On the Surface

Winds Of Change: New Technologies Offer Artists New Options

March 29, 2017
       

Remember Hal? Anyone who’s ever seen “2001: A Space Odyssey” may never forget “him,” Hal, the only computer we know on a first-name basis.

For many of us, that name may be fear. Fear that computers are taking over our jobs, and not just the grunt work. There seems good reason to fear that as they grow ever smarter and more sophisticated, computers will also grow more and more human: sensitive, creative, actually capable of making original works of art.

Relax and fear not, say the scientists behind all such AI (artificial intelligence). Instead, realize that AI offers the artist something beyond an assistant or apprentice (traditional helpmates to art greats like daVinci and Rubens). Just look at the sheer drudgery computers and robots have already lifted off our easels and drawing boards with a variety of CAD programs.

Now AI offers what painter/professor Harold Cohen (UC San Diego) calls “a new creative collaborator.” Since l973, Cohen has been collaborating with a computer program called AARON, which can make pictures autonomously. More recently, professor Simon Colton (Goldsmiths College, London) staged an exhibition at the Galerie Oberkampf in Paris, featuring works by a computer program known as “The Painting Fool” (it drew crowds and press coverage; no word about the wine and cheese).

And that’s just the beginning. A quick look through scientific literature reveals a future teeming with dazzling, desirable, user-friendly new high-tech offerings, such as:

  • Google’s Tilt Brush — A new virtual reality tool that creates 3-D drawings in the air. “A whole new way of making art” you can look at and be wowed by, but can’t touch. Picasso loved its prototype, famously making “light drawings” back in 1949.
  • Smart Textiles — “Textiles are not passive any more. They do things,” confirms Matilda McQuaid, Deputy Director/Head of Textiles at the Cooper-Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. Some of what today’s fabrics do: conductive yarns overprinted with thermochromic inks can change colors when they’re warmed or ebb and glow on a timed cycle. Integrated with electronics and made into garments, fabrics can monitor the wearer’s vital signs…on the battlefield or in hospitals, for example.
  • 3-D Printing — Make yourself ultra-personalized footwear and clothing that fits, not just the body, but also with respect to movement and the society. Hard at work on that project, Troy Nachtigall is one of 15 PhD students involved in the ArcInTexETN project, sponsored by the EU at the University of Boras, Sweden.