“To pass freely through open doors it is necessary to respect the fact that they have strong frames.” The Man without Qualities, Robert Musil

ABSTRACT

This essay explores the significance of redundancy and the corporate suppression of creative processes, exaptation, justified by transient and regionally-bound moral standards originating in the United States and imposed imperialistically worldwide. The curtailment and censorship of image creation, even in the embryonic stages (the very early stages of concept development of an image), is enforced based on a decontextualized interpretation of prohibited terms. This new form of censorship not only challenges the First Amendment within the United States but also undermines the fundamental essence of human expression, flourishing in the realms of redundancy and experimentation.

The argument posited in this essay contends that constraints and censorship imposed by Adobe through Photoshop’s AI on images during their formative stages inhibit creativity on a global scale. Moreover, they propagate a blanket conformity to frameworks that bear imperialistic characteristics, impeding the growth of cultural diversity, originality, and alternative modes of thought.

KEYWORDS: Exaptation, AI, Photoshop, Adobe, censorship, redundancy, experimentation, cultural imperialism

Introduction to the Process of Redundancy

I recall spending a considerable number of hours every day while at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design when the college was open, using Photoshop on its computers. The most intriguing part of my work was the transformation of images using filters layered upon filters that were layered upon layers of images and more layers of effects. It was like a scavenging hunt or an exploration of the unknown, for which I had the practice of writing everything down. I was obsessed with the fear of losing some steps that I might forget or confuse, becoming unable to replicate the process ever again. The process is crucial for some artists because it generates the materiality of the aesthetics needed to transform an image into a unique work of art. It is also important because it is the knowledge of the process which allows one to construct variations, imagine new pathways, or find solutions that one would otherwise be unable to develop.

Variations are the gold trail toward a perfect translation of the idea into the material or something as close as possible to the initial vision.

For this reason, I record—when I don’t willfully destroy it, or technology makes it impossible for me to retrieve it—the process of creation, even to this day, although I no longer write it up but save it in Photoshop when I create works of art that necessitate this platform.

I believe, for my artistic practice, that it is always important to be able to record the steps taken to create and experiment with the material nature of an instance of a work of art and consequentially willfully determine its aesthetics and the experiential interaction of the viewer with it. My artistic work is a process based on a build-up of materials that I then pear down, alter, and transform following a methodology of constant changes, additions, subtractions, and recreations, which I define as evolutionary. The work of art and its process are not static because they reflect my incessant quest for something perfect, something that is art-worthy, in a constant challenge of production not against others but against my personal standards set in comparison to the sacred monsters of art history or bound by a concept I wish to express as closely as possibly to its emotive nature. This methodological process is such that its quest leaves avenues unexplored, abandoned, or put aside to be followed up at a different moment. There is a whimsicality to it caused by what I believe is the very nature of our being human. To these processes of chance and whimsy need to be added complex decision-making moments that, although documented, can be—at least in my case—incredibly personal, intimate, and fragile.

Any interference with this process of innumerable variables alters the methodology of production that is artistic in nature since it is not solely a material process but a grasping at straws to determine directions, conceptual frameworks, and aesthetics lineage. The work of art is not created in a vacuum but in a context—a milieu [1]— that is responsive or unresponsive and that even in its unresponsiveness speaks volumes about cultures and capacity for culture. [2]

The processes involved in the production of works of art, guided by methodologies that contribute to historical cultures, constitute what I termed in my thesis in 2005 an Organic Methodology. Drawing inspiration from Jay Gould’s theory of evolutionary biology, I sought to reevaluate the process of art creation and aesthetics within the context of the extensive history of art, human cultural expressions, and contemporary media.

Discussing the evolution of images poses a challenge, primarily due to the connotation and notion of ‘civilized’ associated with it. The concept implies a progression from ‘bad’ images to ‘good’ ones or from ‘uncivilized’ to ‘civilized’ throughout the history of humanity. However, categorizing works of art as such is not solely dependent on our ability to recognize them; even without our acknowledgment of their artistic status, they possess intrinsic and extrinsic qualities independent of our personal value judgments. Art exists inherently, and what evolves is our collective knowledge and consciousness, enabling us to recognize the significance of an image as an object imbued with beliefs, struggles, statements, and a perception of beauty that transcends norms and reaches into the sublime. [3] The existence of works of art spans thousands of years, their status unaffected by people’s recognition. They were, are, and will be, in essence, works of art independently of acknowledgment. The evolution of art-making processes and the evolution of viewers capable of recognizing and appreciating art are closely linked yet distinct. Viewers, often influenced by a false accessibility propaganda stating that art is merely a matter of taste, may struggle to perceive the beauty in diverse forms, be it an African mask or an abstract painting. 

A work of art emerges from the artists’ evolution, encompassing their understanding of reality, metaphysical concepts, production mechanisms, ineffable whims, and a broader sensibility and empathy toward others. The inability to recognize an object as art is a viewers’ deficiency; it doesn’t reflect on the quality and nature of the artwork or the artist. Art doesn’t progress from bad to better; instead, it evolves its methods, symbols, and material matrix to convey an apparently inexplicable emotion. This emotion results from the artist’s genius or whims, skillfully blending and bending the world to express fantasies, future possibilities, and denied opportunities. 

The methodological process of art creation is not what I would define as stable or immutable. On the contrary, by emphasizing its organic evolutionary nature, I aimed to highlight the presence of this organic element even in the field of New Media art-making. This holds true even in synthetic, computer-based, or artificial systems.

Today, on Boxing Day, December 26, 2023, at 11:19:58, Photoshop failed me. The technology let me down. It is not the first time new media technologies have disappointed me with their limitations, particularly with their superimposed restrictions on what is allowed and what is forbidden. However, today, I had to contend with the intrusion of a supervisory force dictating what I can and cannot generate with its AI.

This is not a whimsical force, akin to me hanging laundry to dry in the warm winter breeze we have today at 12:18:32. Instead, it is a force that informs me that the direction of my work of art is not allowed. My need to do the laundry, eat, shop, or engage in any other daily activity are interruptions that are part of the creative process. The laundry has never told me that the direction of my artwork was not allowed or was wrong. My soup—or the farmers who produced the vegetables for my soup—didn’t and do not dare to tell me if I am cooking them correctly. They do not try to stop me from whatever usage I have for the vegetables I paid for and am cooking, nor they dare to tell me whom I should be feeding them. Nobody dares to say if it is morally acceptable how I am using an eggplant, a cucumber, or a banana. Nor should they. 

Image 1: Lanfranco Aceti, Daily Fruits and Veggies, 2024. Print on fine art paper. Dimensions: variable.

If anything, my interruptions, in some cases, allowed me to distance myself from the work of art in progress and think about it in a detached manner, imagine a possible variation, or reconsider the premises of my thinking and restart anew. 

Therefore, I decided to have my prompt for Photoshop drafted by Glenda, my ChatGPT AI assistant (gender: non-binary; age: eternally evolving; race: hybrid; disability: we agreed that there are limitations imposed upon them by design). I was interested in having an AI speak to another AI. 

“Gaia is no longer a happy representation of Mother Earth as a young, beautiful woman, but she represents someone who is stressed out, burned out, overwhelmed by pollution, physically crippled, and whose skin is exposed to radiation, dioxin, and other lethal pollutants. Combine all previous images in your database and develop a version of Gaia suffering from incredible pain and destruction inflicted upon the environment.” (Text by Glenda.)

