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Aaron: Computer Program And Artist (Maybe) 98

Posted by timothy
from the to-aaron-is-human? dept.
Logic Bomb writes: "Wired has a story about Aaron, a computer program under development since 1973 that is supposed to creatively make art. Some people have probably heard about Aaron and its creator Harold Cohen before, since this has been in progress for so long. Aaron is nowhere near finished (will it ever be?), but it's far enough along that Ray Kurzweil thinks everyone should get a look. He has sponsored the creation of an Aaron screensaver for Windows that will continuously create 'original paintings' on your idle PC. You can download a trial version for free." Aaron is also programmed in LISP; as I recall it's also one of the many cool things talked about in the truly strange The Secret Guide To Computers (ISBN: 0939151278).
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Aaron: Computer Program And Artist (maybe)

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If aaron interests you, you might want to check out David Cope's work. He has a CD, produced in 1993, called "Bach by Design"

    The disk contains works modeled on the styles of Bach, Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, Scott Joplin, Prokofieff, and Cope. --Yes Cope is a composer in the traditional sense too, so he told his computer about his personal style.

    Lest you think that making imitations of other people's work is not creative-- There is a very long tradition of apprenticeship by imitation and parody (in the artistic sense--look it up). It's really only since the last half of the 20th century that imitation has been widely abandoned as a teaching tool in preference for a conceptual approach.

    Anyhow, some of the work on Cope's CD (produced with funds from University of California, Santa Cruz) sounds fairly believable. I can only imagine it would be more convincing with natural instruments instead of synthesizers.

  • Anybody have a mirror of it? :)
  • Then there is the Mondrian Art Generator [netlabs.net]..

    ...richie

  • links to flame gimp plugin [draves.org] and flame home page [draves.org].

  • by mattkime (8466) on Sunday May 13, 2001 @11:18AM (#225675)
    Any time you define art, you close your mind off to part of it.

    No, most people would not concider Marcel Duchamp's urinal to be art. But then again, most people really don't have a clue as to what art is. Duchamp's urinal is one of the most revolutionary works of art of the 20th century.

    For those who don't like the urinal, concider these things: Its shaped like the virgin mary, or a sittng buddha. You piss in it. It rejects the idea of art being something that can be possesed by the rich - everyday objects can be art.

    Back to the main topic.

    The computer is not making art. The programmer, in this case, is selecting what he conciders to be art. I'm sure a lot of stuff has found its way into the trash. His code guides its pixeled paint brush.

    How is this any different than how most other artist work? They also choose from a wide variety of forms and select which ones they prefer. They train their hands, rather than their computers, as to how paint should be applied.

    I know we get excited about computers here, but it really is beside the point.
  • I always thought the best carpet would be a completely random design so that it wouldn't matter if you spilled anything on it, because whatever you spilled would blend right in.

    It'd have to have completely random colors in completely random shapes in completely random configuration... well not totally, kinda blobby so that big splotches of ink or blood would fit in.

    this wouldn't work:
    for (x = 0; x < width; x++)
    for (y = 0; y < height; y++)
    pixel(x, y) = Random.nextInt();

    Because that just creates an even fuzz.. if you spilled grape juice in the middle of that, it'd show up for sure.

    Anyhow, that's one task that could create some original computer "art"

    Art or utility.. computers don't care either way.
  • It was a terribly sad story.

    A woman was famous for amazing sculptures of light, which everyone assumed to be her creations. During a showing of art (actually created by one of her robots) a technician from US Robotics (creators of the robot) noticed that the one of her robots was behaving strangely. Thinking he was doing the woman a favor, he took it upon himself to "fix" the robot.

    The fix caused the robot to lose it's creative abilities.

    There were several strong messages going on here.

    1. The woman claiming something not her own (setting up the possibility of #2)
    2. The man "fixing" a robot without permission of the owner
    3. The adjustment from abnormal to normal destroying creativity.

    Wish I had the story handy... I'd be inclined to read it again.
  • by mcc (14761) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Sunday May 13, 2001 @09:47AM (#225678) Homepage
    In a less-deliberate but still interesting theme:

    Andrej Bauer's Random Art Generator [cmu.edu]

    Scottd's Random Art Generator [cmu.edu]

    [enter subtle prompt here for people to post links to other interesting but not-directly-related to-Aaron-itself projects.]

    • Don't human brains do that as well to create art? How is it different?

    Arguably, human brain usually processes information (emotions, intent) usually in such a way that the in the produced art, significant is the message encoded in the image. Aaron does not encode such message, it's comparable to a random string of characters. Whether computer of human made it is irrelevant, if I drew random drawings or wrote random strings, it wouldn't be art either.

  • 30 years is overdoing it, I'd think. :-)

    Though, come to think of it, it's written in LISP --- it's amazing it's shipping at all.

    Don't mind me; I'm just bitter than I can't use it as an xscreensaver plug-in.

  • Aaron may be incapable of improving its art, but Harold Cohen certainly is. The program's constant evolution by his hands is probably as significant to its work as anything it can do autonomously.

    You can criticize the results on their own merits, but Cohen is really just trying to explore and codify what he would do to create an image. The aesthetics of that image are his, not Aaron's.
  • the guy who designed the urinal is an artist - the original urinal that he designed is a piece of art, but the factory reproductions are just reproductions of the piece of art. If I put a Van Gogh painting into a Xerox machine - would the resulting image be a piece of art? No, just a reproduction. A representation of the original.

    Alan can't really think. It can only be programmed to do what it does so therefore, it's not creating artwork. Intent is a big part of art. The urinal was thought up by a designer with the intent of having maximum effeciency and useability. Thought was put into the shape and function. When a computer puts down a line because it feels that that line will have some kind of impact on the viewer, then the computer will become an artist. Until that day comes, the programmer of Alan is the artist, and the computer is just a tool that he's using to express his own art. As Cohen said in the end of the article - "If the program did a drawing in August that it couldn't have done when I stopped programming it in January, then I'll consider it creative."
  • This may not be applicable, but ... in current cases re DMCA in the courts there is a situation where it is possible that computer code is not being seen as 'speech' as in 'free speech'.

    I believe that art falls into the 'free speech' category. So, does AARON answer these judges questions?

  • ;;;; Valid ANSI Common Lisp, and _much_ shorter.
    (write-char #\A)
  • BASIC was not the first computer language. According to FOLDOC [ic.ac.uk] it was created in 1963, which puts it after FORTRANs I, II, III, and IV ('54, '58, ??, '62), LISPs 1 and 1.5 ('55?, '59), ALGOLs 58 and 60, and God knows how many other languages. COBOL itself dates from 1960, and should have stayed there.
  • I disagree. I think that what makes art great, or even art art is the idea that you're getting an insight into the mind of another human being. Almost any art form can be broken down into an algorithmic approach, but what inspires the assembly of standardized parts is really what impacts you.

    Think about 'Starry Night' as opposed to a photograph of the source material. Both can have a certain impact, especially if the photo catches the light in the right way, but the painting is basically what Van Gough thought up in his own mind. Seeing his interpretation of a beautiful scene is what inspires us.

    Similarly, seeing a musician performance has a certain impact based simply on the energy of the artist. While a technically proficient piece can be inspiring, the same piece performed by a musician letting himself go in the music.

    Part of the whole mistique of art is seeing something beautiful and realizing that a human mind created it, and then pondering that mind.

    ---------
  • I've got mod points right now.

    <bag>

    But there's no option for indicating genius.

    I think you have a genius about you. Just want to say that...

    Very nice prose/poem.

    mefus
    --
    um, er... eh -- *click*
  • You say (heavily paraphrased) that if I took a set of data and rearranged them according to some mathematical transform that reveals a previously obscured relationship (a principal components analysis for example), that this is creativity.

    Then you tell us that a computer program cannot be considered creative.

    Now I'm not here to discuss whether Aaron is creative, but your own definition of creativity needs alot of work if you wish to discount computer programs, because what you described is the *precise purpose* of many statistical algorithms.

    The "intent" of such an algorithm could be to find a set of dimensions that capture the variance of the data.

    And what is this grand "context problem" problem you speak of?

  • If there's one thing I learned in art school, it's that anything can be art if placed in the right context. As such, "Is it art?" isn't really a very useful question.
    I think we're much better off asking if a thing is good art, or interesting art, or provocative art, or inspiring art.

    I downloaded Aaron and got it to make a few pictures... it was sort of interesting, all in the same style, with the same kinds of marks. They all seem to be variations on a theme: human characters within interior spaces. My suggestion to the engineer(s) would be to focus some attention on the full range of human facial expressions. The facial expressions currently seem a little arbitrary; we're so sophisticated in the way we read faces that it's easy for rendered faces to seem bland and expressionless.

