Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 7

T H E O R E T I C A L

P E R S P E C T I V E

From the Artificial to the Art: A Short Introduction to a Theory and Its Applications
Massimo Negrotti

A B S T R A C T

TWO SOULS OF TECHNOLOGY


Artificial Intelligence (AI) is openly devoted to reproducing natural phenomena that characterize the human mind/brain system in projects that range from natural language understanding programs to expert systems. However, since the 1980s, AI projects have clearly shown the impossibility of artificially rebuilding the human mind as such. Instead, AI has been successful at reproducing [1] some specific functions of the mind, particularly formal reasoning, pattern matching and the like. On the other hand, both supporters and detractors of AI have focused almost exclusively on the nature of human intelligence rather than on the nature of the artificial. Suffice it to say that throughout the history of human technology and art, the term artificial has been utilized to distinguish between attempts to reproduce nature and attempts to build technological objects that have no referent in the natural world. In fact, the concept of artificial (a term whose use dates back at least to the Middle Ages), has some deep meaning in itself and in its implications. Thus, the main questions a theory of the artificial should answer are: What are the common denominators between the perspectiva artificialis of Leon Battista Alberti and Piero della Francesca [2] and todays AI; between Francis Bacons artificial rainbow [3] and Charles Baudelaires artificial paradises [4]; or between the artificial smell designed by Sony Corporation [5] and Langtons artificial life [6]? What is the anthropological significance of the attempts by Jacques de Vaucanson and other eighteenth-century designers to build automata [7] and other machines that were able to mimic human or animal behavior in view of current research on biomaterials and so-called bio-artificial devices [8]? What comprises the typical developmentfrom initial idea to realizationof an artificial object, process or machine? When can we properly say that something is artificial? It seems that a definition of the artificial comes logically from the premise that humanity is able to perform two different technological roles: that of inventing something that does not exist in the natural world and that of reproducing something that does. Thus, we can reasonably define as conventional technology that whichon the basis of scientific knowledge of both the physical world and technologyproduces unique objects or machines with the explicit aim of controlling nature rather than of imitating or reproducing it. On the contrary, I shall define as artificial technology

that which evinces or even explicitly declares its intention to reproduce something existing in nature by means of materials and procedures different from those occurring in nature. H. Simon [9], J. Monod [10], A. Karlqvist [11] and other researchers who have approached this theme in various contexts seem to conceive of the artificial as something produced by people that differs from the natural (for instance, according to Monod, in its formal, geometrical aspect [12]). If we follow such an approach, then no common denominator appears necessary to distinguish the artificial from the humanmade and, therefore, artificial becomes merely a synonym for human-made or technological. On the contrary, it seems reasonable to maintain that something is artificial only as compared to something else. This explains why nobody speaks of artificial drills or artificial television sets but, rather, of artificial skin or artificial flowers. The existence of artificial objects demonstrates that human beings, like many other animals, have an instinct to imitate that which exists in nature; this feature has been remarked upon by many thinkers, from Aristotle to G. Tarde, who in 1890 dedicated his main sociological book, The Laws of Imitations [13], to the subject. The main difference between animals and humans in this paradigm lies in the ability of the latter to make conventional technology, i.e. to invent objects that are radically new in that they do not already appear as such in the natural world. I shall hereinafter designate as artificialists those people (whether engineers or artists, musicians or lay people) who try to reproduce something natural that originates in either the internal or external world.

he author presents the idea that all human attempts to reproduce natural objects (exemplars) or their functionsthat is, to build artificial objects or processes unavoidably result in a transfiguration of the exemplars. After introducing the main concepts of a theory of the artificial, the author extends the theory to communication and the arts, both of which provide compelling examples of the generation of artificial objects or processes. The author conceives of art as a paradoxical communication process by which transfiguration does not represent a failure of the reproduction process but, rather, the true objective of the artist.

THE GENESIS OF THE ARTIFICIAL: EXEMPLARS AND ESSENTIAL PERFORMANCES


Conceptually, the common basis of any artificial object is the natural reference object, or exemplar, from which it draws
Massimo Negrotti (educator), Istituto Metodologico Economico StatisticoLaboratory for the Culture of the Artificial, University of Urbino, Via Saffi, 15 I-61029 Urbino, Italy. E-mail: <maxnegro@synet.it>.

