[ISEA94] Panel: Roman Verostko – Notes on Algorithm and Art

Panel Statement

Panel: Algorithms and the Artist

Almost as if by magic – whatever procedure you dream of – you can probably extend the power of your dream to the computer and let it develop the dream beyond your wildest expectations. You may identify procedures for improvising with color, scale, and position – which is what artists have always done. Given sufficient definition you could develop a form generator and from your new vantage point see new possibilities for further elaboration on your routine. Through trial and error interacting with the algorithm itself you proceed further into the new frontier.                                                                                                                                                            So what can we learn from this? We learn what artists have always known -that ‘CAD’ programs, paint brush programs, paint brushes and drawing paraphernalia do not make art. Neither do  artists or designers simply ‘make art’. The one over-riding essential element to the process, ‘a developed artistic procedure’, is necessarily unique for each artist and for each work of art. The
procedure addresses a singular conjunction of elements for which there is no ‘universal’ rule. The ‘calculus of form’ may be placed in the service of such procedures but should not be confused with the art-making procedure. For the artist who writes the code the artistic procedure is the act of ‘writing the code’, pretty much like the creative work of the composer when the composer writes a musical score.
Making art does indeed require a ‘calculus of form’. But the artist’s instructions on how to employ the ‘calculus of form’ precede the ‘calculus’. One needs an ‘artistic procedure’ which
addresses the entire complex of elements for each specific work. The final form, unique and specific to each work, embraces more than the ‘calculus’. While it embraces and grows from a
“calculus” it might employ any of an infinite number of approaches to deliver the form. These may include metaphor, improvisations of the form phenomenon in and of itself, or reference
to some other phenomenon or idea – historical, literary, political, mathematical or philosophic.
Can an artist write an algorithm then for an artistic procedure? Emphatically yes! Such algorithms provide the artist with self-organizing form generators which manifest his or her own artistic concerns and interests. We are looking to an interesting time ahead of us when
artists will be able to exchange and interact with each other’s form-generating tools in ways we never dreamed. There are procedures yet to be developed to make this kind of interactive expression accessible – a time ahead when we will literally see an evolution of form including a genealogy associated with its creators.

  • Roman Verostko, FISEA’93 Program Director; Professor, Minneapolis College of Art & Design, USA. As a Bush Fellow he researched the ‘changing role of artists’ at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (MIT, 1970). His seminal paper “Epigenetic Painting: Software as Genotype” (1988) identified biological analogues to autonomous form generating  procedures. His “epigenetic art” includes a limited edition of George Boole’s “Derivation of the laws…”. Awards: Golden Plotter First Prize (1994); Ars Electronica Honorary Mention (1993). Exhibitions include: “Genetische Kunst – Kunstliches Leben” (Linz 1993); “TISEA” (Sidney, 1992); “SIGGRAPH 1991, 1992” (Chicago, Dallas, Computer Museum, Boston);
    “Data Data” (Baltimore, 1991)