Category: Reading03


Question 1A.

Manfred Schroeder: Prime Spectrum, 1968

In terms of effective complexity, I think this piece combines the order of using same sized, uniformed, black and white pixel-like blocks formed in sixteen squares, and randomness of arranging the color of blocks in certain ways. Also it appears that the tendency of accumulated white blocks are diagonal with concentrations in certain areas, and the fact that the whole photo is symmetric is also a representation of order.


Question 1B.

The problem of authorship is really interesting to me. I feel like for digital generative art, when computers started to be the execution or tool, it also became a bigger part of the process of making art. The line starts to blur when both the artist and the computer are working as a team together, since the result would not be the same without the input and response from either sides. In my opinion the computer is more than just a tool when creating generative art, and the computer and artist should be partners, since they are entitled to part of the creation and this certain part alone.


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Clacker- Reading 03

Mark Wilson’s plotter work is on the edge of total order, as he has a set task a plotter is executing, but complexity is derived from the use of the machine as the hand of the painter. He is programmatically instructing a machine to paint, thus elements of complexity are generated as the machine is being instructed to interpret the visual goals of the artist.

csq4002, archival ink jet on rag paper, 61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 in), 2008 csq4002, archival ink jet on rag paper, 61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 in), 2008 csq3422, archival ink jet on rag paper, 61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 in), 2008 csq3422, archival ink jet on rag paper, 61 x 61 cm (24 x 24 in), 2008

Problem of Creativity.
This problem arises, in my opinion, from voices who are concerned about the progression of generative art in relationship to traditional art making. I find this point to be mute because It’s existence poses no threat to existing art forms if it is in fact not creative. But the progression of contemporary art has proven that works like these have artistic merit on their own, and as a movement. Thus they are inherently creative and debating the artistic merit of an entire genre of art only solidifies its place in art history. Though I do agree that like any art form, individual works of generative art should be held to a high standard of criticism, and determining the creativity of a work is part of that evaluation. It is not enough to just rely on a mastery of the tools used for generating the work. 

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Question 1A.

I believe much of Andreas Gursky’s photography exhibits effective complexity, especially his work involving mass-arrangements and macro-level overviews. They capture the confusion and overwhelming force of the modern world resultant from a confluence of both individualism/differentiation and consistency/smoothness. With regard to the ‘scale of order’ (order to chaos), I think Andreas’ work exhibits two types of placements. On the one hand, some of his work shows how uniformity and calmness can result from many specialized and unique items, but, in contrast, it also shows how erratic and nervous emotion can be the result of a mass of sameness.

Question 1B. — The Problem of Locality, Code, and Malleability; The Problem of Creativity

I find the debate present in this problem of Generative Art one of a confusion between principle and practice. I fall on the side of saying that the eased copy-ability of digital/rule-based/generative art does not fundamentally change the nature of the art. I also believe the nature of object truth exists in the analogue experience available to/experienced by viewers, beholders, and consumers; and not in the system that creates those truths. Though it’s true that some viewers may now become remixers by looking at the source code, I view this similarly to the fact that some museum goers enjoy copying the paintings into their sketchbooks. On the whole, the ‘nature of the real’ has not changed meaningfully to shift principles, only enough to change practice, but this is ever changing.

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Jaqaur – Reading03

1a. I think that mathematics, particularly mathematical proofs, exhibit effective complexity. Technically, there isn’t much disorder (or any at all), but they show a flawless transition from complexity to simplicity, or vice versa. They can be incredibly complicated, but still beautiful. Below is a picture of a proof of Euler’s identity, which is often called “the most beautiful proof in mathematics.” I guess on a scale from total order to total disorder, this would definitely be on the total order side, but there is still a great deal of variation from one proof to another, such that some don’t even look like math anymore.

