AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

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3D PRINTED, AI-PRODUCED ORIGINAL “REMBRANDT”

A collaboration between ING bank, Microsoft, Delft University of Technology, and the Mauritshuis museum brings us the Next Rembrandt project.

They’ve created an original, Rembrandt-style “painting” created by analyzing existing Rembrandt paintings (colors, head direction, facial composition, etc.).

If this is a taste of what the robot apocalypse will look like, then I guess it seems sort of anticlimactic.

Anyway, if you were curious about how to make the MOST paradigmatic Rembrandt painting, you’d want the following characteristics:

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Okay, but so much you probably already knew, without any deep data algorithms. Just with your fleshy meat brain.

But could you do this part?

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They did micro-landscape analysis of the brushstrokes and mimicked that, too. Then used “paint-based UV ink” to create the final product with a 3D printer.

And how does it look?

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I mean, it looks like a Rembrandt to me. (Some people claim they can tell it’s not authentic. I’m skeptical.) This – like computer-generated poetry – raises a bunch of interesting philosophical questions.

  • Is it an artwork?
  • Is it a painting?
  • Is it an original painting?
  • Is there an author? Who is it?
  • Is there any creativity involved? Any expression?
  • Would it actually be distinguishable, even by experts, from a real Rembrandt? And does that matter?

But most importantly:

  • Will this creativity and computer learning lead to robots enslaving humanity?

“You could say that we use technology and data like Rembrandt used his paints and his brushes to create something new.” – Ron Augustus, Director of SMB Markets at Microsoft

I mean, like, you could… but should you?

If you’re curious, check out the video below to see an overview of the project. Much more at the project website.

(Via Core77. Thanks to Noah Greenstein for the pointer.)


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WHISPERS OF POWER #8 WINNER

Congratulations this week to Sharon for her Beach Boys quote! A humorous line that takes on a somewhat ominous tone in this context, thanks!

(Sharon: Email aestheticsforbirds@gmail.com with contact details for your prize.)

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House of Cards, Season 3, episode 3, 10:07

“Everybody’s gone surfin’…
Surfin’ U.S.A.”

– Beach Boys, Surfin USA

Title: Surfboard

Description: Newly minted president Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) faces international matters. This image depicts his literal standoff with the Russian president, Viktor Petrov. A surfboard stands erect between them, while a funny moment takes a dark turn. Does this symbol suggest – or poke fun at – the idea that politics is a man’s world?

Next piece up tomorrow! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, or review the project over at the previous post here.


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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #59

Philosopher: Robert Gooding-Williams, Columbia University

Artwork: The Garden, Louise Glück, 1976

 

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Words: The dramatic speaker, a tragic chorus of one, can barely bear to observe a naïve young couple, wanting in awareness of the difficulties that await them, wanting in perspective, and doomed to sadness —a sadness occasioned by departures and separations, even fleeting ones, “even here, even at the beginning of love;” a sadness we may feel free to disregard, falsely thinking that we can secure our relationships against it.  The poem, through its rhythm and tone, conveys the ineluctability of that sadness, thus exemplifying poetry’s power to affect and affectively to form our understanding of the faults that fall between us.

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ARTIST INTERVIEW: LAUREN KALMAN

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Artist Lauren Kalman interviewed by Alex King for AFB

Lauren Kalman is a visual artist based in Detroit and an assistant professor at Wayne State University. Her practice is invested in contemporary craft, video, photography and performance. Kalman’s work has been featured in exhibitions at the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Cranbrook Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Mint Museum, and the World Art Museum in Beijing, among others. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Detroit Institute of Art. She currently has a solo show at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, running through March 15, 2017, as part of their MAD POV series; as well as an installation at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, PA, running through February 12, 2017.

[Ed. warning: this interview contains some nudity, may be NSFW]

Aesthetics for Birds: By way of introducing yourself and your work to our audience, how would you describe the kind of art you make? And what do you see as the central themes in your work?

Lauren Kalman: I am often considered a craft artist with formative training in the fields of jewelry and metalsmithing. Over the years my work has transitioned from jewelry as the format of my work to adornment as the subject of my work. This has freed me to approach jewelry through a variety of methods ranging from traditionally fabricated metal objects to textiles, beading, ceramics, installation, 3D printing, and computer controlled objects.

My most recent work expands on my previous work, which focused on the creation of objects that are hybrids of grotesque or undesirable aspects of the body with objects we commonly associate with beauty, power, status, health or wealth. Through my work, I investigate how the pursuit of human beauty has left its mark on the body. Bodily ideals are often implemented through the use of objects and materials placed on the body. The act of covering and adding to the body transforms it from a natural state toward an icon of perfection, and my work explores jewelry/adornment as agents of this transformation.