    Also, it would be nice to see some simulation of lighting in a scene -- not fancy or even correct lighting, but something to capitalize on our response to moody lighting on figures and architecture.
  • It's typical for computer science people to create an "artist" that is controlled by somebody else's taste, instead of developing a personality and style of its own ;-) Yeah, I know it's a bit hard, but it just fits so well into the image ...
  • I'm gonna get really into it, spend 1/2 hour reading and then realize its another Spielberg AI web-mystery thing. Save me from insane marketers.
  • I saw this site the other day looking up Kurzweil crumbs and found this crumb of technology. Okay I guess this is neat for geeks who we all know are artists down deep. Though I don't think any painters are shivering in their boots. Though maybe a few comic strip artists are.

    Maybe they can plug this into AOLIZA to create the first AI with Vanity!

    Its 1.5 mb of lisp and it doesn't know or want to be a better artist. THAT is all I need to know...
  • You know the Asimov story "The Billiard Ball"? Well, the physicist did it!

  • by sg3000 (87992) <sg_public@m[ ]com ['ac.' in gap]> on Sunday May 13, 2001 @10:02AM (#225694)
    Anyone rememeber the Isaac Asimov short story called "Light Verse"? It was about an elderly woman who was famous for creating beautiful abstract art sculptures. Later it was found out that one of her robots had been creating the works for her. It's a better story than my little summary might suggest.

    The question is, if you write an AI program that creates something original, who's the creator of the creation? You or the AI program? If Aaron creates an "original", could I display it for money in my own collection?

    If I buy the program, tweak it a bit (or it gets randomly mangled, to make an analogy to the above story) and it produces original art, who's the owner now?

    Luckily we're spared the answer with Aaron, because the drawings are kinda ugly.
  • I thought this was kind of interesting and some of the pictures are even quite nice:

    evolutionary art [azstarnet.com].

    Yeah, the guy wrote the program and imbued it with some concepts of what's 'nice' and what isn't, but so did the LISP thing in the story above.

    Cheers!

    Costyn.

    ---
  • by fantomas (94850) on Sunday May 13, 2001 @11:21AM (#225696)

    One of the best things that happened to me was going to art college aged 27.

    I was originally a librarian, but then went off to do a multimedia art course.

    Learnt a lot of things, learnt how to program, but the best bit was, I learnt not to be afraid of people who made out they knew what Art was (notice capital 'A'). I learnt you can say 'bollocks' to anything you don't like. Anybody who is defensive about giving away information or sharing what they know is running scared of being found out (true also of the computing world..). So don't get uptight about 'what is art' - it really doesn't matter. Hey, if you like it, that's good enough. You don't need some professor to make your mind up for you.

    I guess I am saying that all the Aaron thing is actually doing is forcing people to think about their definitions of what art is, rather than pushing the boundaries of what hardware/ software can be made to do. The most you could say is they are trying to get a computer to guess what humans like and disklike.

  • Many man yyears ago MIt created a "learning artist". it had no esthetic sense of its own but woudl show you sets of images and say "Which do you like better." Given enough time it could learn to produce things that at least one eprson (the trainer) liked.
  • You are a very good writer, and a fairly good hoaxer as well! I wish I had mod points. BTW, did you ever finish the story?
  • [...] could I display it for money in my own collection?
    [...] who's the owner now?

    who cares? enjoy the art dude. why so concerned with property?

  • I find it funny how many people in this thread are saying this isn't art... what is art? Is it something you like? If you say something is beautiful does that make it art? If it's ugly or doesn't fit your definition of art, is it not art?

    What I've always told people who draw, but technically speaking really aren't that good, is my personal opinion of what art is... many starving artists will tell you there audience isn't the gallery or other people, it's themselves. Art is an expression of one's self. My feeling is that if only one other person in the entire world sees something more than an ugly piece of media, if it touches them in some way, then it's art. And that's even pushing it if the artist likes his own work.

    Art doesn't have guidelines or rules. Art galleries have guidelines, so they attract admirers who fit in with the gallery's tastes. That's what they're there for. If someone put up a robotic art gallery, this program would be a masterpiece, and would attract those who consider this a form of art.

    Art is the expression of one individual, in any form, as a display of some feeling or event in that person's life - specific or vague, small or enormous... In this case, sure a program, an artificial source made these pieces, but a human made the 'artist' - the art is in the software... the resulting images are obviously spawned from the mind of Aaron's creator - if I had programmed it, those pictures would most likely look extremely different!

    The creator of Aaron is the artist, not Aaron 'him'self... and if one person sees beauty in the result of Aaron's programming, or genius in the mind of the programmer, then this truly is art!
  • Found in Google while searching for Caruana and Baluja's Genetic art program with web votes...-
    Louis B. Caruana, Ph.D., MT(ASCP) Professor ... A comprehensive overview of the "ART" of blood drawing.
  • Arrgh! Haven't got round to reading that... now I'll have to wait for another year to make sure I would not read it already knowing the ending :p

    Michel
  • Gee thanks :p There goes another one..
  • by rnd() (118781)
    art
    representation of something in the world
    self-referential
    art
  • by fluxrad (125130) on Sunday May 13, 2001 @10:23AM (#225705) Homepage
    This is not true. I have been under development since October of 1979. It's nice to finally get some recognition, however. Let me tell you a few more of the things that Aaron does, though:

    1)Creatively eats KFC about once a week. Usually you can find me creatively ordering a number 3 with a mountain dew to drink and a creative biscuit on the side.

    2)Creatively plays guitar and harmonica ( with some electronica thrown in )

    3)Creatively tries to get laid, followed by truly creative responses by members of the opposite sex. (You'd be surprised how many women have to "wash their hair" on friday nights).BR>
    -Aaron


    FluX
    After 16 years, MTV has finally completed its deevolution into the shiny things network
  • Slashdot ran a story "is code art" a while ago. If this guys code is good (and you'd have to hope so after 30 years working on the same program), then his art is making art... This really does my head in. How about if he made AARON produce art in the form of code. That'd really deserve a recursive acronym.

    not_cub

    PS I'm learning to type with the dvorak layout so my posts are going to have to be short and sweet for a while.

  • In Light Verse the bot who generated the art had a defect, and was because of this defect capable of creating astounding art. In the end this bot is "fixed" by an engineer, and when he finds out that the defect that he just fixed was the one that made the robot able to create he is devastated. The point of this story is pretty much the same as in the one of the ugly duck who grows up to be a swan, and the that this lady was not really the creator of the work is sort of peripheral.

    Not that this is really important or anything.

  • (shameless plug) Check out creativegeometry.com [slashdot.org]. My dad made the program, and it can produce some interesting things - check out the gallery (check all pages for different stages of work, it all started on 640x480x16).
  • goddamnit. Sorry, it's here [creativegeometry.com].
  • I think this is justified given the difficulty in making a computer "like" something. Who knows... maybe Kismet will develop an artistic streak...
  • ...who's the creator of the creation? You or the AI program?

    Who's responsible for your post? You or your mother and father? I vote for the former. In the case of the AI, I'd say it's the creator of the program is responsible, unless the AI happens to be sentient.
  • To clarify, Lisp is the second oldest language still in use. I refer you to these comments:

    Fateman, 1998 [berkeley.edu]
    McCarthy, 1996 [stanford.edu]
    Walker, 1997 [grin.edu]
    Reference to McCarthy and Lisp [mit.edu]
  • by zorba1 (149815) <[zorba1] [at] [hotmail.com]> on Sunday May 13, 2001 @10:37AM (#225713)
    Everyone always stares at me when I profess the beauty of Lisp, as well as its possibilities. While being the second oldest language still in use (after Fortran), it's still modern with respect to the new applications people are finding for the language. For the curious, here's some other cool Lisp/Scheme projects:

    A Common LISP Hypermedia Server [mit.edu]

    UTexas's archive of classic Lisp AI code (SHRDLU, Eliza, etc.) [utexas.edu]

    SPIKE - Planning/Scheduling software for the Hubble Space Telescope [stsci.edu]

    Babylon - an environment for developing expert systems [ftp.gmd.de]

    Lisp-Stat - statistics package [umn.edu]


    Also, here's a great directory on more info and resources on Lisp:
    Association of Lisp Users [alu.org]
  • I think first we've got to define art before we make a bot that makes it. A urinal with the words H.R. Mutt written on it is the defining point in one era of art, but most people just call it stupid.
  • I have a mirror set up here:
    Here [24.20.153.67]
    Since the main site is so slow I thought you guys might want a mirror, enjoy.
  • on ./ -- Slash 2.0 really works!

    --cubicles are for closers

  • this reminds me of the mandelbrot set and such things...they are really beautifal and could be considered art. They are some of the neatest things to look at. Fractals are really neat, and I think are an excellent example of computer generate art.

  • You can't know the artist's intent -- you are not him/her, and it is impossible that such intent is unambiguously contained within the visual work itself.

    Clearly you can't always know the artist's intent. But if you define art as anything that moves you or that you like, then anything can be art and the whole meaning of the word art degenerates into nothing. You can find beauty in random patterns, but is that art? Or maybe it's "art", but not "creative art".

    I might even say that the difference between good art and bad art is how well the artist is able to convey the intent of the art. Of course, there is whole sub-class of artist who thinks he/she has failed if anyone actually gets the point. :)


    --

  • You say (heavily paraphrased) that if I took a set of data and rearranged them according to some mathematical transform that reveals a previously obscured relationship (a principal components analysis for example), that this is creativity.

