Algorithmic Art Thoughts - 1

Algorithmic Art is something like a space station.  In a space station, Earth-people live and work just like they do on Earth; breathing, eating, thinking, moving.  But they do so in an environment that makes many of their routines and habits awkward and simply -- foreign.

There's no gravity on a space station, so something that is completely intuitive on Earth -- which way is down -- becomes completely meaningless out in space.  Out in space one has to arbitrarily decide where the floor is and sitting "down" in a seat requires one to be forced and bucked into it.

In the context of space, many previously held assumptions are revealed to be based entirely on external forces found on Earth (eg. gravity).  Algorithmic Art does the same thing for art by taking it out into space where the familiar frames of reference don't exist and can't exist because they're based entirely on factors which aren't present in Algorithmically produced imagery.

Algorithms are mechanical and so there is no human intent or direction in algorithmic art.  Algorithms don't reproduce imagery from the real world like trees or human faces because they such things are not algorithmic.  Trees and faces are not mathematically expressible concepts and when they do appear in algorithmic imagery then it's an accident or more accurately, just something that looks like a tree or face.

Photography and human artists are capable of reproducing real things because they have the capacity to copy the things around them.  Algorithms on the other hand are, ironically, are much more creative and what they produce is always original, always new.  That's what algorithms do best; they create algorithmic imagery, not realistic imagery.

Is Algorithmic imagery abstract art, then?  It would look that way by virtue of elimination, since if it isn't realistic then it must be abstract.  But I would say that it is more accurate and more meaningful to describe Algorithmic Art as something distinct from both realism and abstraction and subsequently to get rid of concepts that are only relevant to "hand-made" art and just accept it for what it is: more art.

Algorithmic imagery doesn't look like real things and yet it often does look like concrete things, tangible things, just not really tangible or concrete because they don't actually exist outside of the world of computing.  So Algorthmic imagery has concrete characteristics and for that reason isn't really very abstract at all and yet to include it in the category of realism would require one to have a very insane view of reality.

So algorithmic art belongs in a category all it's own.  I know that sounds like a colossal compromise and taking the easy way out, but if you spend any length of time studying algorithmic art I think you'll agree with me that it simply doesn't fit into the categories of realism or abstract by it's nature or by it's appearance.


It really is something completely new and I think that's why it hasn't been recieved as the bold new exciting thing that it is: viewers and critics get stuck on the elementary question,  "What is it?".

But like I suggested earlier, algorithmic art's presence forces many of the boundaries and qualifications for art to be changed.  (That is, unless one insists it isn't art at all.)  But I think these changes to the definition of art are actually just ideas that have been around for some time, just as the law of gravity has been around for some time but only in the context of space was it fully demonstrated and exhibited.  Algorithmic art enlarges the domain of art and reveals all those Earth-bound ideas for what they are.

(Images made in Sterling2, a fractal program)


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