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Commentaries Readers’ comments offering substantial theoretical and practical contributions to issues that have beenraised in texts publishedin Leonardoare welcomed.The Editorsreservethe right to edit and shorten letters. Letters should be written in English and sent to the Main Editorial Offce. COMMENTS ON “PHOTOGRAPHIC AND ELECTRONICALLY GENERATEDIMAGES’ In his article (Leonardo 19, No. 4,305309 , 1986) Alexandre Vitkine presented his views concerning the role of graphic images, introduced the reader to his own images, and described in some detail the process he has developed to create them. Vitkine asserted that graphic images are made up of distinguishable essential and non-essential information and that they function to relay information to the viewer. He maintained that the presence of non-essential information in a work of graphicartdetractsfrom andcompromises the value of the work and that only when purged of the non-essential information can the graphic work be purely and intensely perceived by the viewer. Our response to Vitkine centers on the casualness with which he cites scientific findingsto validate hisarguments, aswell as on the questionable artistic significance of his images themselves.Specifically,the following questions came to mind upon reading the article: (1) On what basis and using what criteria can one distinguish between essential and non-essential information in a graphic image? (2) Can elaborative graphic information (decorative elements) be presumed a priori to be non-essential to the graphic image?(3) Does a graphic image from which nonessential information has been removed thereforepossessaestheticand/or creative value? (4) If (as Vitkine asserts) the primary role of the graphic image is to relayinformationtoa receiving/perceiving human public, to what degree is the artist responsible for making the information perceptually and conceptually engaging? :5) Does the mere novelty of a generative process (such as Vitkine’s electronic method) somehow ensure the creative and aesthetic value of the image? In our view these issues are basic to a consideration of computer-assistedorelectronically assisted art and design. Any discussion of what is or is not an essential part of a graphic work must entertain the notions of content and 0 1988 EAST significant form. The issueof content(i.e. underlying ideas or concepts) and its role in graphic communication is something Vitkine failed to address in his article. We find that what distinguishes his photographic works from his electronically generated works is not originality, as he suggests, but rather the content information embedded in the photographs..In the photographic works, some degree of communication has been ensured by the camera’s recording of an understandable and visually engaging event. But in the electronically generated images, no such referenceispresent. Theperceptual search is terminated in the viewer-not by hidher recognition of an event (as in the photographs), but rather by a sense of frustration caused by the lack of such recognition. Our assertion is that, if Vitkine’selectronically generated images are at all communicative, then they are communicative only on a formal level. Vitkine advances the notion of a direct relationship between the quickness and completeness with which an image can be apprehended by a viewer, and its aesthetic importance. Certainly, the logic behind such an aesthetic is evident in the field of applied visual communication. However, in fineart, the issueof easy and direct understanding of graphic images is not so critically important. What is critical, however, is that a visual artist have something interesting to communicate and do so effectively by graphic means. Of central concern, therefore, is not the quickness with which perceptual closure occurs within the viewer, but rather the prolongation of the viewer’s attention. Indeed, one might conclude that the longer an artwork functions to engage an audience, by whatever means, the greater its significance. Human beings have a natural tendency to seek visual complexity as well as its reduction [11. In experimental psychological work, such as that done by Hunt [2] and others, it has been shown that human beings as well as other primates seek stimulation that offersan “optimum amount of novelty, surprisingness, comPergamonJournals Ltd. Printed in Great Britain. 0024-094X/88 S3.00+0.00 LEONARDO,VOI. 21, NO.1, pp. 109-110, plexity,change, orvariety”. Although the threshold for such stimulation naturally tapers off when the...


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