[ISEA2000] Paper: Bulat Galeyev – Computers and art: myths and reality


From the very beginning of computer era beautiful abstract patterns, worth placing into frame, appeared sometimes on displays even at resolving pure­ly engineering problems. These images were exhibited at «computer art» exhibitions. This was, in fact, not artistical but natural beauty (similar to beauty of snowflakes, crystals,water, fire). The contribution of human being, artist was limited to selection of images, as in case of «ikebana». The results of computer work become artistical only as they reflect manifestly the crea­tive «ego» of the artist, this «ego» not limited to creating in «game» mode extraordinary audio and visual combinations. It is necessary to be able to control, «articulate» this new material to elaborate own language correla­ting with specifics of the material. The specifics of computer image consists,in contrast to photography, cinematograph, in synthesizing it on «tabula rasa», using formalized rules (algorythms). This defines distilled puri­ty, regularity of computer images, allowing us to consider them as a kind of visualization of Plato’s Eidoses. Computers can be used in equal measure for creating both figurative and non-figurative images, this making them univer­sal instrument for getting rid from the non-democratic situation which have arised in the middle of XXth century, that of historical lag of non-figurative arts (light-music, abstract cinema) behind figurative ones (photography, cine­matograph, television). Any new technology, including computer one, expands circle of those ones, who can realize their earlier creative potential, this being, only to speak about presence of progress art.


The words “computer” and “progress” have become regarded as synonyms long ago, though the development of cybernetics in our country, as it is known, met dramatic conflicts at the beginning. But “dramas of ideas” accompany computerization of our life permanently, even after it’s exclusive usefulness and inevitability have become obvious and indisputable – especially when applied to technology, natural sciences, economics, statistics, intellectual games and so on. The situation with computer application to art creative work appeared to be more problematical. Here we meet some inherent prejudices and myths that began to form since the very beginning and are present not only in common consciousness, but also in a social one. Let’s consider these myths in their logical and historical order.
1st myth: sooner or later, computers should be able to make adequate model of any form of human mental activity, including art form. The pathos of such slogans was displayed especially brightly in our country, when after initial persecutions of cybernetics as bourgeous false science, the pendulum swang into opposite position. Even humanitarians suddenly began to sing enthusiastic hymns to expected potentialities of computer’s art. This forced one prominent poet to shudder: “Any progress is reactionary, if man falls to the ground!”.
Such expectation of “Art ex machina” was, using the expression of French theorist in the field of cinema, A.Bazin, “most of all bourgeous”. Saying so, he had in mind cinema and photo-technique. By his opinion, the advocates of this conception see the destination of new technique in allowing ones “to fabricate art works, not being the artists themselves”. Let’s add that the following attitudes are “bourgeous” as well: a desire for man’s liberation from “pains of creation” by shifting them off onto computer; i.e., an expectation of marvelous birth of new artistic value spontaneously and practically “from nothing”. The father of cybernetics N.Wiener warned about danger of such attitudes. He anticipated that there might appear new tribe of “machine worshippers” who will gladly expect that “some functions of their slaves can be passed to the machine”. The logic of its operation might be unknown, but still it is regarded as “reliable” and wittingly “objective” . Of course both Bazin and Wiener point out here the position utterly humiliating both artist and art itself. But “drama of ideas” is called as “drama” just because one cannot achieve harmony immediately – harmony between question mark and exclamation mark, between desire and possibility.

  • Bulat Galeyev, Kazan, Russia, is a science researcher and artist. Graduated from Kazan State Pedagogical Institute, he’s a teacher in physics and aesthetics, Lecturer in physics and philosophy KAI, scientific worker. He is also head of SKB Prometheus, director of scientific and research institute for experimental aes­thetics affilated with Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan and Kazan State Technical University, Kazan. Author of books and papers published in national and international editions, film director, theatrical performances director, director of light-music performances and video art installations, he organizes conferences and festivals in Kazan and Moscow.

Full text (PDF) p. 87-95