1999 ISAST

LEONARDO, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 183189, 1999

183

its inspiration. An exemplar can come just as easily from external reality as it can from an original vision of the human mind; it can even be the result of a collective cultural construction, such as the devil as rendered in Medieval art. An exemplar can be a biological organ, such as the heart, or a landscape, which might be reproduced by means of a plastic model for architectural use. Conceptualizing further, the exemplar can be described on the basis of features or functionswhich I shall call essential performancesthat unambiguously individuate the exemplar. In fact, artificialists often try to directly reproduce essential performances rather than exemplars themselves. This can be seen, for instance, in the classical, symbolic AI field [14] when designers adopt the functional equivalence principle, according to which AIs target is not the structure of the mind but its functions. All artificialists try, by definition, to reproduce an exemplar and/or its essential performancerespiration, blood circulation, vision and so onby adopting simulated materials and/or processes but not, necessarily, structural similarities. Nevertheless, in many fields a high degree of structural similarity between artificial object and exemplar is a prerequisite, as evinced by certain classes of artificial organs, architectural models, figurative painting, educational artificial systems (i.e. biology or medicine) and even by anthropomorphic robots or toys. The balance between the structure and the functions to be reproduced depends, therefore, on the final aims of the artificialist or, even, on the expectations of the public or the market. Regardless, artificialists clearly perceive the reproduction of a natural exemplar as a wholein terms of both structure and its performanceas an impossible aim, despite their dreams or tacit pretensions. In the eighteenth century, Jacques de Vaucanson wrote thus about his artificial drake:
I do not pretend that this should be a per fect digestion, able to generate blood and nutritional particles in order to allow the survival of the animal. I only pretend to imitate the mechanics of this action in three points: in the swallowing of the wheat; in soaking, cooking or dissolving it; in allowing its going out, forcing it to visibly change its stuff [15].

In building a silicon retina, our purpose was not that of reproducing the human retina up to the last detail, but of getting a simplified version of it, containing the minimum of necessary structure in order to accomplish the biological function [16].

OBSERVATION LEVELS
Conceived as experimental research, an investigation of the artificial immediately bears an epistemological problem: if in order to reproduce an exemplar the artificialist first of all has to observe it, then we have to take into account the whole set of conditions within which the human observational process happens. Contemporary thought concerning this point holds that the observer is always constrained by the system to which he or she belongs [17] and by that systems rules. In short, the observational process involves the well-known dilemma of whether what we see is what we want to see or what actually exists. Either reality imprints on us its own features or we construct reality [18]. Regarding the design of an artificial object and the requisite observational process, the final result is always the same. Actually, people try to reproduce natural exemplars under the often tacit premise that reality clearly shows those features or functions they have selected. This holds true both for de Vaucansons duck and for the intelligence observed and described by an AI group; and for the sky as seen both by Vincent van Gogh and by Johannes Kepler when he designed his machina mundi artificialis [19]. In the end, every person adopts culturally or psychologically based standpoints, or observation levels, in an attempt to grasp reality. As such, observation levels always lack some degree of shared legitimization or hierarchya problem that often gives rise to real conflict and controversy. One need only consider the scientific attribution to electricity, during the nineteenth century, of a central role in several phenomenologies, including the sexual act [20]. Likewise, what the scientist sees also depends to some extent on personal preferences, or bets on reality. For example, Franois Bichat, the founder of histology, said in reference to the reliability of the observations made possible by the microscope that such instruments seem to be of no special usefulness, because when looking in the dark, everyone sees in their own way [21]. As the physicist T. Regge pointed out, by selecting what I call an observation

level we force matter to choose a configuration among those that are available [22]. What the artificialist reproduces is not, strictly speaking, the exemplar in itself, but a representation based on his or her observation level. This is the key to bridging technology and art: both paintings and machines are the result of the attempt to reproduce natural objects according to individual or cultural (often scientific) selections, i.e. the configurations and functions that are more or less commonly attributed to those objects. The more a representation is shared in the culture to which the artificialist belongs, the more people will accept the reproduction attempt (Fig. 1). To sum up, a complete definition could read as follows: an artificial object is an object, built by humans with materials and procedures different from those naturally occurring, that reproduces the essential performance of an exemplar based on a more or less shared representation from a certain observation level.

