The Art of Machines


Machines as art. It seems a bit odd to ponder it in today's world. But, that is because as a society, we have lost touch with the past. It is only very recently in our history that we have come to associate art with art museums and with the business of buying and selling art for outrageous prices. The Greek word techné, meaning "skill" or "craft" in modern parlance, originally captured art's meaning. Artists were craftspeople, and through their intense labor, they made beautiful objects of enduring cultural and historical value. Now, we have fine art. What does that mean? As pointed out in the fine art Wiki, "The separation of arts and crafts that exists in Europe and the United States is not shared by other cultures." So, there is an apparent schism between those who produce something useful and those who, according to the Wiki, produce something that "has been created primarily for aesthetic and intellectual purposes and judged for its beauty and meaningfulness..." The problem with fine art and this division is that it doesn't mesh well with our society as it presently exists. I am not suggesting an end to art museums---they serve an invaluable purpose in preserving culture and, more importantly, in guiding people in how to perceive. However, we need to bring back the concept of artisan, craft, and utility as natural extensions to how we define art, so that fine art does not represent the sole authority on "art." Due to technology, we live in world where "making" and "sensing" are made infinitely possible through inventions such as 3D printing, computer-aided design, games, and virtual reality. The time is ripe to slowly erode this pointless distinction between that which is done only for itself and that which may be useful. I find the Computer History Museum's Lesson Plan "Perceptions of Technology: Its Hidden Art and Beauty" both timely and appropriate. We are all artists now.