Reading 1: Closed systems: Generative art and Software Abstraction

Marius Watz describes generative art as “a computational model of creativity combining principles of unpredictability with the purity of logic”. He explains that from results that cannot be created through human hands, the nature of work is complex, even unpredictable. Generative art often takes inspiration from nature, but there is a struggle between natural forms and mechanical forms; what artists balance is how it can appear natural yet refined through their control, creating a chaotic work that flows in a direction they wish.

Put simply the artist allows the computer to create countless results then handpick possibilities that suit their demands, controlling the process that it remains random yet able to only produce results that they find desirable. As long as the results are desirable, the more chaotic the variations of results the more preferable. This means they do not heavily restrict what can possibly happen; they just control the general direction of the work’s flow. Ultimately a level on unpredictability is a boon, the bane is when it goes fully out of control. What they want is an aesthetic mess that conveys their intentions; controlling so is the skill of the artist.

As a reminder, generative art isn’t a movement, it’s just a strategy for creating art. In fact generative art techniques have been dated in human history, from early days of medieval art techniques to later random computer generated screensavers. Artists have always employed chaos as a technique to keep their art lively, and produced unexpected results which are later studied and capitalised on.

Nowdays, generative art is actively used as a concept in creating works by artists. This is interesting for me, for it means that art can be presented at a partially developed stage, and results can be flexible, sometimes even affected by the audience or users of the work, creating more personal results. This has been used often in interactive media, such as games where the input of players may affect how the story or events turn out; the artists basically create what is known as a sandbox which allows many possible unique outcomes, many of which even unplanned by the artist themselves, hence creating a large range of experiences, allowing different people to share how they interacted with it in different lights.


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