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.