If Robots could paint

Aren’t they a little pale-I mean that is meant to be a Gauguin isn’t it, his Tahitian period?’

‘It is- well spotted.’

She doesn’t even try and hide her enthusiasm. I am trying to hide my disdain.

She goes on, ‘You see Ma,’

I hate that word and I don’t want to see but still she goes on. I think I would like my eyes gauged out but I try not to show it.

‘How this works is-they kind of look at the internet and do a sort of ‘sample’ and then they modernise the picture, and the internet is slightly-well some would say very-but anyway-its pale. Pale. Pale. Pale, so they’ve modernised Gauguin.’

At this point I can only nod. I only just managed to overlook the slimming down of the Renoir -I think it was meant to be The Large Bathers. But they were slimmed down into some kind of gym body, complete with Red bull can and bright towels.

The woman beside me, my daughter, had a no expenses spared education and I confess I am totally frustrated that this is how she spends her time-bastardising perfectly fine art.

The idea is that, with AI, robots can now make art. And what’s more they can improve some of the botch jobs our previous ‘masters’ have created. This ‘art’ show is her first. She is immensely proud. I am embarrassed. Its mostly art from about 1850 onwards, apparently everybody in pictures before then was so fat she can’t bear to look at it and neither can anyone else-apparently the whole internet no longer has any pre 1850 art. This seems improbable at first but then knowing my daughters generation-still possible. Apparently the other issue with a lot of pre 1850 art is-and here I include women and men -crime of the century-some of them are unshaved. The internet has apparently shaved all post 1850 pictures-what a relief. I can barely contain my excitement.

Tonight is opening night but I am here early as –well-she doesn’t want my disappointment to ruin the evening. This is a child I dragged to every art gallery I could find. A child who still after all that wanted to be an engineer. A child who now claims to have combined her two great loves, coding and art.

On my way in there is a replica of the statue of David-you know the one- the naked one –only the one created by the robot-lets just say its larger in some ways. Apparently the robot involved surveyed a lot of pictures on the internet and deduced an average size based on that-only that is unlikely to give you an average size. I didn’t know what to say. It was bigger than I even thought anatomically possible but what do I know. I don’t do virtual sex, just the real thing much to her horror.

She can’t wait to show me the Van Gogh-one of his self portraits. I am gobsmacked when I see it.

‘It’s a watercolour.’ is all I manage to stammer out. Van Gogh did do water colours, I know but not quite like the one I am looking at.

‘Yes’ she says.  ‘Van Gogh is so emotive, all those weird brush strokes, going every which way. It’s all a bit scruffy. He lacked focus.’

There’s the ‘f’ word again-focus, how many times has she told me I lack focus.

She goes on, ‘ I mean Van Gogh, he had an energy but he didn’t focus it properly. In watercolour Van Gogh is more soothing, more serene. This picture now has a yogic calm to it. You could do pilates with this on the wall and isn’t that part of the point of art. To add to your inner life, so you really feel that protein shake.’

I want to shove a protein shake down her neck. She is truly nauseating and she’s mine.

I am standing there thinking, seriously, how much money did I waste educating her. She thinks Van Gogh needs calming so it can have a yogic influence. So we can all do pilates in front of it. I want to shove some sunflowers up her nose at the thought of it.

We move on to the Seurat-where again I am lost for words. She looks at me. I can tell she knows I am not getting it.

I manage to say only one sentence, ‘You’ve joined the dots?’

She smiles, like an idiot I think. My daughter is an idiot.

‘Yes the robot joined the dots. Its logical when you see it isn’t it-I mean you would join the dots wouldn’t you.’

Would you? I want to scream, no-you have missed the point.

We move on swiftly, past a rendition of Munch’s ‘The Scream’, which is redone in pastels and called the Smile. I won’t describe it. Past Hokiusai’s The Wave, described more fittingly now as ‘The Ebbing Shore’

This is the first art show of its kind. This is the future I am told.

In the corner I see a a tin of Campbell soup. Even Warhol isn’t safe. She is still talking, babbling. I am blotting her out as I walk towards them, trying to show interest instead of horror.

‘We used a 3d printer.’ she says

Next to them is a well made and tidy bed that screams healthy living.

‘Tracey Emin,’ I say.

‘Yes’ she says, but healthier than that-I mean all those cigarettes and empty bottles-no one lives like that anymore.

‘I do’, I want to scream. But I don’t actually smoke or drink much but if I did I’d make sure I left a right mess behind. Because I don’t do those things she probably doesn’t which might be the only thing I got right. Although somehow when I look around at this ‘art’ show I feel a deep sense of responsibility. Perhaps a bit of hard living on my part would have seen this never happen. I sigh. And realise it was too loud. I cover my mouth and yawn and comment on how late its getting. I can’t wait to leave.

There’s  the Giacometti sculpture which is stick thin-even thinner than they actually often are-because on the internet everyone is thinner than they actually are-even I am.

There’s a rendition of Dali’s Persistence of Memory where the clocks are all perfectly formed and fixed and there is a dolphin in the water in the background like a picture you’d find in a shop that sold scented candles and mood music.

She is still talking, walking me through how logic and order has improved human art beyond measure.

I don’ even know what to say. I yawn again and feign interest. She tells me next they are going to tackle literature. Maybe Dickens first-one of the shorter ones- perhaps A Tale of Two Cities, modernising it, making it suitable for a wider audience, maybe making it about two rival digital start-ups. I don’t think she has read it.

‘Plus’ she says, ‘Shakespeare-wouldn’t Hamlet work just as well if it was set in a gym, imagine the whole Ophelia thing in a spa or an indoor pool. Or perhaps Macbeth but based around a coffee shop franchise instead of a kingdom. These concepts, Ma, they are so old.’

I hate that word, ‘Ma’ but I nod. I smile. I think, I am so old. Thank goodness I saw the world before this. I am so old and so glad of it.

Her guests are starting to arrive and I know it is time for me to leave. I tell her I am proud of her but I think she knows I am not. There isn’t much I can do.

The point of art is not logic and order, but to remind us that there is life beyond those two things. I want to yell this out to the whole room. It is not meant merely to hang in your pilates class and decorate your coffee shop.

I wrap my coat around me and step out onto the street. She offers to ‘app me a ride’ home but I’d rather walk.

‘Its dangerous’ she says.

I laugh. Ah yes danger, are we the last to remember it and not to run from it. I wander home.


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