1b. As much as the Problem of Meaning intrigues me, I think enough of my classmates have answered it the same way I would have to warrant me discussing another problem. So, I will talk about the Problem of Uniqueness, another question which has bothered me in the past. Before I was even exposed to computer-based art as I know it, I was shown prints: pictures carved into a piece of wax, metal, or wood, covered in ink, and then pressed onto paper after paper. This made me a little uncomfortable. No matter how good the art was, the fact that it was mass-produced made it feel less real to me, and certainly less valuable then something that was painted by hand. I remember just a few years ago I saw a rack of 20 copies of the same painting in a “World Market,” and I said “Wow. Before I saw how many there were, I thought it was a real painting.”
So, even before I was presented with this question in the reading, I guess I had an answer: to me, mass produced artwork is less valuable than one-of-a-kind artwork (even if there are slight variations in some generative art), if for no other reason than supply-and-demand economics. That being said, I don’t want to negate the actual artistic thinking that goes into writing the code or carving the initial print block that leads to the mass-produced art–that act can be incredibly creative and skillful. Rather, I think that the actual “art” in this scenario is the code or the block rather than the pieces that get generated. When a musical is performed every night, the true art is in the writing, direction, choreography, and design rather than the individual performance. Similarly, each piece of generated “art” is but a child of the original artwork, like a poster of a Picasso painting. While they can be beautiful, I think their intrinsic “value” is reduced by their quantity.

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1a. Crochet was first used to replace flimsy paper classroom models of hyperbolic planes in 1997. By following a fairly straightforward pattern, anyone could crochet themselves an awesomely weird, wiggly, yet orderly (in a non-euclidean sense) shape. What two sisters from Austrailia found, was they could imitate the look of coral by varying certain elements of the hyperbolic algorithm and create an infinite amount of organic looking yarny shapes. These  crocheted coral reef sculptures still lean towards order, but the wide variation of shapes from small tweaks to the pattern give the end result a slightly more disorderly outcome. Crochet Coral Reef website

1b. Making meaningful art is hard, especially in art school where you’re expected to juggle 4 or 5 projects at once and all of them are expected to be equally profound and meaningful. Meaningful work touches people in a lot more ways than just a pretty picture. It’s not so hard to paint a nice and meaningless bowl of fruit just as it’s not so hard to write a generative program that produces infinite images of fruit arranged differently in a bowl. The problem of meaning isn’t just a problem for generative art, but art in general. There are ways to make any type of art meaningful, it just takes a lot of thought, creativity, and ingenuity from the artist.



1a. Effective Complexity

I think Tokyo’s Shibuya Cross is an interesting example of effective complexity. This pedestrian crossing system is orderly yet chaotic. There are traffic laws and order when looking at the urban planning from above; we recognize the intersection, light signals, and an indicated pathway for people to walk from one street to another. Yet as many as 2,500 people navigate across every time the light changes, creating chaos yet somehow avoiding deathly collisions.

But if everyone crossed with their smartphones (as humans naturally do), then the system becomes even more complex:

1b. The Problem of Uniqueness

Does it diminish the value of the art when unique objects can be mass-produced? (Gallant 2016)

Digital generative art introduces a completely new problem: rather than offering an endless supply of copies, it provides an endless supply of original and unique artifacts.


The arguments surrounding the idea of human touch and an artist’s uniqueness in products, digital or analog, really excites me. Studying product design, we’ve had discussion about designing products and forms that lie on the spectrum between emotive and personal, to cold and machined. Basically understanding when a product looks like there was a human behind it (personal touch, possibly imperfect, individualistic), or a machine (looks like it was meant for the masses, too perfect, utilitarian).

So far in my design education, I’ve been making everything by hand so all my products are uniquely mine, a signature if you will. As much as I can say with pride that I not only designed the product but I made it with my own hands (yay for human touch), it is a tiring process. For me, I find the idea that an algorithm can create unlimited unique products to be extremely helpful and efficient for the design process. As much as I would enjoy thinking and designing originally, there have been so many instances where I get stuck and can’t iterate off a concept. I don’t want to sound like I’m lazy and that I want a robot to do my job for me. But I think as systems and problems become more complicated to design for, being able to iterate to an unlimited degree is efficient in the design process. It’s almost scary to think about a future where robots can make creative decisions, and may replace designers and artists though that it still quite a ways in autonomous technology. But ultimately, I think this is an emerging field where we can’t even visualize the potential and power of limitless iterations. When it comes to the value in unique products created algorithmically, I think that will be up to the user and audience. Whether something was created by a machine or human, I find it extremely gratifying and appreciative that it is one of its kind. But who knows, if everyone started to say, “I have a one of a kind iPhone ” it may become mainstream and less valuable really quickly.



