And the Sibyl with raving mouth, agelast, unadorned and unperfumed, phthonging, a thousand years traverses with her voice, through god (Heraclitus 92) .
Who is an agelast? The one who never laughs . Democritus has been mentioned as a hypergelast philosopher who theorized nature’s mechanization. Evidently, humour may be examined as a swerve of order, an unpredictable signal of information  in the process of human evolution. Mechanistic is a lemma by definition relating to theories which explain phenomena in purely physical or deterministic terms , already under dispute since the Epicurean clinamen, an idea that atoms swerve during unpredictable pathways in the void.
The idea of artificial machinery behind the “scene of artistry” is almost archaic , Homeric; in an uncommon Iliadic verse , Hephaestus seems to be accompanied by golden mechanical (?) women resembling real girls supporting him. They had also “learned” women’s arts from the gods (ἔργα ἴσασιν), exemplifying a paradigm of intelligence as a mechanism that can educate machines through a code. The form of the statue in its idealised form does not simply emerge from volumetrics, but is called upon to include higher biological functions; it is a potential automaton. If in ancient Greek art, (inorganic) sculpture is at such a level that only voice is lacking, it is completed with the next step, its rationalisation. In mythical times, the sculptor Daedalus constructs Hermes giving him a voice, logos.
For the mythical sculptor Daedalus’ speaking sculptures, even if the statue seems standing isolated in its silence, in complete immobility, it is phthonging, information that gives it life. The blundering, sluggish and stupid machine is mostly a stylisation of the 20th century. In the light of our times, the paradox of mechanical stupidity still lies at the informational core of this interlinkage, humour and machines. We are moving towards an iconography of mechanistic discourse where the machines will invent the artwork from the beginning.
Thinking on the physiognomy of humour and laughter, the philosopher and sceptic Cicero differentiate the genres of a joker’s armoury: There are two sorts of jokes, one of which is excited by things, the other by words  …Another kind of jest taken from things is that which is derived from a depraved sort of imitation, or mimicry…
The words mimicry and mimesis (μῑμησις) etymologically derive from memory; to imitate something presupposes memorisation of its basic structures. Initially, it presumes a representation through art- the making of resemblances. We may assume that every representation has its own concurrencies and failures, so mimesis is in a sense demoted to a parody, a farce (μῑμεία= farce ).
The signatory has been particularly concerned with the introduction of information under its natural meaning in the mimetic process of animals  and the possibility that, while performing mimetic practices, they obtain awareness of the humour produced. How do caterpillars look comical while mimicking snakeheads; is it possible not to have an awareness of their trick? Do mimicry butterflies have consciousness of their pattern perplexity? How do they know about “external” eyes scanning their scene? Masquerade camouflage, if a conscious act, presupposes a deeper understanding of natural patterns and consciousness is an underlying principle that might be unveiled . Any occurrence of mockery presides over an audience, so mimetic animals know their impact on predators. Mimetic animals imitate not only morphological but physiological and behavioural traits as well.
Humour exerted by AI painting machines are gradually becoming empathetic (not yet conscious?) of comic information they attribute to audiences. In the symptomatology of artworks produced by machines, online AI text-to-image apps provide sliding menus for the diminution or exaggeration of a mimic property as laughter, eye-opening levels, etc. In any case, it is information stored from other historical art images or photographic paradigms, processed to formalise a new iconopoiia. The case of using AI for a handcrafted painting is one of a more sophisticated character, since the artist withdraws from certain juxtapositions that the machine originally ignores, ultimately making the process more malleable. If humour has been esteemed as an explicitly human product, contemporary AI machines produce complicated humouristic paradigms for mortals to experience.
Is the Heracliteian Sibyl a machine? In a sense, it acts like a code paraphraser, an AI mediator…The paradox between mechanistic and humorous  lies in the figure of Agelast, a bladerunner-deadpan , a balancer who produces laughter as a visual mechanism while suffering from laughter.
An ambivalent character, the Agelast, a joker-like-machinic mannequin, might be hypothesised that can produce visual jokes while not laughing  (yet). Yet means the subject preserves a memory. For now, there is a fearsome image of a human who never laughs. (Image 1 presents a synthesised portrait with the online software artbreeder).
