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]