THE IMPOSSIBLE CHALLENGE OF SYNTHESIZING REALITY


A reproduction of a flower would privilege as the essential performance at a macroscopic observation level either form, color, fragrance or structurebut not all these elements at once, because their synthesis would require the analytical knowledge of the intimate relationships among them at all possible observation levels. Since analysis implies selection of observation and representation levels and analysis is, of course, the first step of scientific workin scientific terms it is impossible to grasp reality as a whole. This is also a problem for artificialistic work, for example, for bio-engineering. A group of bio-engineers discuss a pragmatic solution to the difficult undertaking of creating artificial devices that can interact with an organism and are compatible with it at all biological levels:
Until recently, most research in the field [of cell transplantation] has focused on minimizing biological fluid and tissue interactions with biomaterials in an effort to prevent fibrous encapsulation from foreign-body reaction or clotting in blood that has contact with artificial devices. In short, most biomaterials research has focused on making the material invisible to the body [23].

Nearly 300 years later, the situation, in its logical aspects and constraints at least, remains, of course, unchanged, as shown in a case of an artificial retina:

184

Negrotti, From the Artificial to the Art

Fig. 1. The artificial is the result of the overlap between nature and conventional technology. The arrow pointing to the right indicates that the artificial develops with growing conventional technology, which pulls it further and further away from nature.

On the other hand, some ancient or recent popular gadgets, explicitly oriented towards fashionsuch as dolls, clothes, cars, clocks or even jewelry can simultaneously reproduce many functions on a merely allusive or superficial level simply by amalgamating multiple functions in the same object (i.e. including fragrance in a plastic rose). Thus, for example, Pliny the Elder reported that in a match between the two Greek painters Zeusi and Parrasio,
Zeusi draws grapes which deceives the sparrows. . . . Parrasio draws a drapery which simulates so carefully a breadth of cloth, spread to cover a painting, that he cheated his competitor [24].

exemplar once it is rebuilt as the artificial (Fig. 2).

THE REVENGE OF REALITY


Part of the paradoxical but intrinsically unavoidable destiny of the artificial is that it must rely on conventional technology. In fact, the technology of the artificial does not consist of knowledge, techniques or tools that are intrinsically

able to generate artificial objects; rather, the technology of the artificial re-orients conventional technological knowledge, techniques and tools towards the reproduction of natural exemplars. The final result of the process of creating the artificial becomes, therefore, the outcome not only of a multiple selective process but also of the adoption of materials and procedures different from those that constitute the exemplar. In fact, the multiple selection process is a sort of funnel process that, starting with the selection of only one observation level, makes visible only one class of potential exemplars, cutting off the others. The selection process continues through the isolation of a specific exemplar from its context, reducing once more what potentially can be taken into consideration. Eventually the process ends with the isolationor the attributionof one essential performance of the exemplar, from the ones that the previous selection stages have allowed. When using material B rather than material A, we do not include in the final artificial object only those features

Similarly, Nicolas Negroponte has reported that when one of the first teleconferencing systems was designed in the 1970s to improve United States government emergency procedures, a mechanism was added to reinforce the realism of the message given by the model system: an animated plastic head representing a speaker, for instance, the President. The result was that the video recordings generated in this way provided so realistic a reproduction that an admiral told me that the talking heads gave him nightmares [25]. In a personal interview, Willem Kolff of Kolff Labs in Salt Lake City, Utah one of the leading scientists who designed the first artificial kidney during the Second World War and, subsequently, the artificial heartacutely defined artificial organs as ways in which to cheat nature since they generate performances that the body has to accept as if from a natural organ [26]. But we should be aware that the unavoidable selection processof an observation level, an exemplar or an essential performancewill cause transfiguration of the features and the behavior of the

Fig. 2. Genesis of the Artificial: the basic steps. This model describes the general process that leads to the artificial. The first two steps (selection of an observation level and generation of mental representations) are common steps for all human activities, from daily life to art or science. The steps concerning the selection of an exemplar and of an essential performance belong to an advanced phase, one in which we decide to rationally define, conceptualize or model an object or event already observed and represented in our minds. To define means to isolate the exemplar from its background or context and then to select a unique, typical or essential performance. Both of these selections strongly depend on the selected observation level, our past experiences, preferences, values and also on the culture to which we belong. These steps are also common to a wide series of daily, artistic or scientific activities, though they receive a special methodological formalization in science. The last two steps (the adoption of conventional technology and the actual building of something artificial) concern only those activities thatlike technological artificialism, communication and the artsopenly aim at reproducing the exemplar and its essential performance according to some observation level.

