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

On 21/11/2004, at 10:33 AM, Marius Watz wrote:
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.

Yes. Jon McCormack has been arguing the same thing for quite a while, re software literacy. I support the concept completely, and it aligns with a broader push to understand software as cultural/political. What strikes me is the contrast between this quite savvy project, and the actual work it produces, which sometimes seems quite introverted. I am interested in the potential of this kind of work to engage more strongly with its "outside", rather than noodling away like old C64 graphics demos. An example, on the topic of Casey Reas (whose ears must be burning), there's an older work which processes a live video feed (he used cable TV) but simply analyses an average colour value for each frame, and fills the frame with that colour. The result is a "one pixel tv" which decimates the content but reveals temporal / visual patterns and makes a strong comment on its source.

If this movement heads towards a hermetic "purity" of code, it seems to me it's retracing some well worn Modernist tracks (we've already discussed LeWitt) - and actually really recapitulating the history of computing in the arts, especially computer music, which has long had a fascination with the algorithm as pure "seed" for the work.

A-life systems sometimes share this hermetic tendency, but they always seek to escape it, either by making the internal "world" increasingly complex, in the hope of emergent outcomes, or (more often recently) by opening the work up to outside influences, coupling it to its wider environment. Both Ken and Mauro's work are examples here... another one I like is Scott Draves' Electric Sheep, in which the graphical outcomes are really a residue of a human/machine "ecology" of distributed-processing clients. (

Mitchell Whitelaw

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