Will Machinic Art Lay Beyond Our Ability to Understand It?

I’ll present a paper with Rui Penha at the Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Information.

In this communication, we will argue that artistic creations made by artificial minds will most likely lay beyond our ability to understand them, perhaps even beyond our ability to recognize them at all as artistic creations. We will assume that the emergence of consciousness in artificial minds is possible: the fact that the belief in that hypothesis is not consensual is irrelevant to the argument being proposed. Additionally, we will assume that the artistic creation we are referring to is one made by the artificial mind’s own volition and not the one that—either procedurally, generatively or interactively—is made based on (or directed towards) an anthropocentric view of art.

It is inevitable that we start by facing the problem of the definition of art. A definition that circumvents the ontological question will not be very useful in this context, since a definition such as e.g. the institutional theory of art allows any artefact or proposition to be considered as art solely by being recognised as such by someone acting on behalf of the artworld, not establishing, however, any criteria for such recognition. We will therefore start from the definition of art as embodied meaning, and from its relation with embodied cognition, to show that there is a binding of artistic creation to the subjective experience of existing in a natural and cultural world through a human body that is born with a foretold death.

We will furthermore look at the reasons that justify the difficulty to understand artistic manifestations that are not inscribed in our own cultural matrix or previous experiences. Finally, we will try to demonstrate that the best we can aim at, as human beings standing by an artistic creation by another species, is to an understanding of what could have motivated another human being to create such a work. As such, we shouldn’t be able to understand an artistic creation originating by an artificial mind with a physical experience of the world that differs from our own, even if they have a privileged access to our culture. The boundaries for this incomprehension, that we believe to be inevitable, are therefore those of the human mind.

Proceedings of xCoAx 2017


The proceedings of xCoAx 2017, the fifth conference on Computation, Communication, Aesthetics, and X, are now available at 2017.xcoax.org. Edited by Luísa Ribas, André Rangel, Mario Verdicchio & Miguel Carvalhais. Designed by Luísa Silva Gomes. ISBN 978-989-746-128-6. 389 pages.

On Procedural Dissemination and Artificial Aesthetics (notes Towards a Philosophy of Computational Media)

At Digicom, I’ll present a paper written with Pedro Cardoso.

Procedural media possess traits that stand them apart from classical media, and lead them to foster a very peculiar set of relationships with their readers. Chief among these is how their procedural layer is discovered through a process of virtuosic interpretation, and how this allows for empathy and for the transference of their core mechanics from the computational system to the reader’s mind. This paper focuses on how this process is developed, and how these media conduce to the dissemination of a type of aesthetic experience that is unique to them, but remarkably similar to cognitive processes that humans develop towards each other.

On Emptiness (or, On Finishing with a Blank Canvas)

A paper presented at the xCoAx 2017 conference, “On Emptiness (or, On Finishing with a Blank Canvas)”:

Starting from a review of monochromatic art, minimalism, and conceptualism, this paper attempts to understand the significance of these approaches to processor-based arts, looking at a dominant strategy in these works, the deployment of destructive processes. The paper then studies a series of recent works by Austrian software artist Lia, that are closer to the roots of monochromatic painting, suprematism, and constructivism, and are based in a deeply procedural and conceptual approach that we describe as a constructive process.

Temporary Library of Portuguese Media Art for xCoAx


During this year’s xCoAx conference we presented the Temporary Library of Portuguese Media Art for xCoAx, curated by Alessandro Ludovico and co-curated by Luísa Ribas and myself.

The Temporary Library project relies on the concept of metaphorically breaking the classic boundaries of libraries. It means to bring publications in places where they’re not necessarily known, finally expanding and redefining in a contemporary sense, the public role of libraries. This project is about creating a temporary small library of Portuguese Media Art printed publications, which will be available during the xCoAx International Conference in Lisbon. Publishers and individuals have been asked to donate publications, and a specific space will be dedicated to consult the library. At the end of the conference the Temporary Library will be donated to the Faculty of Fine-Arts, University of Lisbon (FBAUL), and will form a special collection, available to be temporary lent as a whole, under certain conditions.

Patterns for Serendipity in Interaction Design

At xCoAx 2017, a paper by Ricardo Melo and myself, “Patterns for Serendipity in Interaction Design”:

With today’s filtering and personalisation of digital content, there is a growing need for systems that actively promote novel interactions and that allow the user to discover new, unsought information. As such, this paper starts by addressing the need for these serendipitous systems and how one can design for serendipity considering its unpredictable nature. We then propose a series of user patterns that define the mental model that is more conducive to serendipitous experiences, derived from our revision of the literature as well as our observations. Finally, and through an analysis of the state of the art, we propose a tentative series of design patterns at both the implementation and interaction level, which constitute a framework for the design of interactive systems that afford the experience of serendipity.