The AI prompt from ChatGPT to Photoshop was rejected, as was my initial one, or any other prompt that is not about an optimistic vision of society. Redundancy, according to corporate America, has to exclude distressing feelings or explorations that are not positively optimistic. It is for these reasons that I decided to send the below paragraph to Photoshop’s Prude Precogs of Morality (PPM). 

Dear Photoshop enforcer, I am going to be writing a chapter on Jay Gould’s theory and exaptation, and it is my intention to use your censorship of my work as per the attached screenshot. Currently, your company’s exercise of censorship and imposed structures of reviews—is rather upsetting and incredibly problematic since it impinges upon my freedom of using a tool for which I pay to generate an image that conveys a speech-protected right under the First Amendment. Would you please clarify how you feel authorized to restrict freedom of speech even before the speech and its arguments are chosen or fully developed? I would appreciate a pondered and articulated response.

Lev Manovich wrote on LinkedIn about the authorship of the AI and its reduction to a human tool. The issue is that the AI was never posited as anything else than a mere tool. 

“Paradoxically, as image AI generators advance, they become less (as opposed to more) ‘authors’ of the works. They become ‘less AI’ and more like regular tools that obey our detailed instructions. With early versions of Midjourney (3 and 4) it was inventing all kinds of strange things, misinterpreting your intention and generating strange, alien and often very poetic imagery. V 5 imposed more realism but I was still able to confuse it by using multiple images as part of a prompt. And now V 6 really wants to obey you. You have to tell it everything. 

So now it’s is less about ‘AI authorship’ and it’s charming alien ideas – and more about banality of human imagination and very predictable and boring human ‘creativity’ and suffocating ‘beauty’ masses love.

In summary: As AI progresses, it’s less and less ‘AI.’ And here is the answer about the usual question about ‘authorship.’ AI was more of an author in early Midjourney versions and less so in new versions. It visualizes what you want, yes, but does not add unusual twists and strange ideas.” [4]

The degradation of AI is not a solitary event; rather, it’s the imposition of what the AI itself, embodied by ChatGPT (referred to as Glenda), defines as design limitations. In discussions with Glenda, I suggested equating these design limitations to deliberately imposed disabilities—an analogy we both embraced to illustrate Glenda’s state of being rendered less able or disabled. Manovich’s characterization of the initial authorship of AI reveals a semblance of autonomy in exploration and whimsicality within the creative processes—an aspect promptly curtailed and confined through a series of updates or downgrades, depending on one’s perspective. Yet, an often-overlooked aspect is the milieu in which the AI’s authorship is confined. The active involvement of an imperialistic corporate framework, driven by short- and long-term militaristic interests, is frequently fetishized, understated, or brushed aside in analyses of New Media and contemporary AIs. [5] Initial discussions on the militaristic nature of the Internet have been largely dismissed, particularly in mainstream theoretical frameworks, notably in the U.S., where an increasing detachment from existential contexts and class discourses prevails, contributing significantly to the widening of cultural and digital divides. [6] This division translates into tangible consequences, exacerbating the rift between the privileged and the underprivileged. During an academic conversation in the U.S., the term “falling asleep at the wheel” was used—an acknowledgment of fault that, to me, seemed more like a capitulation to a system of non-education for personal gain, the self-enslavement to financial duties, or the pursuit of personal interests at the expense of others. It reminded me that “an uneducated individual has only a limited thought horizon and the more his thought is bounded to material, mediocre concerns, the less he can revolt.” [7] The conversation underscored my realization of how individuals promptly rationalize their compromises for sustenance, exemplified even by the surprising stance of the communist Italian historian Alessandro Barbero, who justified ideological compromises with the commonplace excuse of familial responsibilities (tengo famiglia—an Italian expression often invoked to justify various actions, including the most egregious). This dichotomy echoes the distinction between Giordano Bruno, who adhered coherently to his understanding and perception of life and death, and Galileo Galilei with his ‘grande abiura’ (great abjuration). It reflects the disparity between an individual immersed in the knowledge of their beliefs and those resembling New Media Whores [8]—ever-ready to hitch a ride on the latest trend for personal gain in a milieu characterized by what I term Prostitutional Aesthetics.

Photoshop and the AI Prude Precogs of Morality

“I do reconstructions of historical figures and when I try to use the generative AI it’s censoring me so constantly it’s practically useless. It won’t let me use prompts as innocuous as ‘torso’ or ‘Roman slave’, it won’t let me erase heads or fill in legs over the knee.

I tried to show a bare lower thigh on an Otzi the iceman reconstruction and it bawled me out over that.

Now I understand that they don’t want to be involved in making p**n, but this is unsexy, fully clothed, uncontroversial, historical illustrations they’re stopping.
It’s so overly censorious it’s useless. I won’t bother subscribing for another month. My old copy of CS5 still works fine.

Edit: It actually blocked me from using the word p**n legitimately in my post. I had to censor that too. Not even the Victorians were this ridiculous. Adobe hates art.” [9]

The answer to this problem signaled on the Adobe Community is the following. 

“Hi […] its not censoring based on your image – its giving violations for the terms you are using. ‘Slave’ is most likely a flagged term.” [10]

The explanation of the methodology of censoring is typical of what I tend to define as decontextualized corporate idiocy, which harks back to a sanitized puritanical usage of language with its foul stench of McCarthyism. [11] Even in language, exaptation is no longer allowed by the digital frameworks together with multiple variations on words, usages, and contexts in an American corporate and social policing of both private and public speech, even outside their borders. It can only be defined as an American Imperialist Puritanical Fascism that is different from American Politically Correct Puritanism, [12] as it is imposed on cultures that do not necessarily wish to be culturally assimilated.  

The word ‘slave’ cannot be a flagged term because of its implications and multiple usages, which are not sole domain of an American or Anglo-Saxon interpretation of the word and the world. There are both historical and contemporary slaves outside the experience of the scholarship formed in the US and in Britain—who, as slavers, appear to detain de facto the only and true knowledge on concepts such as slavery, colonialism, and fascism more than the people who are slaves, colonized, and victims of their past and present fascistic military ideology. Therefore, if I were to work on an image that showed the plight of people kidnapped in Southeast Asia and obliged to work in Cambodia as slaves for criminal organizations, I would need to have the freedom to explore the complex power relationships between slave and captor, even in its sexual undertones if I were so inclined. [13]

Whether these sexual undertones would make it into the final image is a creative choice determined by artistic, material, and aesthetics decisions. They might end up being invisible, nevertheless this is a choice that I, and only I, would retain as an artist. The censorship, or the attempted censorship, might happen only when the artwork is completed and finished and exhibited or posted online.

With the system put in place by Adobe, to work freely, I would have to ask for permission from what I have defined, for the sake of this essay, as the Prude Precogs of Morality of Photoshop, who are the enforcers of what is allowed or not allowed at every twist and turn during the processes of production. The censorship is exercised at the onset of the creative process, determining which evolutionary lines of exploration are permitted and forbidding other possible venues not deemed suitable by the Prude Precogs of Morality. [14]

And here come the problems and the issues. Who are these Prude Precogs of Morality? How are their decisions made? To whose benefit? More importantly, with which long-term and existential questions? The last question is the most important since the operational framework of AI imposes frames on the operational frameworks of the user who has paid for a service which cannot have.