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1) when I think of effective complexity, or even just order and disorder combined in a powerful way, I remember this particular poem that I once read about three years ago. I can’t remember the name of the poem, the artist was pretty unknown as she was just a high school student, but I remember her work being complex in that it expressed cohesive thoughts through using a very bizarre and amusing word choice which added to the disorder. Because I cannot remember the name of this artist, I will talk about another work which illustrates order and disorder in a similar manner, but I just felt the need to at least mention the work of this artist who’s work I read three years ago. Someone else who seems to do something similar is James Joyce in The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I happen to still need to finish (I made it like a quarter of the way through the book and never finished it, but I do plan on doing that at some point!) here are some excerpts from the beginning. His word choice is very reflective of the perspective of the main character during a specific moment in time (in this case, as a very young child), and it seems like he is pulling complete gibberish into his writing, but it is actually very thoughtful and expressive.

2) The problem of intent is an important problem to me, and is something I have been thinking of while I’ve considered trying my hand at artistic practices that can be achieved through coding as well as artistic practices in other mediums. Towards the end of last year is when I really started questioning my intentions- I mean, I decided to go to college as an art major for crying out loud. To be so deeply embedded into art culture and the art world and whatever else I might be getting myself into, what was I planning on doing while being in that position? I began to think about how artists can have a significant impact on their environment, and I thought about how I wanted to maybe do something that benefited humanity somehow. I thought that using my art to help society would be valuable, and right now I’m in a position where I’m asking myself “Okay, so with what I’m doing right now, with my interests, what am I willing to communicate with my work/ actively implement in order to help others?” It’s a question I’ve still been thinking of, and I also want to preserve the elements I find valuable in my work such as ridiculous characters I might make, humor, stuff that metaphorically screams weird noises in your face, the personal connection I have with my work, while attempting to accomplish this goal. It’s something I’ll have to find a sweet balance of, it’s there.


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Something I like that exhibits effective complexity is grocery stores. Between crystalline lattice and the the total randomness of gas particles, grocery stores lean heavily towards total randomness (maybe a 70/100, where 100 is random and 0 is ordered). Regardless of what grocery store you go to there are infinite possibilities for where isles are, how they are oriented and how fruits and vegetables are displayed. Every grocery store is different from the last but at the same time, one can easily forget that they are in a Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh and not the WalMart in Virginia.
Here is a screenshot of image search “grocery store interior”:

Galanter effectively articulates what I’ve felt about a lot of generative art. In relying on things beyond our control as artists to make work– to remove ourselves and our hand in some way from a creation, and to remove our subjectivity– is an inherent statement. Generative art, I’ve always thought, isn’t usually focused on the artist’s rendition of something beautiful and it’s not usually focused on the craftsmanship and labor of creation. Generative art, then is in a direct conversation with more traditional art forms and must inherently take a sarcastic point of view. But then again as I am exposed to more forms of generative art, I think that the interpretation can perhaps replace these ideals of beauty. Also, combined with other methods of working, the inherent impersonal nature of generative art can be used to make a different statement. In all, I think about both sides of the argument and inherently the generative nature of generative art is quite postmodern, but the way artists pick and choose how to use it and in what context to display it broadens the statement the art can make.

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1A. I enjoy using Arduinos. It’s pretty complex when you analyze all of its components, but it’s also very orderly. If there isn’t electricity running through a pin, that pin is turned off. There isn’t too much disorder when it comes to running electricity through wires.

1B. The Problem of Authenticity – I see art as a form of expression of myself. I’m not sure what to make of art that I make and only afterwards think of a meaning for. If I accidentally create something I like, I’m unsure whether or not it’s expression of myself. When it comes down to it I’m the one that decides whether or not it’s art, so I would still feel ownership of it even if it’s even accidentally generated.

