[NetBehaviour] » More than Just Pretty Pictures: Golan’s Questions for Generative Artists

marc marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Tue Oct 11 14:25:46 CEST 2005

*» More than Just Pretty Pictures: Golan’s Questions for Generative Artists*

[Dear Colleagues,
Several of you have contacted me requesting that I post the “Three 
Questions for Generative Artists” that I posed to the audience during my 
lecture last week. (I state, for the record, that I don’t have the 
answers, and I’m as perplexed/guilty as anyone else). Here they are…– 
Sincerely yours, Golan]

Marshall McLuhan stated, in 1964: “The medium is the message.” Assuming 
we agree with this premise, in the way McLuhan intended it (as developed 
in his book Understanding Media), I posed the following questions 
concerning generative art:

0. So, with our generative artworks: what kinds of meanings are we 
making? In other words, what sorts of messages do generative artworks 
communicate, not through their medium, but as a medium?

1. How can generative strategies, which are designed to produce (or 
reflect) infinite variations, yield forms which nonetheless feel 
inevitable (i.e. which do not feel arbitrary)? Or is arbitrariness the 
point — the message of the medium? Here, I showed Jim Campbell’s 
“Formula for Computer Art” (2001). As an illustration of different 
approaches on the spectrum between ‘arbitrary’ and ‘motivated’ 
generative designs, I contrasted Mark Napier’s “Black & White” Carnivore 
client (2005), and Natalie Jeremijenko’s “Live Wire” project (1994), 
both of which visualize network traffic. Both of these artworks 
subscribe to Campbell’s Formula, but with very different results.

2. How can generative strategies tap into richer perceptual spaces? What 
other meaning-making potentials are latent in computational abstraction? 
Can we generalize the idea of generative form? Here, I showed Karl Sims’ 
“Evolved Virtual Creatures” (1994). These creatures have extremely 
simple forms (rarely more elaborate than a couple of rectangular blocks) 
— but highly evocative, generatively-evolved behaviors which address our 
perception in a very rich way.

3. How can generative strategies tap into richer conceptual spaces, 
without sacrificing the experiential aesthetics of abstraction? Assuming 
we value abstraction for its powerful ability to address our perceptual 
and aesthetic senses (as I do), how can we expand the conceptual scope 
of generative art? Put another way, how can generative strategies 
activate further dimensions of our psychology (beyond retinal 
experience), such as our imaginations, symbolic [Jungian] minds, or 
unconscious minds? Here, I presented Jason Salavon’s “Form Study #1” 
(2005). This project taps into rich cultural psychological territory, 
and provokes our imaginations, without (I claim) sacrificing 
generativity or abstract formalism in the slightest.

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