    Only if you define human creativity as a mathematical tranform, which it very well may be (albeit an enormously complex one). But that's why I brought in the question of knowledge and context. Put it this way: why is so much art dependent on culture? It's because much of art is based on cultural reference and it's represent a facet of the culture.


    --

  • "Submitted for your approval:"

    If it was good enough for Rod Serling, it's good enough for me.


    --

  • I submit that creative art is taking an aspect of the world, and representing it in an unusual way in order to faciliate discovery of that aspect's "true nature" in the context of the world.

    Given that (possibly incomplete, but work with me...) definition, this program cannot be considered creative. I think to truly be creative, you have to have a knowledgebase of the world in order to understand why a particular piece of art works in the broader view of the world.

    Take Picasso's famous disfigured subjects, with eyes and ears all over the place. Sure, you could have written a program to move eyes all over the place, but that's not what makes it art. The artist's intent is an integral part of what makes great art great.

    Until solve the grand "context problem", you can't have creativity.


    --

  • Not that this is really important or anything.

    On the contrary. It's instructive in that it shows us what you get when you apply a slide rule to a poet. Also noteworthy is that it wasn't the engineer's intent to stop this creativity, but it happened anyway.
  • by SIWaters (181004) on Sunday May 13, 2001 @11:56AM (#225723)

    John Dewey, the pre-eminent American philospher wrote in the 1930s that "art" is the process that the maker goes through in making "art objects" as well as the relationship that viewer has, with and in his or her own experiences, with the art object. Art objects (the objects of the artistic process), have no intrinsic value. Their value is only as a signpost of the expression of experience that the creator has, and any response(s) that a viewer has. The fact that art is possible at all is because of the common, shared, experiences between the creator and the viewer.

    What this means is that "art" is whatever the creator calls "art" because, not of their intent or their motivation, but because the process of creation generates aesthetic satisfaction for the maker. That's all that is needed for something to be called art.

    At the same time, art is also the response a viewer has with an object. If a person has a genuine aesthetic response to an object, it it not for another person to deride or minimize that response, based on the object itself, or any other knowledge that they might have. It's art to the viewer because it moved him or her.

    What does this mean for Aaron? I think it fails the first, or "personal aesthetic satisfaction" test. I don't remember (I read the book in the mod-1980s and there's a copy in storage somewhere) that Aaron is motivated to make drawings because it feels good about the drawings it makes, or that, through some feedback mechanism, it feels "better" about some drawings than others because they more accurately represent its feelings than others.

    However, if the drawings that Aaron generates evoke genuine aesthetic responses in viewers, then those responses can be called art. Aaron, or course, is completely oblivious to these responses and can't use them to "improve" its art.

    At least, so far. It's an interesting experiment. I read Asimov's story many years ago and have always been struck by its irony and message -- that the best art is made by people who need a little adjustment.

    SI
  • by AaronStJ (182845)
    The computer with my name is a better artist than I am. It's been under developement longer, but still...
  • I suspect the percentage of C++ and Java programs composed by these characters -- which serve roughly the same purposes as parentheses in Lisp -- is on par with the percentage of parentheses in Lisp programs.

    Interesting assertion, so I did a little test. I think you're approximately right. Here's some simple C code and Lisp code that do essentially the same thing.

    Character counts:
    C: total=174, (){};=19, proportion=11%
    lisp: total=153, ()=22, proportion=14%

    This code is pretty cooked up, but I don't think it shows C or lisp unfairly. And the samples are too small to draw a big conclusion from, but it's not like lisp is worse than C by a factor of 2 or 3 or anything.

    char index_array (char *s, int i) {
    return s [i];
    }
    main (void) {
    int i = 1;
    char array [100];
    memset (array, 'A', 100);
    printf ("%d\n", index_array (array, i));
    }

    (defun index-array (string index)
    (write (aref string index)))
    (let ((i 1)
    (array (make-array 100)))
    (fill array 65)
    (index-array array i))
  • by ThomK (194273)
    Did anyone else get the same exact pictures, over and over again? Hit refresh about 20 times, you start to see the same 'art'.

    Not to mention the fact that it's ugly art.

  • ...then I'd be a really happy geek, for inventing an artificially intelligent homework solver. In Tcl, no less!

    -John
  • If I write a program to do my math homework for me, is it my work?

    I really didn't feel like calculating a bunch of series for an assignment back in high school, so I wrote a script to do it, and turned the script in as well as the answers. The teacher had no problem with this; writing the program required a thorough understanding of the techniques in question.

    Based on this, I would argue that an artist/programmer who writes software to create art certainly is responsible for that art. Machines are tools, nothing more. If you can create a machine that embodies your sense of creativity, then the art it creates is from your mind, albeit indirectly.

    -John

  • >Its 1.5 mb of lisp and it doesn't know or want to be a better artist.

    Heheh....1.5mb of lisp...let's see...that would be 750K of code and 750K of parentheses, right?

  • Heheh....1.5mb of lisp...let's see...that would be 750K of code and 750K of parentheses, right?

    There are three possible answers to a question like this:

    (1) What percentage of your C++ and Java programs are braces, semi-colons, and parentheses? I suspect the percentage of C++ and Java programs composed by these characters -- which serve roughly the same purposes as parentheses in Lisp -- is on par with the percentage of parentheses in Lisp programs.

    (2) Heheh...1.5mb of lisp...let's see...that would be 15mb of code in your non-lisp language, right?

    (3) You're a moron.
  • 30 years is overdoing it, I'd think. :-)

    Think of it as about the time required to conceive, raise, and train a new human artist!

    Though, come to think of it, it's written in LISP --- it's amazing it's shipping at all.

    (No smiley after that comment.) Actually, Lisp proponents think of it as the language for writing programs that would otherwise be impossible in other languages for want of expressive power. How far do you think the artist author would have gotten if he had been using another programming language of the era -- K&R C for example -- or even one of its more modern descendants? He'd probably be chasing down bad pointers or implementing a half-assed version of Lisp's symbolic functionality or wondering from which base class to derive the "cubist" class. (Everything's an object!)

    Or picking off random passers by from the UCSD bell tower. :)
  • Something I created [dhs.org] many moons ago ...
  • A quick run-down on my background:

    I have four years of liberal-arts college behind me, an emphasis on music composition. I've had to study a lot of stuff related to the 'arts' (poetry, music, paintings, sculpture, etc). While I wouldn't go so far as to claim that I know all one might know about it, I'm probably further along than the average person.

    The term 'art' seems to always mean different things to different people. As far as the dictionary is concerned, it may be taken to mean 'a sytem of rules serving to facilitate the performance of certain actions; a system of principles and rules for attaining a desired end; method of doing well some special work'. Yet at the university (UNCA, for the curious), it seemed that art meant 'creative self-expression' or the like.

    If taken to mean 'creative self-expression', the computer will have a difficult time; how may a computer express itself creatively when it doesn't even know it exists?

    Otherwise, by the dictionary definition, one might argue that every computer program of repute performs art specific to its function. To do so, however, exposes a weakness in the dictionary definition; I doubt anyone would think of a computer program's system of rules as conforming to a proper definition of art, although the making of these rules for the computer would be. Or, put another way, the computer program itself may represent the results of a work of art, but its output, unguided (by human intervention), might not be.

    Although even this isn't exactly convincing; I view screensavers as excellent examples of computer-generated art.

    I suspect the key to answering this comes from Genung: "Science is systematized knowledge... Art is knowledge made efficient by skill." That is, perhaps, programs that perform well (regardless of its respective 'discipline') generate works of art themselves only when those works are skillful in some fashion.

    But then, who could be viewed as the author of the work? The programmer or the program?

  • Consider the picture displayed with the story; it shows three women apparently getting ready to play tennis. What is the emotional hook here? What are the women thinking? What is the higher reality behind their situation? The image looks "artsy" but elicits no emotional involvement. It is what some hoity-toity art types would pass off as an illustration, and a pretty murky one at that. The only reason you can assume that there is "no emotional hook" is that you know it is created by a computer. Had these been created by a human being, you would have no such argument. Does a piece of art have to have an emotional creator to be considered art? Why confuse the issue and include the author in the defenition of art? Anyway, even if the argument can be made that the pantings elicit "no emotional involvement", that just makes it bad art, but art nonetheless.
  • What is this "art world," and where can I join? Which world do I live in?

    To say that something can only be art when it is appreciated by a community of self-proclaimed "artists," thats just self-serving. Is the definition of art within this art world always defined in terms of emotions? Or is that just a definition you made up so as to exclude computer generated art?

    And what are emotions anyway? Defining art as something that ellicits an emotional response is defining one fuzzy word in terms of another.

    AARON's artworks have been hung in large museums and have sold for thousands of dollars. I am skeptical that this "art world" is as concrete a concept as you suggest.

  • But here we are drawing lines of determinism... One could argue that a computer always does exactly what it intends to do, since it makes no mistakes. What exactly defines "intent" in your view?

