What is the Future of Generative Art?

#036 - Creative Coding / Generative Arts Weekly

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"A blank canvas...has unlimited possibilities." - Stephanie Perkins

I've spent a significant amount of time thinking about the question,

What does generative art look like in the future?

When reading through the hurdles that 60s technology (and earlier) was able to produce, I have to sit and ponder. With their limitations in processing, cost, storage, input constraints, and technical abilities, one has to stop thinking about what pushing those bounds looks like today.

We've greatly benefitted from the work of Ken Perlin, John Conway, Stephen Wolfram, to name a few who paved the paths in the algorithms used today to produce Perlin / Simplex noise, Reaction-Diffusion, physarum, Mandelbrot fractals derivations in fantastically creative ways.

The work we have seen in the past couple of years has been incredible, especially when understanding its but a small community of maybe 1000-ish generative artists.

(Disclaimer: I only follow 400ish artists, not counting script kiddies, between social media platforms, and I'm 2.5x it).

We can credit this movement due to the pioneers of generative art, including Vera Molnar, Frieder Nake, Ben Laposky, to name a few.

Which influenced the likes of Casey Reas and Ben Fry.

Now we live in a work where processing is cheap. Everyone has access to a digital machine. I can write code on my phone, iPad, or laptop. It makes it incredibly useful and probably one of the most accessible mediums to date.

In utopian age where technology is easy, and generative art is hot…

So to answer the "future of generative art," I often ponder the following questions; I have some answers, but I don't think they are complete at all. They are still ruminating in my mind.

Is time and effort in generative art a measure of quality and significance?

In the sense of crafting skill, it is a contributing factor.

It does take some time to really understand the limits of what is possible in generative art. For example, what happens when you fill a float number beyond its capacity; why doesn't a gradient of two colors work for the eye.

However, I wouldn't say it is a measure, more an indicator of successful art.

What qualifies as unique generative art vs. copycat?

In the context of generative art, I think it is important for collectors, curators, and artists to be mindful of what is out there. You should probably know the images of Generative Design by heart, and that will give a quick sense of either unique interpretation or script kiddie play while looking for new artists.

As an artist, I think it is extremely beneficial to write most of those algorithms from scratch. It will give you a language that will help develop style and the "visual language of generative art" as we have it today.

In the ease of the internet age, before generative art became popular, many algorithms from AMAZING artists have floated around the internet. We need to ensure that the contributions brought by open source artists are guarded. It can be a learning tool and should be considered part of the artists' generative journey. However, simply changing colors without proper indication has to be monitored by the community.

The importance of technical feat vs. artistic feat

I think there is a spectrum of artists, Technical ← → Artistic feat. Each trying to find beauty in both the technical aspects of the algorithms (how small, how sophisticated, how concise and beautiful from a technological aspect.

Then there is the artistic side, where the artist is looking for how aesthetically pleasing or how does it fit in or not fit into the tapestry of artisan tradition.

There is an aspect that I think we need to consider carefully. As the art world starts becoming more interested in the aesthetic nature, there is a component of technical skill that will also need to be considered. Some technical geniuses out there may not have the color theory and believe in the open-source world where an artist can easily take the work to modify to beautify and come out on top without pointing recognition to the beauty of the technical.

All that to say, this will be where collectors and museums will need to build some technical skills beyond creating a Metamask wallet.

Then you can start breaking the rules and paving the paths into new places.


So, what is the next thing that will absolutely blow away our minds?

I've compiled a few idea generators from what I've seen as of late. This list isn't comprehensive, but what I've come up with over the last couple of weeks, and I would certainly love to hear your thoughts.

Long-Form Generative Art

Tyler does a great job explaining the difference between these two paths as an art process, so please read the article linked above. Essentially the difference is:

  • Short-form - Artist curates output of algorithm for the best of 1 - 100 pieces

  • Long-form - Artist generates an algorithm that always outputs unique and original pieces of work (100 - 1000+)

The Artblocks platform celebrates the long-form output of pieces as one can mint a unique piece of artwork from the algorithm that is limited to the output.

Challenges:

  • A possible barrier of entry as most of this work resides in Ethereum and Artblocks.

  • It's not easy to do well, and with the current value proposition of these pieces on the platform, there is a steady stream of artists trying their hand at it. Curation and challenging artists to put their best foot forward are going to produce top-quality work.

Hybrid Mediums Clash

We have already seen these start appearing where musicians and generative artists meet to create interesting interactive work.

Challenges:

  • Generative art can be a lonely practice; however, adding the new element of two separate creative spaces working together can provide new dynamics.

Creative NFT Contract Usage

I think there are going to be a lot of interesting applications in this space. For one, there is 0xDEAFBEEF (find it below). I am fanboying about the thought of an NFT changing as it is transferred from one wallet to another. And not for the better, but the worse. It might be a tug of war with the digital space. It has a very Charles Burkowski-esque feel to it.