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Device for Filling a Void (4), from Devices for Filling a Void series (2014)

AFB: Your work breaks traditional medium and genre boundaries. Do you break these for principled reasons, or do you just do the sort of art that you find appealing, and then let others sort it out?

LK: I am interested in disciplinary histories and play off of them in my work, however, at the end of the day I let the critics, curators, and art historians decide how to categorize what I make. This frees me to work across disciplines and media.

AFB: Many of your works involve sculptured pieces designed to be worn or attached to a body. As such, there is an element of performance, and photographs or videos that document the performances. You said in a previous interview that “at this point, the images are not documentation but an integral part of the work.” Could you say more about what you mean? What do you see as the difference between photographs (or videos) being mere documentation as opposed to part of the work?

LK: This may be more of an art specific distinction. Documentation usually refers to an image OF a work of art used to communicate that work through the medium of photography. I make photographs and video AS the work. Hopefully that distinction makes sense.

AFB: Yes, definitely. As you said, your works play with our standard notions of beauty and the grotesque. You do this in your choice of what to feature (e.g., nostrils, gums, dermatological conditions, amputations), and through your materials and textures (gold and pearl and gemstones, smooth or coarse). Do you intend your pieces to be on the whole beautiful or grotesque?

LK: Both. I am interested in the spaces in between.

AFB: Is your work an attempt to draw attention to standards of beauty in order to critique them or just in order to observe them? Do you want people coming away thinking, for example, that acne and blisters can be beautiful? Or that they could only be beautiful if they were made of gilded diamonds and rubies – because those things actually are beautiful? Or that, even then, these “blemishes” would retain some right to our disgust?

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Hard Wear (Canal Caps), from Hard Wear series (2006)

LK: I don’t think I want people to come away with a particular vantage point. In the work you are referring to I was largely interested in a subtle shift, change in medium to change the grotesque into something beautiful. Maybe it is a formal exercise, maybe also a meditation on the power of cultural norms and expectations as they relate to the body.

AFB: More recent work of yours, like “But if the Crime is Beautiful…”, explicitly questions our concepts of simplicity, minimalism, and ornament. I think earlier work of yours can be seen as exploring these issues, too. Is part of your point with this work that what modernists – and thus we now – understand as “simple” or “unadorned” is already embedded in a bunch of assumptions? If that’s right, what do you take those assumptions to be?

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Composition with Object and Ornament (6), from But if the Crime is Beautiful… series (2013-2016)

LK: I think in Western culture there has come to be a value in unadorned or simple. This value is rooted in historical associations between adornment and women or adornment and indigenous cultures or adornment and people of color, and also a ling between adornment and indulgence (as a bodily phenomena). Where simplicity is a project of the mind, and intellectual endeavor and a rejection of the corporeal. To me this rejection of the body (and its association with the feminine and people of color) is clearly problematic.

AFB: One of the many ways you engage with gender and sex in your work is by focusing on female bodies and female wearables. The wearables often look pretty painful – and I assume that’s no coincidence. Are you critiquing standards of beauty that lie behind sayings like “pretty hurts”, i.e., the idea that women should or must suffer for beauty? Or are you aiming for something else?

LK: I think it is critique, but I think the critique is broader than specific standards of beauty. I am interested in the construction of the mind/body dichotomy perpetuated in Western culture. We see this notion expressed in Baudelaire’s 1863 essay “In Praise of Cosmetics”, where he argues that morality is artificial, and to social values of mind over body, and the superiority of cultural fabrication over individual bodies. In my work I also think about how this is a gendered activity, reflecting historic notions that the mind and intellect are the realm of the (white) male and that corporeality and emotions are that of the female or other. I see the pain in my work as representative of this striving for artificial at the expense of the body.

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Strangers to the Garden, from But if the Crime is Beautiful… series (2013-2016)

AFB: Thanks! Last question: Please fill in the blanks as you see fit: “Aesthetics is for the artist as ________ is for the ______.”

LK: Honestly, I don’t have an answer for this question. Words are not my specialty!


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WHISPERS OF POWER #8

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House of Cards, Season 3, episode 3, 10:07

Title: Surfboard

Description: Newly minted president Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) faces international matters. This image depicts his literal standoff with the Russian president, Viktor Petrov. A surfboard stands erect between them, while a funny moment takes a dark turn. Does this symbol suggest – or poke fun at – the idea that politics is a man’s world?