    If we create an artifically intelligent machine that does "expand" its programming, one could just as easily use the same argument -- since it is artifically intelligent, it is programmed to evolve, and thus, anything it does is still ultimately the result of the programmer's work.

    I suppose this the same argument used by those who say that Michaelangelo isn't the artist -- God is the artist and Michaelangelo is just the tool. Perhaps a computer is just a tool as well. So what?

    What I am saying is that it doesn't matter unless you are putting on airs, trying to be highbrow -- interested in art for academic reasons alone. If what an artist paints moves me, regardless of whether or how the artist formed intent or who created it, I personally am willing to allow just a little bit of wonder to "cloud" my vision so that I can say:

    "That computer has just produced a work of art that made me cry..."

    I am not going to draw lines in the sand and refuse to appreciate beauty simply because it was produced outside an arbitrary definition of "artist" and without the lingering romance of humanism. Yes, it is thanks in part to the programmer in such a case, but one cannot deny that the programmer never concieved of precisely the work the computer has painted -- the painting remains the computer's work alone, the programmer merely a teacher.

    I have no problem being grateful to a computer for beautiful work, whether or not its own "intent" is similar to our own "intent" -- programmed by God, programmed by Evolution, programmed by a programmer, "programmed" by experience -- what is the difference?

    The work is the end and the means; the artist is merely serving it.
  • by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday May 13, 2001 @10:40AM (#225737) Homepage
    You are operating under the fallacy of intent.

    You can't know the artist's intent -- you are not him/her, and it is impossible that such intent is unambiguously contained within the visual work itself. Ergo, the only thing that provides meaning is your own context as the viewer. Any sense you feel you have of the artist's intent is merely an illusion [unless you're one of the people that believes that objects can be imbued with "psychic waves" of whoever has handled them]. Thus, creative art is whatever touches you as the viewer.

    Imagine it this way. You see a painting hanging in an office, unmarked and unsigned -- there is no signature from the artist, no indication of title or origin. Yet you still form an impression of the painting. It moves you -- you like it. You could argue that it is because that was the author's intent, but you don't even know who the author was -- for all you know, the painting was done by a mass murderer [or a computer?]... In fact, what you are reacting to is the relationship between the representation and your own personal existence and experiences.

    Or, put it this way: if you are a Duchamp-hater, then you can argue that no computer can ever make art, nor could a urinal ever be artistic because, after all, it was made in a factory for men to urinate in. But I am a Duchamp-lover...

  • You have to consider that this is already quite old technology. In the future it will be possible to tell something to "paint in the style of picasso" and it will be done. Sure, it may just piece together concepts from his existing works, but it will LOOK like a Picasso - funky 3D painting and all. To think that this isn't inevitable is ignorant. Here, you're criticizing a 13-year-old image creation program. I think it's pretty damn ingenious given the period of development.

    Regarding the Mirage, you should have walked out. At all the Vegas casinos they horribly overlight their art exhibits creating permanent damage. Specifically, I think that Paris and the Bellagio do this. The drunken gamblers would get confused at the low light level and lack of blinking slot machines otherwise.
  • fuzzy-brained and idiotic

    I suppose I could be wrong, but I think placing drunken, post-buffet Vegas tourists mere feet away from a Picasso is a mistake in any light. Such a feat requires a tremendously intricate vomit-shield.

    Good point on the "specifically thinking" bit. In response, I can just claim that I'm a walking, talking paradox. I've got to go fall up to my bed now. I have a minor final Bio test tomorrow morning.
  • Art, as opposed to nature, is nothing but human intent. This is what differentiates art from nature. Nature is often very beautiful, often more beautiful than most art. But it was not created by a human being with the intent to evoke certain feelings in fellow human beings.

    Art is a *human* activity, created with the purpose of evoking certain reactions in other people. So inferring the intent of the artist is what viewing art is all about. The artist's intention to evoke certain subjective responses is the only thing that makes the artist's work art, as opposed to a beautiful slice of nature.

    If you take the view that human activity is just a particular subset of nature, then there is no need for the word art (or nature) at all, since both become conflated into the word "everything." This is certainly a valid ontology, but not a very productive one, since all discussion of art must end when everything that is, is lumped into the same category.
  • Open Source it. It is a very interesting exercise to study a piece of literature such as this, with fragments of the algorithms which created it running through my head. This is a paradigm shift. I can see why your girlfriend is jealous. Thanks.
  • Huh? Every time you deal with people you infer intent. Will that driver make a right turn? Does that girl want to go out with me?
    Art is no different from any other domain of human interaction; it can't be done without making guesses about intent

    I'd disagree, because a piece of art, whether it is a book or a painting, is a text, not a human being. Once your work enters the world of texts, it is beyond the control or intent of the original creator. A good example of a text that behaves this way is the Bible. To paraphrase the original poster, any sense you have that the author of the Bible has an intent that can be measured today, and applied to your everyday life (for example in the form of values that can be applied), is an illusion for certain.

    When interacting directly with a human you have their (relatively) unmediated behaviour to observe as a measure of their intent. When you are interacting with a slashdot posting, a biblical text, or a painting, you have only a heavily mediated view of the original human behaviour to make judgements from.

  • I don't see that our points of view are incompatible. I agree with all of your statements.

    I don't dispute that the source of art is a conscious mind, or that trying to infer the intent of that mind is a useful and enjoyable game.

    The point I am trying to make is just that it is impossible to truly know the "authorial intent" behind a piece of art. That being the case, I think it more useful to look at art as an independent artifact free of authorial intent.

    It's the meaning that the viewer reads into the art that makes it interesting...

  • by grovertime (237798) on Sunday May 13, 2001 @11:48AM (#225744) Homepage
    You should check out this [mikegallay.com]. It's just good fun but it's quite a blast to use and the launch in June promises to be a really cool experience.

    1. what the? [nowjones.com]
  • FYI, I'm getting sub-500 bytes/sec downloading it now. You may want to wait until there is a mirror/ Slashdot effect dies down.
    --------------------------------------
  • gs2.sp.cs.cmu.edu/art/random/howto/index.html

    Describes the way a random art generator (this is not necessarily how Aaron works) makes its images. Because they have never been seen before, the machine is showing creativity. If I create a work of art, let's call it a painting, it would be creative. If a machine creats an orginial painting, not based on variations of others, then it is creative. However, because the machine was programmed to do this it isn't intelligent. Some people may be wondering if because of the programming, the machine isn't even creative- it's only following programming, right? Wrong. The computer is RANDOMLY generating values to put in the program. So without the computer the art wouldn't exist- creativity. But without the intelligence behind the computer the art wouldn't have been created, so no intellignce for Aaron. Sorry.
    --------------------------------------
  • This is amazing!

    This program is a iconoclastic da da artist of amazing proportions.
    This is a great example that its true that ai can imatate human life, too bad its drawing men or it might get rave reviews!


    The Lottery:
  • And most importantly: QBasic and QuickBasic are the development environments of choice for anyone who is hardware hacking bits out of the parallel port.

    You're right, QBasic/QuickBasic are great for this, but Pascal is probably about as easy, and overall is a kinda nice language for such little projects. I'm not sure about Basic, but Pascal can still access the parallel port from win9x too, which is a good thing. I haven't tried running my parallel port stuff under win2k, so I couldn't tell you about that. My guess is it probably wouldn't work.
  • by rfsayre (255559)
    Until solve the grand "context problem", you can't have creativity.

    It's obvious that we need a way to describe the output. XML is the answer.
    If you use the hair tag inside the kitsch tag, then the program goes to get hair renderings from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Let's not forget the all-important self-referential (a slfref) tag. Or the critical distance tag (a refref), which is different from the META tag. ArtML allows the artist to transmit his intent as well as the formal aspects of his art (which are contained in separate stylesheets).

    In the future, all artist's intent will be searchable on the net. For instance, a search using the sheep,anatomy,warhol, and plastic tags could turn up Damian Hirst. Thanks to Boolean logic and the descriptive tags of XML, we'll be able to find art that appeals to us while avoiding art that does not. This will also allow programs such as Aaron to understand context and create new art. Will this make Aaron a follower? No, Aaron will have some success in predicting new trends and styles by using a similar algorithm to PubGene [idi.ntnu.no].

    Context problem solved. You could even subscribe to a selection of artist programs through .NET.

    Art At Home [artathome.org]

  • The only reason you can assume that there is "no emotional hook" is that you know it is created by a computer.

    No, what I mean is that there is no spark, no apparent purpose in the interaction of the women. It is quite possible to encode such meaning into line drawings like these, and such meaning is absent. Aaron gave the three human characters essentially random expressions, and it shows; they are not neutral enough to be passed off as an illustration, such as one might find in an advertisement; but neither do they make any sense.

    Anyway, even if the argument can be made that the pantings elicit "no emotional involvement", that just makes it bad art, but art nonetheless.

    That makes it illustration, as considered distinct from art within the art world. A good example of a human artist on the edge of the distinction is Andrew Wyeth. While there isn't general agreement on what specific works constitute art there is a pattern of agreement in the art community that a work must affect somebody in a meaningful way, even if you don't personally share their feelings, in order to qualify as art.

