Miguel Carvalhais – Artificial Aesthetics: Creative Practices in Computational Art and Design


U.Porto Edições, ISBN 978-9897460920, English, 307 pages, 2016, Portugal

Over the years, Miguel Carvalhais has developed a consistent practice producing music compositions, graphic design, live audiovisual performances and sound art installations. Furthermore, this practice is accompanied by academic work teaching and publishing. Artificial Aesthetics manifests all of the aforementioned works in a single, coherent articulation around the fulcrum of his research: the aesthetic qualities of programmable media. The autonomous quality of programmable media emerges as a key factor and the author goes through an attentive historical analysis of the processual systems for its creation, from the recombination of elements to various degrees of artificial intelligence. Here Carvalhais is developing an analytical model for the analysis of procedural systems. This is arguably a new methodology, but one with the concrete potential to become a standard. One of the most valuable aspects of this book is how every single chapter includes relevant content emerging across specific visual, audio and textual artworks. The “artificiality” of processes is constantly referred to when the author qualifies elements with or without acknowledgeable human qualities. As Carvalhais brilliantly defines it, we are still in the historical phase of “computational incunabula”, already with a substantial history behind us. This book can potentially become a classic, but it already looks like an essential reference for digital art and culture.