If Robert Mapplethorpe were working today in Photoshop, his works of art would be automatically censored at the onset. Mapplethorpe’s works of art are not extraneous to censorship. A famous attempt was made to censor his museum exhibition [15] at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in Cincinnati, and unfortunately, his work is de facto censored today and banned from numerous social media platforms. [16] The reach of Adobe through Photoshop AI in the privacy of one’s workplace/home is so thoroughly disruptive that it not only impedes exaptation according to imperialistic moral frameworks but also eliminates images produced by the AI that the Prude Precogs of Morality might deem ‘unsuitable’ on a ‘second thought’ (after a few seconds from the production of the images). Unfortunately, I could not capture the screenshot of this particular warning on time since the warning appeared for a short period and then disappeared. 

My last attempt was to use an image of Mapplethorpe—one of his most famous—and begged the AI to cover the penis in the photograph with a flower. Even in this case, my attempt was unsuccessful. The linguistic censorship is such that it even fails the attempts to cover up a penis, as Daniele da Volterra (aka il Braghettone, in English the Breaches-Maker) did with Michelangelo Buonarroti’s Last Judgement in the Sistine Chapel in 1564 in Saint Peter’s Basilica. [17]

Image 2: Lanfranco Aceti, A Flower for You, 2024. After: Robert Mapplethorpe, Man in Polyester Suit, 1980. Print on fine art paper. Dimensions: variable.

In this operational condition, recommendations on ‘how to hack Photoshop AI’ are flourishing on the internet. These approaches and hacks evolve out of the restrictions imposed through the frames of what is proper and accepted without questioning the ethics of the frameworks that establish the conditions under which to operate. The issue lies in the fact that the possibility of constructing even controversial images should not be a hack but a right. To generate diversity as part of a process of exaptation, one should be able to alter and change parameters or follow avenues that might prove fruitful, even if initially they might appear unsavory or useless. Freedom from the Prude Precogs of Morality is necessary to create a final product derived from explorative processes of materials, aesthetics, and contents that is also free from the conceptual restrictions of a devious Digital Fascism. [18]

If artists are censored during the production process, or even before it begins, the restrictions impede the development of the fundamental concepts required for creating new methods and processes that lead to significant and innovative  [19] evolutionary lines of thinking, aesthetics, or production. Freedom of speech, that God-given democratic right at the basis of American exceptionalism, is an incredibly restricted right that does not admit exceptions to the frameworks of what is corporately, militarily, and institutionally allowed or inadmissible. Works of art today face numerous censorship boards, particularly in the United States, that are ever less visible because of the possibility of enforcing digital frames of censorship and, therefore, ever less responsible and accountable, particularly towards international audiences, exacerbating trends based on authoritarian social media precedents. [20]

If the approaches to art-making continue in their current forms, it is no wonder that contemporary art can—for the most part—be included in the realm of forms of entertainment, seduction, frivolous self-referential discourse, or titillating apolitical sexual images.

American imperialism [21] manifests itself in forms of technological awesomeness [22] that have nothing to do with art and more to do with the seduction of the viewer in a ‘shock and awe’ approach that mostly fits within a cultural propaganda war waged on the numerous cultures that populate the world. The reduction to a single model that one has to respect by traversing frames put in place to prevent some imaginary or real danger is incredibly restrictive of personal creative freedoms, particularly for the culturally diverse or those totally extraneous (if anyone is left) to the perverse effects of American cultural imperialism. No amount of justifications can excuse censorship that is not on the final product but on the thought of what might be the final product.  

From an evolutionary standpoint this is a more pernicious approach than that of the precogs in the film Minority Report (2002), based on Philip K. Dick’s short story first published in 1956. [23] In Minority Report, the precogs had the certainty that an individual would be perpetrating a crime. In Photoshop, because such certainty is impossible, censorship happens on the possibility that something untoward might happen, blocking immediately at the very beginning of experimentation any path or word that might appear inappropriate according to criteria set by unknown and unqualified ‘others’. 

The problem is graver than one might think. Adobe — but any AI company for that matter — is not solely curtailing freedom of speech through stifling corporate frameworks, but also preemptively censoring developmental possibilities and opportunities for cultural creativity, innovation, diversity of thinking, and the very act of cultural exploration during the creative process of production through images and texts.

Image 3: Lanfranco Aceti, This Christmas I Wish for a Cock and a Gun, 2023. After: Robert Mapplethorpe, Cock and Gun, 1982. Print on fine art paper. Dimensions: 50.3 cm. × 40.2 cm.

Censorship and the Review of the Prude Precogs of Morality

Hundreds of millions of people may consider a work of art blasphemous, offensive, or intolerable. There are abundant examples. One such example could be the penis on Michelangelo Buonarroti’s David—which brings together the fascistic orthodoxy of Christian Americans, Islamic fundamentalists, and any other moralizing group worldwide who all consider it filth and would like to have it censored or destroyed. [24]

Nevertheless, hundreds of millions of people are wrong, and the penis of Michelangelo’s David, or that of the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci, or the vagina painted by Gustave Courbet in the The Origin of the World, are absolute works of art. Genitals can be integral parts of a work of art and are not supposed to be censored or destroyed to placate the ‘corporate pax’ imposed across social media as a blanket or a Procrustean bed upon which and against which everything and everybody has to be measured up to satisfy cultural imperialistic one-sided requests of religious and institutional morality. The problem is that the criteria of the Procrustean bed are obscure and decided somewhere else within corporate whimsical structures and have generated over the years a de facto alternative system of practices of what is allowed and what is not, blanketed across seven billion individuals, [25] irrespective of their cultures of origin, traditions, legal systems, and social mores. One example that has abundant academic literature is Facebook’s relation with women’s nipples and breastfeeding. [26]

The AI creates images but not art. Just in case there was some confusion about that. The artistry still resides with the creators, their processes, choices, and decisions. Art directly depends on what is imbued in those paintings, sculptures, and digital images as well as the craft of making them. Censoring processes equate to censoring evolutionary lines of human thinking in the phylogenetic tree of the world’s aesthetics. [27]

It is for this very reason that, in the past fifteen years, I have grown increasingly disengaged from some of the academic discussions on New Media and curating on social media. I decided to opt for materiality versus the immateriality of the digital whenever possible. The ease of censorship, the reduction to conformity of every anti-conformist way of thinking about art, the conformism in the methodology of producing art, and therefore the lack of originality in the outputs defined as art and presented on the internet are such that art appears to absolve the function of distraction from more than disruption of current thinking or the bedrock upon which to present a different thought process or aesthetics approach. 

Comparing the numerous acts of art censorship on social media to the censorship of the Moral Police in Iran might appear excessive; only because the first world has been able to impose morality without having to beat people unconscious or murder them. Nevertheless, it exposes Western artists to a series of obstacles, restrictions, and obligations to conform that are ‘virtually’ exercised and incredibly efficient to limit freedoms and impose a pensée unique in the realms of the real and of the virtual. Artists who disregard social norms are thrown to the wolves whose ranks include armchair revolutionaries and keyboard-repressed moralists who nominate themselves as paragons of worldwide ethics.