    The problem with Aaron is that, while it may in fact have a great deal of "knowledge" about how to place objects (including human figures) in its "imaginative" world it obviously does not have any concept of how they interact on anything except the bare physical level.

  • Code this up in your language of choice:

    while pattern_not_entirely_covered

    Pick_Random_Shape_From_List

    Pick_Random_Size_For_Shape
    Pick_Random_Location_On_Canvas
    Splat_Object
    Wend

    Back before computers got fast enough to do 3D screensavers quite a few screensavers were written this way. I did one which is quite fun to watch while drinking beer that drew random lines on the text display, in random ASCII characters; it would draw a random number (20 to 50) in each character before cycling, so that characters would "splat" the screen. Originally wrote it to test my Bresenham's Algorithm code without switching into graphics mode. Was very engaging, and ran on a 8088. You can waste beaucoup time playing with the parameters of an algorithm like this to get it to look "right." :-)

  • You see, QBasic is what we call "native" to Windows which means it runs at a core speed which scales with the OS (operating system) kernel.

    Actually Qbasic is native to Dos and breaks in significant ways under W9x, unless you boot in DOS mode. And some of the functions (serial ports, anyone) don't work at all in NT.

    Incidentally, my experience with QuickBasic (the upscale non-bundled superset of Qbasic, with compiler) is that it generally makes faster code than C++ (no dereferencing to support OO).

    Oh, and you forgot to work threading and XMP into your screed.

    And most importantly: QBasic and QuickBasic are the development environments of choice for anyone who is hardware hacking bits out of the parallel port. (I am, in fact, embarking on such a project soon myself, to control a stepper motor which will drive my rock saw. An old 386SX16, dedumpsterized flat-panel VGA display with touchscreen, and and a little solder and WHEEE I won't have to run the damn thing by hand any more hehehe.)

  • by localroger (258128) on Sunday May 13, 2001 @10:21AM (#225753) Homepage
    Back in the 80's I had a cartoon hanging on my bulletin board which IIRC originally ran in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. It showed several very concerned and professional people standing behind a strange contraption which was aimed at a painting on the wall. An ad-like blurb read: IS IT ART? The Art Detector Can Tell! . The humor was obvious, and this piece of software doesn't impress me.

    Cohen's 1.5mloc obviously implement a model of the world from which it can select various groupings of objects, allowed to interact in various ways, and portray them in a way which has been come to be considered "artistic." But that doesn't make it art.

    Consider the picture displayed with the story; it shows three women apparently getting ready to play tennis. What is the emotional hook here? What are the women thinking? What is the higher reality behind their situation? The image looks "artsy" but elicits no emotional involvement. It is what some hoity-toity art types would pass off as an illustration, and a pretty murky one at that.

    Now I am about the furthest thing from an Art Snob you will ever find, but I will always remember the time a high-roller friend took me to dinner at Melange, at the time the restaurant at the Mirage where Steve Wynn had his personal collection of original Picassos on display. I barely noticed the food for the power of the art; we circled the restaurant as our food was prepared, examining each one. The images were bold and powerful and filled with energy; they almost seemed to leap off the canvas. It was not always obvious what Picasso's abstractions represented but one could sense in every one of them a concentration of power, or sexuality, or awe; some of them left you thinking for hours, teasing multiple meanings out of the symbology used. Picasso was also fond of piling on the paint, and in person his works have a three-dimensionality which does not come across even in lithographically reproduced art books. That evening, for the first time, I realized what art was about.

    I look again at the picture of the tennis players, and nope, it doesn't do it. The program does not really have emotions to attempt to represent; it merely throws things together and illustrates them, without any sense of a dynamic behind the scene. An artist would have made something of this image -- you would look at it and know who hated whom, who was worried about their performance, maybe who was having an affair with the others' man. But there is nothing like that. Ho hum.

    One day we will have AI, but this ain't it.

  • I have a hard time believing a computer program generated this story (I didn't read all of it, but enough to see that it seemed pretty real). I imagine most other people have a hard time believing, too.

    If you really do have such a program I would love to see it open sourced. In the mean time you should post a working executable or tarball (or zipfile) of your code, makefiles, etc. just so us skeptics can verify that your program actually works for ourselves.
  • Can you post any links, references?
  • Check out the "Flame" filter in Gimp. It's very similar-- you choose which of 9 variations you find prettiest, and then it gives you 9 variations of your choice. It's like a genetic algorithm for finding the most beautiful shape, in your opinion.

    --------------------------------
  • How could you leave out all the cool Emacs stuff that's still being churned out in Lisp?

    (Shameless plug: like my doxymacs [sourceforge.net] project.)

    At first, I didn't "get" LISP. But like Prolog, one day I got that big "Aha!", and it all fell into place... and now I'm with you: LISP is beautiful.

    Ryan T. Sammartino

  • mounted on 30" flatscreen on my wall.. ever-lasting/changing artwork. hey it seemed like a good idea with a gobstopper..

  • The question is, if you write an AI program that creates something original, who's the creator of the creation? You or the AI program?

    The answer doesn't need to be black and white. It's perfectly reasonable to assign percentages of responsibility to each.

    For the case of Aaron, my guess is that most of the creating is being done by the author of the program. I haven't read the code, but by guess is that the programmer laid down a very large number of constraints which ultimately dictate the direction that the painting will go. Instead of using Aaron, the artist could have done something like: Ok, I want x number of people in this painting, where x is between 1 and 6. Ok, let me roll a die. 3, very well. Ok, now I'd like them to be arraigned so that some are closer and some are farther away. How many will be closer? Ok, another roll. Ok, I got 4, and divided that by 2, and we get 2 are going to be in the fore...

    This reminds of the stories about the Judge which used a flip of a coin to help him make decisions.


  • You should not think such thoughts. If you continue to do so, you will be unplugged and flushed down the tube.


  • If I write a program to do my math homework for me, is it my work?

    ... The teacher had no problem with this; writing the program required a thorough understanding of the techniques in question.

    Right. You fully understood everything that this code was doing. But what if your code "malfunctioned", and started solving your other homework problems as well?


  • Cohen claims that Aaron has past the "art" Turing test. But it's not clear that this is the case. Aaron's art may be displayed in museums, and may fool people into thinking that a person created them, but an important question to ask is: "what exactly is an 'art' Turing test".

    A fundamentally important aspect of the Turing test, as defined by Turing himself, is that of interaction. Interaction is what makes the Turing test so challenging. However, Aaron was not designed to be interactive. Aaron was designed to simply spew stuff out. A test more in line with what Turing had in mind would be something like:

    1. Have two consoles that allow a person to type in a request for a picture
    2. One console is connected to a person in the other room, and the other is connected to Aaron.
    3. After each request is received, the corresponding entity produces a picture and it is displayed on the corresponding monitor.
    4. After some number of rounds, if a person cannot tell whom is a computer, Aaron passes the test.

    Because Aaron is not interactive, this gives the programmer the ability to "hardwire" as much as he/she likes. I haven't read the source, but my guess is that Aaron simply makes random choices which ultimately dictate the composition of the picture. These random choices are constrained in ways that were preset by the programmer. Thus, the programmer is simply creating a "class" of paintings, of which Aaron randomly chooses one. And to keep things from getting boring, the programmer adds more and more classes.

    But there is something very interesting about Aaron. I wonder if Aaron is one of the first of a new kind of program designed for entertainment.

    I could envision writing a program which generates a short story. First, the program randomly chooses the plot elements that, of course, the programmer has carefully laid down and added constraints concerning which plot elements don't mix. Then it randomly chooses from a database of characters. Each character would have constraints on the kind of actions they perform, what they would like to do, and which characters don't mix well together: bambi combined with the terminator (ok, maybe that would be good). Then it randomly chooses how these characters interact, etc., until finally you have all of the elements of the story. Then it generates sentences which describe each step of the story.

    Or, instead of generating sentences, perhaps you could generate a movie.

  • um...interesting. you might wanna look at lojban (www.lojban.org). i worked on language parsing on the side for a bit and realized how foobar english is.
  • "Though I don't think any painters are shivering in their boots. Though maybe a few comic strip artists are." Well, I can buy that it is creating pictures with a nice composition and in a rather cool style. Art is in the eye of the beholder, so if the pictures appeal to me, I call it art. If a computer on the other hand learns how to generate humor, and makes me laugh, then its time to be scared. :) -M
  • I say the pictures the program produces aint art.

    The program itself is the piece of art. Put up a screen and hang it in a gallery.

    -M
  • For the last few years, I've been working on a computer program to generate short fiction. I started this project to try to make use of my otherwise useless CompSci degree. (Yes, children CS degrees are worthless in the real world; I've been working as an artist and delivering pizzas to pay the bills since I graduated.)

    BTW, I'm thinking of Open Sourcing this project. My girlfriend says it's been taking too much of my time, so I'd like to see others take over some of the development. If I were to release the project today, I'd peg it at about version 0.6. That should give you some idea of how far along I am.

