A Portrait of the Computer as a Young Artist

Author: Holger Briel, Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University, China
& Monarch University, Switzerland

Email: ijcs@iafor.org
Published: April 02, 2018

Citation: Briel, H. (2018). A Portrait of the Computer as a Young Artist. IAFOR Journal of Cultural Studies, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijcs.3.1.01


From Emojis to Manga, from western adverts to "foreign" brand consciousness, visual products are continuing their near instantaneous circulation around the globe. Especially their apparent "naturalness" and freedom from translation is appealing. But here also lies the problem: many of the consumers of these images are oblivious to the fact that these materials have been constructed by social actors with specific backgrounds and specific agendas in mind; thus, especially their "foreign" receptions create challenges, including ethical ones.

In order to properly study these fairly new phenomena, a different kind of terminology is needed, not one that relies on older media concepts, but one that does them justice in terms of their contextual and technological complexity, multivalence and mobility. I will propose the term "VisionBytes" for these phenomena. These denote complex visual arrays, oftentimes of foreign cultural origin and consisting of still or moving images. They circulate within a system of non-photography as sketched by François Laruelle (2013) and are akin to the "objects" described in Quentin Meillassoux' Beyond Finitude (2010). Invariably, they touch on issues of belonging, identity, exclusion, globalisation, human and AI rights, all points featuring strongly in this text. Already today, these images have begun participating in the preparations for the gaze of the (technological) Other, of a possible singularity which for the first time will allow humans to re-view themselves and thus be seen by non-human intelligent others, a trajectory already taking its course.

As so often, art is at the forefront of these mediated upheavals. In the final part of the article, I will examine a number of recent art pieces/installations from a 2016 Art Fair in Shanghai, from the 2017 Dokumenta 14 in Kassel, and from an ongoing internet project. These select pieces all point to an ever more life-permeating media future where wanting to merely live with media will never do.


VisionBytes, visual products, visual, digital art