Sol LeWitt wrote that “the serial artist does not attempt to produce a beautiful or mysterious object but functions merely as a clerk cataloguing the results of his premise.”
Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. An autonomous system in this context is generally one that is non-human and can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist. (Thanks Wikipedia)
Generative systems can manifest themselves in generally two ways.
The system can be an extension of an artists intent, and original idea, and the work should reflect these intentions. In this situation the artist still possesses some control and works with elements which are generated by chance. In the following piece by Ellsworth Kelley he used several small compositions which were based upon cutting up multiple sheets of paper and matching them together by tossing them into the air, cutting the edges square, and then placing the smaller compositions into a larger grid. In this piece Kelley obviously determined the colors which were to be used however he let the compositions make themselves by chance. One should also note, that this piece worked out quite well, and that is probably why it is better known than other experiments that never saw the light of day.
In a following piece Kelley was noted to have said that he wished to work with more color after seeing an Ad Rheinhart exhibition. His pilgrimage into color was marked by the creation of a series of collages called the Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance I to VIII. In this piece he created a grid, and then randomly assigned each square in the grid a color by mixing up a bunch of numbers in a hat and pulling them out randomly. Of course, there were still limits in place such as how many numbers can be used and restrictions.
William Burroughs talks about using a similar technique to generate poetry. Created by the Dadaists, popularized by Burroughs. The technique still lives on and has also been used by Thom Yorke (he’s in this band called Radiohead) and Kurt Cobain.
Divination techniques of the I Ching were used by John Cage to create paintings. Read more about them here.
He also used them to make musical compositions which Jorge could undoubtedly tell you more about.
Generative works can also be made from code, and therefore some argue that these sorts of works that the artist steps back even further and the system itself should take on the role of the creator.
“works where an unpredictable progressive virus operates on a degradation/transformation of an image. Using a C++ framework, Joseph Nechvatal and his programmer/collaborator Stephane Sikora have brought Nechvatal’s early computer virus project into the realm of artificial life (A-Life) (i.e. into a synthetic system that exhibits behaviors characteristic of natural living systems). With Computer Virus Project 2.0, elements of artificial life have been introduced in that viruses are modeled to be autonomous agents living in/off the image. The project simulates a population of active viruses functioning as an analogy of a viral biological system. Here the host of the virus are the digital files on which the computer-robotic assisted paintings in this show are based. Among the different techniques used here are models that result from embodied artificial intelligence and the paradigm of genetic programming.”
So what’s in common with all of these pieces? For starters each element was chosen by a human, and it would be difficult to argue that all generative art is not a byproduct of human decision. Kelley chose colors, Burroughs cut up newspapers, and Cage assigned notes on a piano (ok ok. and colors too…He was pretty good!..anyway). But the point is that all of these had a starting point and that was working with a specific medium and process. And many times it is important to note that they fit what many would assume is a chaotic process of generated components of their work and put it into a certain framework. Such as a grid, or a series (yep. That’s why Sol Lewitt is also called a Serial Artist). If you think your stuff looks like crap then put it in a square.
You were all told to bring two mediums to class, one traditional, and one which is digital. You will be creating a system of making art which is based upon some chance operation to combine your two media. That means the final piece should exhibit both the qualities of the traditional media as well as the digital media. If you are stuck on how to create chance operations then first think about what are the components inherit in both of your mediums and how you can assign these components into a generative system. Paint has color, thickness, wetness, darkness, speed, application, texture, forms. Jpegs are made of code, colors, darknesses, computer screens, projected light, or turkeys.
How have people done chance operations? Roll some dice. Point to a word in a book at random. Throw stuff at the wall. Break stuff. roll some dice which determines which rock you should throw at a glass full of words and then make 10 images based off of the first ten words you pick up and then pour wax all over the images. Remember you can also do loads of chance operations using the internet or your computer. Use google to generate random words based upon random searches. Use Youtube to generate random screen grabs etc. Create some artificial intelligence which not only creates digital work but also spams leading art galleries emails with the images. But remember your final piece should combine a traditional medium with your digital medium.
“Hey what are some traditional mediums!”
Cement, Glass, Metal, Stone, Brick, Wood, Chalk, Charcoal, Crayon, Graphite, Marker, Pastel, Pen and ink, Pencil, Sand, Watercolour, Oils, Acylics, Inks, Dyes, Glues, film, wooden instruments,
“Ok cool. So what are some new mediums?”
Well, digital media is generally referred to as stuff that needs electricity to work. Like Graphic art software for illustration and animation, 3D computer graphics for sculpture and 3D animation, Digital photography and digital video for the capturing of photographs and footagecontrolling devices (touch screens or midi keyboards and kinnects) to bridge the gap between traditional techniques and digital painting, projections, screens, and programming.
“Well some of those are old too”
I know, but this conversation could go on for hours…. So stop proscratinating and start making art!
Some challenges to consider.
Try to create the most conceptually potent work, with the least amount of effort. It is important to remember that there is no longer a division between how “good” something is, and the amount of labor required to make it. Duchamp signaled this when he created his fountain.
There is a difference between art and craft (or technique).
Postmodern art is not something you “get”. Ever. It isn’t a puzzle to solve. It’s an investigation that may not have any answers, or may not care about answers.
Artwork generally today is not about illustrating anything, and it is less insistent that the viewer come to work with any sort of predefined knowledge.