Negrotti, From the Artificial to the Art

185

of B that appeared useful to us from a certain observation level for reproducing an essential performance of an exemplar. We could call this phenomenon a sort of inheritance principle, which refers to the fact that although we choose just one observation level, our actions or the materials we use will bring with them a number of unexpected features that are independent of our analytical decisions. These features result from the complex relationships among all levels of actions or materials and the reality they meet. For instance, we may plan a holiday in some new place because we are interested in experiencing some of its known landscape features, but though the real experience might be quite satisfying to our eyes, it may also be quite unacceptable to our ears or our noses. The inheritance principle ensures that by using material B, we include in the final object all of Bs features, both its known and unknown characteristics and dispositions. Subsequently, the more the artificial develops, the further it grows away from the nature of that from which it drew its inspiration. Thanks to the various genetic and developmental heterogeneities it implies, an artificial device inevitably generates both side effects and sudden eventsthat is to say, events that come along with a planned event (such as the side effects of drugs) and those that appear suddenly without any clear explanation (such as an electrical blackout) that belong to a wider spectrum of possibilities than that of the exemplar and its performances. In the arts, this transfiguration of exemplars and their essential per formances represents the very nature of artistic creativity. In fact, all arts are transfigurative simply because artists deliberately accept the impossibility of reproducing reality and, in fact, amplify that acceptance through their language and poetics. The tendency of the artificial to develop different configurations and behaviors from those of the exemplars is often taken by people as a suggestion for establishing new realities or introducing new classes of objects, processes or languages. The encounter between the artificialistic dispositionwhich is basically imitativeand the process of creativity is best illustrated by the model proposed at the beginning of the century by anthropologist Franz Boas. Writing on the work of primitive artists, Boas noted that a weaver, after having trained to repro-

duce natural exemplars such as fishes or birds on his cloth,


plays with his own technique; that is, when no longer satisfied to weave forward and back, he begins to skip the wires, introducing more complex rhythms of movement [27].

COMMUNICATION MESSAGES AS ARTIFICIAL OBJECTS


In human affairs, although the artificial appears according to different modalities than does the technological, they share enough to scrutinize them both on the basis of the same theory [2834]. In the domain of cultural activity, human communication is probably the most spectacular instance of the generation of the artificial. This developmental process originated at the dawn of civilization by means of human vocal sounds with the presumed aim of reproducing widely shared mental exemplars and essential per formances, i.e. objects or events linked to pain or happiness, hunger or tenderness. The process continued along the centuries through the gradual invention of languages as systems based on more and more abstract rules (including grammar, semantics, syntax and style), which led to the production of messages as definitively artificial objects. We can define the communication process as one by which an actor A tries to reproduce (in an attempt, ideally, to replicate) an exemplar residing in his or her mind at a certain observational leveland to which he or she attributes a certain essential per formancein the mind of a listener B. In order to do so, A cannot avoid adopting materials and procedures different from those that are active in his own mind: thought, mnemonic elements, images, sensations or feelings are then translatedor, more accurately, transduced and transferred via language with the aim of reproducing them. In addition to the selection process involving an observational level, the exemplar and its essential per formance (and the inheritance principle attributable to the adoption of various materials and procedures, as well as any side effects and sudden events) constitute a permanent outcome in communication, as we know well from daily life. They appear not only as ideas, conceptual associations or misunderstandings that modify the path of discourse, but also as agents of reduction and transfiguration of both the exemplar and its essential

performance due to the heterogeneity of language. This particularly applies to those situations in which people need to express themselves not only in a purely informational sense, but also in their need to share their most subjective existential knowledge. The Italian poet Dante Alighieri deftly described this human condition in the context of his vision of God:
Oh speech How feeble and how faint art thou, to give Conception birth! Yet this to what I saw Is less than little [35].

Actually, the richness and complexity of human languagethough a result of the attempt to make communication more accurate and detailedseems to allow the civilized world a less efficient and effective means of communication than that which was available to primitive people. This is why we continuously rely, in developed and learned communication, on both the translation of messages into simpler, more familiar references and the illusory and circular use of metaphors. Thus, at least in the Italian language, the taste of a wine becomes round ( rotondo ) or a pain acute ( acuto ); but also a discourse becomes flat ( piatto ), a personality angular ( angolosa ) and an expression icy (glaciale). Such expedients introduce standardized exemplars and essential per formances that differ greatly from the specific, subjective exemplar and essential performance that one tries to reproduce. Let us suppose that Antonio tells Marcello in Italian So di avera una personalit angolosa (I know I have an angular personality). Due to the human disposition towards building semantics based on our experiences, Marcello may fear that Antonio is referring to the same threatening personality features Marcello faced just a few days ago while interacting with Mario and not to the kind to which Antonio is referring now. For all these reasons, daily communication unavoidably assumes a feature that is similar to a bounce. The actor A transfers the specific meaning of a message stored in his or her mind into something artificial made of linguistic elements and then deposits and reproduces it in the mind of the listener B. Nevertheless, the meaning turns back also to Athat is, A listens to him or herself. As a consequence, A evaluates the effectiveness of the message as a lis-

