The Machine as Artist

Nature and mathematics are no complete different worlds, quite to the opposite, mathematics are a part of nature. Shortly before landing at Sao Paulo’s Congonhas Airport, a view out of the window presents a beautiful lake landscape, similar to the graphical image of a Mandelbrot Set. Such formulas had been investigated by the French mathematics Pierre Fatou and Gaston Julia. Later in 1978 the first fractal, based on the formula, was drawn by the US colleagues Robert W. Brooks and Peter Matelski. Today Mandelbrot apps can be found for each computer- and smart phone-system.

Due to similarity between fractals and nature, like lakes & mountains, LucasArts already used these formulas to create realistic artificial landscapes for their early computer games “Rescue on Fractalus!” (1984) and later also for “Koronis Rift” (1985) and “The Eidolon” (1985). A first indicator that born out of strict mathematical rules may arise creativity.

“Rescue of Fractalus!”-designer David Fox took his inspiration from Loren Carpenter. His colleague from Industrial Light & Magic (LucasArts’ sister company) realized the spectacular fractal mountain sequence for the second Star Trek-movie: “The Wrath of Khan“.  Working together, they had been able to realize similar mountain effects on the Atari 800 home-computer.

If you play “Rescue on Fractalus!”, it immediately reminds you to Star Wars, especially the second part (episode 5): “The Empire strikes back“. No surprise, Fox wanted originally to create a Star Wars-title. But as George Lucas gave the licences to Parker Brothers, it was not possible to set the game into the famous universe, but Fox had to create a different setting.

Mathematics are a part of nature, what may inspire humans for art. Would it possible to take out the middleman and let mathematics directly create art? Artificial Intelligence consists of mathematics. Today, AI can be perceived as creative, as it gets trained by humans and Machine Learning even can analyze existing arts. Due to this, it can create images, compose music and even write short-stories. Nevertheless, so far it cannot create art as result of independent ideas, it can only create art as variation of existing pieces. But if we understand the beauty of algorithms, the AI can be art itself. Similar as early video games had been included into the famous MOMA- Museum of Modern Arts.


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