Generative Art as a Response to Auto-Destructive Art and a Result of Technological Determinism

FALL 2006
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While reading Gustav Metzger's article on auto-destructive art, it struck me as odd that very little attention was paid to its inverse, auto-creative art, which appears to have more recently taken the form of the very popular generative art genre. I began to think that perhaps at the time the article was written, it was more likely that art-work of an emergent or evolving nature would occur as a physical installation due to sheer logistics of construction. Now, with the advent of cheap computing hardware and high-level programming languages, the dynamics of the platform allows for a much more suitable medium for adaptive artworks. The real question becomes why generative and not degenerative.

A wave of fresh young artists have landed in the contemporary art scene, coming from varying backgrounds, but focusing on one thing in particular: art works that build upon themselves. Many of the leaders of the generative art community such as Casey Reas, Jared Tarbell, and Golan Levin all come from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, specifically the Aesthetics & Computation Group.

Reas's work in particular relates back to the period of auto-destructive art, and actually even earlier as he relates it to the period of kinetic art in relation to modern developments of interactive software, behavioral robotics, and artificial life in his masters thesis Behavioral Kinetic Sculpture. His work exists primarily as visual investigations into the emergent behavior of simple generative systems. He utilizes basic rule sets for programming the behavior of system entities, and then visualizes their interactions based on further rule sets.