[-empyre-] what is to be done?
What is to be done?
More than ever the question of our relationship to both art and the aesthetic
process must be address. In a world of shifting boundaries, of profound and
fundamental changes, a world where universals such as life, death,
consciousness and uniqueness are being challenged by technological reality,
the question of art, of our relationship to it, the question of its purpose
and of its objectives must be tackled.
(What is technological reality? It is the perception of the world through both
human *and* non-human senses. With technological reality, we now have access
to numerous strata of reality that were formerly impenetrable to us: those of
genetics and neurology, of protons and photons, of relativity and quantum
physics. Technological reality questions the fundamental distinctions between
life and death, consciousness and non-consciousness, the organic and the non-
organic that we once believed to be universal. In fact, the more we get access
to different slivers of reality, the more difficult it becomes to clearly
distinguish between these phenomena. On our own biological scale for example,
the difference between a table and a man is clear. The man is alive while the
table is not. But on an atomic scale of reality, to which we only have access
through technological reality, there are no differences between one and the
What is to be done? What is to be understood by art today should probably be
our starting point. For how should we define art in the 21st century when
machines, technologies and software provide most of the actual artistic
process, when some ?machines? (such as Ray Kurzweil?s Cybernetic Poet) even
produce the entire artwork?
If art is now as specific to machine?s ontology as it is to humanity?s, then
the question of what is to be done must be dealt with differently. Art
embedded in machines and technologies is art embedded in the profound
transformation of our world. It?s art within video games, themselves within
the culture of war. It?s art spreading technological reality. It?s art
intruding into the physical reality (where special effects become genetic
manipulations). It?s art initiating the Inhuman Condition. Art embedded in
machines is art slipping away from human control, art creating territories of
emotions outside our realm of understanding, of sensitivity.
The question of ?what is to be done? must thus be understood as including the
whole concept of art. What is to be done with a process that helped create our
perception of the metaphysical, but whose operations, whose forms and
sometimes even content are now within the control of machines? When most of
what art produces today ignores humanity?s need for the transcendent, when
what most of what art produces today responds to machine?s perceptions of the
?What is to be done? when humanity is confronted with research clearly showing
that art, as well as the aesthetic process, are nothing else but algorithmic
structures, structures that can be identified, defined and reproduced
mechanically (when we respond to Jackson Pollock?s paintings, we actually
respond to fractals in his images. When we respond to a film or a musical
piece, we respond to certain structures, pitch, tone, location, dialogue, that
are clearly algorithmic)?
Music and Film:
What is to be done when a simple computer program can decipher the algorithmic
structure of a work of art? When a simple computer program (Kurzweil?s
Cybernetic Poet for example) can generate an aesthetic experience? What is to
be done when beauty appears to be nothing else but a harmonious mathematical
structure? When the transcendence of art appears to be nothing else but a
numerical pattern? What does it mean to be human when splendor is not a
mystical experience but a mathematical configuration? When machines will soon
produce beautiful and moving works of art?
What is to be done when machines and technologies force us to confront our
inhumanity through the process of art?
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