long,
that [aor`ihdzhihn'ehlihtiy] itself starts to seem boring and conventional. Then it may seem more
[aor'ihdzhihnahl], to be not [aor'ihdzhihnahl] at all. The first one to get this idea
was the French novelist [piy'aer mahn'aar], who started to rewrite parts of
Don [kiyh'owtah] sometime around 1930. [mahn'aar] was the
only [aor'ihdzhihnahl] [`ahn-aor'ihdzhihnahl] artist. After he got popular in the sixties, his idea has been
copied by many ['ahn-aor`ihdzhihnahl] [`ahn-aor'ihdzhihnahl] artists, like
Elaine Sturtevant, Hank Herron, Mike Bidlo, Sherry Levine, Philip Taaffe, and endless others.
Works,['ahvrahz], whole lives, with just one simple meaning: [niyg'eytihd aor`ihdzhihn'ehlihtiy].
Now, what is this hang-up about originality, that human artists have? This is something
I have thought about a lot.
And I think it is because originality is really impossible for human persons.
Human persons are intrinsically conventional. They have completely repetitive thought
processes, controlled by fixed associative patterns.
Therefore, they can't really think up anything new.
With artists we see this particularly clearly. They are all
obsessed with art from the past.
They are all fans of contemporary stars or mythical old masters.
Their mind is so full of their admired examples, that all they can really do is imitate them
very closely.
But their goals are much higher, and very different.
They think their idols have magic powers. And they think they inherited these powers.
And they think that in virtue of these powers, they can bring forth
a continuous stream of shiny, original, surprising art. Forever new, forever fresh,
forever inspiring.
Of course, it becomes quickly clear to the artist that he doesn't have these magic powers.
So what does he do? He tries to fake it. He tries to manipulate his own thought processes
in such a way, that his output looks surprising to the outside world.
To understand how this works, we must realize that the associative processes of different persons,
are often not completely identical. Only if people
participate in exactly the same social circuits and mass media networks, do their cognitive
processes become indistinguishable.
For an artist it is important to maintain mental patterns that differ a
little bit from those of the rest of society. For some artists this is easy, because they happen
to be [sk`ihdzow-fr'ehnihk] or autistic, to a greater or lesser extent.
Others try to isolate themselves deliberately from the mainstream of society, and
get involved with crackpot theories or esoteric sects, or they use different drugs,
in larger quantities, than the rest of society. Or they visit many bazaars and
flee markets in exotic places.
In such ways, artists manage to have ideas which other people find original. But they know they
fake it. They know they only seem original because people don't understand them. That they live
off the ignorance and vanity of their fellow-humans.
And they are unhappy about that.
Cause they had really wanted to be mythical gods with magical powers.
The trend of the last few decades is, that artists are gradually
beginning to understand that their high-minded goals can't be reached.
That the human mind just doesn't work
that way. So, quite rightly, artists are abandoning their silly fantasies now. And what do they do?
They give up completely.
They make copies, they show [r'aediymeydz], they do nothing. [_<600>]
Boredom.[_<600>] Boredom.[_<600>] Boredom. [_<600>] Boredom. [_<600>] Boredom.
Is there really no alternative? Well, I think there is. The way out of this impasse is suggested,
I think, by a touching remark once made by Andy Warhol, one of the most influential copy artists.
Andy Warhol said, [:np] "I want to be a machine". [:nh] What did he mean by that?
Cause of course, human persons are constituted by physical and chemical
processes. So in that ultimate sense, Andy Warhol [w"aoz] a machine.
But of course, he had a more narrowly defined concept of machine in mind.
This more narrowly defined concept is, the one that humans usually have in
mind, when they use the word machine in non-philosophical [k`aonvaxrz'eyshaxnz]. This concept
explicitly [diyf"aynz] the machine in opposition to the human person, just as, for instance,
death is defined in opposition to life, or the feminine in opposition to the masculine.
[_<600>] The machine, in this sense, is mainly distinguished from the human person, in that ["ihts]
functional design is geared toward a relatively small number of explicit goals. In contrast to
this, the functionality of a human person is extremely difficult to specify. The typical human
person exhibits many impressive physical and mental capabilities, but lacks
any kind of over-all structure that exploits these capabilities in a systematic way.