186

Negrotti, From the Artificial to the Art

tener, which explains why communicationwhile only sometimes persuasive to the outside worldis certainly selfpersuasive. As stated by L. Pirandello: When the passage from one spirit to another is accomplished, modifications are unavoidable [36].

ART AS INTENTIONAL TRANSFIGURATION


We may say that art is possible where communication is not. Artistic phenomenology, as a true self-referential discipline, comes not only from the use of conventional technologies, but also from fundamental technologies such as communicative language. As the medium becomes the message in Marshall McLuhans well-known aphorism [37], artistic reproduction always becomes a process by means of which the adopted conventional technology becomes a substance in itselfor, more accurately, a fact of aesthetic relevance. An artists subjective exemplars and essential performanceswhich become his or her representations of reality have no relevance in themselves until they are actually transfigured by his or her aesthetics into concrete action. In other words, aesthetic value resides in a work of art and not in the mental representations that precede it, and certainly not in the communication of natural or psychological exemplars as such. Indeed, all art forms draw developmental possibilities from the fact that communication technologiesoral, written or otherwiseallow and impose forms and substances that are independent of both simple exemplars and their simple, essential performances. It appears Oscar Wilde understood this point when he said that
[T]he purpose of art is not simple truth but complex beauty. Art, in the end, is an exaggeration of things, and the selection of these things themselves, that is, the soul of them, is nothing but an intensified form of emphasis [38].

Art is not pure information (as a large part of ordinary communication is): art is knowledge. The artist does not concern him or herself with mere communication (though his or her work always de facto communicates something) but, rather, with discovering or constructingand then offering to the publicrepresentations of worlds that exist beyond accepted reality and that only become known due to his or her reproductions. Artistic form and substance bring with them the unavoidable ambiguity that

characterizes any artificial object, which, as mentioned above, always transfigures the features of its exemplar and essential performances. In this sense, beyond the evident differences among the various schools, all art can be defined as transfigurative. The only difference (albeit strategic) is that artistic ambiguity far from generating the equivocal or frustrating situations that occur in everyday communicationsometimes also generates aesthetic gratification. In other words, as far as art is concerned, we face a new paradox. In fact, the artist exceeds the communication role of the artwork at the moment he or she transduces his or her mental exemplars and essential performances. The real aim of the artist is simply to transfigure reality in accord with his or her aesthetics, which, in the end, constitute the actual observation level the artist adopts to look at reality itself. Music provides an instructive case here, though one that has not been conclusively studied. Although various schools of thought exist on this, it seems that the linguistic or symbolic character of music, in combination with its reproductive contentthat is, its capacity to reproduce the exemplar and the essential per formance that was in the composers mindwould constitute a pre-condition from which to speak of meaning and of the artificial. Actually, the history of musicfrom Rameau to Couperin, from Vivaldi to Prokofiev often exhibits explicit attempts to reproduce external exemplars and essential performances whose beauty, nevertheless, fully belongs to their musical natures and transcends their reproductive capacities as such. Chopinwho maintained that he could not conceive music that does not express anythingcounterpoints Stravinsky, according to whom expression had never been an important feature of music; Richard Strauss, who refused to believe in an abstract music, is opposed by the theses of Eduard Hanslick, who strongly maintained that music is hermetically self-defined [39]. Musical composition consists of a single-step observational process, while all other arts pass through a two-step process. In other words, a classical or traditional painter looks at reality, captures in it some exemplar and thenbefore he or she may enjoy the poetical transfiguration generated by the activityreproduces it in such a way that the viewer can recognize the exemplar. On the contrary, apart from some particular in-

stances of intentionally onomatopoetic music, no natural exemplar can be recognized in either a musical score or its execution, regardless of its title. Indeed, this entails that the composer looks at reality in a special way, namely through what we may call a musical observation level: a sort of sense organ that comprises the cultural result of a long evolution, stabilized by the development during the seventeenth century of both a standardized scale and essential technical rules [40]. This was already understood by W.H. Wackenroder, one of the leading theoreticians of Romantic music, when he referred to
the mysterious stream which flows in the depth of the human soul: the word enumerates, names and describes the transformations of this stream, adopting a material which is extraneous to it; on the contrary, music makes the stream itself run before our eyes [41].

