Workshop on: Art and Computer Science

European Center for Living Technology

Venice, Italy, October 15-16, 2019 , Aula Magna Silvio Trentin, Ca' Dolfin, Dorsoduro 3825/e.

Scientific Committee: Gianfranco Bilardi (University of Padova), Sergio Canazza (University of Padova), Alex Nicolau (University of California, Irvine), Marcello Pelillo (University of Venice).

Invited speakers: Antonio Camurri, Felipe Cuker & Héctor Rodríguez, Marc Leman, Luc Steels


Art, in its various forms, is one of the greatest products of human civilization and has held a central place in the life of many individuals as well as most societies. In spite of centuries of reflections, by artists, philosophers, and scientists, on art, a precise, universally accepted definition is not yet at the horizon. It may be argued that, as the notion of time for St. Augustine, art is one of those ineffable concepts that you know when you see them, but you cannot characterize when you are asked about them. However, this state of affairs is not necessarily definitive: some concepts, like those of algorithm and computation, of (quantity of) information, and of (mathematical) probability, have made a clear transition from the somewhat ineffable to the logically rigorous, in the twentieth century. Considerable progress has also been made toward the charatcerization of intelligence or, at least, of several forms of intelligent behaviour. A similar progress is perhaps also possible for the concept of art and for related concepts, such as creativity. It ought to be underscored that achieving a formal characterization of a concept does not simply lead to intellectual satisfaction, but can open vistas on new worlds. For example, the formal definitions of computation, information, and probability have been instrumental in enabling the development of the contemporary digital society. A deeper understanding of the concept of art has the potential to make art more accessible to a wider population, both in terms of fruition and in terms of creation, to enable the birth of new forms of art, as well as enrich non verbal human-computer interaction, which is often inspired by the artistic paradigm.

One might legitimately wonder about what, at the present stage, could make attempts to pinpoint the nature of art, and perhaps expand its scope, more successful than in the past. Help may indeed come from two fronts. One front is connected to the relentless progress in the realization of increasingly powerful computers, which are able to engage in an increasing number of activities once thought to be the exclusive province of humans and which operate according to rules perfectly known to the computer designers. Indeed, during the last half century, computer technology has been extensively utilized in the production of artworks, for example in computermusic, in video art, and in multimedia interactive installations. The other front is connected to the equally impressive progress recently achieved in the understanding, even if still only partial, of the human brain and nervous system, the very engine behind human art. This workshop aims at exploring fruitful interactions between art, computer science, and neuroscience. Speakers from the three areas will present their vision on the state of the art (no pun intended).

The following is a list of sample questions that naturally arise in the outlined context.

Can the developement of technological instruments be separated from their use in the production of individual artwork or are the two processes inherently intertwined?

Can creativity be recognized or simulated algorithmically?

What processes in the brain underlie aesthetic experience?

What is the common denominator behind different forms of art?

Medea, by Adriano Guarnieri, 2002