Catlu – Reading03


Something I like that exhibits effective complexity is improvisational jazz. Jazz was a huge part of my hometown, being home to a Grammy Award winning college jazz band. I’d go to jazz events several times a year, and listen to my friends practice their skills and eventually go on to pursue music in college. What I learned from them is that improv jazz is a mix between exactly what the question asks about, chaos and order. Improv jazz is based on the skill, style, and mood of the musician, but it is also usually a variation on a blues scale, or the main melody or harmony of the song which the improv solo resides within. Some musicians just go completely improv, but most are relying on some knowledge of the music they are playing, music they know, music standards, and the mood they want to achieve. Despite this underlying foundation though, no 2 musicians sound the same when improvising the same scale or song, which I think lends jazz such energetic dynamism.

The Problem of Dynamics
The problem of dynamics is very interesting to me because I have found exceptional beauty in both things that are still, and things that move. There are advantages to each, and often when thinking about projects, I find myself thinking about this. A still frame from a generative code can be beautiful, as seen in Molnar’s Interruptions, but imagining her piece as not a print, but on a screen or projection constantly morphing, is just as beautiful. While static artifacts are not as continuously generative, they come from an algorithm that has the potential to be continuously generative. Static artifacts give you time to look over them and soak in the details, while changing exhibits grab your attention and sweep you away in motion. Especially in society today where everything is always moving and hurried, I wonder what suits us more? Continually generative art to keep up with us, or static generative artifacts to make us slow down? I think in the end, it depends on each specific piece and situation, and neither is better than the other.

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Question 1A. Effective complexity is defined as a measure of complexity– in this context– in terms of generative art. Galanter classifies generative art as being a rejection of simple description and easy prediction, and as lying somewhere on a spectrum between highly-ordered and highly-disordered. The concept works to quantify the level of randomness vs. instructed nature of some sort of event. A good example of a system that lies somewhere in the middle of the spectrum is the stock market. There are a lot of factors that influence it–overseas markets, general economic data –making a controlled instructed system; however a lot of stock market analysts work with prediction and random outside occurrences, so much of stock-trading boils down to chance and randomness.

Question 1B. The biggest issue I take with generative art is, as most art should do, its expansion and challenging of the definition of art as whole. Art seemed for the longest time to be limited to human-made materials, objects, and ideas come to fruition. Yet generative art, as this article touches on, relies on a human-made or human-controlled robot/mechanism following a set of instructions in order to create the art itself. This in the article is addressed under the section The Problem of Authenticity. At the same time, I think many generative artworks, such as Harvey Moon’s drawing machines, force the audience to ponder on topics and consider possibilities they once may have not, which are characteristics of a successful art piece.

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1A. The particular frames were from the animated film Kotonoha no Niwa, which I specifically selected for its applauded visuals and realistic, beautiful rendering of nature on an illustrative media. Relevant to the overall backdrop and atmosphere of the movie, as well as particularly these selected scenes are what I perceive as dynamic intersections of order and randomness on the effective complexity curve: the randomness from the excessive motion of uncontrolled, unpredictable rainfall, and their interaction with the ordered, immobile existence of buildings and other rooted structures in both nature, and from human infrastructure.

1B. While growing up both as an amateur and as an artist, I’ve been exposed to The Problem of Meaning multiple times, more often in recent years as I have almost been trained to think that, in a professional setting, most works I am to output are instinctively met with the question of purpose. Why did you make this? What does this mean? How does this affect yourself or society? As per my stance, I grew to realize that ultimately, these introspective questions are perhaps cursory food for thought for myself as I prioritize and solidify my own artistic intent. As Galanter applies this to generative art saying how a generative system may just be pragmatic and create products without intrinsic meaning, I too accept this viewpoint–and arguably, this may be one of the charms of generative art after all, that it can have no explicit meaning.

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1A : Romanesco broccoli: it’s pretty structured and follows a fractal pattern with a lot of order. I think it’s super cool that what looks like an abstract geometric sculpture is just a piece of broccoli that you can eat, and that fractals can appear so obviously in the real world.