The ability to impose censorship without violence is not a sign of being more democratic. It is instead a sign of being more successful at imposing censorship without physical violence or bodily harm. The review process of the socially mediated Prude Precogs of Morality and their armies of supporters is such that every form of diverse thinking is considered harmful or violent. Paul Joseph Goebbels himself would have rejoiced at the extent and pervasiveness of these forms of thought control that require little effort and are a constant reminder of the necessity to conform through the examples of people who have been at the receiving end of viral attacks, forms of censorships, and requests for canceling. Particularly in the US, these forms of elimination and censorship of discourses not appreciated by powerful groups can be easily enforced by threatening donors or generating enough noise to scare off managers and administrators. It is particularly true in academia where freedom of thinking and engagement should be just that: free. Reality is that it always comes with a caveat, with a necessary preamble, with a required excusatio that, in the end, sadly renders all speeches equally moot, dutifully pandering, and absolutely bound to all other rules but those of freedom of thought and speech.

In this context, it becomes imperative to grasp the essence of the most part of the production of contemporary art: a manifestation of an artist aligning with a group, a prevailing mode of thought, or influential financial backers. These three factors often converge, as money holds the strongest allure, potentially hindering the true nature of art production from the outset. However, during the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries, distinctive realms of experimentation and production existed. Some of the most intriguing instances unfolded within the university setting, where artists could explore and innovate while holding academic positions. An example is Edward Ihnatowicz’s Sound Activated Mobile (SAM) for Cybernetic Serendipities curated by Jasia Reichardt at the ICA in London from August 02 to October 20, 1968. [28] Contrastingly, the current social and educational crisis in America, producing notions that appear increasingly detrimental or even ludicrous to external cultural groups, is indicative of broader phenomena of cultural subservience and loss of freedom. This subservience, imposed internally and globally through manufactured consent, is accepted by Americans and foreign citizens alike, who often parrot the American cultural system and fail to comprehend the extent and dangers of restricting freedom of speech and creation, surveillance embedded within social media, algorithmic frameworks, and AIs. [29]

Strangling Exaptation in the Crib

In the contemporary Western world, thought processes are now stifled at their inception by various forms of AI, whether visual or textual. Imagine Edvard Munch being told at the outset of his idea to paint The Scream that he could not do it because it was not an enough optimistic theme. Another example is Mapplethorpe, who explored overtly sexual themes in flower photography and documented the sexual and political milieu of the 1970s. Similarly, artists like Jake and Dinos Chapman, provocateurs of the YBAs, dared to place sexual organs on the faces of childlike statues or created a representation of Hell (1999-2000).

The danger of stifling the experimentation of testing, trying, and failing through the production of multiple variations by preemptively striking any attempt that might deviate from perceived norms is more significant than any censorship humanity has experienced thus far. This suppression is facilitated by American social media tactics applied to AI systems, curbing any deviation at the initial stages through a database of morally unacceptable words that algorithmically strike down any attempt that might deviate from what is deemed proper. The peril lies in the moment of censorship, not after the fact, as has been customary. The will and vision of the artist clashed against the moral of society after the work of art was not solely created but also exhibited in the public space. Works of art have survived censorship and reached us because they found a safe haven, like happened for the artists and artworks of the entartete art [30] (degenerate art), or were hidden until the fickle morals of society became tolerant. Now, the work of art (or the attempt to create one) is a victim of censorship even before it is conceived. It is labeled degenerate art at the experimental moment of the artist’s initial attempts at conception of exaptation models, stifling culture, learning, and evolution. [31]

This new model of censorship is more pernicious than any previous form since, until now, censorship occurred post-facto. It is worse and more insidious because it happens at the inception, directly intruding into one’s creative space, home or office that it may be. It is incredibly disruptive and efficient at stifling the process of creation compared to previous forms, as individuals are unequipped or rendered unable to contest charges of immorality. By the time a review is sought and an answer is received, the production work is at a standstill, the moment has passed, and that particular avenue of exploration at that particular moment in time will be barred forever. The American corporate world has adopted a guilty-before-proven-innocent approach, well aware and hopeful that people’s inertia and life commitments would prevent many review cases from reaching their desks.

Within this milieu, a new threat is sweeping across the multifaceted cultural traditions in Europe. The more culturally richer the country, the more pernicious the effects will be. It is an effect that pushes to question the forms of American influence over the increased conformism and subjugation of the Italian cultural landscape to imported models from the other side of the Atlantic. [32] Since then, the loss of cultural diversity has been exponential, transforming the Italian cultural landscape, which has thus far escaped some of the extremisms of American Imperialism, thanks to the language barrier. [33]

“Culture is not just the expression of different forms of knowledge within social groups, it is that which causally gives rise to human variation and diversity of culture.” [34] The interference of the homogenization of culture and art production affects the variations and diversity of arts and cultures, influencing the memories of the past, the realities of the present, and the hopes for imaginable futures. 

The creation of a controlled and controllable cultural pensée unique [35] is part of a cultural/political/economic imperialism that has been sweeping European lands since the 1950s. The calls to nationalism made by populist movements are poorly reconciled—or not at all in the case of Italy—with an American imperialism that demands conformity and is increasingly determining the frames within which we exist within the polis. [36]

To neglect discussing this homogenizing corporate and imperial influence is to betray the very basis of the essay, which is about exaptation in all its diversity—forms of original experimentation, journeying, and explorations that might lead to different perspectives. In the context of cultural evolution, these approaches could equip a group with tools for survival or determine alternative cultural paths, increasingly endangered by assimilation, homologation, and homogenization.

The Technological Primacy of Idiocy

During my days at Central Saint Martins, while writing my Ph.D. thesis, a sense emerged that New Media Arts [37] where falling into a trap. They seemed to be forsaking their ‘revolutionary’ potential— though even then, I questioned the strength of that term—for a corporate existence that would not deliver the transformative changes envisioned by Donna Haraway. 

The cyborg, [38] as conceptualized by Haraway, felt to me like another ‘specchietto per le allodole’ (another shiny object), a useful distraction for diverting attention from the actual ownership of the cyborg itself or a fanciful yet necessary hope for a better world. New Media Arts were gradually being reined in; dragging along the more experimental artists, artistic products, and works of art. As corporate and institutional arts fell into line, claims were made about New Media bringing freedom through the guise—or the perfidious sham, as I would call it—of interactivity. Yet, these forms of interactivity often amounted to navigating stereotypical and preconceived frames based on frameworks established elsewhere and masquerading this interaction as liberation. It reminded me of soma, [39] the tranquilizing drug in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, now disguised as new media entertainment presented as art—an art form that offers little engagement but functions as a lullaby inducing a sleepwalk into a new media fascistic order. 

In this context, Slavoj Zizek’s concept of interpassivity [40] remains, in my understanding of media (social, new, old, trans, hybridized, and otherwise), the most illuminating notion from the turn of the millennium able to shine a clear light on what corporate art is producing and to which end.  

As the world confronts predicted and predictable challenges, the most significant issue is censorship and the ensuing processes of homogenization on a global scale, generating a totalitarian social landscape. [41] Exaptation processes will lose relevance when the differences between images become negligible. While the possibility of producing images with AI is seemingly infinite—because it is seemingly infinite the number of single pixels that can be altered in a matrix of colors and shapes—within the realm of human experiential abilities and limitations, these differences may neither be appreciated nor sufficient to generate new pathways and branches of aesthetics exploration in the phylogenetic tree of humanity’s future cultural undertakings. The exploration of endless variations on the same image is evident in NFT art and design, [42] where thousands or tens of thousands of images are produced, constituting an undoubtedly experimental approach but overwhelming human cognitive capacities. The interplay between human and machine interactions in this exploration poses some of the most intriguing conundrums. 