Challenges:

  • Education of contracts and the skillset may limit its creativity. Therefore, tools will yet need to be built .to explore this space further.

  • Platform stability - Ethereum is definitely the place to be in generative art; however, barriers of entry will cause artists to go to other platforms. Also, being in so early, some platforms are yet to work on stability.

Physical → Digital

Considering the physical world in the metaverse is also a rather interesting concept. The first of these I came across was the work "520 Minutes" by Alexis André. This "functional" piece of work creates an experience every time a certain time is hit. There are also things like this that provide rather interesting pieces. These are just other ways that generative art could do it:

  • The phase of the moon

  • Weather

  • Location on the globe

All these inputs could have interesting ramifications on how we might experience art. Much of these experiments have been done somewhere in some context.

Discovery of Machine vs. Man and Machine w/ Man

Man vs. Machine has been a continually interesting question for Issac Asimov, George Orwell, and others. And we have seen a few exhibitions in the past 60 years. However, at least in the last 25 years, there has been some but little discovery in what that may look like from the generative artist perspective.

Challenges:

  • Could you say that this question has been explored in many mediums? Why yet another?

  • Our knowledge is limited compared to the unlimited nature of the machine.

Machine Aesthetics

I place this image as a thought provoker. Is this what machine aesthetics may look like to a machine? Could this be the Mona Lisa for the machine? If a machine would become sentient, is there a compendium of rules that would be their idea of beauty?

Challenges:

  • In the postmodern age of art that we live in, it may be interesting to know that a binary machine may have a different approach to aesthetics. But, are we ready and willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if that is true?

  • Then we also have quantum, which may have a completely different idea of aesthetics.

Well, I assume that I might need to get some inspiration from the outdoors. But I do want to hear your thoughts! And everything has been collected through either conversations or posts in Discord channels, Twitter feeds, and my Feedly water hose.

Much love,

Chris Ried

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🖌️ Unconventional Media

0xDEAFBEEF

I assume many of you have already seen the wonderful work from DEAFBEEF. I think this is my favorite collection. The idea that the transfer of the NFT contract actually degrades the quality of the sound and graphics is incredible. A new distribution format through the NFT contract will provide quite interesting generative experiences.

📸 Generative Graphics

🚤 Exhibitions

I’ll try to get this section a little more up to speed as we start having more public events..

  • Art Basel - Dec 2-4 2021

    • The Digital - An algorithmic art auction will also be of the same week (more details to come)

🔖 Articles and Tutorials

The First Decade of Computer Art

The author traces developments in computer art worldwide from 1965, when the first computer art exhibitions were held by scientists, through succeeding periods in which artists collaborated with scientists to create computer programs for artistic purposes. The end of the first decade of computer art was marked by economic, technological and programming advanced that allowed artists more direct access to computers, high quality images and virtually unlimited color choices.

An Introduction to Noise

Noise is an indispensable tool for creative coding. We use it to generate all kinds of organic effects like clouds, landscapes and contours. Or to move and distort objects with a more lifelike behaviour. On the surface, noise appears to be simple to use but, there are so many layers to it. This post takes a deep dive into what noise is, its variants, how to use it on the web and its applications. And lot’s of examples. So many examples!

From Technophilia to Technophobia

Using the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 1971 exhibition “Art and Technology” as a case study, this essay examines a shift in attitude on the part of influential American artists and critics toward collaborations between art and technology from one of optimism in the mid1960s to one of suspicion in the early 1970s. The Vietnam War dramatically undermined public confidence in the promise of new technology, linking it with corporate support of the war. Ultimately, the discrediting of industry-sponsored technology not only undermined the premises of the LACMA exhibition but also may have contributed to the demise of the larger “art and technology” movement in the United States.

The Beauty of Bézier Curves

They're used for animation, text rendering, and all sorts of curved shapes! But how do they actually work? well, like, that's what the video is about, so, watch it to find out etc!!

It is a great source of inspiration on how Bezier curves are made and how they will give great insight into how some primitive functions work, as you might be creating in P5js or Processing.

🎒Courses

Creative Coding: Making Visuals with Javascript

Experimenting with creative coding never gets boring—there’s always something to explore, new techniques to learn, or new images to create. For creative coder Bruno Imbrizi, it’s an opportunity to merge his interests with motion graphics and visuals with programming. He has worked for both small agencies and well-known brands including Dell, Adidas, and Universal Music.

📚Books

Logic and Design

This book examines some of the key principles of design and shows how these also underlie much of what we know of art, mathematics and science. It covers such topics as number, ratio and scale, rhythm and harmony, similarity and contrast, and suggests how these may relate to the total design problem.

A book that has been out of print for a while but has a lot of the simple concepts of design and has a lot of benefit in helping to define some of the core concepts of design and help implement them into the coding practice the creative.

Please send me your inspirations...

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