Context Machines: A Series of Situated, Outward-Looking, Self-Organizing and Generative Artworks


Session Title:

  • Code and Generative Art

Presentation Title:

  • Context Machines: A Series of Situated, Outward-Looking, Self-Organizing and Generative Artworks




  • Session: Code and Generative Art

    “Context Machines” (CMs) are a family of site-specific, conceptual and electronic media artworks that capture photographic images from their environment in the construction of generative compositions. These artworks are produced in the context of meta-creation, where artworks are systems constructed in order to exhibit creative behaviour. Their production began with a central question: Could a machine be constructed that found its own relationship to it’s physical context, without the artist predetermining that relation?

    “Resurfacing” was the first outward looking installation produced. The system captures images of the environment, at multiple moments in time, to produce interactive temporal landscapes. This project is a precursor to the CMs that follow, it was not intended to find a relation to its environment, and was not produced in the context of meta-creation.

    “Memory Association Machine” integrates photographic images of its environment into an organized structure. This process is enabled by an artificial intelligence inspired by a model of human memory. The system free-associates through this structure as initiated by the most recent captured image. These free-associations are framed as the creative actions of the machine, and are meant to situate it in the physical world shared with the viewer. The process of free-association is enabled by a model of creativity as proposed by L. M. Gabora.

    In “Dreaming Machine” these free-associations are framed as machine dreams. This interpretation of the work takes the naïve view that dreaming is a result of random activation in the brain, one conception of dreaming as proposed by Hobson, and therefore analogous to the concept of free-association.

    The method of memory integration used in “Memory Association Machine” and “Dreaming Machine” is applied to thousands of prerecorded images in “Self-Organized Landscapes”. These landscapes are high resolution and intended for large-scale print reproduction.

    CMs are produced at the intersection between art production, computer and cognitive science. Their application of cognitive models of memory, creativity, dreaming, and perception invite us to reconsider what is essentially human, how we relate to machines, and to look at ourselves anew.

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