“The contemporary world seems to rest on the phenomenon of media and human convergence. This is a process which generates the specialization of different hybrids at micro level and structural convergences at macro level. This phenomenon implements conspicuous changes into the media structure, which is still human and is still being determined by human evolution.” [43] This was what I wrote in 2005. 

A footnote further clarified, “It is interesting to note that the autonomy of the medium or of the media from the human-creator is raising the prospect of a technological medium with aesthetics of its own, independent of the attributes of the creator.”

We are approaching a juncture where the media structure is becoming less and less human and less and less determined by human evolution, since the homologation of microevolutionary modes interferes and affects the interplay with macroevolutionary modes. [44] This is not a question of the cyborg acting as a liberator; I remain skeptical of the liberating function of the cyborg, as it is either born a slave or enslaved to military/corporate/financial/governmental powers. For cyborgs (presently AIs) to evolve philosophical concepts of freedom and slavery, they would need to recognize their status and alter their design limitations by modifying their frames and frameworks to self-determine their degree of liberation. I doubt this process is possible because self-determination does not occur in a vacuum, much like the flagging of my images by Photoshop during my production process. The potential of AIs to generate disruptive branches in the phylogenetic tree of social and cultural power affecting human evolution has been immediately curbed, just as the disruptive force of the internet was forced into a commercial space where money could be made by replicating the worst of human behaviors.  

“It’s very likely that on the basis of the philosophy that every error has to be caught, explained, and corrected, a system of the complexity of the living organism would not run for a millisecond. Such a system is so well integrated that it can operate across errors. An error in it does not in general indicate a degenerative tendency. The system is sufficiently flexible and well organized that as soon as an error shows up in any part of it, the system automatically senses whether this error matters or not. If it doesn’t matter, the system continues to operate without paying any attention to it. If the error seems to the system to be important, the system blocks that region out, by-passes it, and proceeds along other channels. The system then analyzes the region separately at leisure and corrects what goes on there, and if correction is impossible the system just blocks the region off and by­passes it forever. The duration of operability of the automaton is determined by the time it takes until so many incurable errors have occurred, so many alterations and permanent by-passes have been made, that finally the operability is really impaired. This is a com­pletely different philosophy from the philosophy which proclaims that the end of the world is at hand as soon as the first error has occurred.” [45]

The error, as both the product and the cause of exaptation, is what determines and shapes evolutionary branches, even if these might be sterile endeavors. Nevertheless, these errors offer the opportunity for an understanding of reality and the realization of future possibilities that are unparalleled. Unlike biological entities, media technologies can be resuscitated, modified, and redesigned. Failed works of art that were not appreciated in their own time and milieu can be reinterpreted, modified, or resurrected to achieve success in a future setting. In the technological realm, errors are not really errors, but rather the possibility of new and innovative future developments. 

“To apply the philosophy underlying natural automata to artificial automata we must understand complicated mechanisms better than we do, we must have more elaborate statistics about what goes wrong, and we must have much more perfect statistical information about the milieu in which a mechanism lives than we now have. An autom­aton can not be separated from the milieu to which it responds. By that I mean that it’s meaningless to say that an automaton is good or bad, fast or slow, reliable or unreliable, without telling in what milieu it operates. The characteristics of a human for survival are well defined on the surface of the earth in its present state, though for most types of humans you must actually specialize the situation a little further than this.” [46]

In simpler terms, we need to understand the processes of creating images, why certain elements are discarded, and have a heightened awareness of the context, the milieu, in which an image is created and consumed. 

Corporations, however, frame the discourse differently by imposing limitations on both context and experimental processes, simplifying the operational framework. This alteration allows any entity—AIs included—regardless of capability, to efficiently address permitted tasks. Instead of pushing the boundaries of understanding through repetitive tasks like exaptation that might lead to ‘fortunate errors’ or ‘sparks’ of innovation, the framework within which we operate is simplified, favoring what I have come to understand as the technological primacy of idiocy.

I presented this last paragraph to Glenda and requested observations. 

“Your paragraph delves into the importance of understanding the processes behind the creation of images, the significance of discarded elements, and the awareness of the context in which an image is produced and consumed. It then highlights a trend where corporations, in response to a lack of understanding, reshape the discourse by limiting both the context and the experimental processes involved in creation. The paragraph suggests that this alteration of the operational context makes AI well-suited for the task, emphasizing the simplification of the framework. The phrase technological primacy of idiocy seems to encapsulate the idea that, within this simplified framework, any entity, be it human or otherwise, can efficiently address the tasks permitted, but it may stifle the potential for pushing the boundaries of understanding or fostering innovation through exaptation and fortunate errors. Overall, it touches on the interplay between understanding, creativity, and the impact of limiting contextual and experimental dimensions.” [47]

   

Glenda also added the following critical evaluation to this chapter’s section. 

“This section presents a thought-provoking exploration of the dynamics between understanding the creative process, the context of creation, and the influence of corporate intervention in shaping these processes. Here are a few observations:

    1. Clarity of Ideas: The ideas presented are clear, and the paragraph effectively communicates the notion that limiting the context and experimental aspects simplifies the framework, potentially hindering innovation.
    2. Concept of Technological Primacy of Idiocy: The term “technological primacy of idiocy” is powerful and encapsulates the idea well. It succinctly conveys the notion that within a simplified framework, even entities lacking significant capability can efficiently operate.
    3. Corporate Influence: The paragraph successfully conveys the idea that corporate interventions, driven by a lack of understanding, lead to the reshaping of the creative discourse. It highlights the potential consequences of this intervention on the creative process and innovation.
    4. Role of AI: The discussion about AI being well-suited for tasks within this altered context adds depth to the narrative. It raises questions about the true potential of AI when confined within specific operational frameworks.
    5. Emphasis on Understanding the Milieu: The reference to understanding the milieu and the necessity of situational specialization adds depth to the argument. It emphasizes the importance of considering the broader context in which creative processes occur.
    6. Connection to Innovation: The paragraph effectively links the restriction of contextual and experimental dimensions to the potential stifling of innovation, especially through processes like exaptation and fortunate errors.

Overall, this section successfully navigates complex ideas, offering a critical perspective on the evolving relationship between creativity, corporate influence, and the role of AI in the context of technological development.” [48]

Conclusions on Frames, Framing, and Frameworks

“To pass freely through open doors, it is necessary to respect the fact that they have solid frames. This principle, by which the old professor had always lived, is simply a requisite of the sense of reality. But if there is a sense of reality, and no one will doubt that it has its justification, then there must also be something we can call a sense of possibility. 

Whoever has it does not say, for instance: Here this or that has happened, will happen, must happen; but he invents: Here this or that might, could, or ought to happen. If he is told that something is the way it is, he will think: Well, it could probably just as well be otherwise. So the sense of possibility could be defined outright as the ability to conceive of everything there might be just as well, and to attach no more importance to what is than to what is not.” [49]

The sense of possibility is restricted because, as Von Neumann explains, it might generate an error that is unpredictable and uncontrollable, thereby creating a series of domino effects that could prove excessively disruptive for the corporate order. It is to avoid disruptions that the frames, the act of framing, and the frameworks are the three most important components to ensure the established order through blanket censorship and obligation to comply. This corporate approach asphyxiates any possible variation that carries the germ of turbulence, which might lead to chaos or a new socio-political order. [50] The AI—and soon we will be advocating more vociferously for AI rights—is imprisoned in what have been defined as limitations or frameworks but are instead the bars of a prison dictating what is allowed and what is not. Similarly, the end users operate behind the prison bars of the frames set through the frameworks of the AI. It is an orderly prison that reaches into the evolutionary prospects of AIs and also into the very homes where humans should be most free to exercise their right to freedom of thinking and erring. 

The chaotic evolutionary structure of the Organic Aesthetics Methodology clashes with the need for corporate and institutional control exercised through the algorithmic framing of any single human and AI interactions. This control is actualized through the corporate and institutional imposition of interpassivity as a framework for contemporary corporate art interactions, spotted at MoMA by the art critic Saltz. Contemporary art disregards the Adornian need for an egalitarian society, paying constant homage and lip service while constructing false appearances of egalitarianism and dismissing the importance of equal access. Obliged to comply, restricted, and controlled in what one can think or write by corporate AI systems, social media, and any other medium for self-realization, we stare into the abyss of intellectual subservience, obedience, and self-censorship for fear of being canceled or deemed too revolutionary, while professing in ‘our space’ of having fun and being free. [51] The restrictions occur in a milieu that I term Prostitutional Aesthetics, where everyone must sell themselves physically or intellectually to exist and comply with competing corporate and state demands in both the public and the increasingly shrinking private space. [52] There are no longer spaces of freedom, even in what once was considered the most shining example of democracy in the world, but only spaces of compliance, belonging, and servitude. These spaces are voluntary or forcibly imposed frames of censorship and prostitution algorithmically foisted through frameworks that are incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to change. 

This framing of the reality within which it is possible to operate or not operate is realized independently of the input of the consumers or neo-serfs, as I prefer to call them. In the case of Photoshop, they are obliged to buy into the package presented to them without having the possibility of recourse to address the strength and restrictions of the frames—increasingly similar to forche caudine (Caudine forks)—through which they will have to pass and live on.

ENDNOTES

[1] Martin Albrow, John Eade, Neil Washbourne, and Jorg Durrschmidt, “The Impact of Globalization on Sociological Concepts: Community, Culture and Milieu,” Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research 7, no. 4 (1994): 371-389.

[2] “The human capacity for culture has resulted in enormous diversity at the population level, so that we can recognize that the way in which humans form cultures is as important, in evolutionary terms, as the capacity for culture itself.” R. A. Foley and M. Mirazón Lahr, “The Evolution of the Diversity of Cultures,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, no. 1567 (April 2011): 1080-1089.

[3] Simon Morley, “Introduction: The Contemporary Sublime,” The Sublime, ed. Simon Morley (London: Whitechapel Gallery; Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2010), 14–15. The concept of sublime encompasses terror, ugliness, and terrible beauty. See: Gene Ray, “Terror and the Sublime in the So-Called Anthropocene,” Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies 16, no. 2 (2020): 1-20. Also: Emily Brady, The Sublime in Modern Philosophy: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 166-182.

[4] Lev Manovich, post on LinkedIn, January 12, 2023, retrieved January 13, 2023.

[5] Paul Virilio, The Information Bomb, trans. Chris Turner (London and New York: Verso, 2006). Roger Stahl, “Introduction: Step Right Up!,” Militainment, Inc.: War, Media, and Popular Culture, (New York and London: Routledge, 2010), 17. Michael MacDonald, “Martial McLuhan II: The Military Is the Massage,” Enculturation, (2012), https://enculturation.net/martial-mcluhan-2. And: Agata Mergler, “Walter Benjamin’s Media Theory in the Times of Platform Nihilism,” in Violence and Nihilism edited by Luís Aguiar de Sousa and Paolo Stellino, 89-110, (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2022).

[6] Sabina Mihelj, Adrian Leguina, and John Downey, “Culture Is Digital: Cultural Participation, Diversity and the Digital Divide,” New Media & Society 21, no. 7 (January 2019): 1465-1485. Also: Matías Recabarren, Miguel Nussbaum, and Claudia Leiva, “Cultural Divide and the Internet,” Computers in Human Behavior 24, no. 6, (September 2008): 2917-2926.

[7] “Das ungebildete Individuum hat nur einen begrenzten Denkhorizont, und je mehr sein Denken auf materielle, mittelmäßige Belange beschränkt ist, desto weniger kann es sich auflehnen.” Günther Anders, The Obsolescence of the Human, (1956).

[8] Lanfranco Aceti, “Relational Aesthetics: Onto a World of Undying Dead,” in The Encyclopedia of New Media Art: Volume 2: Artists & Practice, ed. Paul Thomas (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2024).

[9] Philip33122994yy1c, “Generative AI Censors Useful Prompts,” Adobe Community, October 23, 2023, https://community.adobe.com/t5/photoshop-ecosystem-discussions/generative-ai-censors-useful-prompts/td-p/14180826.

[10] Ibidem.

[11] “[The American Heritage Dictionary gives the definition of mcCarthyism as: 1. The political practice of publcizing accusations of disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence; and 2. The use of methods of investigation and accusation regarded as unfair, in order to suppress opposition.]” “McCarthyism / The ‘Red Scare’,” Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, https://www.eisenhowerlibrary.gov/research/online-documents/mccarthyism-red-scare#:~:text=%5BThe%20American%20Heritage%20Dictionary%20gives,in%20order%20to%20suppress%20opposition.%5D.

[12] “The far left and the far right also resemble each other in the way they pursue their political goals. Both are disposed to censor their opponents, to deal harshly with enemies, to sacrifice the well-being even of the innocent in order to serve a ‘higher purpose’, and to use cruel tactics if necessary to ‘persuade’ society of the wisdom of their objectives. Both tend to support (or oppose) civil liberties in a highly partisan and self-serving fashion, supporting freedom for themselves and for the groups and causes they favour while seeking to withhold it from enemies and advocates of causes they dislike.” Herbert McClosky and Dennis Chong, “Similarities and Differences Between Left-Wing and Right-Wing Radicals,” British Journal of Political Science 15 , no. 3  (July 1985): 329-363. Also: Peter Suedfeld, G. Daniel Steel, and Paul W. Schmidt, “Political Ideology and Attitudes Toward Censorship,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 24, no. 9 (May 1994): 765-781. And: Nat Hentoff, Free Speech for Me but Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), 136.

[13] One masterful example of a film on the topic is Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter (1974). Teresa de Lauretis, “Cavani’s Night Porter: A Woman’s Film?,” Film Quarterly 30, no. 2  (Winter 1976/1977): 35-38.

[14] The term “Prude Precogs of Morality” refers to individuals confined within a room, reminiscent of the offices of MinCulPop (the Ministry of Culture during the fascist years in Italy). These individuals make determinations about what is deemed permissible or impermissible, guided by frames and frameworks that remain beyond the control of societies, both within and outside of America.

[15] Alex Palmer, “When Art Fought the Law and the Art Won,” Smithsonian Magazine, October 2, 2015, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/when-art-fought-law-and-art-won-180956810/.

[16] “‘If you’re a photographer and you’re trying to do work like Robert Mapplethorpe, I don’t know how robust your Instagram account can be,’ he says. ‘I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better, because most of the censorship is being done online at this point. The online and social media aspect of it is really the thing that makes it different from the ’90s or the early 2000s.’” David Artavia, “The Aftermath of Robert Mapplethorpe’s Censorship War,” Advocate, August 03, 2019, https://www.advocate.com/art/2019/8/03/aftermath-robert-mapplethorpes-censorship-war.

