Le Confident

Ideas tête-à-tête

Generative Art

While writing my article about Nja Mahdaoui I almost, almost included the phrase: look at this art and then throw the Pollocks, Rothkos and Koonings out of the window!

I did not include it finally, as, while it talks my mind sometimes, it goes against my conviction, that human expression must be free at all times, in order to maximize the finding of useable and appealing new ideas. And here, it’s intended as initial provocation.

Today I finished watching Melanie Mitchell’s very enlightening online course on complexity, which led me to the kind of art and method, that I want to present here. So I had the time to read up on the free chapters by generative artist artist Matt Pearson and found many arguments to back up my opinion, that this art is not only original and sometimes strongly visually attractive, but very relevant to our time, as it expresses the essence of today’s life. Before we start, check out his blog – it’s really the principal source for the following presentation!

Now let’s look at some of the works i’m talking about:

jared tarbell generative art processing

Jared Tarbell – 1

jared tarbell generative art processing

Jared Tarbell – 2

robert hodgin generative art processing

Robert Hodgin – 1

robert hodgin generative art processing

Robert Hodgin – 2

Their characteristic quality is, that they were produced by computers, that followed rules provided in the “Processing” programming language by artistic minds. Early last week I showed the work of Karl Simms “genetic art“, which had been created in a similar way, though the computer was guided in it’s own esthetic judgement. Here, only the programmer judges the esthetic quality of his or her work and the computer has the mission to calculate pixel values.

While this work is generally presenting the experience of abstractions to the viewer, it also requires the development of abstractions in the mind of the artist. This is something I always doubted many traditional abstract artists actually did. Without this, the artwork is essentially empty and you can see everything in it, that you already carry in yourself. That doesn’t give the artwork any necessity to exist. On the other hand, original abstraction, such that is visually and possibly logically argued in language not only gives you new experiences, it teaches you new ways to perceive the world. Now this would rank generative art alongside pioneering abstract artists and projects like Malewitsch, the Bauhaus, or Viennese Kinetism (Erika Klien for instance).

erika klien vienna kinetism abstraction

Erika Klien – 1

But those people solved other problems. While they tried to find abstract representations of human experience, much of generative art implements abstractions, which, in other fields, serve to enhance the scope of our perception. Algorithms like the ones inspired by evolution that Simms used, ant colony, fish-flocking or fractal algorithms are actually tools developped by (mostly) mathematicians to come to terms with phenomena, that are too complex to be otherwise explained, but seem to govern most if not all greater systems in nature, human society included. Now these same algorithms create some kind of intelligence, as they are highly adaptive to conditions imposed by the surrounding world or grow more complex with time. This makes visualization created with them so interesting to me. Some of the artists, like Mark Stock for example, do work as researchers of complex systems (fluid dynamics in this case). Others, like the design and architectural studio Minimaforms, would even take this approach to art so far, as to create buildings, that adapt to surroundings or human interactions:

Minimaforms brunel gateway london

Minimaforms – Brunel University Project

mark stock generative art sample

Mark Stock – 1

I wouldn’t be writing yet another lengthy blog article about an underrepresented art form, if I would not be completely fired up for a reason. The reason, is a PhD paper I keep devising and discarding in regular intervalls, in which logic and visual art are equalled. In his book about generative art, Matt Pearson puts forth the well known dichotomy between art and logic, poetry and efficiency oriented languages:

“This is because, traditionally, programming languages have been the realm of logic, structure, and

And art is supposed to be something completely different. I don’t believe this. In fact, logic seems to be a set of rules, by which we combine names, that we’ve previously assigned to things. But these rules must be the basis for every human endeavour, because we have only one type of brain installed. Even more convincing might be the fact, that logical rules only order unconnected names into a temporal or spatial sequence. And this is universal: the artist orders pixels of any kind, the composer frequencies, the writer words and every job you can think of, differs only by the set of names (notes, colors, english or german words), while making use of the same logic. Generative Art, visual synthesizers and our computers in general are a proof of this. Now the interesting part is this: art like the one presented here, could one day intentionally reorganize knowledge to make it the most appealing, that is also the most understandable, for the esthetic tastes of an arbitrary intelligence, because those tastes are just a subset of it’s logic. This could mean to make, say, physics an intuitive visual experience for kids with certain preferences, but also to make knowledge accessible to artificial intelligences, of which we know their processing characteristics. The communicative difficulties conjured by Asimov would be irrelevant in this case.

See these sites:

http://zenbullets.com/thumbs.php Matt Pearson’s Blog for many video projects and a book, here one of his algorithmic music interpretations:

https://www.behance.net/gallery/Phantogram/14442795 backgrounds for photography designed with Processing


Music interpretation by young artist Diana Lange:

http://www.complexification.net/gallery/ Jared Tarbell

http://markjstock.com/ Mark Stock

http://roberthodgin.com/ Robert Hodgin

http://www.openprocessing.org/ Processing open ressources

http://processing.org/ the processing homepage

The Nature of Code by Daniel Shiffmann – free eBook on generative programming


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This entry was posted on March 12, 2014 by in Art, Natural Sciences and tagged , , , , , , .
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