Modern Technology in the Arts
Nathan Cabello (The Freeman) - November 29, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines — Both artists and art audiences are still not quite settled about how modern technology is affecting the arts. Some artists have been quick to embrace the intrusion of technology into their turf, while others are alarmed. The same division is true with the general art audiences.

The mixed views have stirred concerned individuals into reflecting their definitions of art. There are those that insist that art is a vital testament to the human capacity to bring ideas into visible forms and shall remain the exclusive domain of humans. They lament the fact that some ‘machine’ – that is itself a human creation – be allowed to compete with its maker.

Others use the same “machine as a human creation” argument to assert that what art the machine produces is still human creation, albeit indirectly. “The new plant that sprouts from the seed of the apple that came from the apple tree is still an apple plant.” The work of the human-invented machine is still the work of humans.

Sarah Cascone, writing at www.news.artnet.com, poses the question: Could artificial intelligence (AI), for example, be the end of the dubious science of connoisseurship? Perhaps it depends on how the matter is viewed. Yes, it can break the human exclusivity in the arts field – but technology can probably take over certain tedious parts in art production. 

AI can help in art authentication. Cascone cites a new study where a form of AI – called a recurrent neural network – may now be able to identify forged paintings. She relates of researchers from New Jersey’s Rutgers University and the Atelier for Restoration & Research of Paintings in the Netherlands having published their findings in a paper, titled “Picasso, Matisse, or a Fake? Automated Analysis of Drawings at the Stroke Level for Attribution and Authentication.” The AI was able to find fake artworks simply by comparing the strokes used to compose the image.

“Determining the authenticity of a work of art has long been a considerable challenge,” Cascone’s online article reads. “The branch of authentication known as connoisseurship endeavors to identify an artist’s stylistic trademarks. There is a slew of more technical methods as well; a canvas can be taken to a lab for a full battery of tests, such as infrared spectroscopy, gas chromatography, and radiometric dating.”

So much information can be gathered from technical analysis. And it can help the human experts a lot who ultimately must trust their gut in determining whether an artwork is genuine, “a worthless forgery, or simply by the hand of another artist.”

Cascone goes on: “In the new study, researchers provided the AI with 300 line drawings by famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Egon Schiele. Analyzing the works, the AI identified 80,000 individual strokes, and, through the neural network, learned what features in the strokes were specific to which artists. A machine-learning algorithm was also taught to look for these features, such as the differences in line weight, which reflect how hard the artist was pushing.

“By combining the neural network and the machine-learning algorithm, the study found that AI was able to correctly identify a work’s author 80 percent of the time. Even more impressive was its ability to detect each and every forgery with which it was presented, just from looking at a single stroke.” Such feat is difficult for any human expert to do.

 While AI connoisseurship may be too sophisticated for ordinary people to appreciate, various examples of how modern technology is assimilating into the arts are everywhere. Today’s live theater, for instance, feature wondrous special effects that often leave audiences in total awe. The same is true in cinema, in music, in design.

Execution of artistic ideas is now made much easier by modern technology, which itself inspires more novel ideas – all because artists are realizing that the only limits there might be, at his point in time are, in their minds. Whether the entry of modern technology into the arts is a good thing or bad is a matter of individual opinion. But how can something that brings so much good be bad? (FREEMAN)

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