w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

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w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by glegrady » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:08 pm

Discuss some of the criteria that Harold Cohen uses by which to define what an image is and give some visual examples describing them
George Legrady

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by mmihalche » Sun Feb 12, 2012 10:40 pm

Harold Cohen makes an attempt at defining what an image is by focusing on the process of art-making that according to him is a rule based activity. Cohen observes his own decisions when painting and builds a computer program called Aaron that should model some of the human behavior in the process of making art.

Cohen concentrates on defining a drawn image and according to him this can fall into three categories and can be representational (concerned with appearance); abstract ( based on appearance but transformed) and abstract ( not standing for anything at all).

Cohen points out some important skills that the program has to posses; it has to be able to differentiate between figure and ground, between open and closed space and between insideness and outsideness. These could be interpreted as rules he has set. According to Cohen, rules are a key part that define what an image is.One artist that makes drawings based on a given set on instructions much like Aaron is Sol Lewitt. This process involves mapping a set of directions and planning the drawing accordingly.

In the article, Cohen stresses that we are aware that what we see is just an image, so a representation of the original object, we would never mistake the drawing for the actual object. In this case Rene Magritte comes to mind with "This is not a pipe" , where the words are written under the image of a pipe; in this case we see a pipe but we are assured by the words that it is not a pipe since it is only the signifier.
Going along the same idea we have Joseph Kosuth's "One and three chairs" piece , where what is an image comes into question. We see the initial object the chair, the sign then the drawing of the same chair which is not a chair and is the signifier and then the dictionary definition of a chair the signified.

Cohen also claims that the image is understood thanks to a cultural background . In this case John Ruskin's drawing of Casa Contarini Fasan in Venice can be recognize as that particular house if one has a good knowledge of the city of Venice; with less cultural background one might guess that the place represented is in Venice. When we see a picture of the original place which is also an image , but an image closer to reality, we realize that what is present in the drawing is made up of lines, closed shapes, shading which are all conscious decisions that take place in the process of constructing the image.
Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing 95 On a wall divided vertically into fifteen equal parts, vertical lines, not straight, using four colors in all one-, two-, three-, and four-part combinations.
Rene Magritte "This is not a pipe"
Joseph Kosuth "One and three chairs"
John Ruskin "Casa Contarini Fasan", Venice
Casa Contarini Fasan, Venice

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by kyle_gordon » Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:58 pm

Cohen starts off the article by stating that he has developed a computer called AARON which analyzes human artwork and outputs free-hand drawings, each varied every time. He additionally goes on to stress that his computer is not an artists tool, not a transformative device, does not learn etc. in hopes that the reader understands that his engineered work is appreciated as an individual identity, almost like an artist in itself.
In order for us to understand AARON's artwork, we must understand that the images it produces consist of three photographic properties with regards to view: representational (appearance), abstract (appearance with interest in other properties), or abstract with regards to not representing anything specific.

As viewers of the AARON exhibition began to understand how the machine works and its drawings differ every time, they changed their views of the computer from that of a machine to an artist. The machine is programmed to work by identifying certain photographic elements, in this case pertaining to drawings, and applying them when it works. These rules help determine the output artwork as well as call into play elements such as how the machine functions/ the process which defines the drawing created.

The machine itself moves on a two wheeled "turtle", allowing it to move more freely and its wheels to spin in opposite directions at the same speed, allowing for spinning etc. while drawing. It functions by calling on mapping functions to either precede the planning functions or serves planning based on an area specified at a location. Together these rules call on each other and allow the system to move accordingly. The cognitive programing of AARON helps it to differentiate between figure/ ground, inside/ outside, and open/ closed forms. These rules along with cognitive function help explain how AARON works and the message that Cohen hopes to send the readers explaining how cognitive process fuels image making and image reading.

The overall program that determines AARON's actions consists of cognitive function, randomness, planning/mapping, and much more. Even Cohen explains that he does not fully understand the knowledge behind AARON's actions.

