Is there an inherent contradiction in using computers to explore the realm of the organic? What could be less mechanical than the 1s and 0s of a humming box of electronics? Is generative art little more than a fools errand?
And furthermore, if we declare our programming as art, aren’t we implying an intent to explore emotion and aesthetic. Can one reasonably expect to create works with emotional resonance using only procedures, logic and mathematics? Relying on a computer to create an artwork and expecting it to connect with a viewer on a human level is surely akin to waiting for an infinite number of monkeys, with an infinite number of synthesizers, to write the perfect pop song.
Herein lies the challenge.
Order and chaos, simplicity and complexity, the mechanical and the organic, are not necessarily at opposite ends of a spectrum. They are symbiotic, intertwined. Any line we might walk between the two is a knife-edge. Our very existence is poised between entropy and order, between the turbulence of a hostile, chaotic environment, the natural world that we would find so difficult to survive unaided, and the simplicity of purest nothingness, the void which is also fatal to our animal needs. We may think we have both mastered the unruliness of chaos and fought off the boredom and madness of purest order. But any living being can testify that there is a constant fluctuation between the two, how no matter how much order you impose upon your life, chaos is never more than a car crash away.
The mechanical and the organic, like order and chaos, are co-dependent; one couldn’t exist without the other. The complex appeals to us as much as the simple, the organic as much as the mechanical. Fashion or mood may sway us more towards one or another in any given situation, but we would never go completely over to one side or the other. For to do so is to stop living, to eradicate chaos is to become a robot, to eradicate order is to become a savage.
Fortunately no one is asking us to take sides. The aim of generative art, if it has any aim at all, is to make something beautiful. We can attempt to use the mechanical to create the organic, starting from order and heading towards chaos, careful not to stray too far in one direction or the other. And if we become adept at this we might be able to consider ourselves both “programmer” and “artist”.