On the side of the audience, Plato attacks laughter for the lack of rational self-control, as if the unrestrained human behaviours lack humaneness . Even more, artists should be restricted: No composer of comedy, iambic or lyric verse shall be permitted to hold any citizen up to laughter, by word or gesture, with passion or otherwise ” (Laws, 7: 816e; 11: 935e). Rabelais’s translation of the ancient Greek agelastos corresponds to something quite different from the Heraclitean use of the word; Mikhail Bakhtin  sees Rabelais’s characters as opposed to seriousness and authority: …the plotters and slanderers, the executioners and agelasts, and the cannibals, who barked instead of laughing…
For now, the Agelast himself remains perplexed.
One encounters a particular difficulty in the unusual hues that could delineate, even in part, the complexity of such a character in painting; the humour of a text is not similar to the humour of an image. Recent online AI programs receive innumerable humoristic text-to-image prompts shared on social media, having as a mainstream trend the demand for totally unpredictable images. For the text “two apes in the jungle, reading books” made with craiyon software, the apes are appearing comical while no word indicated any similar reference (image. 2). There is no word associated with comic, still, the image can be comical to humans. When will machines realise humour?
Mimesis in machines 
In his Rome lecture , Pirandello positions himself on the mechanism of humour, considering each image as a machine that is disassembled in the process of humour through observation; it’s intriguing that he uses rational thought as a tool: All the soul’s fictions and the creations of feeling are subjects for humour; we will see reflection (riflessione) becoming a little devil which disassembles the machine of each image, of each fantasy created by feeling; it will take it apart to see how it is made; it will unwind its spring, and the whole machine will break convulsively.
As described in our Machinic versus Mechanistic Humor , the Bergsonian analysis on humour by Simon Critchley  emphasises on the mechanical entrusted into the living, that is living systems giving the impression of a thing. By combining these two notions, what appears comic is somehow thingly or machine-like, reasons onto the physical as a contrast to machinic. Automata might hold comic attributes during Bergsonian times- in the era of artificial intelligence, this is not always the case. Contemporary ‘comic’ is the disassembled plus remodelled organon or corpus of the humorised subject. That is because nowadays, reality is not the representation of reality or a notion of reality through a lens, but the recomputation of a reality in a parametric cosmos, a simulation. A simulation is an approximate imitation of the operation, process, or system. The act of simulating first requires a model is developed.
Mechanic refers to an operation as a whole, while mechanistic to the involuntary operations of the body parts. Humour appears “mechanistic” in the process, not necessarily in resemblance to a machine (thus called machinistic). The method for the mechanisation of the comic process produces, by artistic means, an abjection. A grotesque body can “act” more than the normalised one, opens up a potential world of possibilities to the uttermost.
Synthesised political Iconopoeia / The parameterization of painting
Under Jan van Eyck, post-Byzantine painting tradition in northern Europe provided (as a distinctive, additional element to the egg-tempera technique), the gradual layering of pigments through a specialised medium  with the supremacy of transparency. Ideal for expressing the idiosyncratic, meticulous micro-conceptions of noesis, it has been under a series of experimentations until the knowledge of oil colours utterly eliminated the use of water as solvent and egg as a medium. The painter’s visual perception claimed the ability to distinguish the acquired overlapping layers of reality in order to simultaneously capture them in a unified painting. This procedure entraps the artist in an entangled state, between the medium and visual perception, as in an amphoteric simulation procedure.
As in our recent research , it might be argued that humour in the arts can be reevaluated in its connection to information. Upon the introduction of paintings’ parameterisation issue, we automatically indicate the requirement to analyse the image-to-information relationship. As seen in bio-mimetics, in its distribution among the members of a group, information can be divided into either shared or hidden. Each member of the group operates on parts of the wider information spread, in the sense that we can create point-sets, overlapping or non-overlapping areas of information potential. Certain points and only of those individual sets are allowed to interact with other points. Humour arises when these points are suitable in pretending to constitute a reflection of other signs, common to and understood by the group .
Humour’s initial prerequisite is some form of repetition, a homotypic trait that is reversed, altered, dissimulated, or mimicked. Any mirroring operation is an artistic act per se. Falsely, one may expect that an obvious sign of whether an image was made by humans or machines is its humorous content. Humour, as a human evolutionary strategy  concerning signals, is rather impossible to be attributed to a single biological or social interaction factor. These intricacies prompt researchers to indicate critical differentiations between laughter, smiling, comedy, and humorousness. Several types of humour concern non-conscious motor programs, a promise that machines may have or acquire similar operations of unpredictability.