Cohen's view on art is that he cannot explain a particular meaning for what defines art due to its constant changing and development based on culture. Starting with the first image below (Electric Sheep), we can note that the image is generated based on a system of random fractal codes that create new images each time based on randomness, just as AARON uses randomness and code to generate a new image each time. A bridge between the topics of randomness to Cohen's views of changing art due to culture, we see a tiled image that is similar to the Electric Sheep fractal image, but is different due to medium and cultural influences. Both however can be seen as art based on different cultures. Another example of art changing over time and due to culture can be seen in the cave art below, similar to artist Blu Blu's urban graffiti art which is all over the world today.
Electric Sheep (fractal generated image)
Tiled Wall
Cave Painting
Blu Blu - "Zaragoza"

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by wangqian321 » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:20 pm

In Harold Cohen’s article, he introduces his computer program, AARON, based on the rules of image-making and art-making. He claims that the theoretical basis for the program is discussed in terms of cultural considerations, especially with respect to our relationship to the image of remote cultures. The author describes the relationship of image-making and art-making, that art-making is a highly sophisticated activity involving the interlocking of complex patterns of belief and experience, and image-making appears to be as natural as talking. Also, he tries to give a clear definition of image with explaining three significant factors of that: representational (concerned with the appearance of things), an abstraction (fundamentally appearance-oriented, but transformed in the interest of other aims) and abstract (it doesn’t stand for anything at all).

In this paper, which interests me most is the content about the relationship between image-maker and image-reader. The author claims that there is an implicit paradox in the fact that we persist in regarding as meaningful — not on the basis of careful and scholarly detective work, but on a more directly confrontational basis — images whose original meanings we cannot possibly know, including many that bear no explicitly visual resemblance to the things in the world. Presumably this state of affairs arises in part from a fundamental cultural egocentrism. And information in can be transmitted between the culture we live in and the cultures of the remote past. The original meaning of images is encoded, and the encoding and decoding of messages requires access to the same code-book by both the image-maker and the image-reader, and that code-book is precisely what is not carried across from one culture to another. In other words, the same culture background plays a significant role in the effects of the spread of information in the form of images. People from other cultures might meet some difficulties in understanding the original meaning of certain image, however that will not happen to readers from the same culture system with the image maker.

Here I pick a picture taken by Chinese modern artist, Ai Weiwei. In the image, there is a young woman standing in front of the Tiananmen (the symbol of power of China) lifting up her dress. The title of the picture is “June”, it reminds of the political incident took place in front of Tiananmen in June 4th, 1989, when plenty of college students died. Image reader without learning knowing history about that might not understand the deeper information the artist tries to express. Ai Weiwei is trying to show his displeasure in a banter way against government’s attitudes and means of dealing with that incident.
Also Ai Weiwei created a piece of work by painting the logo of Coca cola on the surface of an antique pottery. People coming from other culture systems might not realize the cultural shock expressed in that work. The artist is trying to show his concern and worry about the phenomenon which Chinese culture and history is gradually taken place by commercial activities and western culture.

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by hnavery » Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:32 pm

In Harold Cohen’s “What is an Image?,” Cohen discusses the development of AARON through which he defines the image-making and art-making process. He writes that images cannot simply be defined as representational, an abstraction, or abstract as it is a reflection of the 20th Century’s preoccupation with photographic images and that many images do not fit within these confines. He clarifies that, “image-making will be discussed here as the set of modes which contains visual representation as one of its members.”

Cohen loosely defines an image as something which stands for something else. The purpose of an act of representation is to draw attention to some particular aspect of the represented object, to differentiate that aspect from its context, not to recreate the object itself. An image is a reference to some aspect of the world which contains within its own structure a reference to the act of cognition in which the piece was made. It must say, not that the world is like this, but that it was recognized to have been like this by the image-maker, who leaves behind this record: not of the world, but of the act, which reinforces the idea AARON is not simply an "artists' tool" – he is not a means to an end, but that his creations ARE the end.

The example below is an example of an image that does not fit into the three categories that Cohen refutes. One might initially label it as an abstract image but upon learning the artist’s intentions we learn that the image is actually a manifestation of emotion – something that does not necessarily have a physical representation.
In this piece by Leonid Afremov, Afremov does not simply try to accurately reproduce a dancer but instead captures the way in which he sees the world. Afremov references the way in which the image was ‘generated’ through the visible strokes which in turn references the thought and ‘cognition’ that went into the work.

