The Hand or the Brush Gabriel H. Sanchez
At the tap of the track pad, a computer could effortlessly reproduce Picasso’s brush strokes with ease. It was said that if Vermeer were alive during that time, he would have been overlooked amid an ocean of synthetic genius. Like everyone else, his creativity would be filtered through a circuit board of pre-determined outcomes; each designed to offer the most pleasurable viewing experience possible. It was a time in which every person with a computer could be an artist if they wished so.
If the public appeared upset after the banning of their personal art-production software, it was quickly forgotten after Lucia began sharing her creations. It was as if God had shined a light on that civilization and erased all that was dull and grey from their streets and homes. Her work was captivating beyond belief and could be described as nothing short of sacred. The Department of Cultural Proliferation had succeeded in what they sought to accomplish. And without the need for sleep or nourishment, Lucia continued on with her work for centuries. Generations of families would live and die, satisfied to have a lived a life among Lucia’s creations.
Before then, computers had greatly expanded the artistic potential of society, unlocking the dormant creativity of millions of users. But in time, the reality in which those people lived began to mirror the computers from which their art was created. Like the programs themselves, their art became formulaic, hollow, and cold. At a mass scale, it permeated among culture to influence everyand-all aspects of public life. Their perception of reality gravitated towards a filtered and artificial approximation of truth.
Over millennia, the entire world swelled with her imagery. And though Lucia wasn’t programmed to think outside of her primary function, her rigorous art practice began to contemplate whether the world she had created was not unlike the ridged and cold one she replaced. Although the people were happy, she couldn’t help but think that she too had skewed the public perception towards a filtered and artificial approximation of truth—one synthesized from art history itself.
Fearing negative consequences to the public psyche, the Department of Cultural Proliferation was developed to re-introduce “humanistic” art back into society. Their first order of business would be outlaw the public use of art-producing software, and within six months, every trace of those computer programs had been eradicated from the streets. From there, the DCP commissioned a single artist to begin her studio practice—a woman by the name of Lucia.
We can only assume that this was the motivation behind her final work of art. In what could be considered her final performance, Lucia terminated her vast data cache of media, process, and history. Without backup or warning, she had erased her own memory and rendered herself incapacitated. The people were stunned. Somewhere down the line of history, society had discarded the teachings of art, relaying all responsibility upon Lucia. After Lucia’s termination, they were alone in a way that they’ve never felt in their entire lives. The people were left nothing except the final seed of Lucia’s wisdom sewn into the title of her final “performance”: Who is truly the master of art, the hand or the brush?
ACU-41, or Artesia Computing Unit, was designed to contain in its memory every known work of art since the origin of history, as well as the technical information of how those works were produced. With that data, ACU-41 would be fully capable of developing its own intelligent art practice, one that could break the dreary status quo that taken hold of society. Rather than allow humans to make art that mirrors their computers, the DCP had created a computer that could make art to mirror humanity. To help ACU-41 appear more personable in the public eye, a lab technician nicknamed the computer program Lucia. 2