Philosophy of the Arts


Machine Art as Performance?

Denis Dutton argued that all art is performance. (It is the achievement in the performance that is being forged in a forgery). I have argued elsewhere how this postition fits Wollheim’s analysis of individual style.
Yet, now I found an approach that is compatible with Dutton’s thesis as well, but it argues for art status of products of certain machines’ activity.

Robert MacOnachie. in Art as Artist: The Value of Automated Outputs, writes about machines making art:

“Once detached from the parent apparatus they become documents of that creative event, they are of the work, but not the work itself. They are an echo of that impermanent creative moment, a direct product of it, and for that reason may hold some value in relation to that of the parent apparatus.”

I am troubled by the consequence of this approach that it allows the output of machines to count as art. This is troubling because the core of our concept of ‘art’ is the thought that a work is the outcome of a human mind, and, next, this outcome has a psychological reality (Wollheim), and there is achievement in it (Dutton). I cannot see achievemenet in the output of a machine, nor psychology. Yet, the way MacOnarchie puts it is on the mark: by playing on an ambiguity in the word ‘work’, it gets to fit all art: the work is not iself the work, it is of the work (the achievement).

There is a similar consideration in Lewitt’s defense of concept art:

“In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work . . . all planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.” — Sol LeWitt (1928-), in “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” inArtforum, Summer issue, 1967. (Quoted here.)

Isn’t that exactly why the art status of concept art is such a problem?

Thank you, Maitili, for the references.

Dutton, Denis. 2002. “Artistic Crimes.” In Arguing about art. Contemporary Philosophical Debates. Second edition, edited by Alex Neill and Aron Ridley, 100–112. London: Routledge.
Wollheim, Richard. 1993. “Pictorial Style: Two Views.” In The Mind and its Depths, 171–184. Cambridge (Mass.), London (England): Harvard University Press.

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