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by michaeld.johnsoncst » Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:06 pm

In regards to how Cohen defines what exactly an image is, the most interesting assertions he makes are found in the "Cognitive Bases for Image Strucutre" section of his paper.

He states that image making is mediated by very low level cognitive processes, and that, largely, the sense of meaningfulness is produced by the viewer and their cognitive processes. he argues that the creator plays a relatively small part in the process of imbuing an image with meaning. I definitely agree with this, and would say that this kind of "activity" is found throughout all art, and especially so in work that is more vague and allows for more viewer input.

It is also interesting, that through the construction of AARON, Cohen came to very clean, almost sterile, set of "rules" that lead to image making.

His points on randomness are great. Though AARON makes images that aren't expected, they aren't entirely unpredictable, thus not random. This is a great point, one that should be made when people take the work of Jackson Pollock or other ab-ex painters into consideration. Though often accused of creating random messes, this is entirely untrue. Pollock knew what he was creating. He was working inside a random system.
His work is also a good example of the cognitive structuring of an image by the viewer. Often called "violent", "turbulent", and "brash", I think the words used to describe a Pollock piece are ultimately a reflection of the viewer as much as the artist.

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by mel.weismann » Tue Feb 14, 2012 3:01 am

Cohen says that, firstly, an image's creation includes the "undenied assumption of human will": someone intended to create it. So many examples of this are available; for example, it's fairly clear to see from the sheer organization of information that the Mona Lisa was the product of human will, as opposed to happenstance.


Secondly he claims that "evidence of cognitive process may be substituted for the results of an act of cognition": this means simply that the thinking-up or 'creating' of the image's concept can be substituted for any physical manifestation of said image itself, and is perhaps more important than such a physical manifestation. Many works of conceptual art, including this piece by Lawrence Weiner, could be said to fall into a space where the simple idea behind the 'image' can live independently from the physical manifestation of the idea.


Thirdly there is the idea of 'sustaining an illusion': embracing the 'standing-for-ness' which occurs in the space between the image and its viewers. Why? Because these two do not really exist independent of each other: you don't have an image without a viewer, and you can't be a viewer unless you have something that you are viewing. In order for this to happen, it appears that the interplay between the expressions of the image-makers/thinkers/creators and the interpretative 'expressions' of the image-viewers relies on some sort of low-level pattern recognition which is based upon (culture-based) common experiences of existence (but what exactly these stem from, Cohen is not sure). A crude example would be any sort of 'doodle'. This image doesn't look like a photorealistic representation of anything other than what it is, some lines on paper, but a viewer's pattern-recognition 'skills' will tell most (if not all) viewers that the creator's intended idea is that of a 'flower:'


From these points, Cohen concludes that an image is a reference to an aspect of the world, but moreso describes the act of cognition which produced that image: it's a record (or, an 'illustration', if you will) of the way your brain interprets and produces patterns, and how other brains interpret what your brain produced.

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen-Catherine Li

Post by catiee55 » Tue Feb 14, 2012 10:25 am

The purpose of an image is to act as a representation to draw attention to a particular aspect of the represented object. As the article says, it is to “differentiate that aspect from its context, not to reconstitute the object itself.” He discusses the computer machine AARRON that creates free-hand drawings. Each drawing is different and it doe not withhold any memory. It only processes three properties, representational, abstract, and abstract that does not represent anything. The article keeps discussing the randomness of drawing. What’s interesting is that he is not particular defining how art should be but rather another method of art that he believes in.

For an example i decided to put up my own work. Like the article i created my own machine that created free-hand art. I created bubble art. I used a cup and filled it up with paint, water, and soap. I pumped air into the cup which created bubbles. As the bubbles would rise they would overflow over the cup and pop onto the sheet of paper, creating the art piece. The machine and I had no control over the art that it created.

