Please or Register to create posts and topics.


Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted: December 22, 2018

Artist Description: Digital collage based on a channel shift glitch and scanned traditional artwork. second one of my artworks following this concept of a dialog between a computer and me as a (human) artist. This continues a series of one of a kind digital creations as a "Theme and variations".

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

In Asbury Park, New Jersey, very close to where I grew up —a beachside town riddled with bars and music venues and refurbished old hotels— there’s a somewhat bizarre, clown-like face which you’ll find dotting the boardwalk, plastered on billboards, populating all manner of postcards and buttons and even condom wrappers, things sold in the many kitschy beach stores. Tilly is the face’s name, and he’s been the unofficial mascot for the town since his inception in the early 20th-century, when Asbury Park was the kind of place presidents came to vacation, a place speckled with amusement parks, of which Tilly had been borne to help advertise. Tilly himself is not related to SmackMan-4, but I bring him up because of how similar Tilly appears to Reinhard Schmid’s “SmackMan,” the subject of 10 pieces in the artist’s Superrare collection (about a third of the total). SmackMan is bizarre. SmackMan is a perfect circle spanned in peachy skin, given a cute little top hat, an enormous —almost ancient Egyptian-like— blue eye winged with black makeup, one ear, one curly-cue nose seen in profile, and six teeth jutting out into nothing, part of an empty rectangle carved into the face’s lower-right quadrant. SmackMan’s resemblance to Asbury Park’s beloved Tilly might start with the strange facial features they share (the odd juxtaposition between cartoonishness, clownishness, and unmistakable realism), but ends where they transcend their animated aesthetics to become symbols of great meaning; in Tilly’s case, for the town, and for SmackMan’s, for the artist’s oeuvre. 

I wonder if Schmid would agree that SmackMan is his mascot; it certainly appears to be the case, especially because the first four of his works are all SmackMan’s, as well as his most recent two. SmackMan-4 is his fourth earliest piece, each of these four elaborations on a similar theme, one in which SmackMan sits, as he does, in the center of the frame, while a confounding explosion of purple and blue shapes, color, puffs, squiggles, glitchy lines, and abstractions populate the space around him. In the case of SmackMan-4, long purple tendrils extend down from the top of the image, crashing into the otherwise blue top-right quadrant of the image, these tendrils an extension of a few abstract swirls hanging off the image’s upper edge, these swirls themselves seeming to exert force as they push down into the background. At the center, of course, is SmackMan, who is haloed in a golden sphere, within which the purple-and-blue color scheme gives way to green and gold. Schmid calls this piece a “dialog between a computer and me as a (human) artist,” so we can presumably see the background, all glitchy and abstract, as the computer’s contribution, with SmackMan the human artist’s.  

Is it purposeful, then, that SmackMan is a silly, absurdist expression of humanity, one so deeply human, one showcased comedically? I’d argue that the computer here is creating something well-within the bounds of traditional abstract beauty, playing with colors and shapes and juxtapositions and compositions, things a computer can theoretically understand, whereas the human artist’s contribution is entirely, inherently the opposite. A computer cannot create surrealism on purpose; it can create only along the lines of what it knows; even that which appears surreal to us would nevertheless be the output of a computer program’s normal, routine command. But here, SmackMan is exaggeratedly-surreal by juxtaposition, a so-human gift of oddness and irreverence added to the computer’s attempt to create something more classically artistic. Is a computer capable of irreverence? Is it capable of subverting a command, creating something disrespectful or sarcastic or ironic? To exhibit these characteristics, a human must essentially go against their own programming, flouting larger social commands or norms. A computer is, as of now, incapable of such a thing. You can’t program a computer not to follow instructions (as far as I know). AI-generation requires a computer to be trained on inputs; it is incapable of creating something in opposition to those inputs.

And so what SmackMan-4, and the entire SmackMan series shows, is a computer and a human working in lockstep, each party providing something that cannot necessarily be provided by the other party. Schmid provides irreverence, individualism, true creativity, whereas the computer provides randomness; humans cannot truly create anything random, it’s not in our DNA; we’re trapped by our experience, our logic, what we know and have seen and have learned. Placing SmackMan central in a piece which would otherwise be dominated by the random characteristics of machine-learning is like placing a ten-story slate skyscraper in the African savannah: when both things exist in the same place, we must confront their differences, their antithetical natures, how they each change the thing they’re placed beside, how neither can be compared to the other, for they are of different worlds. SmackMan-4 asks us to understand the weaknesses of both the machine and the human by contrasting their individual contributions to the larger piece. Neither is better, neither is worse. But they’re both needed to make this piece as interesting and arcane as it is. We can only understand it, or try to understand it, through the spots where the two artist’s meet, where their skills battle the effects of the other. The human face —if SmackMan can be called human— ensnared in the machine’s machinations. Consumed within it, but separate, provided its own little bubble of individuality. 

You are not allowed to do this. Please login and connect your wallet to your account.