Tag Archives: art

Art in 140 Characters

Is it pos­sible to encode and com­press an image to such a degree that the raw data can fit in a single Twit­ter mes­sage (140 char­ac­ters) that, when decoded again, is still recog­nis­able? The answer to the ques­tions is a resound­ing Yes, as con­firmed by a cod­ing chal­lenge inspired by Mario Klingemann’s attempt to com­press and encode the Mona Lisa down to 140 char­ac­ters.

Klingemann’s attempt, dubbed the Mon­aT­weeta II, is def­in­itely an image recog­nis­able as the Mona Lisa, but it must be said that some of the entries to the main cod­ing chal­lenge are truly breath­tak­ing.

The win­ning tweet (with a char­ac­ter to spare):


via @spolsky

Art Forgeries and the Uncanny Valley

In the third instal­ment of the Bam­booz­ling Ourselves series (a look at the mas­ter Ver­meer for­ger, Han van Mee­ger­en), Errol Mor­ris inter­views the author of The Forger’s Spell, Edward Dol­nick, and the two dis­cuss the applic­a­tion of the uncanny val­ley in the for­gery of art.

I par­tic­u­larly like Dolnick’s thoughts on the hindrance of expert­ise (final para­graph of this excerpt).

You would think a close copy would be the goal of a for­ger, but it might not be a smart way to go. If you were a bril­liant tech­ni­cian it might be an accept­able strategy, but my for­ger, Van Mee­ger­en, is not as good as that. […] He’s going to get in trouble, because that’s ask­ing for a side-by-side com­par­is­on, and he’s not good enough to get away with that. […]

So how is he going to paint a pic­ture that doesn’t look like a Ver­meer, but that people are going to say, “Oh! It’s a Ver­meer?” How’s he going to pull it off? It’s a tough chal­lenge. Now here’s the point of The Uncanny Val­ley: as your imit­a­tion gets closer and closer to the real thing, people think, “Good, good, good!” — but then when it’s very close, when it’s with­in 1 per­cent or some­thing, instead of focus­ing on the 99 per­cent that is done well, they focus on the 1 per­cent that you’re miss­ing, and you’re in trouble. Big trouble. […]

Van Mee­ger­en is trapped in the val­ley. If he tries for the close copy, an almost exact copy, he’s going to fall short. He’s going to look silly. So what he does instead is rely on the blanks in Vermeer’s career, because hardly any­thing is known about him. […] He’ll take advant­age of those blanks by invent­ing a whole new era in Vermeer’s career. No one knows what he was up to all this time. He’ll throw in some Ver­meer touches, includ­ing a sig­na­ture, so that people who look at it will be led to think, “Yes, this is a Ver­meer.” […]

It wasn’t going to be about how “you can’t tell the dif­fer­ence,” because you could. It would be, “How could people look at these things which are mani­festly so dif­fer­ent and not see what’s going on?” It became a story about how experts can get it wrong, and in fact, how expert know­ledge, instead of help­ing, can be a hindrance. On the sur­face it seemed to be a story about art and his­tory, but really, it’s a story about psy­cho­logy.

Art and the Brain

Jonah Lehr­er, a neur­os­cient­ist and writer I’ve men­tioned many times, has a won­der­ful art­icle in Psy­cho­logy Today that looks at the field of neuroaes­thet­ics and how the brain inter­prets art.

All the adject­ives we use to describe art-vague words like “beauty” and “elegance”-should, in the­ory, have neur­al cor­rel­ates. Accord­ing to these sci­ent­ists, there is noth­ing inher­ently mys­ter­i­ous about art. Its visu­al tricks can be decoded. Neuroaes­thet­i­cians hope to reveal “the uni­ver­sal laws” of paint­ing and sculp­ture, to find the under­ly­ing prin­ciples shared by every great work of visu­al art.

In the art­icle Lehr­er pro­poses The 10 Great Prin­ciples of Great Art and in the accom­pa­ny­ing inter­view he chal­lenges the sup­pos­i­tion that neuroaes­thet­ics will “unweave the rain­bow” of great art.

    Related: Dr Shock takes a brief look at the rela­tion­ship between archi­tec­ture and neur­os­cience.

    via Mind Hacks

    Context and Aesthetic Judgements

    It’s no sur­prise that per­ceived con­text is import­ant in influ­en­cing people’s decisions. A recent exper­i­ment has shown that people rate pic­tures as more aes­thet­ic­ally pleas­ing (and actu­ally exper­i­ence more pleas­ure while view­ing them) if they believe they come from art gal­ler­ies.

    Aes­thet­ic judg­ments, like most judg­ments, depend on con­text. Wheth­er an object or image is seen in daily life or in an art gal­lery can sig­ni­fic­antly mod­u­late the aes­thet­ic value humans attach to it. We invest­ig­ated the neur­al sys­tem sup­port­ing this mod­u­la­tion by present­ing human sub­jects with art­works under dif­fer­ent con­texts whilst acquir­ing fMRI data. Using the same data­base of art­works, we ran­domly labelled images as being either sourced from a gal­lery or com­puter gen­er­ated. Sub­jects’ aes­thet­ic rat­ings were sig­ni­fic­antly high­er for stim­uli viewed in the ‘gal­lery’ than ‘com­puter’ con­texts.

    via @vaughanbell

    Interpreting Hybrid Images

    Remem­ber how the Mona Lisa’s fam­ous smile was painted in low spa­tial fre­quen­cies, hence why we inter­pret the face dif­fer­ently depend­ing on where we look?

    Now, Mo of Neuro­philo­sophy takes an in-depth look at how our brains inter­pret hybrid images and com­plex visu­al scenes, shed­ding more light on this effect­ive ima­ging tech­nique. He also links to the hybrid images sec­tion of MIT’s Com­pu­ta­tion­al Visu­al Cog­ni­tion Lab which con­tains a fairly mind-bog­gling gal­lery of hybrid images.