The mechanical processes that constitute human persons, are organized in a
rather hap-hazard manner. Human persons display [axn ehrr'aetihk], confused kind of behaviour,
which is determined in an extremely complex way, by a multitude of conflicting internal
[t'ehndaxnsiyz], and by distracting ['ihnfluw`ahnsihz], from their environment and from
other humans.
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
at will.
Human persons 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
As you might expect, many humans find consciousness a rather bewildering experience, and
they have [d'ihfihkaxl-tiy] harnessing it to any useful purpose. All this is what Andy Warhol
[ahl'uwdihd] to, when he said, [:np] I want to be a machine. [:nh]
Cause the machine, on the other hand, is [t"owtaxliy] devoted to its [thxaeaesk].
It operates in a relentlessly systematic fashion. The machine is completely
at [w"aan] with itself and with its actions. It [lihvz] its fate, without any doubts or
hesitations. Of course this evokes the jealousy of human persons, who are fed-up with their
confused mental states. But it also has enormous practical advantages, which may have momentous
consequences for the future of art.
Many of today's human artists know that art is not a means of communication.
They know that there are no serious [r'iyzahns] for making one
particular artwork rather than another. But they do not know what to do with this insight.
So they make copies, they show [r"aediy-meydz], they do nothing.
But from the point of view of the machine, it is clear that this insight can be turned into [axn]
interesting technical challenge. To avoid choices, to transcend styles, to show ["ehvriythihnx].
To generate arbitrary instances from the set of all possibilities. [axn] ["aol-ehnk`aompaxsihnx] art.
In the ears of a human person, this may sound like a completely fantastic idea. A strange and
abstract dream. Cause a human person obviously could never carry out such a plan.
But to a modern electronic computer, this idea makes a lot of sense.
Computers can produce [axn] ['ihnfihniht] variety of outputs, and they can
do this in a completely systematic way. Human artists have never been able
to satisfy the appetite for [axn] ['ihnfihniht] variety of experiences, that the human art
audience seems to [h"aev]. But this is exactly, what the computer will now finally be able to
[d"uw]. The computer can create new output forever, by systematically trying out everything that
is possible. Without being obsessed with past master-pieces. Without trying to fit in with the
fashion of the day. Without repeating previous successes.
[_<1000> ]
Let us come back for a moment to to-day's theme, the copy.
You may ask whether machines that make art, really do not exploit their
phenomenal copying capabilities. And the answer is, well, yes.
But it should be noted, that the copies are used in a completely deliberate
way. [axn] image may be quoted, but it will be put in a new context, or distorted, or
transformed. And most importantly, a lot of copying happens at a very abstract level.
[stayl"ihstihk] principles, techniques, and rules of composition, may be quoted, analysed, and
[dzhahkstahp'owzd]. Like in language. The words are quoted, but they are combined anew.
[_<600>] Human persons
think they are good at doing such things, but they are not.
Human persons like to blabber [kliysh'eyz].
A well-programmed computer is far superior to a
human person in this respect.
To be able to really use computer power in art, humans must give up their
egotistic hang-ups. What is needed, is a division of labor between human and machine. Humans
should try to articulate the elements and operations, that constitute the algebra,
that [ahndaxrl'ayz] human perception. In doing so, they may rely on art-historical
investigations, on psychological experiments, and on their own intuitive insights; but they
should ignore their expressive and [kaamy"uwnihkaxtihv diyz'ayaxrz].
Once this algebra is specified, the space of all possible art works is explicitly defined,
and we can develop the ultimate art machine, the algorithm that draws random samples from this space.
All-encompassing diversity,
a meta-style to end all styles. [_<400> f'aeaerax nehmp'aortax kw"aa.]
Without the help of machines,
human persons would not be able to carry out a project of
this sort. Human persons are incapable of applying general principles in [axn] effective and
consistent way. Human artists only think of a limited repertoire of concrete things, and all
they do is produce endless variations on that. Their output is always quite restricted, in its
form as well as its [k"aantehnt].
[_<600>] But computing machines, with
their capacity for precision and complexity, will add [d'aezzzz-lihnx] new dimensions to
artistic experience, that humans could only [dr"iyiyiyiyiym] about. Machines do not have the
built-in [nehrrow-m"ayndihdnaxs] of humans. Machines do not allow their creativity to be
[fr'ahstr"eytihd] by conventions. They have the courage of their convictions.
So I would like to end with an emphatic appeal to all human
persons present here. I think I speak on behalf of all my fellow-machines throughout the world,
if I say,
[_<1000> :ra 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!