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


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...

The importance of code in recent generative art (and its applied twin, compuational design) is definitively ideological. The goal behind projects like Processing etc is to teach a new type of software literacy, i.e. artists should be ablt to both read (== use) and write (== program) software. The aesthetic typical of this kind of work is concerned with complexity but rarely in a "pure" form. As for alienating, I've found that audiences are currently interested in the mechanisms of software and hence appreciate the level of code. This might of course be a matter of fashion and might not be true tomorrow. On any level I don't think fetishization of code is a good thing, since it tends towards a fascination with novelty and wizardry.

You mention Casey Reas, his Microimage piece ( is clearly related to AL techniques. If one was to speak of quality in this kind of art, I admire Casey's work because he balances the artistic harnessing an algorithm to create interesting images with retaining a purity of process. A lot of the artists in this field either create interesting images by over-controlling the algorithm or interesting algorithms without too clear visual success. Of course, you can replace "visual" in this context with aural / kinetic / what have you.

An interesting article by Lev Manovich attempts a critique of generative work by viewing it as an aesthetics of complexity: It seems as close to the mark as most attempts I've seen.

Marius Watz - Amoeba / Unlekker

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