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Sunday, July 09, 2006

Aaron--a computer that (who?) paints

Several years ago my son and I went to the Boston Computer Museum to see Aaron at work, arguably the first artist-computer (as opposed to computer-artist). It was fascinating to watch. Aaron is the brain child of Harold Cohen. If my memory serves me, the Aaron we saw was larger than the one shown in the article cited above. It painted portraits as well as still lifes and landscapes and had a distinctive style similar to that of the inventor. As the huge sheet of paper inched its way across a sort of platen, mechanical arms swung around the page, periodically moving to the jars of paint to refresh or change color. Sometimes there would be a long pause, when I imagined a mechanical or digital brain trying to decide what to paint next. I looked around, but didn't see a curtained screen with a mad-magician frantically operating the controls, a la Wizard of Oz. To learn more about Aaron, Google: Aaron computer paintings. As for the link above, it took me awhile to figure out what the writer meant about Aaron seizing animals, until I recalled that a few years back a museum exhibited a dead cow preserved in formaldehyde as an avant garde artwork. I hope Aaron sticks to painting.

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