All The World’s A Stage And We Are Merely Puppets
What to make of bots that can now generate poetry, music and paintings? We have yet to recognize that bots generating poetry are a kind of performance art, specifically a type of puppetry. In the age of mechanical reproduction, film arose as an acceleration of photographic technology, which was in turn a novel new medium. Walter Benjamin was the first to recognize film as the great artistic medium of the 20th century, one that best described the social and political tendencies that brought about mechanical reproduction in the first place. Now that economic power is shifting radically toward the production of software, art in the digital age is increasingly interactive, demanding participation of an audience in order to exist. The various species of autonomously performing digital objects, such as bots and algorithms—which can be seen creating artistic artifacts that resemble poems—are the equivalent acceleration of these new, behavior-driven tendencies of art. If we might see these algorithms for what they are—puppets made of software, whose expressive qualities are determined by the puppet master that sets it in motion—we might start to demand of this new artistic medium that it explicates the extent to which any one of us has agency. Who is in charge in an interactive work? Are we puppets or puppet masters?