Couchot, E. (2007). The Automatization of Figurative Techniques: Toward the Autonomous Image. In _Media Art Histories_, O. Grau, ed. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press.

Edmond Couchot, doctor of aesthetics and visual arts, explores the relationship between art and technology, specifically between visual arts and data-processing techniques. From 1982-2000 he was the head of the Department of Arts and Technologies of Image at the University Paris 8. In the 1960s he created cybernetic devices requiring spectator participation, and has expanded this work into digital interactive projects, which have been in numerous international exhibitions.

Until the advent of digital image-making, the subject’s “perceptive habitus” (182), her “epistemic position” (ibid) that she controls the perspective, held as the primary mode in art history. However, with digital production, wherein the images have no necessary connection with the real world, the subject’s position is no longer linear but potentially diffused among/within the network. “Therefore a new perceptive habitus is emerging” (183).

And the images themselves are interactive–the computer makes the images, shapes, colors, and movements the “virtual semiotic objects” (183) such that the images can behave autonomously. This notion of autonomy dates back to the 1950s and concerns “emergent behavior,” the phenomenon where neural networks’ cognitive strategies determine original (not programmed) solutions. “Low autonomy” or “low self-organization” refers to performative changes, events that occur because of fortuitous connections not previously programmed into the system. “High self-organization” refers to the performative tasks that occur because of the way that system has evolved.

Autonomy is essential to interactive artworks, and its own levels correspond levels of cybernetics and interactivity:

  • 1st cybernetics: “control and communication in animal and the machine…homeostasis information” (186)
  • 1st interactivity: “relation between man and machine by reflex model or action-reaction” (186)
  • 2nd cybernetics: “cognition, auto-organization … networks, adaptation, evolution” (186)
  • 2nd interactivity: “action/perception … embodiment, autopoiesis” (186)
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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Media Arts, Minor Field, Research Fields

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