[TISEA 1992] Paper: Brian Evans – Algorithm, Abstraction, Unity


I propose to discuss the idea of abstraction as a necessary condition of art that aspires to universal truth. This was the lofty goal of the Modernists. The works and writings of artists such as Kandinsky and Mondrian reflect this aspiration. Abstraction allows art to transcend national or cultural biases and so establish a truly global perspective. Today, many visual artists using electronic media are involved with realism, appropriation, social and political commentary — rehashing old themes with new tools. The issue of finding new ways to abstract information, new paths to universality, has been abandoned by many and is now more aggressively addressed by scientists. From the efforts of these scientists has come the ubiquity of tputer, Ce-nter, USA scientific visualisation. The main tool used in visualisation being the algorithm. Just as the scientist uses the abstract language of mathematics to model the natural world, they now use an abstract visual language, built from the computer algorithm, to investigate these models. Some artists have adopted these methods and continue on the Modernist path. Heisenberg said, “In art, as in science, we can discern a striving for universality. In the sciences we are endeavouring to interpret all physical phenomena in a unified way, to understand all organisms in terms of a single point of view, and we have already come a long way (upon this road. In art we are seeking to present a basis for life common to all men on earth. This striving for unification and bringing togeth-er necessarily leads to abstraction, in art probably no less than in science.”

  • Brian Evans, Vanderbilt University Computer Center, USA