Art and the Algorithm: Classical Traditions Revisited


Session Title:

  • Art and the Algorithm

Presentation Title:

  • Art and the Algorithm: Classical Traditions Revisited



  • Ars Sine Scientia Nihil
    -Jean Vignot, 1392

    Advances in-computer graphics have made it possible to visualise worlds of form never before seen by the human eye. Artists have been creating art derived from these unseen worlds. In this paper we are interested in works generated by algorithms which the artist under-) stands and employs as an integral part of a form-making idea or procedure. Scientists, artists and philosophers have been drawn into an intense dialogue over the aesthetic value of these art forms. Prototypes for such procedures appeared historically when canons of form based on number and measure evolved from philosophical or religious ideas about cosmic order.

    Consider the work of the 15th Century humanist and architect, Leon Battista Alberti. Following classical tradition he employed proportion in relating architectural members to each other and the whole to achieve the harmony referred to as concinnitas. This harmony was likened to a cosmic harmony and constituted an essential part of his ‘form-creating’ process. In a similar way, there are artists today who employ an algorithm —a step by step calculation, of form— in their art making process. This paper proposes that such algorithms can embody essential features of an artist’s art-making process and that there are artists today whose work is substantially algorithmic and aesthetically successful. The precedents for this assertion permeate the history of art. Artists, musicians and architects have repeatedly and untiringly sought the cosmic secrets of number and proportion for their work.