Working generatively – some thoughts and questions…

So I’ve been thinking recently about drawing a distinction between a generative ruleset or process, and its eventual use in a working creative system. What it seems to me is that perhaps this curatorial, compositional process is sometimes not given enough credit – and that this process extends much further than one of ‘mapping’. Lately I’ve been asking myself some questions along these lines. Here are just a few of these:

– Can algorithms be neutral, that is, can they easily be transferred from one system to another?

– Are transferable, generalisable algorithms preferable in generative arts practice?

– What kinds of aesthetic decisions are made when one makes makes creative use of a generative process? Are there recognisable, common approaches?

– What can we learn about our art practices by looking at the process of translation between an algorithm and its instantiation in a working system?

– If a generative algorithm is tightly bound to an individual usage case, where does the algorithm end, and the artwork begin?


Although I like the idea that employing a generative algorithm in a system might be seen as a curatorial act for the artist, at the same time, I think it is also much more than this – I think it is a bi-directional process of translation. For me, understanding how this process of translation twists and bends our creative practice towards the idiosyncratic is crucial to understanding the power of generative approaches. Perhaps viewing generative art this way means that we can take stock of what’s really driving the decisions we make when creating these systems using generative algorithms.


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