Untitled

Symposium:


Session Title:

  • Arabesque, Mandala, Algorithm: A Long History of Generative Art

Presentation Title:

  • Untitled

Presenter(s):



Abstract:

  • Chairs:  Kris Paulsen & Mered­ith Hoy
    Pre­sen­ters: Zabet Pat­ter­son & Laura U. Marks

    This panel will in­ves­ti­gate the his­tory of ab­stract mov­ing image work from early com­puter films, to the first video syn­the­sizer im­ages, to cur­rent work in gen­er­a­tive, al­go­rith­mic art. Un­like typ­i­cal im­ages de­rived from film and video, which cap­ture in­dex­i­cal traces of the scenes and ob­jects in front of their lenses, these works gen­er­ate im­agery with­out ref­er­ents and often with­out cam­eras. Early com­puter an­i­ma­tions ex­per­i­mented with the trans­la­tion of code into graph­ics, video syn­the­siz­ers mapped elec­tric im­pulses di­rectly onto the scrolling field of the cath­ode ray tube, where as gen­er­a­tive art uses com­pu­ta­tional al­go­rithms to de­fine a set of rules which au­to­mat­i­cally set into mo­tion and ever chang­ing vi­sual land­scape.

    The pa­pers on this panel chal­lenge the par­tic­u­lar model of vi­su­al­ity pro­posed by a tra­di­tional un­der­stand­ing of film. They trace out a long his­tory of gen­er­a­tive art, root­ing new media prac­tices in ex­per­i­men­tal work of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The work of John and James Whit­ney, Stephen Beck, and Casey Reas model an al­ter­na­tive his­tory of mov­ing im­ages that priv­i­leges ab­strac­tion over rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and pro­ce­dure over mimetic cap­ture of the nat­ural world.  In an ef­fort to make some­thing rad­i­cally new, these artists refer to older his­to­ries of knowl­edge and make ex­plicit ref­er­ence out­side of the lex­i­con of West­ern vi­su­al­ity to the East­ern fig­ures of arabesques and man­dalas. Like these spir­i­tual mo­tifs, the artists aim to cre­ate types of im­agery that ex­ceed the vis­i­ble ma­te­r­ial world by mak­ing works of pure light. In doing so, they not only au­thor an al­ter­na­tive his­tory of film, but also hy­poth­e­size a meta­physics of the screen. The pa­pers on this panel chal­lenge the par­tic­u­lar model of vi­su­al­ity pro­posed by a tra­di­tional un­der­stand­ing of film.

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