But is it Art?

What we crave most in art, what we reward more than anything else, is surprise. Marcel Duchamp’s urinal, the introduction of perspective to landscape painting, stream-of-consciousness literature – these creative breakthroughs achieve much of their impact by shocking us into some new perspective on the world.

Our ubiquitous smartphones, sensors and platforms are more than just new nouns on the stage of cultural practice. They are generating new verbs and grammatical relationships, many of them so obvious that we no longer even pause to contemplate the godlike powers encoded in the phrase ‘to google’ something. As the media theorist Lev Manovich’s work on Instagram suggests, the general dissemination of cellphone cameras goes beyond making photography more accessible; it fundamentally changes what photography means.

Human creativity has always been a response to the immense strangeness of reality, and now its subject has evolved, as reality becomes increasingly codeterminate, and intermingled, with computation. If that statement seems extreme, consider the extent to which our fundamental perceptions of reality – from research in the physical sciences to finance to the little screens we constantly interject between ourselves in the world – have changed what it means to live, to feel, to know. As creators and appreciators of the arts, we would do well to remember all the things that Google does not know.


When I was younger I used to spend a lot of time dreaming about the future. And I mean the future on a grandiose sci-fi scale. Utopia, dystopia and all the wonderous states in between. Robots, automation, flying cars, miracle drugs, cybernetics, virtual realities sure but never about “art”, that would always be a human endeavor…

But if art can be created computationally, enhanced algorithmically, switched at the touch of the button, where does the creativity come from?Is it from the application of a filter to the photograph on your Smartphone. Or is it from the programmer of that filter, perhaps the algorithm itself, that has already boxed in your choices. Or is it the photo you choose to filter in the first place, which is in turn affected by the equipment you use… your brush, paints, and canvas.

The lines between creator and tools are becoming increasingly blurred, is “feeling” the final step to be overcome by computation, and if that happens, what does it mean for what we perceive as art?

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