Published  14/08/2017
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Harold Cohen: ‘I was probably the only person who considered the computer to be potentially an autonomous art-making entity’

Harold Cohen: ‘I was probably the only person who considered the computer to be potentially an autonomous art-making entity’

Pioneer of computer art Harold Cohen died last year at the age of 87. In 2015, in one of the last interviews of his life, he talked to Studio International about his long career

Harold Cohen was born in London in 1928, but moved to the US in 1968 and died there in April last year. In this conversation, one of his last filmed interviews, made in May 2015 in his home studio in Encinitas, California, he recounted his career since its beginning in London.

In the late 1960s, he already had an established career as a painter. In 1965, the Whitechapel Gallery held a retrospective of his oeuvre, and in 1966 he was invited to represent the UK at the Venice Biennale, which further consolidated his position in the art world. Two years later, however, when participating in an academic project in the United States, he was introduced to the language of computer programming and the theory of artificial intelligence, which led to a radical change in his life and art.

Thereafter, Cohen turned his attention to the use of computer programming to create art. His biggest ambition was to try to reproduce human cognition in a machine and discover what the outcome would be. He was the first artist to experiment with artificial intelligence to relate its theories to art practice. The understanding of computational language as something also belonging to the artistic universe occurred through the efforts of pioneers such as him.

Interview by CAROLINE MENEZES and FABRIZIO POLTRONIERI
Filmed by JONATTAS POLTRONIERI

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