[ISEA2011] Panel: Laura U. Marks – Sen­sa­tion and In­di­vid­u­a­tion in Gen­er­a­tive Art­works and Cau­casian Car­pets

Panel Statement

Panel: Arabesque, Mandala, Algorithm: A Long History of Generative Art

This talk pur­sues a com­par­i­son in the last chap­ter of En­fold­ment and In­fin­ity: An Is­lamic Ge­neal­ogy of New Media Art, that com­pares two bod­ies of al­go­rith­mic art: con­tem­po­rary gen­er­a­tive art­works and 17th-cen­tury Cau­casian car­pets. Each of them re­sponds to new in­for­ma­tion and come up with re­sults that could not be pre­fig­ured in the al­go­rithm’s ini­tial state. Cau­casian car­pets re­tain qual­i­ties of nonor­ganic life, mol­e­c­u­lar or­ga­ni­za­tion, and ap­peal to sen­sa­tion. They ex­em­plify the cre­ative élan vital of art­works whose forms os­cil­late be­tween fig­u­ra­tive and ab­stract. The life of forms in these car­pets, in its em­pha­sis on self-or­ga­ni­za­tion rather than im­i­ta­tion, is mol­e­c­u­lar rather than molar. In these car­pets life seems to arise from any point what­ever, to self-or­ga­nize and mu­tate. Though the car­pets’ de­signs obey strict com­po­si­tional rules, they nev­er­the­less sug­gest the Open, in that the odd­ness and par­tic­u­lar­ity of the forms sug­gests they could have evolved dif­fer­ently. Fi­nally, I sug­gest that Cau­casian car­pets ad­dress not only cog­ni­tion, not only per­cep­tion, but sen­sa­tion di­rectly, in what Deleuze calls the Fig­ural. This is one of their most sub­ver­sive qual­i­ties.

These ob­ser­va­tions about car­pets bring new cri­te­ria to art­works pro­duced with gen­er­a­tive soft­ware. Nonor­ganic life, an ap­peal to sen­sa­tion, the sub­ver­sion of or­na­ment all char­ac­ter­ize many con­tem­po­rary gen­er­a­tive art­works. The ques­tion that arises is, Where, in an al­go­rith­mic art­work, does in­di­vid­u­a­tion occur? In­di­vid­u­a­tion is the ac­tu­al­iza­tion of the vir­tual, a be­com­ing, a ma­te­ri­al­iza­tion of a life force from within. Cau­casian car­pets re­quired in­dus­trial-level de­sign and pro­duc­tion; in­di­vid­u­a­tion oc­curred at the level of de­sign. Sim­i­larly, in gen­er­a­tive art­work, we may seek in­di­vid­u­a­tion at the level of pro­gram­ming and of ma­te­r­ial ex­e­cu­tion.

  • Dr. Laura U. Marks is the Dena Wosk Uni­ver­sity Pro­fes­sor of Art and Cul­ture Stud­ies at Simon Fraser Uni­ver­sity.  A scholar, the­o­rist, and cu­ra­tor of in­de­pen­dent and ex­per­i­men­tal media arts, she is the au­thor of  The Skin of the Film: In­ter­cul­tural Cin­ema, Em­bod­i­ment, and the Senses (Duke Uni­ver­sity Press, 2000),Touch: Sen­su­ous The­ory and Mul­ti­sen­sory  Media (Min­nesota Uni­ver­sity Press, 2002), and many es­says. Sev­eral years of re­search in Is­lamic art his­tory and phi­los­o­phy gave rise to En­fold­ment and In­fin­ity: An Is­lamic Ge­neal­ogy of New Media Art (MIT Press, 2010). She has cu­rated pro­grams of ex­per­i­men­tal media for venues around the world. Her cur­rent re­search in­ter­ests are the media arts of the Arab and Mus­lim world, in­ter­cul­tural per­spec­tives on new media art, and philo­soph­i­cal ap­proaches to ma­te­ri­al­ity and in­for­ma­tion cul­ture.

Full text (PDF) p. 1643-1648 [title slightly different]