[ISEA94] Panel: Stephen Bell – ALGORITHM

Panel Statement

Panel: Algorithms and the Artist

I am interested in producing work which is realised through engaging the audience in active physical participation. In a general sense it can be said that I have been producing work by proposing rules for the generation of images but leaving significant parameters open to change. The form of the work is defined by the limits imposed by the rules and the degree and manner of control over the parameters afforded to participants. An algorithm can perform a role in creative activity similar to that of any other constraint used in art practice; the self-imposed limits within which one works in order to free oneself to indulge in creative play and experiment and yet at the same time ensure our focussed and hence enhanced attention. It is in this way that I use algorithms in my work. As I have been using computer graphic workstations the rules are encapsulated in an appropriate computer programming language. Computers are very useful control devices and the programming languages which have been
developed to determine how they behave are effective, if somewhat limited, in enabling one to describe rules for the interactive real-time generation of the kind of graphic images which I am interested in: representations of the interactions of programmed automata with each other and the audience-participants. I would like to hope that we can interpret the word ALGORITHM in a
relaxed way. It is our prerogative as humans, particularly as artists, to interpret language fuzzily, not to define the meaning of a word for eternity but to exploit its value in passing, in a dynamic interchange of ideas and notions with fellow humans in which it plays a significant yet ephemeral part. The word ALGORITHM in the context of the panel will, I hope, be as a catalyst for lively and diverse discussion rather than a straight-jacket. That is, after all, the value that I have found in using algorithms in art practice.

  • Stephen Bell, UK. Born 1955. Currently Senior Lecturer in Computer Animation, National Centre for Computer Animation, Bournemouth University. 1991 PhD, “Participatory Art and Computers”, Loughborough University. 1984-85 Artist in Residence, Computing Lab. University of Kent at Canterbury. 1977 First put pen and brush to computer plotter at Slade School of Art, London.