Thinking Machines vs Artists

Beautiful and provocative artifacts of the Material Age. That's what I try to make. There was a time when artists and most people made things out of stuff using head and hands. I and others still do, though we are a dwindling few. Now thinking machines make fast ideas out of stale history and electricity. Now it is robots that make things out of stuff using digital brains and mechanical hands. Because of this, art, like everything else, is dematerializing. Artists and handmade artifacts are not in hot demand. A dwindling few.

This is not all bad. I celebrate this winnowing away of human things-from-stuff-by-hand makers in favor of labor saving, danger saving, boredom saving mechanical helpers. I celebrate these things even as I mourn the loss of the hundred billion endearing flaws produced by the human body and hand with all its frailties, none of which the machines endure. Fatigue, illness, distraction, frustration. These human traits produced the mistakes that have informed and refined objects of epic beauty and wonder throughout the ages. A beauty that the machines will cleverly and blindly mimic, yet never know. Never wonder. Machines are far too busy with re-creation to create anew. And to create anew is to make mistakes. Great but imperfect hand work. That is what we are losing as we all dematerialize into a digital haze. But dematerialize may be the wrong word. The matter is still here. The stuff. And lots of it. It's just that the matter doesn't matter as much as when it was crafted by hand.

How is one to combat this fading away of hand craft and true beauty? I do so by spending my days making paintings and sculptures. The stuff and subjects I choose are oily paint, inventive structures, novel processes and yes, even machines. One eye always on nature, the other only to see. The tools may be new but this is creativity within an old type of art. Ancient even. In my old-fashioned way, the hand, mind and eye are the master, not the tool. The new way is to make slick artifacts using the idea machines. These new artifacts are always in the latest style but it is a style without character. To be sure, artificial intelligence machines (or as I call them, Digital History-Based Ideation machines) will dominate the new art and the new aesthetic landscape. And their slaves, the robots, will define the new craft. One of speed, precision and faux passion. Why is this inevitable? Because craftmanship without the man (human) is neither craft nor ship, but empty vessel. So naturally machines will build the most pristine objects and architectural spaces on earth. They will fill these with equally pristine smaller artifacts. All of it consummately empty in its perfection.

I believe all of this, yet I am not opposed to using machines as a part of the creative process. I am opposed to intelligent machines attempting to drive the aesthetic direction of our lives. Yes, I sometimes use computers and robots to help me make art. But they do not yet use me. They try. But where they grasp at me, I turn away. I turn away not in retreat but as a redirection of energy. Like a martial artist. I try to redirect the machine's aesthetic away from its own, always crisp yet slightly stale goals, toward my own, more raw aesthetic ends. As the 2015 Digital History-Based Ideation Craftsrobots style rapidly seeps into our products and pores, I seek beauty and truth elsewhere. Through paint and wood and stuff.  Through nature and hands and flaws. Even though machines.

So then, how will we know if the machines have slyly taken over? Not by how many there are or what they do but by what they make. We shall know by our sense of taste. By our personal aesthetic. We will feel it just as good art has always helped us to sense both beauty and malicious intent.

Rising machines. Dwindling artists. Now there's a fair fight. A battle for the ages. A war for our souls. Let the machines endlessly seek their constantly receding goal of perfection while we endlessly trick them into helping us seek the height of our goodness and depth of our greatness. We cannot outsmart the machines but we can out feel them.

It's a fair enough fight. Let it be a friendly one.