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by ellencampbell » Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:21 pm

Harold Cohen attempts to uncover what specific elements create a functioning image. He concludes that an image is an assumption of human will, that images show evidence of cognitive process, images contain a "transactional context" that creates a "meaning-space for the viewer, and that there is a "standing-for-ness" in every image (as opposed to symbols) because it conveys subjects which stands for something else. The following are explanations and examples of several of Cohen's ideas for what constitutes as the minimum condition for something to be considered an image.

Cohen describes a hierarchy of levels of organization. The third level describes "Lines and Sectors". According to Cohen, lines must have a starting point and an ending point, as well as having a direction associated with it. Therefore, an image must be planned. Sectors, on the other hand, produces a series of partial destinations designed to bring the line closer to its finished product. This set of criteria reminds me of the principles in "connect-the-dots" coloring books because they contain a set of rules and have a start and end point.
Cohen also explains the idea that images are abstract displays and real devices. He describes art as a spontaneous process, in the sense that at the end of one motion, the next is not known. The Cartesian position at the end of executing a single command is not known in advance. While this ties in with his idea that images contain a set of instructions, there is also an element of "randomness" because it is still impossible to predict the outcome of a choice. One of our assignments in ART 7D was to create a set of instructions for individuals to follow in order to come up with a software-inspired art piece. I instructed people to draw their "dream house" based on several parameters and write a wish in the corner of their drawing. Although the instructions were the same for everyone, the project resulted in a wide variety of unique houses and wishes.
http://www.uweb.ucsb.edu/~ellencampbell ... tware.html

Next, Cohen describes representation. A representation may be about appearance, but is never confused with reality, no matter how "lifelike" an image is. Images reference aspects of the world and contains its own structure, which Cohen explains, is a reference to the act of cognition (which generated it). For instance, Leonardo da Vinci's studies of human anatomy and facial expressions resulted in life-like portraits, landscapes, and designs. However, despite these images' realistic qualities, people are aware that they are just representations of reality.
Ideal Woman
Lastly, I want to comment of Cohen's ideas of an image's background. Images establish symbolic relationships, that is, they attach significance to events, asserting that "this stands for that". This also relates to Cohen's criteria of "Standing-for-ness"; an image is something that stands for something else. Understanding what an image is or what it means relies on prior common knowledge and cultural agreements, as to what is to stand for what. According to the “telecommunications model”, interpretation is the process of reception and decoding of the image. Interpretation makes original meanings available. For example, Andy Warhol's "Soup Cans" rely on cultural knowledge to fully grasp the concept of American consumerism. It also shows that culture is not static; the Campbell's Soup cans may not be as easily recognizable in the future or in other countries, therefore, this image would have little to no significance to people without the kind of cultural knowledge it derives from.

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Re: w05 What is an Image" harold Cohen

Post by rjliang » Tue Feb 21, 2012 7:33 pm

In "What is an Image?," Harold Cohen draws his attention to the visual and cognitive origin of all drawn images. He displays his understanding of how an image is made through introducing and detailing his creation, AARON, a computer knowledge-based program that produces "freehand" drawings. AARON is not a transformation, learning or an instrumental artist's tool, but rather, is viewed as if it were a human artist itself. Further, AARON has separate levels of organization in which higher levels, such as "mapping" and "planning," are responsible for decisions which limit the actions made by the lower levels, such as movement control.

When speaking of the meaningfulness of an image, Cohen recognizes an implicit paradox that exists in what one renders "meaningful." Rather than regarding meaningful as based on scholarly detective work, we often place meaning on images that parallel with the notion of cultural egocentrism. In this way, Cohen notes that image-making and image-reading is mediated by cognitive processes, leading him to create a set of rules and protocols for AARON to follow. The rules include: differentiation between figure and ground, open and closed space, and insideness and outsideness. Overall, an image is what the image-maker presents in accordance to his recognition of his reality.
This 2012 Olympic logo highlights the significant role cultural context plays in the interpretation and meaningfulness of an image. Although not offensive to most other cultures, this logo is being condemned as "racist." Iran is threatening to boycott the 2012 London Olympics because it claims the official logo for the games (if read vertically rather than horizontally) resembles the word "Zion," which is a biblical term for Jerusalem.

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