Personal examples of generative art
Generativity in the Arts and the Intricate Logic of a Generative Artwork
Lecture Summary and Examples
In a historical overview of generativity in the arts, you will learn about various analogue techniques for turning chance and uncertainty into defining factors of an artwork. This will enable you to understand both the inherent generativity of any creative process, which is dictated by nature, and an explicit generative approach which appreciates and develops the artwork as a dynamic catalysing event or process, inspired by curiosity, susceptible to chance and open for change.
Generative art is a category of various creative methodologies which intentionally interface predefined systems with different factors of unpredictability in developing, producing and presenting the artwork. This broad definition of GA implicates that all art, and all human creative activities, are generative. However, uncontrollability and explicit surprise are most often not primary motivations or goals of the artists. They usually try to avoid or conceal these aspects of the artwork.
What distinguishes GA is the artist’s conscious approach to and utilization of uncontrollability, surprise and sometimes virtuosity through interfacing the predefined systems with the unpredictable elements, and sharing this interplay with the audience. For this interfacing to be convincing, the artists try to meet several requirements:
– Predefined system(s) need to be clearly defined, controllable and reasonably predictable. Their character or logic needs to be meaningful, carry a narrative, or a message.
– Element(s) or source(s) of unpredictability need to be well chosen. Their character needs to be meaningful, carry a narrative or a message. Please note that “pure” randomness usually does not work well.
– Interaction between predefined and uncontrolled elements needs to be interesting, engaging and inspire thinking. The artist’s motivation for arranging this interaction needs to be meaningful.
All these qualities are not necessarily achieved in every GA, but various proportions of these qualities can produce impressive works. We expand on these qualities in this and in the following lecture Cognitive Aspects of GA: Algorithmic Thinking and Procedural Literacy.
Uncontrollability, error, imperfection and absurd as a revolt against bourgeois mentality, social norms and expectations, and art conventions (conformism).
Tristan Tzara – 1920 – Dada Manifesto On Feeble Love And Bitter Love is a poetic algorithm.
To make a Dadaist poem:
Take a newspaper.
Take some scissors.
Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
carefully cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them all in a bag.
take out each cutting one after the other.
Assemble them conscientiously in the order in which they come out of the bag.
Surrealism (1930s) and automatic writing
Intentionally writing without thinking, logical reasoning or conscious manipulating the content. Developed by André Breton and Philippe Soupault to capture the uncontrolled and random thoughts, as in: The great curtains of the sky draw open. A buzzing protests this hasty departure. Who can run so softly? The names lose their faces. The street becomes a deserted track.
The surrealists believed that recording free associations and uncensored thoughts from our subconscious mind and memories provides the access to unique and deep levels of consciousness, unfiltered by our rationality and self-censorship.
Further reading on generative narratives: Todorović, Vladimir, and Dejan Grba. 2019. “Wandering Machines: Narrativity in Generative Art.” CITAR Journal of Science and Technology of the Arts, Special xCoAx Issue, Porto: 50-58.
John Cage, 4:33, 1952
Clear algorithm, open uncontrollability focuses one one medium (sound/music) and clear context (listening, acoustic culture, the range between noise, sound and music, conventional roles and forms of music can degrade our culture of listening). Intelligence to both utilize and critique the institutional context: concert or musical event.
Dallas Taylor (TED) – 2020 – What Silence Can Teach You About Sound
Related to Cage’s approach is aleatory music: Johann Philipp Kirnberger’s – 1757 – Musikalisches Würfelspiel (Musical Dice Game)
An early example of a generative system. Throwing dice to select musical sequences from a numbered pool of pre-composed phrases. It introduces playfulness, and accentuates virtuosity for writing numerous phrases that are different enough but can be matched randomly. It relies on musical conventions (what succession of musical movements sounds pleasing).
Nam June Paik – 1963 – Random Access
Influenced by Cage. Playing with material/visual form and allowing direct creative experience.
William Anastasi – 1960’s – Subway Drawings
Clearly defined algorithm, (arguably) intuitive from final results. It stresses the unreliability or imperfection of human “machinery”, and also implies journey as open-ended experience.
Stefan Tiefengraber – 2013-2014 – Delivery Graphic
A more formalized take on Anastasi’s generative drawing. It implies a life of an object and its surroundings. (Lecture Slides).
Tehching (Sam) Hsieh – 1970/1980s – One Year Performances (Lecture Slides)
Clear algorithm, open uncontrollability, high empathic impact through imagination of the changes of the essential life processes. Pushing the envelope of the rule-based, endurance performative art practices. Book in NTU Library: Heathfield, Adrian. 2009. Out of Now: The Lifeworks of Tehching Hsieh. The MIT Press.
Look up and compare these related examples
Marcel Duchamp’s aesthetics of indifference (early 1920s): McEvilley, Thomas. “Empirical Thinking (and why Kant can’t).” Artforum, October, Vol. 27, No. 3, (1988) (bad copy but readable).
John Cage – 1951 – Imaginary Landscape No. 4
A 4 minute composition for 24 performers on 12 radios and conductor by the score.
The Exquisite Corpse technique in film: Apichatpong Weerasethakul – 2000 – Mysterious Object at Noon
Write your reflections in a short essay, around 250 words.
Use this experience as a warm-up for the main reading assignment.
Make a spontaneous but thoughtful response about the text’s themes, relevance, style and other aspects you find interesting.
No images, links or other references are required, but are welcome.
Post it to the OSS Research category by Week 4 (3 Sep).
Tutorial 1 : Processing – Basics, Graphics & Images