Friday, October 22, 2004

For some reason this morning I remembered a story I read a few years back about computer generated art. An AI program given some different algorithms to work with was connected up to a plotter and the results printed out. I wish I could remember more about it � it had a cute name like Alf � but I remember it in the context of trying to decide what someone means when they say that art is �good.� Or �bad.� This has never made any sense to me. I�m more in agreement with Duke Ellington when he said about music, �If it sounds good, it is good.� It�s all � in my opinion � based on the experiencer�s experience. Ah. But this brings up other thoughts. This morning I was walking � very early � in the nearly deserted morning streets of Tucson. And walking by a thick yellowish green tree, I heard the most beautiful birdsongs I�ve heard in a very long time. Ah, yes: beautiful. Were the birds trying to make art? One thinks not. Was God � or someone working the same line under a different name � trying to make art? Dubious. Waling further on: is that particular portion of that old wall crazed and cracked in such a manner �art� because it looks so beautiful to me? What makes a good sunset, for that matter, as opposed to a bad one? Or a cup of coffee? Difficult to escape the notion that it�s all personal. I oughta re-read that Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, since he covered this ground with regard to the concept of Quality. I don�t recall that he came to any earth-shattering conclusions. Or any conclusion. But it�s all wordplay, I�d say�the world is so much bigger than our linguistic version of it, and so-called paradoxes are bound to occur within the bounds of a linguistic setup. I say so-called, since I�m skeptical that they can exist �in reality.� And that no great conclusions as to what �quality� �is� are possible.

But if truth�s beauty and beauty�s truth, I�m gonna get confused, and misled (taking you along with me, if you�re not careful) into the thickets of semantics and words, which is just a small neighborhood (and not a well-respected one) in the vast city of knowledge and understanding, most of which is, if you hadn�t heard this already, entirely outside the verbal realm.

In this connection I must reveal my Buddhist leanings by remembering what one sage said, to my own and others� dismay: to an awake person, food is the same as shit. Ah. So our seeing this part of the world as good, or beautiful, and that part as bad or ugly, is a result of our not being awake? This is particularly galling to a practicing artist, because if it�s true, then the profession of art is a just a way of keeping otherwise unemployable persons in green and off the street.

In the realm of art, and without even getting near to that Zen stuff, one can confidently assert that at least 50% of the art transaction (the transaction being the creation of the art combined with its appreciation by a viewer) is on the side of the person looking at (or hearing or reading or sipping it). By this I mean, one person�s good cup of coffee is another�s undrinkable dark-roast disaster. So in the case of the computer-generated art, there seems to be, as in the case of a beautifully flattened beer can glittering in the morning sun, the transaction seems to be almost completely in the eyes, in the hands, of the viewer, if we take the programmer out of the equation, which he or she would probably not appreciate. To them, the program itself is a work of art. I actually think �art� is one of those words that we should ruthlessly eliminate.

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