Uncomical humorous portraits , as this series of oil paintings are entitled, initiated from a voluntary impulse, an irrational method of assembling rational data. For example, as an initiator of a painting, a noetic schema might be the assumption: To construct a laughing philosopher’s portrait, we must (de)mechanise the parts of his body. Mechanistic implies the possibility of parameterisation. A holistic parametrisation of painting or sculpture might seem impossible. How precisely is art formalised and to what degree can it be parametrised? With some kind of Automated Art Strategy Software. For the contemporary construction of amalgamated political portraits in painting, the assembly process has always been extremely complicated, especially when using a strictly medieval multi-layered technique. How exactly is painting standardised and to what extent can it be customised? Questioning how can we find something unique in painting or what is humorously unsurpassed, we might ask: in which era of art history, the resemblance of a face to meat, bacon or a potato still retains its humoristic leverage? The process refers to portraiture under a series of efforts on an AI art parameterisation and the inception of an entirely autonomous “Automated Art Strategy Software”. AI CIRCE  is a robotic mentor and virtual female persona, an artificial intelligence philosophical assistant in painting, a remodeler of ideas and forms. The name AI CIRCE refers to the transformative powers of the enchantress Circe. In a dialogue with the machine, the signatory paints political and post-mythical portraits with the use of artificial intelligence in the selection, stratification, and distortion of images…The proposed system by CODING TEAM , Female Art Mentor (FAM), is a three-layer software tool specially designed and developed for an artist to select from ideas, formulate and visualize a concept of personality portrayal. FAM produces a series of images; during the discussion with the artist, the images are transformed into the final version. The synthesised images are based on a recognisable political portrait, combining elements from the life of the person depicted, taking into account information collected from the internet. It may also smile…
The smile of the Agelast
Smiling, if evolved from defensiveness and fear, traversed a wide region to be established as an expressive signal of play and friendliness . It still retains that dualistic, evolutionarily conflicting nature. How is it decoded to construct an image? In painting, a collection of irrelative objects models another form of a human’s head. It constitutes a parallel image, one of the innumerable alternative visual configurations that may visualise the image memorised by humans. But why does this become humorous? One laughs thereupon the identification of Xi Jinping’s portait, it is perceived as a new form. Artificial intelligence can mimic this ability to reassemble a semblance, a pretence of the original image through a process of structured randomness. A primary distinction, a criterion between human-produced and machine-produced painting, would be the question of whether machines can produce works of primordial humour.
Who smiles? The depicted person or the painting itself? No one. The paradox between mechanical and humorous is the Agelast… Who is the humour aimed at? Can machines (consciously) laugh? Not so far. The smile of the Agelast is not comical, it is a smile of the unsmiling. The ugly hero reserves for himself exclusivity of a last laugh ; apart from representing the eternal laughter of a paralyzed face, the Agelast is entrapped in the painting…
Paros, Greece, July 2022
1. Heraclitus’ passage translated by the author: Σίβυλλα δὲ μαινομένῳ στόματι ἀγέλαστα καὶ ἀκαλλώπιστα καὶ ἀμύριστα φθεγγομένη χιλίων ἐτῶν ἐξικνεῖται τῇ φωνῇ διὰ τὸν θεόν. Notice the word φθεγγομένη (producing phthongs) with controversial meanings. [back]
2. Agelast derives from the ancient Greek ἀγέλαστος (agélastos, “not laughing”), from γελάω (geláō, “to laugh”). [back]
3. For unpredictability on humour see: “humour evolved through sexual selection as a signal of “creativity,” which in turn implies youthfulness, intelligence, and adaptive unpredictability.” Storey, Robert. ‘Humor and Sexual Selection’. Human Nature 14, no. 4 (1 December 2003): 319–36. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-003-1009-x. [back]
4. Mechanistic, in Oxford Lexico, Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/definition/mechanistic. [back]
5. ArtonWorld magazine N3, International quarterly of art and finance, Ioannis Melanitis, “Relationships between art and artificial intelligence”, July 2021, page 24. [back]
6. Iliad (P18, 415-420). [back]
7. Cicero, De Oratore, Book 2 , see 239-24. [back]
