I found it interesting how he separates drawing, computing, and digital images. The concept of the drawing being additive and uneditable makes sense, but that a computer image is not only additive and uneditable is an implied but not always easily seen difference. It is not easily seen because we cannot make another iteration of a drawing as fast as we can make another iteration of a digital image. Sure, the plotter can make repeated drawings, but they are not actually all the same and they take time. You now have to take care into each edit or iteration, or allow for the mishaps and mistakes and unintentional parts to drive the work.
The chapter talks a lot from an architecture perspective. An example in that field is that people don’t sketch on paper as much anymore. But the definition of sketching and drafting as drawing has been blurred. This blur exists with plotting graphics tools as well: we can visualize a plot on a screen, and we can do our best to make that visualization accurate, but there must be an understanding of how the physical medium works as well to make it worthwhile. Otherwise, plots will look like they were just printed.
I agree with the author that computers cannot draw. When drawing with a stylus, the holder of the stylus is presumed as the intelligent creator. Unless the computer has a say in what is on the page, then they are not drawing. I would only consider a drawing produced by an algorithm which learns without observation as the drawer. The author makes an interesting point on replication and how that affects perception. If a machine can draw, then where does the drawing lie on the spectrum of uniqueness? Do we classify it as something completely special to that computer or do we see it as something replicable because it was made by a computer? Even for an AI drawing machine, cloning the algorithm on a different computer should produce the same results. So how unique is the uniqueness?
Something that struck me in the Lostritto reading was that there were several factors that differentiated and constrained the definition of a drawing and that there were many that I didn’t completely agree with. For one, I considered the undo button as the digital perfection of the eraser on traditional pieces, but here he refers to them as completely different functions. The “A computer cannot draw” section also states that a drawing must be intended by the creator’s mind to be a drawing in order for it to be a drawing. More generally, this list leads me to believe that there can be art pieces that exist on separate incremental levels; for example, if a piece cannot be edited, was drawn with the intent of it being a drawing, and final, would that be closer to the sphere of drawing than one that also could not be edited, but was drawn without the intent of being a drawing, and final? Or, is everything that does not satisfy all the requirements on the same plane?
I immediately found interesting that the introduction of the chapter alluded to drawing and computation as being subcultures of architecture. The architectural practice has been dealing with the concerns of tradition versus technological interventions for quite some time now. The question of authorship has been an active motif with this narrative. However, as described in the chapter, drawing is a human exercise. Computation can only augment human intention. In many ways, in architecture, computation has helped to make sense of drawings. Whereas, sketching, design, and simulation could be done within the same act of drawing. Additionally, I believe that western architecture is consumed by hyper rationality. Understanding the marks or forms of a drawing through computation, gives the architect a data driven sense of rationality of his/her design decisions.
I find it really interesting that Lostritto focuses so much energy at the start to addressing the contentious notion of trying to define drawing. While drawing has technical elements that are often colloquially associated with said medium (medium in the broadest sense here), the fact that drawing itself is so deeply embedded in a wide variety of cultural setting makes it almost unfruitful to try to produce a singular encompassing definition. The whole of drawing is a rhizomatic landscape with such incredible variety that someone with familiarity with one subculture may not even be able to recognize a practice that the practitioners themselves consider drawing.
The tension in trying to define nebulous practices or other less technical concepts is a bit thought provoking if potentially dangerous as it plays readily into cultural elitism and in more extreme cases forms of cultural poisons like white supremacy. By attempting to specify what counts as art, you necessarily exclude examples that don’t suit your definition. Instead of opening up and considering new ideas for the sake of more meaningful at production, it seems the objective becomes adhering to and upholding this restrictive and segregative definition, to the detriment of culture as a whole.
Something that struck me from the reading is the claim that a drawing cannot be edited. I thought that viewing any interaction with the physical media as additive is a very unique lens. The example given, about the erasing of a pencil mark, expresses this notion cleanly. I also thought the idea that a drawing needs to be perceived was interesting as well. A computer aided program, with initial conditions given by a human is then definitionally a drawing. It does beg the question: if a human designs a machine to design a machine to draw something, is it still a drawing? In other words, to what extent can the human be removed from the process for the output to still be considered a drawing? The idea of an anti-definition seems to hint that the answer is not binary.
The A computer cannot draw section is pretty interesting to me, because it offers a very confident ontology of drawings. The distinction that an image can be composed of parts, whereas a drawing necessitates comprehension by a viewer (and is thus never complete) is something I hadn’t thought to apply to drawings before. There are many edge cases that muddle this distinction, and I’m sure that this quality could be intentionally defied by making “drawings” that are merely a means of computer to computer communication, but nonetheless we would hope to call real drawings. Ultimately I’m not as confident in this non-property as Lostritto. However, it is funny how the noun drawing has an ‘ing’ in it; maybe a drawing has always implicitly been a process, not an object.
Lostritto tackles the question of “what is drawing?” in an interesting way. Defining the concept of drawing by its negative is fascinating, but in many ways also reflects the influence of architecture on the writing. Whereas artists tend to focus more on evaluating if a work is good art rather than the binary understanding of “art” or “not art,” the dialogue of what built structures get to call themselves architecture continues to this day. Nikolaus Pevsner famously said
A bicycle shed is a building; Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture.
Lostritto even hits upon this issue, stating
without limits, it’s easy to see how almost anything can be a drawing.
Maybe almost anything can be a drawing.
Like many of my classmates, I was particularly drawn to the claim that “When one marks on paper, for example, one can erase those marks, but that is actually another kind of marking that involves the interaction of material.” Lostritto makes the argument that physical drawings store a visual record of their entire history, as opposed to “drawing” in digital software, where lines and forms might be done and undone discreetly. Though I don’t entirely subscribe to the stark division between human-produced and computer-produced artwork, I like the questions which arise from viewing traditional work as a “drawing” and computed work as a “model”. What’s the difference between a model and its realization? For some media, like pen and paper, the distinction is slim. But for watercolor or acrylic, the analog-space randomness of the physical work manifests the model in novel ways, their physical properties producing inspiring aesthetics.
I thought the way Lostritto defined drawing with anti-definitions was a unique and accurate way of describing the definition of drawing. For one thing, I liked how he made it clear that digital drawings should not be considered drawings, even if they are forms derived from digital paper and pen. The idea of perfecting “undoing” a drawn mark is not possible with physical drawing, which separates the physical practice from digital drawing. I also think the way he states how “computing technology can augment, but not replace, drawing technology” is another great point that distinguishes the characteristics of drawing, where the act of drawing will forever be a human task, even if machines can assist and do the work for us. I think the idea that drawing is done by humans will stick with me for the rest of the course, where I hope my drawings will keep the human characteristic and read as something created by myself, rather than one created by a machine.