Purists in respect to human uniqueness will say “no”: only humans can make art. This, however, is an outdated concept. It has been understood since at least the birth of abstraction that the main issue in art is neither its production nor the individual artistic sensibility by which it is guided. The main issue of art is art itself: its history, evolution, and innovative contributions. Anything can be considered art if validated by one of the several art world mechanisms including museums, galleries, specialized media, critics, curators, and/or collectors. Only in this way has the Duchampian ready-made and most of the art produced since been accepted and integrated into the formal art realm.
Whether a work of art is made directly by a human artist or is the product of any other type of process is nowadays of no relevance. Recent art history shows many examples of art works based on random procedures, fortuitous explorations, objets trouvés, and arbitrary constructions. Surrealism, for example, even tried to take human consciousness out of the loop. More decisive is whether or not a new art form expands the field of art. Since the advent of modernism, innovation has become a more important criterion in evaluating artistic projects than personal ability.
Art made by robots also raises other kinds of issues. For the moment, robots and their algorithms remain human creations. In this sense, it can be said that their artistic production originates in the will and skill of the human artist. But since robots like those I use are able to generate novelty, it must also be recognized that they have at least some degree of creativity. Essential information in creating their composition, such as the detection of colour and small shapes, is gathered directly by the robots. Moreover, the emergent process implies that the resulting art works cannot be predetermined even by the person who initiates the process. Hence, the painting as a composition is the product of machines without decisive human intervention.
The algorithm and the basic rules introduced thereby via the robot microchip are not so very different, furthermore, from education. No one will claim that a given novel is the product of the author’s school teacher. To the extent that the author, human or machine, incorporates new information, the art work becomes not only unique but also the result of the author’s own creativity. In short, I teach the robots how to paint, but afterward, it is not my doing.
If we accept that intelligent machines can already perform many human tasks, why not accept that they can make art? Will I myself keep making paintings if robots can do it so well? Is this a menace to human creativity? No. We have plenty of other things to do.