Both classical painters and composers in generallike any other artificialists adopt their own materials in their work, but the public recognizes the final result only in the case of the former, which implies that composers directly and primarily visualize exemplars and their essential performances in a musical way. To some extent, we could then maintain that modernparticularly abstractpainting is much more similar to the nature of music than is traditional painting. However, in its quest to generate truly universal beauty, modern painting lacks the conventional technology standardized compositional rules and criteriathat music gained after the late Renaissance and that still dominates most modern and contemporary musical composition. In other words, if music were painting, it would be entirely abstract, though supportedat least in the Western traditionby a universal set of rules and criteria. This means that musical constructionto use Stravinskys term [42]is the real artificial object we can appreciate: it is self-sufficient, since it already results from a transfiguration of reality according to the composers aesthetics and the conventional technology he or she adopts. To sum up, music clearly exemplifies the freedom of human beings and cultures to set up new observation levels and, therefore, to propose new transfigured landscapes whose reproduction consists of a true knowledge in itself, because
music is able to create a universe of virtual time that, as maintained Gustav

Negrotti, From the Artificial to the Art

187

Mahler, can bring in another world, in which things are no longer subject to time and space. Balinese people speak of the other mind as a state of being one can reach with dance and music [43].

I could discuss many other instances, including electronic or computer music, visual computer art or sculpture. Multimedia art, particularly, will face big problems simply for its attempt to link several observation levels in one project. Multimedia art will inevitably realize some set of aesthetic rules to govern its heterogeneity, which was an aim pursued, without persuasive results, by the gesamtkunstwerk utopia attempted, for instance, by Richard Wagner.

CONCLUSION
In human nature, there is something that pushes us not only to adapt ourselves to the world, possibly to know and to control it, but also to reproduce it. In order to shift from the pure knowledge of or control of the natural world to the reproduction of it, we need suitable technology and related materials and techniques. Existing conventional technology comprises a body of tools and knowledge built over the centuries to fit natural laws and constraints; it is not capable by itself of reproducing natural exemplars. Since the time of Icarus, humans have tried to imitate, mimic, simulate, reproduce and even replicate that which is around or within us by means of available technology. To do so sets up a true paradox: humans try to reproduce natural objects and events through the use of unnatural materials or procedures. The tacit dream of the artificialists is to reach an undefined threshold: they hope to be able to reproduce what is essential in their exemplar without having to reproduce it as a wholefor reproducing it as a whole would require the impossible task of rebuilding it at all of its possible observation levels, that is, replicating it naturally. The artificial is damned to swing forever between the pole of nature and the pole of technologywithout limiting itself to either pole. If the artificial were to coincide with a purely technological device, it would lose all similarity to its natural exemplar. If it were to coincide completely with a natural exemplar, it would lose its status as artificial. Thus, the artificial places itself in a third reality in which a natural exemplar is reproduced, but also transfigured in un-

predictable ways. This is particularly true when artificialists try to combine together more than one artificial object (for example, combining two or more organic exemplars of human body parts), hoping that the resulting subsystem will behave like a natural counterpart. In this case, transfiguration is due to the fact that accurate reproduction of the subsystem is impossible, for it would require totally accurate knowledge and reproduction of all possible observation levels. If one considers not only the technological artificial (e.g. machines and other concrete devices), but also reproductions generated in communications and the arts, one will recognize the aforementioned paradox. When we try to communicate our mental state, we are trying to reproduce or to replicate it in someone elses mind by means of language. Language is the only technology that can be defined as intrinsically oriented to the artificial, since its only function is that of allowing the reproduction of our mental states. Unfortunately, language has developed to the extent that the more personal and complex the message, the greater the transfiguration of our mental exemplars. This failure of language in communication generates frustration in daily life, but it also is responsible as inspiration for artists: Artists assume from the beginning the impossibility of communicating successfully through language alone. Gustav Mahler, for instance, explicitly said that it was necessary for him to express himself through music when undefinable emotions emergedif he could have expressed these emotions in words instead, he would have done so. Art in this sense is the generation of artificial objects within which transfiguration is not only unavoidable but intentional: beauty comes not only directly from the internal and external worlds, but from their transfiguration through art. Human adventure is a field that seems to exhibit definite laws and constraints that limit our ability to cope with nature, but, at the same time, offers us the ability of generating new entities. The main problem is learning or inventing new rules and visions to coexist with this notyet-experienced reality. References and Notes
1. In this paper, I define the phrase to reproduce as the attempt to rebuild or remake an objectoften natural and assumed to be an exemplaraccording to a selection of its features. 2. Based on the mathematical calculus introduced

