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June 9th 2004: Special: Generative art

[June 9th 2004]
Black Shoals
Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway: Black Shoals Stock Market Planetarium. Generative installation.

Special: Generative art
For a while now, we have explored the field of generative art. In april 2004 this culminated in the exhibition 'Autopilot' in kopenhagenshop as a part of the RADAR Festival. We definitely have more to say about this art form.

In this special we continue our activities on the topic by gathering new and old resources in one document - some of which have been featured in our software art special. Over time new articles on the subject will be added to the list. Furthermore, you'll also find lots of links to interesting generative art works. Text: Thomas Petersen.

Generative art is a widely used artistic method inserting an automated system between the artist and the artistic expression. In a well-cited text, Philip Galanter formulates the following definition: 'Generative art refers to any art practice where the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, which is set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art.' (From 'What is Generative Art? Complexity Theory as a Context for Art Theory', Philip Galanter, New York University, 2003.)

Even though generative art is often reduced to merely a branch of software art, Galanter's definition proposes a view that does not restrict generative art strategies to its digital forms. There are many traditions for basing art works on systems, procedures, and instructions in most fields of art. John Cage, Yoko Ono and many other conceptual artists have worked with procedural and instruction-based work. The defining trait of generative art is rather that the artist establishes a system, which can generate a number of possible forms rather than one single finished form. The role of the artist is to construct, initiate or merely select the frame of procedures for the generation of possible expressions.

In its digital form, generative art is constructed from programmed algorithms, which determine the path of a piece - in some cases the pieces are autonomous to a degree that they seem alive. This method puts a certain light on the nature of the art-making process, because the tools acquire lives of their own. In these cases, the constructions of art-making systems substitute the making of static forms.

In other cases the systems rely on input from human actors or information feeds. One example is Lisa Autogena and Joshua Portway's Black Shoals Stock Market Planetarium, which was exhibited recently at Nikolaj Udstillingsbygning in Copenhagen (see above illustration). The project is a live representation of the world's stock markets. Whenever stock of a certain value is traded, the the light of the stars change. A colony of artificial life forms feed off this star light and form an evolving ecology. The piece is set up as an immersive installation letting the spectator lie down and contemplate the starry skies of global finance.

Artificial texts with relevance to generative art:

[September 20th]
Thomas Petersen: Generative Art Now. An Interview with Marius Watz

[May 13th 2005]
Emil Bach Soerensen: An Experience with Your Body in Space! Interview with Camille Utterback

[September 6th 2004]

Thomas Petersen & Kristine Ploug: 'Generative art is as old as art'. An interview with Philip Galanter

[April 26th 2004]
Photos from Diffus generative art seminar and site launch.

[April 14th 2004]
Photos from Autopilot exhibition.

[March 23d 2004]
Thomas Petersen: "Computer Code as Art Material". Interview with Pablo Miranda Carranza, Thor Magnusson and Ole Kristensen.

[March 11th 2004]
Anne Roelsgaard Obling: Interview with Lise Autogena
(Danish only)

[February 29th 2004]
Press release: curates generative art exhibition

[November 19th 2003]
Kristine Ploug: "I am never sure what it will do ... until I run it. An Interview with John F. Simon Jr."

[October 20th 2003]
Sebastian Campion: "Code. In Conversation with Casey Reas"

Digital generative art works:

Tom Betts & Joe Gilmore: Rand()%: Rand()% is an internet radio station streaming generative music.


Adrian Ward: Autoshop and Autoillustrator.

Black ShoalsBlack Shoals
Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway: Black Shoals Stock Market Planetarium. Generative installation. generator
Cornelia Sollfrank: generator.

Casey Reas
: MicroImage, generative installation. Triptych of software. Different forms emerging out of the same software code. Running on plasma screens at the Ars Electronica festival.

John F. Simon Jr.: Complexcity.

Jean Tinguely
: Metamatic (1959->).

Condensation Cube
Hans Haacke: Condensation Cube, 1963-65.

Smoke Painting
Yoko Ono: Smoke Painting (instructions), 1961.

A selection of previously featured work
Marius Watz: Drawing Machine 1-12.

Stanza: Biocity.
Pablo Miranda Carranza: ArchiKluge.
Thor Magnusson & Birta Thrastardottir.
Ole Kristensen: Flyt dig.

Other links


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