8. Stavros Vasdekis, Greek etymological lexicon, https://www.e-papadakis.gr/files/Vasdekis-etimologiko.pdf. [back]
9. See Mimesis turns comical in Melanitis, M. Ioannis, Hiding Art, Hiding Codes and the Comic Strategies of Total Disappearing, Conference Proceedings, TABOO – TRANSGRESSION – TRANSCENDENCE in Art & Science, Austria 2020, https://avarts.ionio.gr/ttt/ and https://online.fliphtml5.com/tdda/dssx/#p=1, pages 14-15. [back]
10. Hanlon RT, Watson AC, Barbosa A. A “Mimic Octopus” in the Atlantic: Flatfish mimicry and camouflage by Macrotritopus defilippi. Biol Bull. 2010 Feb;218(1):15-24. doi: 10.1086/BBLv218n1p15. PMID: 20203250. Our notion that the mimic is fully aware of the mimic’ s image is reinforced by studies of octopus mimicry that claim: (i) bodily self-awareness; (ii) cognitive empathy and (iii) capability to reflectively reorganise the standard complete imitation pattern into a partial one in order to optimise its effect, based on conscious visual appraisal of the stimulus position. see: Ureña Gómez-Moreno, José Manuel, ‘The “Mimic” or “Mimetic” Octopus? A Cognitive-Semiotic Study of Mimicry and Deception in Thaumoctopus Mimicus’. Biosemiotics 12, no. 3 (1 December 2019): 441–67, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12304-019-09362-y. [back]
11. In Humor and Paradox, William Fry places the paradox at the limit of the understandable from the incomprehensible (Fry William. Humor and Paradox. American Behavioral Scientist. 1987;30(3):42-71. doi:10.1177/000276487030003005. [back]
12. Deadpan describes the act of deliberately displaying a lack of or no emotion, commonly as a form of comedic delivery to contrast with the ridiculousness of the subject matter. Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, June 10). List of deadpan comedians. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deadpan_comedians. [back]
13. Umberto Eco’s in The Name of the Rose poses the question of divine laughter: Christ did not laugh. [back]
14. Plato, Republic [389a], see https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humor/. [back]
15. Ibid. [back]
16. Bakhtin, M. M. Rabelais and His World. 1st Midland book, ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, page 285. [back]
17. For humour and mimesis see Reyburn, Duncan. ‘Kindly Scandal: A Mimetic Theory of Humor’. Contagion: Journal of Violence Mimesis and Culture 28 (1 May 2021): 201–36. https://doi.org/10.14321/contagion.28.2021.0201. [back]
18. Pirandello, Luigi, and Teresa Novel. “On Humor.” The Tulane Drama Review 10, no. 3 (1966): 46–59, https://doi.org/10.2307/1125162. [back]
19. Y. Melanitis, On Camouflage, Humor and Politics, www.academia.edu, 2022, page 6. [back]
20. Critchley, Simon, On Humour. London, England: Routledge, 2011, page 56. [back]
21. Boiled linseed oil was the medium that Antonello da Messina learned from Jan van Eyck- it is said he had visited him in Flanders, or more possibly he learned this technique by the painter Colantonio in Naples and his contact with Petrus Christus. [back]
22. “Mimesis turns comical” in Melanitis, M. Ioannis, Hiding Art, Hiding Codes and the Comic Strategies of Total Disappearing, Conference Proceedings, TABOO – TRANSGRESSION – TRANSCENDENCE in Art & Science, Austria 2020, https://avarts.ionio.gr/ttt/ and https://online.fliphtml5.com/tdda/dssx/#p=1. [back]
23. See: Gervais M, Wilson DS. The evolution and functions of laughter and humor: a synthetic approach. Q Rev Biol. 2005 Dec;80(4):395-430. doi: 10.1086/498281. PMID: 16519138. The Quarterly Review of Biology, December 2005, Vol. 80, No. 4, Copyright 2005 by The University of Chicago. [back]
24. Storey Robert, “Comedy, Its Theorists, and the Evolutionary Perspective.” Criticism 38, no. 3 (1996): 407–41. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23118108, page 419: Both laughter and smiling seem to have evolved out of signals inseparable from agonistic encounters, the laugh closely tied to predatory attack, the smile to displays of both defensiveness and fear. [back]
25. Y. Melanitis, On Camouflage, Humor and Politics, www.academia.edu, 2022. [back]
26. Nova – Il Sole 24 Ore, “L’artista Yiannis Melanitis con l’assistente filosofica Circe, un’intelligenza artificiale robotica”, by M. Savini, March 30, 2021. [back]
27. CODING TEAM: Ioannis Nikolakopoulos, Dimitris Iracleous, Thanos Tagaris. [back]
28. Storey, Robert. ‘Humor and Sexual Selection’. Human Nature 14, no. 4, (1 December 2003): 319–36. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-003-1009-x, page 419. [back]
29. On ugliness and the last laugh, see Walsh, David. Distorted Ideals in Greek Vase-Painting: The World of Mythological Burlesque. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014, page 245. [back]
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