Art that makes itself.

Went to an exhibition and seminar at Watermans. The exhibition was of works by Paul and Daniel Brown, both of whom spoke in the seminar along with Frieder Nake, in each case about ‘generative art’ – art made by algorithms, where the artist writes the algorithm but does not make the art work directly.

Some notes from Nake’s talk:
– generative art has a set of items and a set of procedures, and applies the latter to the former.
– this process is without emotion, though the emotion may come later when the artist selects, and the audience views, a piece.
– Sol Lewitt says the idea becomes the machine that makes the art. Nake says that ‘computer art is conceptual art turned into a machine’. The artist ‘thinks art’, not ‘thinks about art’, and this has only been possible since the digital revolution in the 60s.
– humans and computers meet in semiotic processes (ie signs), but differ in the ways they handle them. (The difference between intelligence and AI). Art works like this (or possibly all of life?) have a ‘surface’ and ‘subface’ – the former what humans see, from the finite perspective of our temporary existence. The latter is the underlying algorithm.
– generative artists work at the subface and are sometimes surprised and delighted by what appears on the surface; the unpredictability of complex algorithms.
– we cannot understand the world, but we can make artificial rules (algorithms) to produce images of it
– there can be no more ‘masterpieces’ – to ‘think art’ now means to think in infinite (algorithmic) terms, so the individual expression of the algorithm can no longer be a masterpiece.

Paul Brown:
– art is not about self-expression or sending a message
– content emerges from the process of making the art work and is self-referential (ie to its own processes.)
He spoke at some length about algorithmic processes (eg of symmetry and rotation) which he has used.

Daniel Brown defined art as more like a Turing machine: it is art if it can convince a human audience that it is ‘art’. He is a living embodiment of what he does: he is paralysed after an accident, and has only limited motor skills: so he can code, but not draw. He ‘thinks art’.

A lot of very negative post-modernist implications here: no absolute standards, no inspiration, just algorithms and playing around until you find something you like. Fun though.

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