Artist Biography: Harold Cohen
Harold Cohen is a British digital artist, most renowned for his creation of the software program AARON during the 1970's. The AARON software program creates original artistic images. AARON initially drew simple abstractions, which increased in complexity as Cohen improved the software. During the 1980's and 1990's, AARON's improvements in software allowed for more representational works including plants, figures, and interior scenes. In more modern pieces, such as the work featured above, AARON has returned to abstraction, this time in color.
While Cohen does not manipulate AARON's drawings, he added color to some of AARON's early works and in some cases, blows up AARON's drawings to create large scale paintings and murals. Cohen hand-codes all of AARON's software, and will occasionally do so to "teach" AARON new artistic styles. While technically Cohen is the creative agent behind AARON's works, he does not directly produce the pieces, the software does.
These images raise the question: if AARON is not making art, what is it doing? While arguably AARON is simply following Cohen's codes, Cohen disagrees. In an article entitled, "The further exploits of AARON, Painter", Cohen argues that AARON's creations differ very little from "real" works of art, and describes AARON's developments in style as an "artist".
Some critics denounce AARON's works as hard and narrow, totally dependent on Cohen's codings for styles and variations of forms. I think such criticisms miss the point. In creating the AARON software, Cohen challenged the definition of art. Does a work have to be human-made or manipulated to be considered art? If so, how do we classify AARON's productions? Personally, I find AARON's works aesthetically pleasing, but their real value lies in their philosophical meaning. In playing with our personal and societal definitions of art, Cohen's conceptual artwork, AARON, succeeds admirably.