Ways of machine seeing

Ways of machine seeing

Martin Zeilinger

Anglia Ruskin University

Looking at Computer-Generated Art as an Act of Human Machine Vision

In this project, I propose that we can attain a kind of aesthetic ‘machine vision’ by engaging as fully as possible with all processual details of computer-generated image-making. I attempt this by deconstructing and reverse-engineering the source code underlying computer-generated graphics by ‘masters’ of algorithmic art (e.g., M. Mohr, V. Molnár, H. Hangen), and then reproducing their images on a self-built drawing robot (a simple XY-plotter). This toolset becomes as an analytical apparatus that allows for a new, critical, and performative way of seeing computer-generated artworks.

Berger highlights differences between how we used to see paintings and how we see them in the age of digital communication technologies. I explore a similar approach, but not with an eye on painting; instead, my art historical focus is on digitally generated artworks, and specifically early computer-generated graphics. Berger asked how changing technological circumstances of looking at art changes (our understanding of) the artworks – I ask how our perception of computer-generated art-making may be impacted by embedding ourselves in the whole gamut of technical and technological specificities related to the generation of the images in question. In order to truly ‘see’ code-based, computer-generated art, we have to radically expand what it means to ‘look.’

In this project, I speculate on the possibility and contours of human acts of generative ‘machine vision.’ Does truly ‘seeing’ computer-generated images involve experimenting with the reconstitution and re-execution of the code on which they are based? In digital contexts, does seeing inevitably entail reading, writing, and execution of code? In a technological realm where every image always already exists in countless cached copies, the recording and reproduction of ‘masterful’ works of computer-generated art using self-built code and devices allows me to think critically about issues of authenticity, process, and identity of digital artists and digital artworks.


Carloalberto Treccani

City University of Hong Kong

How machines see the world: Understanding how machine vision affects our way of perceiving, thinking and designing the world

We share the world with machines and technology, a man/machine relationship that is increasingly marked by empathy and reciprocity, so as to gradually assimilate our perception (human vision) with the way that digital devices see things (machine vision). Machines see the world in various ways, and they share this with us and what and how they see the world, in turn, affects our way of seeing it. Ways of seeing and therefore to think and design that seem to meet the needs of machines. The approach that deliberately makes use of the plasticity and malleability of human beings to create a new world thought and designed to be shared with the machines. The core theme of my proposal is to understand to what extent machines’ view of the world, in turn, influences humans’ perception of the world through the definition of the unconscious. Whether the definition of optical unconscious fit particularly well with the reality of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, that of technological unconscious instead has somehow defined the second half of the twentieth century. However, these definitions do not seem appropriate anymore in a contemporaneity that has radically changed form, far from the human eyes and now largely invisible, in a historic moment that marks the end of the anthropocentric monopoly of vision. For these reasons, I propose a new idea of the unconscious, an electromagnetic unconscious that best seems to define the contemporaneity.

One thought on “Ways of machine seeing

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