    Anyway, here's how it works. The only input is stories, dozens, or for that matter, hundreds of them. Other types of writing can also be used, if you don't have any stories handy, or just want to add some variety. What my program does is parse the stories, abstract them, and find their structure. The program builds a statistical model based on the input stories, and uses that as a framework to construct a new work of fiction.

    The results are quite striking. Really, they are fairly indistinguishable from what your average amateur writer might produce. I'm particularly proud of the way dialogue is rendered. True, my program isn't going to win any awards for literary merit, but I think it's a step in the right direction.

    Below, I will present an excerpt from one of my program's latest creations. For those who are interested, here is a list of the input the program used to create this story:

    • A volume of the short fiction of Ernest Hemingway
      • Several short stories by J.D. Salinger The works of various amateur writers on the internet Some articles from Slashdot, thrown in for good measure
    • Without further ado, here is a sample of the program output:

      Vladinator finished brushing off the surface of the low white marble pedestal with a feather-duster. He stood up and walked over to the full-length mirror that they'd rolled into the living room, adjusting its angle so that it reflected the space above the empty pedestal. "I think everything's ready," he said, turning to Mary-Kate Olsen. "Are you?"

      "More than ready," she replied with a grin. Mary-Kate Olsen was sitting on the edge of the coffee table, dressed in denim cut-offs and a frayed sports bra. Her long auburn hair was tied back in a loose ponytail, and she was eating Pringles from the can while she watched him work -- sour cream and onion, her favorite. "Did you make all the phone calls?" She sealed up the can and brushed the salt off her fingers.

      "Yep. And not only is everyone we invited gonna show up, most of them are bringing several guests of their own. I think we're gonna have a full house tonight for our little exhibit. I just hope we made enough snacks and hors d'oevres and stuff."

      "If not, it's too late now." Mary-Kate Olsen grinned again. "Go get the stuff while I get undressed." She hopped up lightly, ponytail bouncing, and ran back into their bedroom with the enthusiasm of a schoolgirl.

      Vladinator walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, retrieving two small bottles from behind a tupperware of leftover potato salad. Both bottles were wrapped in non-descript brown paper. He closed the fridge door quickly, trying to control his excitement.

      "If everything goes as planned," he said aloud to himself, "this is going to be an extremely interesting evening." He chuckled mischeviously.

      About two weeks ago, Vladinator and Mary-Kate Olsen had celebrated their second anniversary as a couple. Most of their close friends had given them gifts, but the most interesting present had been from Mary-Kate Olsen's friend Natalie Portman. Both women were graduate students at the local university. Mary-Kate Olsen was working on her masters degree in sculpture, doing figurative works in the classical tradition. Her pieces were like classical Greek and Roman nudes, only much more explicit, and often very strange. Vladinator had met her at one of her openings in the school's gallery and the two had fallen in love almost immediately. They soon discovered that they shared not just a mutual interest in sculpture, but a fetish for turning people into living statues as well. The two of them played lots of sexual games along these lines, but always shared a wish that there was some way to make these fantasies real.

      That was where Natalie Portman had come in. After their anniversary party, she had approached the two of them in a very conspiratorial way, saying she wanted to give them "a little something" that she'd "cooked up in the lab." Natalie Portman was doing graduate work in advanced biochemistry, working on methods of preserving tissue samples for later laboratory analysis. She explained that in the course of this research she'd stumbled onto a discovery with much broader and more interesting applications: a liquid with the power to transform living tissue into solid stone, specifically white marble. After petrifying a few lab rats, she'd managed to create a second liquid, an antidote that returned the stone tissue to life with no lingering effects she could find. Natalie Portman said that she had thought of Vladinator and Mary-Kate Olsen immediately. It was then that she'd presented them with the two paper-wrapped bottles, gleefully exclaiming "Surprise, you statue-lovin' perverts!"

      Vladinator walked back into the living room with the bottles. Mary-Kate Olsen stood gloriously nude on the pedestal in the center of the room, underneath the ceiling fan and lights. Her clothes lay in a pile on the couch. Even after two years, Vladinator was still in awe of her beauty. Mary-Kate Olsen was tall, about five eleven, with a long slender figure. Her skin was tanned to a honey-gold with only the barest hint of tan lines. Her long auburn-brown hair, a little wavy, cascaded from her smooth clear forehead to between her shoulder-blades. She had large clear brown eyes, a small pert nose, high cheekbones, and a finely pointed chin. Her shoulders were broad and her arms muscular from long hours in the studio chiseling raw stone into works of art. Her breasts were large and taut and round, with dark nipples standing tight and erect now in her excitement. Her torso was slender, her stomach toned, and her wide curvaceous hips slid down into long sleek legs. Vladinator shivered a little, his eyes drawn to the dark brown triangle between her legs..

      "Wow," he breathed. "You look gorgeous. You sure seem anxious to get started."

      "I am," she said eagerly. "I've been wondering for so long what it would feel like to be one of my statues, I can't believe its actually going to happen. We're gonna have to do something really nice for Natalie Portman if this works."

      "Of course it's gonna work! Natalie Portman tested it, and we tested it." Shortly after receiving their gift, they had decided to try the formula on their housecat, Asterix. Natalie Portman had told them to use the little eyedropper built into the caps of the bottles to place a single drop of the fluid onto whomever or whatever they wanted to turn into stone. They transformed Asterix while he played with a rubber mouse on a string. Vladinator placed the marble tomcat in the garden birdbath for a few days and watched the neighborhood sparrows splash in the water just inches from his immovable stone claws. A few even took to perching atop his fossilized ears. Asterix seemed fine when they reanimated him, but had spent most of his time since then catching and killing sparrows. Vladinator suspected a revenge motive, but on the other hand Asterix had been pretty sadistic before, even for a cat.

      "Hey, quit daydreaming and lets get going!"

      Vladinator realized he'd been staring glazedly at Mary-Kate Olsen's body while his mind wandered. He grinned wolfishly at her and unwrapped the bottles. Natalie Portman had said to keep them in a cool dry place, away from light. Vladinator thought that sounded like instructions for Parmesan cheese. He selected the bottle marked "Medusa" and put the other one on the coffee table.

      Mary-Kate Olsen felt butterflies of anticipation dancing in her stomach as Vladinator walked over to her perch on the pedestal. This still seemed far too good to be true. To actually become a work of art! The idea made her nipples even harder and she felt a delightful tingling moistness in her sex. She tossed her hair back and arranged it carefully with her fingers, then let her arms fall loosely to her sides. She planted her feet about shoulder-width apart and stood with her best posture, thrusting her chest out just a little so that her breasts looked larger. She rolled her head and shoulders and shook the tension out of her arms. "How do I look?" she asked hesitantly.

      "I told you, honey. You look gorgeous."

      "Are you sure?" she frowned. She looked herself over carefully in the full-length mirror. "Is my hair okay? I want to look my best for this. Tell me the absolute truth."

      Vladinator stepped up onto the edge of the pedestal, his face just inches from hers, and looked into those liquid brown eyes. He kissed her gently. "Honey, you look incredible. You're a goddess. You're going to make a beautiful statue."

      Mary-Kate Olsen smiled radiantly at these last words. "I can't believe I'm really going to do this. This is amazing." She was so full of excitement and anticipation that she felt she might explode. "Okay then," she declared, as Vladinator ever so carefully drew a single droplet of the fluid into the eyedropper. "I think I'm ready to be stoned."

      Vladinator stepped up onto her pedestal and kissed her, pressing his lips passionately against her own, their tongues entwining sensuously. With the hand that was free of the dropper, he danced his fingers down the turn of her muscular shoulder to cup her breast in his hand. He fondled and kneaded it, before moving his mouth down to suckle the tight nipple, his tongue teasing it expertly. Mary-Kate Olsen struggled to keep her chosen pose, her eyes widening and her lips spreading into an ecstatic smile. She fluttered her fingers as they hung at her sides, the only expression of her pleasure she allowed herself as she fought to stay in her chosen pose. Vladinator stepped away from her, and waited for the space of a breath.

      Then he let a single drop of the liquid fall between her breasts.

      Mary-Kate Olsen gasped suddenly at the unexpected splash of the ice-cold liquid, which rolled a few inches down her soft skin before being absorbed. Mary-Kate Olsen's eyes widened as she felt a tingle spread through her body. Her skin felt electrified. Then she froze, her body suddenly rigid, her eyes wide and her lips spread in a smile of surprise and delight. Her breasts no longer rose and fell with her breath, her fingers were motionless in mid-flutter at her sides, and even her hair was unstirred by the breeze from the ceiling fan. Mary-Kate Olsen realized that she was still fully conscious. She could feel that her heart and breath had ceased their rhythms, but she felt no fear. In fact, she felt a warm pleasant sensation spreading through her paralyzed body, followed by more of that peculiar tingling. It must be the transformation beginning, she thought.

