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Title: From Painting to Coding: The Art of Harold Cohen
Authors: Menezes, Caroline
Keywords: Harold Cohen
Computer Art
Media Art Histories
Issue Date: 18-Oct-2017
Abstract: This paper offers an analytical and critical survey of the oeuvre of British artist Harold Cohen (1928-2016) who was a pioneer of computer art and the development of an autonomous media that would be equivalent to his own creative procedure. It will investigate and contextualise his work based on the principles of art history. Cohen reinvented his already well-established career as a painter inaugurating a new path in the arts utilizing a computer. In the 1950s and 60s, he delved into abstract art with the goal of producing a painting that could ‘paint itself’. When he encountered his first computer, in 1968, Cohen was able to bring this idea to fruition by coding software that emulated human cognition and learned what an artist’s everyday practice involves. This was his major and unique contribution to the field of media art and artificial intelligence. Thus, this paper relies partly on a vast bibliography and especially on interviews with the artist and visits to his studio to uncover the origin of art-making through coding developed by Cohen. Next, it examines the accomplishments of the programme named AARON that Cohen began writing in 1973. It was considered one of the oldest programmes still in development until April 2016 when Cohen passed away. Finally, this paper will pose the question: Can Harold Cohen, through his programme AARON, be the first artist who have a posthumous exhibition of new artworks created after his death?
Description: Biography: Caroline Menezes is a Brazilian curator and art historian. She holds an MA in History of Art: Europe, Asia, America from the University of Sussex and in January 2017 submitted her PhD thesis at the University of the Arts London. From November 2015 to December 2016, she developed the project ‘Virtual Bridges: connecting Art and Technology between Brazil and Germany’ at the ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien, Karlsruhe with the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation through the German Chancellor Fellowship (Bundeskanzlerstipendium). One of the outcomes of this project is the online platform Die Brücken that will be further developed later this year to strengthen artistic practices and create cross-collaboration activities between Brazil and German-speaking countries. Her most recent curatorial projects were the solo exhibition of the Brazilian artist Tuneu in the Raquel Arnaud Gallery, February 2017, in São Paulo and the Mais Performance Festival in September of 2016, at Oi Futuro Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro. It consisted of three days of live performances by ten international artists and two exhibitions, including a retrospective of the Austrian artist Peter Weibel and the re-enacting of two of his seminal performances from the 1960s. Also in Rio de Janeiro, in 2015, she co-curated the exhibition Primary Codes regarding the beginning of computer art featuring a great survey of the theme for the first time in Latin America. It included around 100 artworks by the pioneers of media art Frieder Nake (Germany), Harold Cohen, Ernest Edmonds and Paul Brown (all from the UK) at Oi Futuro Flamengo. These two last shows resulted in catalogues that will be published later in 2017, and in 2018 she will launch a full-length authored book about Tuneu. Also as an art writer, she is the co-editor of The Permanence of the Transient: Precariousness in Art by Cambridge Scholars Publishing and has written articles for catalogues such as 30 x Bienal: Transformations in Brazilian art from the 1st to the 30th edition by São Paulo Biennial Foundation Publisher. Since 2006, she has been part of the permanent team of critics for the English magazine, Studio International and besides the aforementioned projects; she has also curated exhibitions in England, Spain and Portugal.
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