Readers, please help us by supplying a caption for this image! As a reminder, the winning caption will be hand-drawn into the blank space below the image. The reader who supplies the winning caption will receive a signed print and be named an official collaborator for this piece. Submit captions below in the comments!

Contest closes Saturday at noon (US, EST). Winner announced Sunday. Next piece up in one week! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, review the details of it at the previous post here, or see previous posts in this series here.


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WHISPERS OF POWER #7 WINNER

Congratulations this week to Maxine for her original composition!

(Maxine: Email aestheticsforbirds@gmail.com with contact details for your prize.)

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House of Cards, Season 3, Episode 2, 36:48

“To be a leader
To be a liar
To be honest
One needs the courage to be
In the limelight”

Title: Conference

Description: After fighting his way to the presidency, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) moves forward with his plans. Imagining a cooperative and supportive administration, he is surprised to find that they see him as a stepping stone, an intermediate solution until their next, real candidate can be elected and installed. How can he win them, and the American people, over?

Next piece up tomorrow! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, or review the project over at the previous post here.

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A THANKSGIVING ANNOUNCEMENT FROM AFB

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Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Scorched Earth, Clear Cut Logging on Native Sovereign Lands, Shaman Coming to Fix (1991) (via Yuxweluptun’s website)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in America, and while there are many things to be thankful for (though also many things to be dissatisfied with, to put it mildly), we at AFB would like to take a moment to recognize and celebrate Native American art and people.

Please remember that the conventional Thanksgiving narrative is at best naively and misleadingly incomplete and at worst grossly, perniciously, and irretrievably wrong.

And be aware that Native Americans still fight for recognition, respect, and rights. Be aware of the current Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) situation (see how you can help here). Be aware that while you may be sitting down tomorrow to a meal with family and friends, others will be protesting at the National Day of Mourning in Coles Hill Plymouth, MA and at the Indigenous Peoples’ Sunrise Gathering on Alcatraz Island, CA.

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David Bradley, Pueblo Feast Day (1997) (via Wikimedia Commons)

The influence of indigenous cultures on contemporary American culture is immeasurable. So we would like to say thank you, and we stand with you.

If you’d like to get more informed, below the fold are a few links to recent developments in Native American art and the artworld.
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WHISPERS OF POWER #7

wop_7_blank

House of Cards, Season 3, episode 2, 36:48

Title: Conference

Description: After fighting his way to the presidency, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) moves forward with his plans. Imagining a cooperative and supportive administration, he is surprised to find that they see him as a stepping stone, an intermediate solution until their next, real candidate can be elected and installed. How can he win them, and the American people, over?

(Of course, this is not like any real life current events….)

Readers, please help us by supplying a caption for this image! As a reminder, the winning caption will be hand-drawn into the blank space below the image. The reader who supplies the winning caption will receive a signed print and be named an official collaborator for this piece. Submit captions below in the comments!

Contest closes Saturday at noon (US, EST). Winner announced Sunday. Next piece up in one week! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the project website here, review the details of it at the previous post here, or see previous posts in this series here.


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WHISPERS OF POWER #6 WINNER

Congratulations this week to Aron Goossens for his very fitting (and a bit scary in the context!) William Blake quote.

(Aron: Email aestheticsforbirds@gmail.com with contact details for your prize.)

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House of Cards, Season 2, Episode 13

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”

– William Blake

Title: The Door

Description: Newly sworn in President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) opens the door opens to the oval office, and for the first time, not knocking beforehand. His wife Claire (Robin Wright), who has pushed and supported him, steps back so that he can take this final step alone.

New piece up tomorrow! Keep tabs on the project and contest at the dedicated project website, review the project over at the introductory post, or see previous posts in this series.

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100 PHILOSOPHERS 100 ARTWORKS 100 WORDS #59

Philosopher: Maria Brincker, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Artwork: William Kentridge, The Refusal of Time, 2012, 30-minute multimedia installation; Kentridge worked with science historian Peter Galison researching the piece, and collaborators Philip Galison, who composed the score and designed its soundscape, and Catherine Meyburgh, who edited the video.

Words: This installation is a multidimensional reminder of our temporality, yet struggle for permanence. Our being in time as changing organisms, yet agents of lasting effects. Our created contexts of artifacts and cultural domination take center stage – as intricate tools of attempted control and record keeping. Metronomes and breathing sounds make our visceral rhythms loudly present while the power structures of technology and racist colonialism envelop us through a chorus of video clips, shadows, and sketches. “The refusal of time” speaks simultaneously to and about the funk and the intellect, and left me with a gasp and an enduring memory.