All posts in aesthetics

New Work: Algorithmic, Procedural and Generative Art Sketches – Mark Gould, 2013


I’ve been working for the last few years using a combination of “creative coding” applications like Processing, thanks in part to the very large community that supports each other in the development and sharing of open source code and new media creation tools. Max/MSP, Quartz Composer and openFrameworks. Although I wrote HTML as a web designer for awhile, I’m not a coder or a programmer and have made a start in part thanks to this wonderul, sharing community and the ability to cut and paste code, tweak it until I’ve gotten satisfactory results, and combined this with more widely used and sophisticated user-interface driven generative and procedural painting applications like Studio Artist 4.

I didn’t originally expect this to be a quick or short learning curve, and therefore I consider the work so far to be more like digital sketching, works in progress and exploratory in nature. Given that I’m not a coder and so much of the beautiful generative art shown at museums and major exhibitions is produced by so many talented coders, I see the process and form of my work continually being refined over time.





This work combines a number of generative, procedural drawing and algorithmic brush based painting, which means that the the code underlying a brush style modifies and changes in real time depending on variables, such as pen angle, pressure, and mathematical changes that vary “under the hood” while you draw. One could say my work does not fall within the generally supported definition of “generative,” which is to say that it is not done entirely in writing source code using programming languages, databases, data mapping, fractals, chaos theory and an overall aesthetic approach based on concepts of breeding, automatic selection rules and many other factors relating to computational aesthetics. Some of it is, and that work is then merged and layered in with UI-driven computer art software with other work that has been created “manually” with the artist intentionally interceding in the computer’s decision making process, which in many ways would make these images quasi-generative in nature.







Sometime soon I’ll be writing to elaborate on the work going on to give generative software more artist-friendly user interfaces, and what’s available.

And so, part of my exploration here is not just the work itself, much of my intention is to raise questions about exactly what can or can’t be considered generative art, whether the genre can evolve to perhaps include this kind of hybrid work or whether it belongs in a genre of it’s own. At the same time I and other artists are exploring what could be considered processes in digital abstract expressionism, a metaphor that it seems to me fits nicely with the often chaotic, immersive, ever changing nature of generative art. What I often think about is opposed to paint drips, while the medium is digital the process is random, playful and the underlying code creates “algorithm drips.” It may be presumptuous for me to define it as anything, and let others be the judge.




Concepts in Generative Art, Data Art and New Media Aesthetics – Part 1

generative art and aesthetics part 1

by Mark Gould

It seems that the genre of generative art is both growing and becoming more sophisticated every day, and receiving a lot of attention in the art press and in related social networks. But there remains substantial confusion over the term, which I hope to do my part in helping to at least clear up some of the misconceptions and clarify just what is meant by the term and what many generative artists are doing. Needless to say this will be a broad overview and probably the first of several articles on this important genre of mostly, computer related art.

Generative art refers to any art practice where the artist creates a process, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, which is then set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art.

Philip Galanter




Brian Eno



Marius Watz

Galanter is often quoted and teaches generative art at Texas A&M University, is an artist, theorist and curator. Note that Galanter’s definition stresses that a computer by itself is not essential to generative art, although most of the generative work done these days just so happens to be done on a computer.  Another definition of generative art is work that is derived from a process or processes, often but not strictly by the use of a computer, to define rules by which such artwork are produced. This can include the process of recursion, but generative art should not be viewed as limited only to the principles of recursion. Artists working in many other media, of course, have used recursion in their work for centuries, and while while the mathematic principle of recursion is certainly an aspect of generative art, as both a programmatic and a creative field it is much more robust.


Mark Gould



Mark Knol

Since the term “computer generated” has been around for a long time it may cause some confusion among the general public hearing the term generative – what’s the difference? Isn’t all art created on a computer generative? Well, in a word, no. Simply put, computer generated is different than the concept of generative art, which again, has more to do with the underlying process, usually having to do with code or an algorithm in some repetitive way in the creation of the work. The generative concept has been used for many years before computers in the field of music. The fugues of J.S. Bach could be considered generative, in that there is a strict underlying process that is followed by the composer. Mozart’s Musikalisches Würfelspiel (Musical Dice Game) was an early example of a generative music system.1 Composers such as John Cage and Brian Eno have used generative systems in their works.

To many of those people both working in the field and who have either theorized about generative art seem to generally agree that the term is at some level conceptually similar to algorithmic art, which is a term that has been around much longer. So have terms like fractal art and now, procedural art. At the same time, a lot of people don’t like to get bogged down in specific terminology. Brian Eno, whose work among others has been fundamental in the fields of ambient arts and generative arts, says, “I try to stress the idea of a drawing that is the result of a collaborative process between me and the machine. Analyzing data to extrapolate data, as it applies to real human relationships, is art as much as science. And it is very specifically a collaborative process between me and the machine. Generative art may hold the clue to effectively using that data; the inspiration for computing processes that solve problems social network analysts don’t yet know that we have. (It may not, but my hypothesis is that is does.)”


Jared Tarbell



It’s an interesting personal footnote that along with a lot of other people discovering computer graphics, art and design in the 1980’s, one of the the joys and realizations I had about the computer as a new tool was the power it had in the ability to allow me to do almost countless iterations on a concept that would have been difficult or nearly impossible with other tools. I felt the same way Eno does about there being a collaborative process between myself and the machine; today, computers are exponentially so much faster the iterative process feels that much more like I’m working through an idea so fast that the computer is suggesting a version or idea I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. What others would far more simply call a happy accident.


