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Paint Like a Human, And Stop Training Robots to Take Your Place

Robots and AI are all around us. Deal with it. In the past few days I’ve come across news that made me think about the relationship between art and mechanical – and digital, in this case – means of (re)production. Especially when the connection between humans and machines is blurred like it is nowadays.

It all started at the end of 2014, when online media gave prominence to Wild Growth, a project by digital artist Chang Liu inspired by Jackson Pollock’s dripping and digital works from Camille Utterback and Memo Akten. Using Processing as a main tool and combining camera analyzing systems and visual parts, he managed to create something similar to a plant’s growth in a digital environment, whose development can be seen in this video and the final outcome in the picture below.

Chang Liu's "Central Park, face to a tree" from the Wild Growth project.

The following week The Creators Project featured a post about classic paintings and data, opening an article focused on the work of artist Yousuke Ozawa, Data Visualization, with a reinterpretation of The Son of Man by René Magritte rendered through a code made of numbers, letters and symbols (quite coincidentally, at the same time I was visiting the Magritte Museum in Brussels, which I highly recommend).

Yousuke Ozawa's reinterpretation of "The Son of Man" by René Magritte.

A few days later the new trailer for the science fiction film from director Neil Blomkamp, Chappie, was released on Facebook. It features an experimental robot, “A machine that can think and feel”, can write poetry and music. And that of course, to be considered human, can also paint. Because art is believed to be quintessentially human. Hum…

Chappie the robot shows his skills as a painter in Neil Blomkamp's film.

Again, last week Dazed introduced its readers to Novice Art Blogger, a robot that “reviews art better than most critics.” A project by British-Colombian artist Matthew Plummer Fernandez, this bot “honestly” says what it sees and provides detailed descriptions of works of art deprived of all that snooty critical jargon that very often makes its meaning impossible to grasp.

Novice Art Blogger describes "Sahara" by Julian Trevelyan.

While trying to figure out how to conclude this post and say something that could provide a brilliant ending, I additionally discovered Crowd Painter, a crowdsourced painting project about “an interactive robot that can paint with a brush on canvas.” So I got the feeling that I could go on writing on this topic forever… Maybe time has come for me to read Robots Will Steal Your Job. But That’s Ok. And if you’re an artist, I suppose you should read it too. Alternatively, just stop programming robots to do your job.