Saturday, June 14, 2008

Generative Art

Bruce Sterling, over at Wired, commenting on Marius Watz, who writes
Do you think that generative practices should be necessarily placed within the system of art? Or could they be described more generally as a cultural phenomenon, regarding strategies like the visualisation of information, design, games etc.?

Whether a generative work should be understood as art or not obviously depends on the intention of its creator. The explosion in activity around generative systems is only to a certain extent due to their use in artistic practices, it stems just as much from technical experimentation or applications in architecture and design. Also, many media art projects may have generative aspects even if the intention of the work is not to be understood as part of the generative canon.

I would restrict the term "Generative Art" to describe works that deal explicitly with the creation of aesthetic output through semi-autonomous system. In many ways, the current use of the phrase to describe any aesthetic system based on computation is too broad, and does not examine what the core interest of the artist is. The current generation of Generative artists are united.

An interesting special case is the practice of information visualization, which has been hugely popular with audiences and theorists alike. On the surface visualizations are intended as designed objects with a utilitarian value, but in reality most viewers perceive them primarily as aesthetic objects. As a result, Ben Fry's visualization work has been shown at the Whitney Biennial, despite his constant refusal to describe his work as art. It seems that information visualizations in this way is recontextualized almost as a form of "outsider art".

The aesthetics of your own work is mostly organic, sometimes mechanic. Is this fact based on your personal vision of a synthetic utopia of a "better world" and is there a political demand in what you are doing?

My work is abstract in nature, and as such does not explicitly address anything outside itself. But my reference points when I started working as an artist were Cyberculture and the excesses of early electronic music, with its deeply indivualistic focus on physical experience mediated through technology. These influences can still be found in my work, hinting at techno-optimism and a belief in progressive hedonism. But I would stop short of articulating a truly utopian vision, the world is a much darker place today than it was in 1993.

On a personal level I am trying to communicate a sense of form as process, shaped by rules that are simultaneously organic and mechanical. I would like the viewer to experience the spaces I construct on a physical rather than intellectual level, so that there is always a duality between the classic perception of a 2-dimensional image and the promise of a "real" space. My current work with digital fabrication, 3D printing etc. is an attempt to break through the screen and present my structures in physical formats, with tactile and architectural qualities.

What is an algorithm for you - the broadest way you can think about it?

In the broadest sense, an algorithm can be a description of any kind of process, whether natural or artificial, scientifically rigid or posessing the "fuzzy logic" of everyday human decision-making. In this sense Fluxus instruction works like La Monte Young's "Draw a line and follow it" or William S. Burroughs' cut-up techniques qualify as algorithms, despite having no technological component.

My first experience of wanting to articulate a complex algorithm came when I stood as a child under a street light in heavy snowfall. Looking up at the constantly shifting spirals formed by the snow falling, I had the sense that it must be possible to describe the forces causing those chaotic yet recognizable forms. That sensation of being just on the verge of understanding is always there when I try to create new work....

No comments: