Aaron: Art from the machine

May 12, 2001

[…] This is a story of two artists. One is human and the other is unquestionably not.  The latter can, in fact, be downloaded to your computer. Artificial Intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil has sponsored the premiere of the first excursion into computational art in history.

Artist and University of California at San Diego art professor Harold Cohen has been working on the art-creating program, “Aaron,” since 1973. It’s roughly 1.5 megabytes of LISP code, and this ever-evolving project has spawned articles, college lectures and an entire book analyzing just what Aaron is and does.

Aaron draws and paints stylized still lifes and portraits of human figures out of its programmed “imagination” — no images or additional human input necessary. One byproduct of Aaron’s work — which has hung in museums around the world — is the lingering question of the nature of art and creativity itself. […]