Individual Artists

Essays of Harold Cohen by Harold Cohen

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By Harold Cohen

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Page 23 My own view can be stated briefly and without oversimplifying too far. I believe that the artist is engaged, as everybody else is, in building internal representations of his world, and that his behavior is remarkable in only two major respects. The first — and this seems to me to be a feature common to art-making, science-doing, philosophy, mathematics, and most other higher intellectual pursuits — is that the formulating and continuous reformulating of mental models is carried on as a foreground, and as a highly structured, activity: not as a background activity.

A virtually universal first assumption of the audiences was that the drawings they were watching being made by the machine had actually been made in advance by the "real" artist, and somehow "fed" to the machine. After it had been explained that this was not the case viewers would talk about the machine as if it were a human artist. There appeared to be a general consensus that the machine exhibited a goodnatured and even witty artistic personality, and that its drawings were quite droll (fig 4).

Here the question was whether the degree and kind of differentness would correspond to the variety we might expect from a human page 10 Fig 9 image-maker. Would the individual drawings, generated in the absence of any knowledge of the world and its objects, nevertheless function as though they were made by a human image-maker, in the sense that they might appear to be making reference to the world and its objects? The answer seems to be affirmative, at least to the degree that most people evidently have some difficulty in believing that the drawings (8-10) were not made by a human artist: an artist, moreover, with a distinct sense of humor and a marked tendency towards narrative.

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