Gianluca Costantini

Portrait of Harold Cohen

Drawing made for the AARON exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Harold Cohen, the pioneer of digital art, has left an indelible mark on the contemporary artistic landscape with his innovative and revolutionary work. Born in the United Kingdom in 1928 and passing away in 2016, Cohen was one of the first artists to explore the creative potential of digital technologies and artificial intelligence.

His most famous masterpiece, AARON, a computer program capable of generating artworks autonomously, has garnered admiration and debate since its creation in the 1970s. However, while some praise its ability to challenge the boundaries between human and computational creativity, others raise critical questions about the nature and authenticity of art produced by an algorithm.

One of the main criticisms directed at Cohen’s work is the issue of authorship. While AARON was designed and programmed by Cohen, the artwork it produces is not the result of his hand, but of the code he wrote. This raises fundamental questions about the authenticity and originality of art generated by artificial intelligence. Can an algorithm be considered a true artist? And if so, who is the true author of the work: the human artist or the computer program?

Furthermore, some critics argue that Cohen’s art, although technically sophisticated, lacks emotional and conceptual depth. The works produced by AARON often seem repetitive and devoid of the sense of originality and meaning that characterizes human artworks. This raises questions about the artistic and cultural value of works generated by artificial intelligence compared to those created by humans.

However, despite the criticisms, Harold Cohen’s work has opened new frontiers in the exploration of the intersection between art and technology. He has demonstrated the potential of digital technologies to expand our concept of creativity and to challenge our preconceived perceptions of art and authorship. His legacy continues to inspire artists, scholars, and technologists, raising fundamental questions about the nature of art and its role in contemporary society.

Whitney Museum / United States / England



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