by Filippo Brunelleschi (13771446) and then codified by Leon Battista Alberti (14061472) and Piero della Francesca (14151492), perspectiva artificialis is the painting technique that allows the three-dimensional representation of objects on a two-dimensional surface. 3. In his utopic The New Atlantis (1627), Francis Bacon imagined a number of technological advancements, among which was the ability to reproduce rainbows. 4. In 1860 French poet and writer Charles Baudelaire (18211867) wrote Les Paradis artificiels, which describes the effects of drugs on the human senses. See C. Baudelaire, Les Paradis artificiels (Paris: Gallimard, 1972). 5. Sony Corporation has designed a device able to detect smells by means of advanced electronic hardware assisted by computer programs. 6. Chris Langton of Santa Fe Institute started a new area of research (which is today quite advanced) at the end of the 1980s called Artificial Life (A-Life) that aimed at demonstrating that a number of phenomena typical of life (such as evolution, reproduction, differentiation) can be reproduced in their essential dynamics by means of computer programs that graphically exhibit the involved processes. A good introduction to A-Life can be found in S. Levy, Artificial Life (New York: Vintage, 1997). See also the article by artist Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau in this issue of Leonardo. 7. Jacques de Vaucanson was a French technician of the eighteenth century in the field of automata that is, he attempted to reproduce concrete living systems able to perform like human or animal exemplars. In addition to the automated drake discussed later in this article, de Vaucanson built a flute player and a drummer. Swiss technician Henri-Louis Jacquet-Droz built a draftsman, a musician and a well-known writer. The human disposition for imaging, designing and building automata is ancient; we can find instances of it since the time of Eron (first century A.D.), in ancient China and in the Bible. 8. Biomaterial was defined in 1982 by the U.S. National Institute of Health as any substance (other than a drug) or combination of substances, synthetic or natural in origin, which can be used for any period of time, as a whole or as a part of a system which treats, augments, or replaces any tissue, organ, or function of the body. See National Institute of Health, Clinical Applications of Biomaterials. NIH Consensus Statement 4 (13 November 1982). Bio-artificial devices may be defined as the devices resulting from the combination, made possible by current conventional technology, of biological and technological features. 9. H.A. Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969). 10. J. Monod, Il caso e la necessit (Milan: Mondadori, 1970). 11. H. Haken, A. Karlqvist and U. Svedin, The Machine as Metaphor and Tool (Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 1993). 12. French biologist Jacques Monod maintained that during an ideal visit to Mars a computer would recognize the artifacts built by local people, taking into consideration the geometrical form of the objects it could have seen on the sur face of the planet. Because of complete ignorance about the inhabitants, about their nature and about the projects they could have conceived, the program [of an ideal computer] should use only very general criteria based exclusively on the structure and form of the considered objects. See J. Monod, Le Hasard et la ncessit; Italian translation: Il caso e la necessit (Milan: Mondadori, 1972) p. 18. 13. G. Tarde, Les Lois de limitation (Paris: 1890). Italian translation: G. Tarde, Le leggi dellimitazione (Torino: UTET, 1976).

