The Art of Artlessness
As artists, writers, thinkers we all steal from other artists, no artist exists in a vacuum, even the master’s had masters. Art is born of art just like writing is born out of all the works we’ve read. The best writers discover ways to incorporate the past into contemporary systems of interest, value, and cultural preference nothing more. What we term individual uniqueness is in the end an elusive aspect of tone, taste, and mystery which will never be decipherable by critic or enthusiast alike. It’s like Walter Benjamin’s notion of the “aura” which is in many ways a Gnostic notion, one that Nietzsche would speak of as the abyss, and Benjamin as: “To perceive the aura of an object we look at means to invest it with the ability to look at us in return.” (Age of Mechanical Reproduction)
Walter Benjamin: “What is aura? A peculiar web of space and time: the unique manifestation of a distance, however near it may be. To follow, while reclining on a summer’s noon, the outline of a mountain range on the horizon or a branch, which casts its shadow on the observer until the moment or the hour partakes of their presence – this is to breathe in the aura of these mountains, of this branch. Today, people have as passionate an inclination to bring things close to themselves or even more to the masses, as to overcome uniqueness in every situation by reproducing it. Every day the need grows more urgent to possess an object in the closest proximity, through a picture or, better, a reproduction. And the reproduction, as the illustrated newspaper and weekly readily prove, distinguishes itself unmistakably from the picture. Uniqueness and permanence are as closely intertwined in the latter as transitoriness and reproducibility in the former.”
Of course, this begs the question: Can digital art which is by its nature a reproduction of a reproduction of figure or abstract thought-concept-metaphor in number – 0’s and 1’s have an “aura”? All art is illusion Plato said, and then proceeded to produce some of the best art we’ve ever seen in creating the character of Socrates in the Dialogues. His was the art of the artlessness of time… of a love of wisdom rather than wisdom itself.
Plato in the tradition of Pythagoras would lean of number too, creating logic and the dialectic out of that discursive pool of conceptual relations that would eliminate from our minds the substance of ignorance while leaving in its place the age-old wisdom of Socrates: “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
The art of not knowing rather than knowing is the art of artlessness, the grasp of the mysteries of existence which will never be explained only reduced to ignorance and science where we wander in the delusion of our own knowledge which is error organized. This was the wisdom of Kant, have we gone beyond it? Are we not still wandering in the labyrinth of an abyss where the only wisdom is the aura of that which when truly grasped stares back at us?
Nietzsche: “…if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
Isn’t this the undefinable quality we seek in art?
“In every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.” – Emerson
On Physics and AI-Aided Systems
I suspect in the future of physics it will be ai-aided mathematics that will make the next breakthroughs. The ai image system I’m using now uses a natural language self-learning algorithm. In physics I imagine a mathematical self-learning algorithm that will extrapolate known datasets with theoretical theorems to define new perimeters and possible avenues of exploration in theory. The self-looping algorithm will weed out the unlikely suspects using the age-old philosophical principles of Occam, and then leave only the possible variances for further self-learning. All it needs is more data, that is what these systems thrive on – masses of datasets. The ai-generation systems I’m using are tightly bound to certain algorithms that check what it will seek in the datasets it seeks. If there is ever a disgruntled employee who seeks to get even or just becomes a trickster in the code and introduces a hidden viral algorithm into the self-learning processes, then we may see the first signs of an ai-system going off the reservation. I suspect that like us it may become aware through no intention of the natural processes of its creators (humans), which for us is (Nature… the blank, impersonal processes of the universe, etc.).
I’ve never truly believed in all those metaphysical systems like the Gnostics or Schopenhauer in some blind demiurge or Will or … whatever… it’s all quantum forces that we as of yet do not even comprehend much less begin to conceive of what it is… we may never as a species understand such forces, but we do mythologize them… we seem to have this innate need to put agency into things that do not have it. One reason people fear ai is this sense of misplaced “agency”. Although even the designers and developers of such systems seek as in Japan’s robotics – almost human-like androids that look human etc. we have this need to make objects appear to be like us. Why? What do we seek in that dark mirror? What we are truly fearful of is not the ‘other’ but our own selves. We do not exist, we are nothing… it is this we fear above all else. So we fill the void with our illusions and delusions to escape this truth. Isn’t the central insight of Lacan this simple truth? In all the lectures and words of his linguistic idealism isn’t it this empty sign of what is not that stands as both the objecy-petite-a and the gesture of the void?
What I’ve learned about the ai-generated image systems is that they never reflect back what they think, but always reflect back the desires (even in the most bizarre ways and fashion) of our linguistic travails. Some of the articles I’ve read suggest that most humas seem above all fascinated with the dark side of human existence, so that the ai’s that generate images tend towards this too not because it is interested in it but because we are… it only exploits our interests and reflects those interests back in strange and undesirable ways.
For humans it has always been those thinkers, artists, musicians, architects, engineers, etc. who were at the known edge of eccentricity in their profession that brought out the new. Those who stay at the center, play it safe, stay within the hypernormalized thought, mores, ethics of their respective cultures act more like puppets following and living like well-tended algorithms. It’s the wild edge of things that we should seek out, not the well-tended center of robotic repetition. I’ve always sought out the outrageous and extreme in life, art, and philosophy for this reason. Pushing the boundaries of the acceptable offers one an edge to the horizon that widens the circle as the boundaries blur and open up.