It’s been pointed out that this is the era of “Big Data” and while Internet versions 1.o and even 2.o were somewhat static the evolution and ease with which databases can be hooked into a variety of inputs and outputs has made all sorts of new things possible. One of the more “out front” trends in the development of live databases is data visualization. Data visualization is exciting to professionals in any number of fields because of the obvious value it has in being able filter and analyze huge amounts of real time data through some type of user interface designed to visualize that data in a much more sensible way than you ever could by just looking at the data itself. The most widely known type of data visualization might be television election night graphics, and other kinds of data visualization have been used by graphic designers for quite a while now. But now we are experiencing an explosion in this field. In the art world the potential for using data, either real or imagined, as the underlying tool for creative work along with some type of generative process appears to be what is creating this new level of explosive growth in the 21st century going forward.

In upcoming posts, in addition to Brian Eno, I’ll introduce you to the upper echelon of those working, thinking, teaching and writing in the field of generative art. May you live in exciting times!

Direct-On-Found Footage Filmmaking: Mining the Debris of Image Consumption & Co-directing With Nature

Direct-On-Found Footage Filmmaking: Mining thedebris of image consumption & co-directing withnature

I was glad to have found the online journal, SCAN, about media arts culture recently and highly recommend it to students of the arts, film, media arts, media theory and other disciplines. SCAN is a refereed, inter-disciplinary and some of its subject matter includes media studies, media arts, cultural studies, fine arts, philosophy, new media, music and technology. SCAN is hosted by the Department of Media, Music, Communications and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney.

I read with interest Katherine Berger’s well written analysis of how a growing number of filmmakers in the 21st century are using both handed down handmade, direct-on-film animation techniques as well as their own new ways of making use of interacting with the analogue film itself. As Berger points out, these direct-on-film techniques are by their nature process oriented, in which many artists discover the film’s form and subjects in the course of the film making. Berger goes on to point out that many art movements are based on theories of discovery and chance. The specific use of found, or appropriated footage adds a layer of questioning truth and authorship into the mix; film artists are questioning filmed or photographed images as “historical truth.”


Direct-On-Found Footage Filmmaking: Mining the debris of image consumption & co-directing with nature

by Katherine Berger



San Francisco Street Art – Clarion Alley, The Mission

Street Art, Clarion Alley, The Mission

Street Art, Clarion Alley, The Mission

Street Art - Clarion Alley, The Mission, San Francisco




Like many city residents and tourists alike, I often stop by Clarion Alley to see if there is any new street art, or visit some great art again. A lot of the street art remains untouched, unfortunately some people in The Mission and other neighborhoods are taking to the awfully distasteful, horrible habit of tagging street art that an artist has probably spent hours, days or weeks working on. Ah, the price you pay if you post your work out in the open. I know, right? Still, you’d like to believe we could live in a world where whoever needs to vent their anger, frustration, creativity or any other mood that strikes he or she upon pulling out the spray paint,  would find somewhere else to do it and not destroy somebody else’s work. Or, not do it at all since, well, it’s illegal. Graffiti on graffiti? Somewhat oxymoron-ish, isn’t it? Suppose city supervisors and lawyers would have trouble trying to fashion a law protecting street art. So we leave it to neighbors and other local residents to LEAVE THE STREET ART ALONE!



Oh Say Can You See — Metallica Style, SF Giants Style



Original Photo: Getty Photos, Copyright 2013 at

Marius Watz on: Generative Art, Code and Data as Art and the New Aesthetic


Marius Watz (NO) is an artist working with visual abstraction through generative software processes. His work focuses on the synthesis of form as the product of parametric behaviors. He is known for hard-edged geometrical forms and vivid colors, with outputs ranging from pure software works to public projections and physical objects produced with digital fabrication technology.

Watz has exhibited at venues like the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), Todaysart (The Hague), ITAU Cultural (Sao Paulo), Museumsquartier (Vienna), and Galleri ROM (Oslo). He is a lecturer in Interaction Design at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design.

Watz is also considered to be one of the primary theorists of generative art, what it is and what it could be, analyzing technology, culture and art theory to continually investigate the rapidly evolving generative art aesthetic. He gave this presentation to the Eyeo Festival in 2012; the 2013 Festival is June 5-8 in Minneapolis, MN – full details here.

20120610 A Movement in 3 Parts. (1.Shock & Awe, 2.Algorithm Critique, 3.The New Aesthetic And Its Disco… by Marius Watz

Another generative art pioneer and co-inventor of the Processing media programming language is Casey Reas. His speech to Eyeo 2012 is embedded here, a full list of video recorded presentations from last year’s conference is on Vimeo.

Eyeo2012 – Casey Reas from Eyeo Festival on Vimeo.

A Question of Aesthetics – What Is Beauty and How Does it Feel?

by Mark Gould

Designer Richard Seymour works on products with soul — from a curvy, swoopy iron to a swift and sleek city motorcycle. Seymourpowell is regarded as one of the world’s leading product and innovation design consultancies, with clients who include Ford, Virgin Galactic, Tefal, Casio, Nokia, Guinness, Samsung and Unilever. Seymour is also consultant global creative director of design to Unilever’s Dove, Axe/Lynx and Vaseline brands.

So, it can be said that Seymour’s approach to the concept of beauty, or an analysis of current day thinking on one aspect of the subject of aesthetics, Continue reading “A Question of Aesthetics – What Is Beauty and How Does it Feel?” »