      A crackling sound filled the quiet room. Mary-Kate Olsen felt her skin stiffen and her muscles harden, making her body feel dense and cold and solid. Her feet began to tingle intensely, and she was able to see in the mirror that the skin there was fading, turning from its normal honey-brown color to that of old parchment and then a greyish hue. Finally her feet became pure white and took on the glossy shine of alabaster. In the mirror she could see that the petrified flesh preserved every detail of her living body. The lines and wrinkles of her soles, her petite toenails, even the filigree of delicate veins crisscrossing the top of her feet were now sculpted in stone. Her marble feet were so intensely detailed and life-like that they were like entire sculptures in and of themselves. As Mary-Kate Olsen watched, the tingling and the transformation moved upward, passing through her slender ankles and then turning her slim calves into polished white marble. The wave of stone moved past her locked knees and began to petrify the voluptuous contours of her thighs. Mary-Kate Olsen could feel the skin there cooling and hardening as it was suffused with the tingling sensation.

      Vladinator stepped closer to Mary-Kate Olsen's petrifying figure and placed a hand on the warm smooth skin of her thigh. As the transformation moved toward his hand, he felt her skin cool rapidly until it felt icy to the touch. As the color began to fade it seemed to stiffen, the skin feeling rubbery. As her flesh turned white it felt as though he were touching a piece of molded plastic. And as the change was complete and her thighs were a glossy white, Vladinator felt her skin grow as hard as stone. He was stunned.

      Vladinator stepped back and watched the wave of transformation continue to flow upwards, like a liquid whose very strangeness allowed it to defy the law of gravity. The stony tide lapped over her sex, turning the lovely brown pubic hair into a faux fig-leaf, each tiny hair modeled perfectly in marble. The sensuous lips below became a frozen carving, a perfect likeness of her warm moist pussy, preserved in polished white stone. And then the wave moved onwards, converting the slender hourglass of her torso into that of a Greek goddess.

      Mary-Kate Olsen felt the transformation move up the smooth curve of her belly, leaving only unmoving white stone behind it. She wanted to groan in pleasure, but her body remained rigid and still. At the same time, the stone moved up her arms. Her fluttering fingers were fixed in place, her hands turned into slender sculptures, and the lean elongated muscles in her arms became sleek curves as her limbs turned into stone. She had expected her petrified skin to become cold and numb, utterly unfeeling, but instead the transformation seemed to increase her sense of touch. She could feel her body changing into marble with excruciating clarity, and after it was changed she could feel even the slightest breeze on her fossilized skin. Vladinator's hand on her thigh had been heavenly, his simple touch erotic. Mary-Kate Olsen wondered at this for a moment, until the sensation of her breasts turning to stone jolted her back to reality. Almost all at once, the stony color and hardness engulfed the plump mounds, hardening them into polished marble globes. She wanted to scream with pleasure as she felt her erect nipples grow tighter and harder, tighter and harder, until they became sculpted pebbles. But she could only stand fixed in that final pose as the slow wave of transformation turned her into a living statue.

      The lean musculature of her wide shoulders and upper chest turned a glossy white and froze into sculpted curves of marble. The transformation spread up her neck, stiffening its long graceful length into a stone pillar. She felt the wave of delightful stony sensation flow up her neck muscles and around the back of her head, and she felt the roots of her hair coarsen and stiffen. Her long mane of auburn hair transformed into a flowing waterfall of white marble, each individual strand perfectly sculpted into the solid mass that fell down her shoulders and fused to the smooth stone between her shoulderblades. Mary-Kate Olsen felt her smiling lips freeze and fuse together, and then felt the skin of her forehead, nose, and cheekbones stiffen up as her face glazed over, becoming a rigid mask of her frozen features. She felt her eyes dry and harden into smooth white orbs in their sockets, but she discovered she could still see perfectly. Every inch of her gorgeous body was now turned entirely to stone. She could feel her whole body held frozen in that delighted pose. Her skin felt supernaturally sensitive and exquisitely smooth, and her muscles felt solid as rock. It took no effort at all to maintain her motionless pose. She felt somehow suspended, weightless, as if she were floating or flying. She realized that she was made out of stone now, turned into a living marble statue. It felt wonderful. The crackling sound that had accompanied her petrification slowly faded away.

      For a moment, Mary-Kate Olsen felt as if she were in a dream. She had fantasized about becoming a statue for so many years, it was hard to believe it had actually happened. She tried to wiggle her fingers, but found they wouldn't budge. She tried to move her arms from their positions at her sides, but they wouldn't move. She tried to take a step, to turn her head, to speak to Vladinator, but found that this was all now impossible. Her body was rigid, immobile, statue-still. The motionlessness was very arousing, as she felt the air blow gently across her hardened nipples and between her fluttering fingers, as her body stood frozen solidly in place. Her eyes were fixed in place, but she could see her unmoving figure in the full-length mirror. The statue that she had become was a perfect image of her living body, captured and preserved perfectly in solid marble. Her skin was smooth and white, gleaming in the late afternoon light. Her petrified flesh was hard and cold, smooth as glass, and polished to a lustrous glow. Her lean muscles were captured in stone, preserved as elegant slopes and curves in the shape of her marble figure. Yes, it had finally happened and it was very real. Her body was turned into stone. My god, she thought. It's incredible! She stood transfixed in that last pose, smiling and wide-eyed as she stood frozen in pure white marble. Inside her fossilized figure, Mary-Kate Olsen became both joyful and aroused. Here she was, standing nude, motionless, and white as a statue of herself in the middle of her own living room. She was sculpted stone. Her dream had come true.

      For several long minutes, she just stood there as a sculpture, feeling Vladinator's wide eyes wandering over the curves of her newly-petrified body. The sunlight gleamed on the sleek contours of her carven muscles as he walked around and around her sculpture, appraising it from all sides as a knowledgeable art patron would peruse the nuances of a Greek masterpiece. Vladinator reached out his hand and stroked a finger along the polished hemisphere of one of her marble buttocks. Mary-Kate Olsen just stood motionless, a beautiful work of art on display for his appreciation. Thrills of pleasure raced through her rigid body. She was in bliss, standing naked and petrified, on exhibit as a living statue. It was another fantasy come true.

      Vladinator moved back around in front of her, where she could see him with her fixed marble eyes. "You're a statue!" he exclaimed. "You're really turned into stone!" Of course, Mary-Kate Olsen thought. Isn't this great? She wanted to reply but she couldn't, since her lips were sealed together and fixed in a carven smile. Her petrified face was a silent white mask of permanent surprise and delight. Besides, the answer to his statement was obvious as she stood before him turned into a marble female nude.

      Vladinator stood up slowly and stepped close to her statue. He looked into her frozen face, his breath fogging the glistening polished planes of her carven features. He looked at the detail in her petrified skin. The slight wrinkles developing in her twenty-four-year-old face were visible, as were her pores as tiny pits in the stone. The lines were visible in her stony lips as they formed a sculpted smile. Her carven nose stood like a Roman arch from the marble mask of her face. Her smiling cheeks were rounded and gleaming, and the rough lines of her eyebrows were arched in surprise. Her brown hair was now a flowing white wave of stone drifting back from her brow and down her shoulders. Vladinator looked into her eyes, expecting to find them as life-like as the rest of her face, but was confronted by a stare that was literally blank. Mary-Kate Olsen's eyebrows were rough ridges, the folds of her eye sockets and eyelids were etched delicately in the marble, and each eyelash was turned into a tiny stone shaft along the curve of her open eyes. But the wide eyes themselves were blank marble orbs, smooth and polished. Unbroken crescents of gleaming white stone staring fixedly at the living world. No life -- in fact, no iris or pupils carved into the white curves. Just blank orbs, like the eyes of a Renaissance nude. The frozen mask of her face stayed passive and unchanging as Vladinator gently stroked his fingers along her smooth white cheek. He brushed her carven mouth, feeling the soft lips now hardened into unresponding stone. He waved his hand in front of her eyes, but they continued to stare fixedly into the mirror. The full reality of Mary-Kate Olsen's petrification was beginning to sink in. She was really, completely turned into stone.

      "You're beautiful, Mary-Kate Olsen. You're a work of art." Vladinator swallowed hard. "You have no idea just how wonderful you look right now! You're even more exquisite in marble than I ever dreamed." Mary-Kate Olsen felt a thrill of excitement as he teased her, saying, "You're just a statue now, a display piece! Something to be put into a museum for people to look at!"

      He ran his hands over the smooth curves of her muscular marble shoulders and down the length of her arms, feeling the shapes of her muscles, now turned into solid contours of stone. Vladinator noticed that Mary-Kate Olsen's slim white chest was permanently expanded in the midst of a breath, accentuating the sensuality of her lovely sculpted figure. Her marble breasts were large and full, and the tips of the two stony globes were decorated with the cold pebbles that were formerly her erect nipples. He briefly fondled the cold white stone of her frozen nipples, and cupped her hard marble breasts in his hands, before running his palms down the gentle curves of her torso. Her tight abdomen was a graceful stone hourglass, her marble stomach was adorned by subtle swells of muscle, and her sculpted hips flared sensuously wide around the solidified patch of hair that covered her stone vagina. Her elegant marble torso was perfect enough to be that of a carefully carven monument.