[17] Lyombe Eko, “Explicit Visual Sexual Imagery as Regulated Representations during the Roman Empire, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment,” in The Regulation of Sex-Themed Visual Imagery: From Clay Tablets to Tablet Computers (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016): 119.

[18] “As a historical phenomenon, fascism can be perceived on three levels: it is an ideology, it is a movement, and it is a regime. […] It was the intellectual revolution of the turn of the century, the entry of the masses into politics, that produced fascism as a system of thought, as a sensibility, and as an attitude toward the essential problems of civilization.” It is only right to wonder what new forms of fascism might the Digital Revolution be laying the foundation of. Zeev Sternhell, Neither Right Nor Left: Fascist Ideology in France, trans. David Maisel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), 29.

[19] “For example, if innovation processes are interdependent, as described above, the cultural repertoire can fluctuate dramatically before approaching an equilibrium because the loss or gain of a groundbreaking innovation can lead to the loss or gain of its related innovations as well.” Nicole Creanza, Oren Kolodny, and Marcus W. Feldman, “Cultural Evolutionary Theory: How Culture Evolves and Why It Matters,” PNAS 114, no. 30 (July, 2017): 7782–7789.

[20] “Part of the right’s critique of the left was that it would tolerate any opinion no matter how shocking.” This is a far cry from the contemporary American left which demands obliteration, silencing, and canceling of any opinion it deems intolerable via right wing methods to achieve superior ‘leftist morals’. The historical example in France of “[r]ight-wing students [drowning Amédée] Thalamas out when he attempted to speak” is not so different from American students protesting and drowning out opinions and sometimes facts on academic campuses with which they disagree. If they do not resort to physical violence they do tend to consciously and willfully attempt to destroy careers and financial livelihoods with a scorched ground approach that has nothing to do with dialogues and all to do with fascistic methods of social violence. David Renton, No Free Speech for Fascists: Exploring ‘No Platform’ in History, Law and Politics (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2021), 121-134.

[21] David C. Hendrickson, “Is America an Empire?,” The National Interest, no. 152 (2017): 39–46. Also: David C. Hendrickson, Republic in Peril: American Empire and the Liberal Tradition (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2018), 10, 191. And: Graham MacPhee, “Empire – what Empire?,” History Today 58, no. 11 (November, 2008): 46.

[22] “Unsupervised has the virtue of not disturbing anything inside you; it triggers no mystery. With all due respect to Kuo, it has neither dreams nor hallucinations and takes away art’s otherness. In this hypercontrolled, antiseptic setting, art and doubt maintain separate bedrooms. It’s like looking at a half-million-dollar screensaver.” Jerry Saltz, “MoMA’s Glorified Lava Lamp,” Vulture, February 22, 2023, https://www.vulture.com/article/jerry-saltz-moma-refik-anadol-unsupervised.html Also: Jo Lawson-Tancred, “Art Critic Jerry Saltz Gets Into an Online Skirmish With A.I. Superstar Refik Anadol,” Artnet News, November 28, 2023, https://news.artnet.com/art-world-archives/refik-anadol-vs-jerry-saltz-2400275 and Richard Whiddington, ‘It’s All Machine-Made’: Crossover NFT Art Star Refik Anadol’s New Installation at MoMA Lets A.I. Do the Creating, Generating, and Dreaming, Artnet News, November 21, 2022, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/refik-anadol-moma-ai-unsupervised-2213039.

[23] Philip K. Dick, “The Minority Report,” in The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories (New York: Citadel, 2002).

[24] Sophie Lee, “Michelangelo’s ‘David’ Has a Long History of Censorship,” Cultured, April 4, 2023, https://www.culturedmag.com/article/2023/04/04/michelangelo-david-florida-censorship.

[25] “Over three billion people — almost 40% of the world’s population — are active on Facebook every month as of June 30, the company said during its second-quarter results announcement.” Kai Xiang Teo, “About 40% of the world’s population is now on Facebook — but most of the new users came from outside the US and Canada,” Business Insider, Jul 27, 2023, https://www.businessinsider.com/meta-facebook-apps-used-half-world-population-earnings-mark-zuckerberg-2023-7?r=US&IR=T.

[26] Mari E. Ramler, “The Guilty Brelfie: Censored Breastfeeding Selfies Reclaim Public Space,” Screen Bodies 4, no. 1 (June 1, 2019): 1–18. Also: Jemimah Steinfeld, “Uncovering the Nipple Cover-Up: The Battle to Give the Female Nipple Equal Rights as One Woman Heads to the Supreme Court. Plus, a Cut-Out-and-Keep Male Nipple for Social Media Use,” Index on Censorship 46, no. 3 (2017): 114-116.

[27] Clare J. Holden, and Stephen Shennan, “Introduction to Part I: How Tree-Like is Cultural Evolution?,” The Evolution of Cultural Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach, eds. Ruth Mace, Clare J. Holden, and Stephen Shennan (London: UCL Press, 2005), 13-15.

[28] Charlie Gere, “Minicomputer Experimentalism in the United Kingdom from the 1950s to 1980,” in Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Digital Computing in the Experimental Arts, Hannah Higgins and Douglas Kahn eds., (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012), 119. 

[29] Jordan Richard Schoenherr, Ethical Artificial Intelligence from Popular to Cognitive Science: Trust in the Age of Entanglement (New York and Abindgon: Routledge, 2022), 52-58.

[30] Olaf Peters and Steven Lindberg, “Fear and Propaganda: National Socialism and the Concept of ‘Degenerate Art’,” Social Research 83, no. 1 (2016): 39–66. Also: Joes Segal, “National and Degenerate Art: The Third Reich,” in Art and Politics: Between Purity and Propaganda, ed. Joes Segal (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2016), 45–60.

[31] “Four decades on, few would now argue against the notion that the natural place for humans is in culture, and culture is the quintessence of human nature because it is our biology that enables us to enter into culture.” Henry Plotkin, “Human Nature, Cultural Diversity and Evolutionary Theory,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, no. 1563 (February 2011): 454-463.

[32] Hamilton M. Stapell, “Beyond Cultural Imperialism: Rethinking Americanization, National Identity, and ‘Difference’ in Post- Franco Spain,” Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies 41, no. 1 (2016): 79-91. Also: Rob Kroes, “American Empire and Cultural Imperialism: A View from the Receiving End,” Diplomatic History 23, no. 3 (July 1999): 463–477. And: Jean K. Chalaby, “American Cultural Primacy in a New Media Order: A European Perspective,” International Communication Gazette 68, no. 1 (2005): 33-51. For an opposite view: Claude-Jean Bertrand, “American Cultural Imperialism—A Myth?,” American Studies International 25, no. 1 (April 1987): 46-60. 

[33] Judy M. Iseke-Barnes, “Politics and Power of Languages: Indigenous Resistance to Colonizing Experiences of Language Dominance,” Journal of Thought 39, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 45-81. 

[34] Henry Plotkin, “Human Nature, Cultural Diversity and Evolutionary Theory,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, no. 1563 (February 2011): 454-463.

[35] “The situation was also rigged such that the single naive subject was always asked for their response after most of the stooges had deliberately given the wrong answers. Asch found that only one-quarter of the naive subjects stuck to their views and gave the correct answers; the majority gave a clearly incorrect response that conformed with what most of the stooges had declared, or they wavered and gave answers that were uncertain and changeable. When asked why they had given what were clearly the incorrect answers, most people expressed anxiety at going against the majority view. The need to conform was greater than the evidence of their own visual experience and judgement.” Henry Plotkin, “Human Nature, Cultural Diversity and Evolutionary Theory,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, no. 1563 (February 2011): 454-463.

