[ISEA2011] Panel: Kris Paulsen & Mered­ith Hoy (moderators) – Arabesque, Mandala, Algorithm: A Long History of Generative Art

Panel Statement

Chairs:  Kris Paulsen & Mered­ith Hoy
Pre­sen­ters: Zabet Pat­ter­son & Laura U. Marks

This panel will in­ves­ti­gate the his­tory of ab­stract mov­ing image work from early com­puter films, to the first video syn­the­sizer im­ages, to cur­rent work in gen­er­a­tive, al­go­rith­mic art. Un­like typ­i­cal im­ages de­rived from film and video, which cap­ture in­dex­i­cal traces of the scenes and ob­jects in front of their lenses, these works gen­er­ate im­agery with­out ref­er­ents and often with­out cam­eras. Early com­puter an­i­ma­tions ex­per­i­mented with the trans­la­tion of code into graph­ics, video syn­the­siz­ers mapped elec­tric im­pulses di­rectly onto the scrolling field of the cath­ode ray tube, where as gen­er­a­tive art uses com­pu­ta­tional al­go­rithms to de­fine a set of rules which au­to­mat­i­cally set into mo­tion and ever chang­ing vi­sual land­scape. The pa­pers on this panel chal­lenge the par­tic­u­lar model of vi­su­al­ity pro­posed by a tra­di­tional un­der­stand­ing of film. They trace out a long his­tory of gen­er­a­tive art, root­ing new media prac­tices in ex­per­i­men­tal work of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The work of John and James Whit­ney, Stephen Beck, and Casey Reas model an al­ter­na­tive his­tory of mov­ing im­ages that priv­i­leges ab­strac­tion over rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and pro­ce­dure over mimetic cap­ture of the nat­ural world.  In an ef­fort to make some­thing rad­i­cally new, these artists refer to older his­to­ries of knowl­edge and make ex­plicit ref­er­ence out­side of the lex­i­con of West­ern vi­su­al­ity to the East­ern fig­ures of arabesques and man­dalas. Like these spir­i­tual mo­tifs, the artists aim to cre­ate types of im­agery that ex­ceed the vis­i­ble ma­te­r­ial world by mak­ing works of pure light. In doing so, they not only au­thor an al­ter­na­tive his­tory of film, but also hy­poth­e­size a meta­physics of the screen. The pa­pers on this panel chal­lenge the par­tic­u­lar model of vi­su­al­ity pro­posed by a tra­di­tional un­der­stand­ing of film.

  • Kris Paulsenis As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Con­tem­po­rary Art, Film, Video and New Media in the His­tory of Art De­part­ment and Pro­gram in Film Stud­ies at The Ohio State Uni­ver­sity, USA. She stud­ies con­tem­po­rary art with a spe­cial­iza­tion in time-based media. In par­tic­u­lar, her work traces the his­tory of tech­nol­ogy in the arts and the rhetoric of “new media” from pho­tog­ra­phy to com­pu­ta­tional art. Her cur­rent re­search ad­dresses artis­tic en­gage­ments with tele­vi­sion and ex­per­i­ments with telep­res­ence. Draw­ing on psy­cho­an­a­lytic the­ory, film the­ory, and semi­otics, she ex­am­ines the phe­nom­e­no­log­i­cal and epis­te­mo­log­i­cal ef­fects of tech­nolo­gies on space, time and bod­ily pres­ence. Ad­di­tion­ally, Pro­fes­sor Paulsen is in­ter­ested in the legal and philo­soph­i­cal stakes of forgery, reen­act­ment, ap­pro­pri­a­tion, and copy­right in the dig­i­tal age. She is cur­rently work­ing on two book man­u­scripts, “Mass Medium: Artists’ Tele­vi­sion 1965 to the Pre­sent” and “Real Time over Real Space: Telep­res­ence and Con­tem­po­rary Art”.
  • Mered­ith Hoy is As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Con­tem­po­rary Art in the De­part­ment of Art and Art His­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts, Boston, USA. Her dis­ser­ta­tion, en­ti­tled From Point to Pixel: A Ge­neal­ogy of Dig­i­tal Aes­thet­ics, traces links be­tween con­tem­po­rary dig­i­tal art and mod­ern paint­ing. Draw­ing on the­o­ries of vi­su­al­ity, space and spa­tial prac­tice, cy­ber­net­ics and sys­tems the­ory, phe­nom­e­nol­ogy, and post-struc­tural­ism and semi­otics, her re­search fo­cuses on the im­pact of tech­nol­ogy on art and vi­sual cul­ture. She has writ­ten on mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary art and ar­chi­tec­ture, gen­er­a­tive art, in­for­ma­tion vi­su­al­iza­tion, and the phe­nom­e­nol­ogy of net­worked space.