Art Is In The Choices

When I was studying dance at Western Michigan University, one of the professors told me something that made me scratch my head.   Not because I had an itch but because I didn’t quiet understand what she meant as young student.   She said art is not in the technique and skill you develop but rather in the choices you make.   Your choice of music, dancers, movement, and space are what fundamentally make the art.

As a dance technologist, I designed my process with this concept in mind.   Latona contains algorithms that take in parameters and then generate a number of possibilities.   I am not creating the dance; the computer is creating the dance.   I am just choosing which patterns look interesting to me.  

Recently, I added a multi-factor optimization to the process.   In this way, I tell the computer what I am looking for.   For example, I might ask the algorithm to select patterns where all the dancers cross each other on the Y axis a certain number of times.   It then generates 100’s if not 1000’s of possibilities and then pulls aside the patterns that meet my criteria.   I then choose from the computers selections.  

This brings up some interesting questions.   Is the computer starting to make decisions for me?   Can I define my criteria so specifically that I don’t need to make more choices?   And is perhaps the fundamental choice the criteria itself?   Is all our life going to be defining our likes and dislikes?  Here, we start exploring some of the basic questions facing our world today with the development of artificial intelligence.

I posed the same questions to a friend who is a painter.  She had an interesting counter argument.   I said “Isn’t it possible that Jackson Pollacks work could be emulated by a robot?  The artist could simply choose the size of the painting, colors, types of paint, etc. and the robot could do the rest?”   She seemed against this way of making art in principle, but she did offer a solid counter “No, because you make the best choices after each step in the process”.   Perhaps you choose the canvas which gives you inspiration for the color, which gives you inspiration for the next color and so on.

I suppose this argument will continue and be explored for years to come and what interesting art will be made along the way! 

What are your thoughts?