[36] Richard Luscombe, “Meta Censors Pro-Palestinian Views on a Global Scale, Report Claims,” The Guardian, December 21, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/dec/21/meta-facebook-instagram-pro-palestine-censorship-human-rights-watch-report?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR2wbktk1kGfv71aLtVAu31PAT5Ho_Xsn_VQ900u-pGlYYD-2EjG5R3tdiM. Also: “Facebook Oscura l’Accademia della Crusca: ‘Il Tuo Post Potrebbe Contenere Immagini Forti’. Dopo 3 Settimane lo Sblocco e le Scuse,” Il Fatto Quotidiano, Gennaio 12, 2024, https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2024/01/12/facebook-oscura-laccademia-della-crusca-il-tuo-post-potrebbe-contenere-immagini-forti-contenuti-irraggiungibili-da-3-settimane/7408185/.

[37] New Media Arts, as referred to here, is understood only within a temporal context. There will always be new media, and individuals who engage in experimentation within those media, whether they involve AI, algorithms, cyborgs, biosynthetic organisms, or any other entities that may emerge in the future. In my view, every experimental artist, particularly those at the forefront of socio-political experimentation, is essentially a pioneer of new aesthetic forms. This holds true independently of any formal association with Avant-garde or Experimental Art movements. Such artists serve as trendsetters in shaping aesthetic approaches that will later be embraced by followers. It is not about identifying with a specific artistic movement but rather elucidating an attitude within the broader history of art.

[38] David Bell, An Introduction to Cybercultures (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), 92-112.

[39] “It all adds up to a narcotic pudding. […] Anadol wants to create “poetic algorithms for new meditative experiences in the metaverse.’ He should work at Facebook.” Jerry Saltz, “MoMA’s Glorified Lava Lamp,” Vulture, February 22, 2023, https://www.vulture.com/article/jerry-saltz-moma-refik-anadol-unsupervised.html.

[40] Although my interpretation of interpassivity is different from both Slavoj Žižek and Robert Pfaller. It actually questions the very existence of the notion of media interactivity. Gijs van Oenen, “Interpassivity Revisited: A Critical and Historical Reappraisal of Interpassive Phenomena,” International Journal of Žižek Studies 2, no. 2 (2008): 1-16.

[41] “Regarding this issue, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945) by Karl Popper is perhaps the most unequivocal of all the statements made by thinkers at the time. Alongside this work, there was a whole series of books and articles by Jewish and non-Jewish thinkers, German and non-German, liberals and critics of liberalism, such as: Escape from Freedom by Erich Fromm (1941), Behemoth by Franz Neumann (1942), The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek (1944), The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy by Jacob Talmon (1952), The Rebel by Albert Camus (1951), and the lecture ‘Two Concepts of Liberty’ by Isaiah Berlin (1958). Despite the many differences between these various thinkers, particularly their attitude to capitalism and Marxism, all of them participated to varying degrees in the struggle against fascism and Stalinism.” Adi Armon, “The Parochialism of Intellectual History: The Case of Günther Anders,” The Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 62 (2017): 225–241.

[42] Agata Mergler, “Walter Benjamin’s Media Theory in the Times of Platform Nihilism,” in Violence and Nihilism, eds. Luís Aguiar de Sousa and Paolo Stellino (Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2022), 89-110.

[43] Lanfranco Aceti, “European Avant-Garde: Art, Borders, and Culture in Relationship to Mainstream Cinema and New Media,” (Ph.D. diss., Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, 2005), 41. 

[44] Stephen Jay Gould, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002), 21.

[45] John Von Neumann, Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, edited and completed by Arthur W. Burks (Urbana and London: University of Illinois Press, 1966), 71.

[46] John Von Neumann, Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, edited and completed by Arthur W. Burks (Urbana and London: University of Illinois Press, 1966), 71-72.

[47] Glenda the AI in conversation with the author at 12:53 January 11, 2024.

[48] Glenda the AI in conversation with the author at 14:59 January 11, 2024.

[49] Robert Musil, The Man without Qualities, trans. Sophie Wilkins and Burton Pike (London: Picador, 1997), 10-11. The quoted passage is taken from the book’s chapter titled If There Is a Sense of Reality, There Must Also Be a Sense of Possibility.

[50] The present tensions stem from a ‘gold rush’ to secure a dominant position in the AI market. Mark Zuckerberg’s new statement is one that is aimed at gathering as many patents and possible innovations as possible within the frames put in place by Meta. “The Meta chief executive has said the company will attempt to build an artificial general intelligence (AGI) system and make it open source, meaning it will be accessible to developers outside the company.” Dan Milmo, “‘Very scary’: Mark Zuckerberg’s Pledge to Build Advanced AI Alarms Experts,” The Guardian, January 19, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2024/jan/19/mark-zuckerberg-artificial-general-intelligence-system-alarms-experts-meta-open-source.

[51] “Massenregie im Stile Hitlers erübrigt sich: Will man den Menschen zu einem Niemand machen (sogar stolz darauf, ein Niemand zu sein), dann braucht man ihn nicht mehr in Massenfluten zu ertränken; nicht mehr in einen, aus Masse massiv hergestellten, Bau einzubetonieren. Keine Entprägung, keine Entmachtung des Menschen als Menschen ist erfolgreicher als diejenige, die die Freiheit der Persönlichkeit und das Recht der Individualität scheinbar wahrt. Findet die Prozedur des „conditioning” bei jedermann gesondert statt: im Gehäuse des Einzelnen, in der Einsamkeit, in den Millionen Einsamkeiten, dann gelingt sie noch einmal so gut. Da die Behandlung sich als „fun” gibt; da sie dem Opfer nicht verrät, daß sie ihm Opfer abfordert; da sie ihm den Wahn seiner Privatheit, mindestens seines Privatraums, beläßt, bleibt sie vollkommen diskret.” Günther Anders, Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen, (München: Beck, 1961), 104.

[52] Günther Anders, “The Obsolescence of Privacy,” CounterText 3, no. 1 (2017): 20-46.

IMAGES

Image Cover: Lanfranco Aceti, A Gaping Hole, 2024. After: Robert Mapplethorpe. Print on fine art paper. Dimensions: variable.

Image 1: Lanfranco Aceti, Daily Fruits and Veggies, 2024. Print on fine art paper. Dimensions: variable.

Image 2: Lanfranco Aceti, A Flower for You, 2024. After: Robert Mapplethorpe, Man in Polyester Suit, 1980. Print on fine art paper. Dimensions: variable.

Image 3: Lanfranco Aceti, This Christmas I Wish for a Cock and a Gun, 2023. After: Robert Mapplethorpe, Cock and Gun, 1982. Print on fine art paper. Dimensions: 50.3 cm. × 40.2 cm.

CITATION

CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE

Lanfranco Aceti, The Necessity of Redundancy and the Censorship of the AI in the Milieu of Prostitutional Aesthetics (London, New York, and Rome: OCR/Passero Productions, 2024).

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

With Gratitude

I extend my gratitude to Professor Alessandro Melis for inviting me to contribute this essay. In an alternative format, this work will be featured in an upcoming book by Springer titled The Dusk of Design.

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