IAAA, Theoretical Publications

Huge Harry

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.

A Computer's View on the Future of Art and Photography

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"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] awareness!

[: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.

['aespaekts] 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 development.

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.

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 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 system.

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!

Cause computing 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].

But tomorrow's 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.

Fully automatic 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.

[_<1000> :ra 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].

The spontaneous 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.

The computer 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] this? [_<1000>]

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.

['ahnlayk] humans, 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.

It [r'iyaxl`ayzihz] 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].

[_<1000> :ra 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.

[_<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!