Re: [-empyre-] making a meta-living / a-life & generative art

hi Marius,

I'm enjoying the high enthusiasm shown for the field of a-life and its philosophical implications, but have yet to see any real discussion about the art produced by it.

Yes I'd welcome that too... more specific critiques please!

In particular, I wonder if the term "a-life art" really makes sense, much as "generative art" doesn't make sense. Both terms describe means of production but not the intention of the artist. Is "a-life art" art that is about a-life? Or is it art produced through a-life methods, much as paintings are produced (mostly) by use of a brush?

I use a-life art in a really generic way to refer to works that use techniques derived from a-life science. This requires some boundaries that are relatively arbitrary but necessary in terms of defining a field in order to write about it! (for eg, some work using simulated neural nets doesn't figure in my research... but some works in the book do use simulated neural nets... the distinction is more to do with their flavour, ie is it a more "AI" or cognitive usage, or a more "a-life" or bottom-up, behavioural usage).

I am particularly interested in the fuzzy boundary between a-life and generative processes you mention - the most striking development in the field through my research has been the renaissance of generative techniques in new media. When writing the book I added the "abstract machines" section as a way to contain work that used a-life techniques but was heading in this abstract generative direction (with less concern for the metaphorics of a-life). A lot of the recent generative stuff continues this trajectory (I'm just looking at Reas' "bugs" - In part what's happening is that a-life structures and techniques (eg multi-agent simulations) are just being assimilated into a broad repertoire of code techniques.

I also wonder if there's a new fetish emerging here, in the form of "code"... the discourse around this work emphasises code as process / tool etc... all fine I suppose... but it has a whiff of idealism (as in Plato) which I'm not so sure about, and it can also act as a barrier to critical engagement, by alienating those who aren't "code" inclined. A-life techniques can do the same, but at least there is often a metphorical level which does give some traction for critique. That said I love a lot of the work...


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