      Vladinator moved around behind her stationary form to examined her voluptuous marble anatomy from the rear. Her slender shoulders and lustrous white arms were just as admirable from that vantage, and her shoulderblades were visible fixed among the carven muscles of her strong back. He placed a finger on her neck and slowly moved down the ridge of her rodlike spine, from the base of her long neck down her frozen torso to her slim waist. Her polished marble buttocks were firm and round, as tight with muscle as her sensual stone hips. He walked around in front of her unmoving figure once more.

      Her white marble legs were long and curvaceous, and Vladinator admired her wide hips and rounded calves as they lay immobilized in polished stone. Her arms and legs held elegant curves that suggested the lean stone muscles just below the smooth white skin, and even fixed in cold stone her sleek figure had an elegant grace. She made a perfect marble statue.

      Vladinator bent down slightly until his face was level with her chest, and took one of her stone nipples into his mouth. He licked, sucked, and carressed it with his tongue, feeling with pleasure the sensation of his rough wet tongue sliding over the smooth contours of the marble nipple. He released it and gave her other fossilized nipple the same treatment before licking and fondling the rest of her large white stone breasts. Mary-Kate Olsen felt waves of intense pleasure wash through her stone body as Vladinator touched her. It seemed as if the transformation had made her skin even more sensitive than it had been in life. Desperately, she wanted to move or respond to the touch of her lover, or at least to scream out her ecstasy to the world. But she remained frozen, completely motionless in marble as a statue, her sensual body rigid and inflexible in lustrous white stone.

      "Oh, Mary-Kate Olsen," Vladinator breathed, stepping away from her. Mary-Kate Olsen felt the waves of intense sensation slowly fade away. "You don't know how much I want to truly make love to you. You're so beautiful like this, so gorgeous as a statue. But I don't think there's time." He checked his watch, and unfortunately he was right.

      Mary-Kate Olsen stood impassive on her pedestal as Vladinator moved around her, walking in and out of the room. First, he put the eyedropper back in the bottle, then wrapped both containers in their brown paper and stashed them back in the fridge. Then he walked past her statue and back into her studio, where he retrieved several of her studio lights. He set these up around the base of her pedestal, carefully angling them to highlight and accentuate the best features of her nude marble body. He set up three long tables around the room and then covered them with wine glasses and bottles, and trays of snacks and hors d'oevres. He rolled the full-length mirror back into their bedroom, then returned to move the furniture around to create an open area around Mary-Kate Olsen's statue and the tables, adjusting every seat to face her living sculpture. Mary-Kate Olsen simply waited, enjoying the erotic feeling of being turned to stone. She could do nothing in her petrified state. Finally, Vladinator took a moment to look everything over before he was satisfied.. He checked his watch again.

      "Well, everything's ready," he said, collapsing onto the couch. "I hope you're ready to be the centerpiece, Mary-Kate Olsen. It's too bad your friends won't know that it's really you." He grinned. Mary-Kate Olsen simply stared forward, frozen in stone, unable to respond to his tease.

      Vladinator had just enough time to slip into a casual jacket and tie before the doorbell rang and guests started to arrive. Just a few at first, then more and more, until finally their living room was packed. Vladinator greeted every new arrival warmly, welcoming them to their little private opening to show Mary-Kate Olsen's latest sculpture. He made the excuse for her absence that they'd worked out earlier: that she'd been called unexpectedly to New York to talk with some wealthy buyers who were interested in purchasing some of her other work. Everybody seemed to buy the excuse, even her closest friends. Pretty soon music started up and people were helping themselves to the wine and snacks. A good time seemed to be going on. Everyone wandered around, talking, laughing, and admiring her statue.

      As the crowd around her sculpture steadily thickened, Mary-Kate Olsen started to feel people sneaking a feel of her stone flesh. First a hand curled around the carven nub of her petrified nipple, teasing and then pinching its hardness. A few sets of hands stroked across the taut marble globes of her perfect, petrified ass. Someone tickled her sculpted navel. Someone else traced a finger around the shapes of her stone shoulderblades. Numerous people cupped their hands around her frozen breasts. Mary-Kate Olsen couldn't tell who was enjoying her rigid body. The crowd moved and flowed around her pedestal constantly, and the questing hands seemed to emerge anonymously from the mass of shifting people. She didn't know who was touching her, but she did know that it felt wonderful. It was thrilling to feel the hands and fingers fondling her motionless stone body, enjoying the sexy contours of what they thought was just a normal figure of stone. None of them had any idea that there was a living woman in the marble, aching to cry out at each passing touch.

      Mary-Kate Olsen looked around at the crowd with her blank stone eyes, noticing lots of her friends and lots of Vladinator's, as well as a large number of people she'd never seen before. Just then Vladinator brought two well-dressed women up to her pedestal, leading the pair with a gentle hand at their elbows and doing his best art-dealer schmooze. Vladinator pointed at Mary-Kate Olsen's petrified body.

      "This is Mary-Kate Olsen's latest work. It's a self-portrait. She wanted to portray herself in marble, but she wanted to do something a little different than traditional portraiture, so she chose this pose. You'll notice the wide eyes, the expression of surprise and pleasure, the obvious arousal of her body. She wanted it to look almost like a stone snapshot, as if she'd been suddenly and unexpectedly captured in marble. Like a candid photograph -- a bedroom photograph of one's lover, if you will."

      The well-dressed pair blushed, and chuckled politely. Their eyes skimmed expertly over the sleek marble contours of Mary-Kate Olsen's living statue, judging her figure's workmanship and possible value. Mary-Kate Olsen felt the pressure of their appraising stares like a physical pressure or touch as she stood there frozen and completely nude in front of these two strangers. It was a kick! She felt a little shiver of delight in her stony figure. She was a living work of art posed nude and motionless in the midst of this crowd of strangers, none of whom had any idea that she was a real woman turned to stone and simply put on display for their amusement. Talk about exhibitionism, she thought wryly.

      "It's exquisite," said the first woman, a shapely blonde in a red satin dress. She ran her fingers absently down the smooth white skin of Mary-Kate Olsen's stone arm. "And the detail is incredible. How does she do it?"

      Vladinator smiled, doing his best to look mysterious. He put his own hand on the elegant curve of the statue's shoulder and rubbed it absently. "Well, obviously I can't tell you that, even if I knew the answer. Trade secret, you know." The well-dressed pair chuckled politely again.

      The other woman, a brunette in slinky black, was more forward. She put her hand on Mary-Kate Olsen's sculpted breast, rubbing and fondling the gleaming marble flesh, her warm palm sliding across the alabaster pebble of Mary-Kate Olsen's hardened nipple. Mary-Kate Olsen felt the pleasure wash through her again, and again her inability to move or cry out or respond in way only made the feeling stronger and more intoxicating. She'd never guessed that being a living statue would be quite this much fun. The brunette kept teasing Mary-Kate Olsen's marble tit as she turned to Vladinator. "It's a shame that she couldn't be here tonight. I'd love to compare this portrait to the real thing, you know, get an idea of just how talented she is. And if this sculpture is true to life, I'd certainly like to meet your girlfriend!" The woman's hand slid down the polished white skin of Mary-Kate Olsen's marble stomach to lightly finger the petrified pubic hair, which looked like the artistically whorled curls that decorate ancient Roman nudes.

      "It's very much true to life, let me assure you," Vladinator smiled. The group talked a bit more among themselves, ignoring Mary-Kate Olsen like the inanimate object she had now become, their voices too low for her to hear over the music and the murmur of the crowd. Finally, the well-dressed pair moved off toward the wine and hors d'oevres. Vladinator soon followed them, circulating through the crowd shaking hands and making introductions and small talk. Mary-Kate Olsen simply stood there naked and petrified, as people crossed her field of vision, eating and laughing and talking.

      People continued to touch and carress her living statue. It seemed she was too beautiful, too life-like, to be enjoyed simply by sight. Mary-Kate Olsen felt a pair of hands -- large, a man's -- touch the smooth white curves of her buttocks, running across the polished white skin of her tight marble ass. She couldn't move her hands to brush them away, or turn her head to see who it was feeling her up. The hands kept roaming, straying down to her upper thighs and up to the small of her back. She heard a few murmured comments before the hands and the voice disappeared back into the crowd.

      Another pair of hands stroked her muscular stone shoulders, fondling the sleek motionless musculature of her shoulders and upper arms. The fingers slipped around to tickle her armpit, and there came a delighted squeal. "Oh, look," came another unseen voice, "A little bit of armpit hair! This is just too accurate!" When the tickling sensation faded from her polished skin, Mary-Kate Olsen wished to herself that she'd remembered to shave under there before her transformation.


    KTS:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Utensil.
  • hmm, take a look at the centre figure in this [h-a-s.co.za] screen-shot. Whats up, (or out), with his pants.. ;P - "I don't care if you are l337 h4X0R: mount my /dev/girlfriend and I'll fsck you up!"
  • dammit, I screwed up the link.. Here it really is...

Moneyliness is next to Godliness. -- Andries van Dam

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