Reflection Essay – Marius Watz, Closed Systems: Generative Art and Software Abstraction

Closed Systems: Generative Art and Software Abstraction

By Marius Watz, 2010


With the rise of computational technology, art is going through an evolving process with the combination of the principles of unpredictability and the purity of logic as Marius Watz describes it.


In his paper, Watz touches on the notion of exploiting the complexity produced by a computation that could not be made by human hands. He elucidates that generativity is a useful strategy that allows the author to harness the power of a computer to generate an infinite series of possible outcomes. However, to perform such a process, the author requires technical skills to be able to understand computer code and perform reverse engineering to achieve a desirable outcome. Therefore, as Watz contends, generative art requires both technical skills and aesthetic intuition for the artist to be able to express their art through the manipulation of computation. This resonates with me, as someone who sees through the lens of both art and programming, as both are vital ingredients to produce an interesting computational generative artwork. Moreover, to a certain extent, computational skill is an art because it requires critical thinking and ingenuity to create objects of beauty.


On the other hand, computational aesthetics also has its constraint. As pointed out by Watz, simulation is spontaneous and organic, which can only be replicated by computers with the explicit encoding of how the data is processed and even the most experienced programmer will encounter unexpected results or errors. Nonetheless, programming error can lead to discoveries and new learnings. Indeed, as a programmer that is still learning, more often than not, I gained valuable information from errors. For that reason, I see mistakes and errors as a beneficial process of discovery, learning and improvement.


Besides that, Watz also made a comparison with interactive art and generative art. He elaborates by drawing a distinct difference between generative art and interactive art. Generative art operates based on an autonomous system with infinite outcomes based on the algorithms, while interactive art utilises a feedback loop of interaction between a system and its users. Based on this definition, I do see the distinct differences and mutual exclusiveness in their respective art forms. The way I see it, both arts require controllability through a set of rules. In generative art, the algorithmic rules create art, and for interactive art, the rules of human interaction create art.


Beyond that, Watz has also postulated that generative art has reached a level apart from computation means. While Watz has embraced the complexity of computer systems, he does agree that generative art is not about the computer itself and would be a mistake to think that generativity is only capable of being expressed in pixels. Thus, generative art can come in many possible outputs, and I certainly do agree and believe we should expand and explore our creativity of generativity in many various possible outputs, and not just limit our observations of generativity to solely one medium.

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