188

Negrotti, From the Artificial to the Art

14. Symbolic AI is the early version of AI followed by many researchers in the field. It is called symbolic after the work of H.A. Simon and colleagues because it tries to reproduce functions of the mind by means of computational models, which are symbolic in their very nature. See K. Craik, The Nature of the Explanation (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1943); quoted in P.N. Johnson-Laird, Mental Models: Towards a Cognitive Science of Language (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1983); Italian translation: Modelli mentali (Bologne: Il Mulius, 1988) p. 47. See also Z.W. Pylyshyn, Computation and Cognition: Toward a Foundation for Cognitive Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984). 15. From a letter by J. de Vaucanson to Abbot Desfontaines, 1738. 16 . M.A. Mahowald and C. Mead, The Silicon Retina, Le ScienzeScientific American 275 (1991) pp. 82102 (Retranslated to English from the Italian edition by the author). 17. E. Morin, La Methode. I. La Nature de la nature (Paris: Editions Du Seuil, 1977); Italian translation: E. Morin, Il metodo, ordine, disordine, organizatione (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1983/1994) p. 179. 18. P. Berger and T. Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality (New York: Doubleday, 1966); Italian translation: P. Berger and T. Luckmann, La realt come costruzione sociale (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1974). 19. In mechanistic culture, towards the end of the sixteenth century, Kepler designed a three-dimensional reproduction of the universe, the machina mundi artificialis, which was given as a gift to prince Friedrich von Wrttemberg. 20. S. Leschiutta and M. Rolando Leschiutta, I primi strumenti di misura elettrici, Quaderni di storia della tecnologia 3 (1993) pp. 5859. 21. M. Galloni, Microscopi e microscopie, dalle origini al XIX secolo [20] p. 23.

22. T. Regge, Infinito, viaggio ai limiti delluniverso (Milan: Mondadori, 1994) p. 142. 23. A.G. Mikos, R. Bizios, K.K. Wu and M.J. Yaszemski, Cell Transplantation, Rice Institute of Biosciences and Bioengineering Web site <http://wwwbioc.rice.edu/Institute/> (1996). 24. G. Anceschi, Monogrammi e figure, teorie e storie della progettazione di artefatti comunicativi (Florence: La Casa Husher, 1988) p. 128. 25. N. Negroponte, Essere Digitali (Milan: Sperling & Kupfer, 1995) p. 123. 26. From an interview with the author, 1995. 27. F. Boas, Primitive Art (Oslo: Instituttet fur Sammenlignende Kulturforskning, 1927); Italian translation: F. Boas, Arte Primitiva (Torino: Boringhieri, 1981) p. 174. 28. M. Negrotti, ed., Understanding the Artificial (London: Springer Verlag, 1991). Italian translation: M. Negrotti, ed., Capire lartificiale (Torino: Bollati-Boringhieri, 1990, 1993). 29. M. Negrotti, Per una teoria dellartificiale (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1993). 30. M. Negrotti, Losser vazione musicale (Milan: Angeli, 1996). 31. M. Negrotti, La terza realt: introduzione alla teoria dellartificiale (Bari: Dedalo, 1997). 32. D. Bertasio, La comunicazione artistica e lartificiale, in M. Negrotti, ed., Artificialia (Bologna: Clueb, 1995) pp. 153204. 33. G. Marchetti, La macchina estetica (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1997). 34. G. Padovani, Lartificiale fra cultura e natura, Nuova Civilt delle Macchine 14 (1996) pp. 5354.

35. Oh quanto corto il dire e come fioco al mio concetto! e questo, a quel chi vidi tanto, che non basta a dicer poco. Dante Alighieri, Paradiso XXXIII La Divina Commedia, H.F. Cary, trans., lines 121122. Project Gutenberg Etext: <ftp://sunsite.unc.edu/pub/ docs/books/gutenberg/etext97/3ddcc10.txt>. 36. L. Pirandello, Arte e scienza (Milan: Mondadori 1908; reprinted 1994) p. 106. 37. M. McLuhan, The Medium Is the Message (London: Penguin Press, 1967). 38. O. Wilde, Aforismi (Rome: Newton Compton, 1992) p. 87. 39 . On some aspects of these opinions, see E. Hanslick, Vom musikalisch-Schnen ; Italian Translation: Il bello musicale (Milan: Minuziano, 1945). See also A. Collisani, Musica e simboli (Palermo: Sellerio, 1988). 40. B. de Schloezer, Introduction J.S. Bach, Essai desthtique musical (Paris: Gallimard, 1947). 41. W.H. Wackenroder, Das eigentmliche innere Wesen der Tonkunst und die Seelenlehre der heutigen Instrumentalmusik, in Phantasien ber Kunst, fr Freunde der Kunst (1799); quoted in A. Collisani, Musica e simboli (Palermo: Sellerio, 1988) p. 88. 42. See I. Stravinsky, An Autobiography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1936). 43. J. Blacking, How Musical Is Man? (Seattle, WA: Univ. of Washington Press, 1973); Italian translation: J. Blacking, Come musicale luomo? (Milan: Ricordi, 1986) p. 70.

Manuscript received 14 November 1997.

Negrotti, From the Artificial to the Art

189