“‘Generative’ is where you lose control of a machine which does exactly what you tell it.”
On first appraisal, the question “What is Generative Art?” may seem a simple one. But, as is the nature of generative art, there is an emergent complexity even to its very definition. The elucidation most often cited in recent years is attributed to Philip Galanter, Artist and Professor at Texas A&M University, from his 2003 paper “What Is Generative Art? Complexity Theory as a Context for Art Theory”
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.
While this is accurate and descriptive, and a very long sentence with all the right words, a single phrase like this is not enough. I don’t think it quite captures the essence of generative art, which is much more nebulous. In my mind generative art is just another bi-product of our eternal titanic battle between the forces of chaos and order, trying to work out their natural harmony, as expressed in a ballet of light and pixels. But flowery crap like that isn’t going to get us anywhere either.
We have to be very careful treading around this topic, as we want at all costs to avoid trying to define “What is Art?” which is an argument best left alone. The concept of Art can be so fragile and fuzzy that if you were to prod it too much it would simply evaporate. So instead of trying to carve up a subject that doesn’t want to be dissected in search of a pithy description, in my four posts to follow I’m going to take a more delicate and obtuse approach. If I examine what generative art isn’t, I can attempt to a carve away the ground to reveal the figure.
Generative Art Is Not … An Artistic Style
Generative Art Is Not … Your Father’s Art Form
Generative Art Is Not … Difficult
Generative Art Is Not … New