• Painting in the age of technological reproducibility: Re-establishing sensuousness via the complexity of System of Emergent Touch (SET)

Andr, Be, 2024, Thesis, Painting in the age of technological reproducibility: Re-establishing sensuousness via the complexity of System of Emergent Touch (SET) PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

This practice-led research delves into pressing inquiries regarding the relationship between humans and algorithms and their impact on the realm of painting. In particular, this thesis focuses on the significance of tactility and touch in painting, as well as on its relevance to the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), which necessitates a completely new approach. At its core, the thesis is centred on creating a painting system named The System of Emergent Touch (SET), which is an algorithmic digital system designed to manually convert digital photographs into oil paintings. This approach serves to bridge the gap between digital and paint, fostering a re-evaluation based on the coworking of algorithms and human, rather than an algorithmic takeover of painting. The thesis positions AI and current applied research in physical computing in relation to painting in a way that enables a practical approach to human/machine coevolution that does not privilege the machine over human as is so often the case in apocalyptic pronouncements. The primary aim of this thesis is to argue that AI and its relationship with intelligence is distributed and emergent. Notably, the resulting painting that emerges from the co-working process of SET is not a result of an algorithm doing X and the human doing Y; rather, it foregrounds the importance of human tactility in the making of art. This is the most important and original contribution of this thesis. The method employed involves the analysis of digital images and the development of a mathematical system that calculates the premix and placement of paint on the canvas. It takes a twofold approach, incorporating both discursive analysis and mathematical algorithms. The methodological approach was originally developed in Heidegger’s Identity and Difference, exploring the concepts of “belonging” and “event” and the question of meaning and how something gets to be what it is. The discursive analysis is based on the writings of Jean-François Lyotard in Discourse, Figure, specifically examining the notion of the “figural.” Chapter Zero explores the details of the journey leading to the project and elucidates the reasons behind the engagement in the particular type of work. Chapter One focuses on how algorithmic coding and mapping allow for a rethinking of representation in contemporary painting, introducing the idea of affective touch and a new type of touch that creates sense. Chapter Two introduces a theoretical methodology aimed at constructing a painting system that allows for unrestricted hand and brush movement, without relying on a strict point-by-point approach. The chapter elaborates on how systems establish its foundational element, known as the “ground,” and how SET transitions from the abstract notion of a ground towards the concept of surface by exploring undecidability and uncertainty. Chapter Three provided an introduction to the construction and practical functioning of SET, while Chapter Four discusses the concept of distributed touch, incorporating elements of Duchamp’s ready-made to challenge traditional subject-object dichotomies and explore the shaping of the emerging scenario of the artwork. This process gives rise to a novel type of artist, a “spread agency artist.”

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W120 Painting
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Uncontrolled Keywords: painting; emergence; AI; emergent; touch
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2024 12:49
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2024 12:49
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5885
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