1B : The Problem of Uniqueness

I think ultimately I agree that the mass-production in terms of generative art does diminish its value, but only if they are separated into different units. The reproduction of something is of course not as valuable as the original simply because it is the original. The copies are therefore just imitations of the original, but in terms of mass-produced and similar art everything is both a copy and an original. If you look at something that is presented as a set on the other hand, i think it does not loose its value in having multiples, but could in fact gain value, but if you mass produce something as attempt to present each mass-produced item, even if they are technically unique, as uniques, they lose their value because they are all the same in concept and in that sense there is no differentiation between them.

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A-  I don’t mean to be repetitive here, but my LookingOutwards03 assignment is very relevant to this situation. Tom Beddard’s Aurullia is I think a very good example of effective complexity- it was generated from an algorithm (a fractal formula) which is a very ordered method, but the final product is way more difficult to establish a category for (in terms of complexity as a random or ordered state). I would argue it is closer to ordered (you can expect a great many of things from the unknown parts of this “world”, such as there are no floating objects, buildings will be gray, there is a certain maximum height and minimum height, etc. The reason why I say it is not complete order, is because it is not repetitive and entirely predictable, in terms of anything from shapes of buildings to patterns amongst the “streets” and cracks.

B- “Problem of Intent”  I personally find myself using random or generative procedures as a sort of computer-self-exploration, where the computer tests, experiences, and explores designs and patterns and I benefit from it’s findings. Or i use random factors for times when I don’t want to control it, or don’t have any idea how to control it, and would rather have the computer do it for me. Often I am pleased with the results and work off of it rather than leave it as the artwork itself. However I do believe an artist should have a meaning for using random factors, and a purpose like mine (don’t know what to do if it weren’t random) doesn’t seem like a good enough reason.


1a: The kind of effective complexity that I’m most interested in comes from emergent systems, for example the flocking patterns of birds, which I believe sits squarely in the middle of Galanter’s spectrum. While the forms that emerge are certainly recognizable, they are unpredictably dynamic and evolving in dramatic ways that are far from random.  They are clearly not fractal or L-systems, but express a clarity or sense of intention that masks the complexity of the whole. Additionally, the rules that guide each agent (in this case bird) are remarkably simple relative to the pattern that emerges.


1B: The Problem of Postmodernity

This section I found extremely compelling and inspiring to read. As someone who in many ways subscribes to the poststructuralist idea of the death of the author (as discussed in ‘the problem of authorship’) I think generative art walks a delicate balance between authorial intent and an act of revealing of an existing system. I think the role of the generative artist / designer is far more editorial than expressive. The act of creating generative art is similar to found / street photography in the sense that the artist is by no means the sole artificer of the content, but frames and then presents that which already exists. Just as we do with photography, we still credit the artist as an aesthetician, appreciating their eye—not their hand—in the work.

I particularly love the passage:

Generative art can establish beauty as something that is not man’s arbitrary creation, but rather an expression of universal forces. Second, artists on that basis can demonstrate, by compelling example, reasons to maintain faith in our ability to understand our world. They can remind us that the universe itself is a generative system, and generative art can restore our sense of place and participation in that universe.

In this way, generative art is both deeply artificial (that is to say, made by human hands) but elegantly natural, eroding the philosophical barrier between ‘man’ and ‘nature’ in a way that makes the dichotomy seem contrived. While much of contemporary generative art is strikingly technological, it is simultaneously eerily primordial, which is what I believe makes it so compelling.


Question 1A. Read the first 20 pages of “Generative Art Theory” by Philip Galanter (p.146-166). In your own words, and in just a few sentences, discuss an example of something you like which exhibits effective complexity. Where does your selection sit between total order (e.g. crystal lattice) and total randomness (e.g. gas molecules, white noise, static). Include an image which illustrates your selection.

EFFECTIVE COMPLEXITY for me, I think a great example is the gif assignment actually. It was part of my decision process for how I’d choose which idea for a gif to go with. With my intial idea of making a bird made of jelly that bobbled up and down with bezier curves and offset sin motion to control end points, the computer program would’ve been a heck of a lot of work for that specific desire when it could be more easily done (and better executed) in adobe aftereffects. Entire companies’ /softwares are built on making such transformations. In this, I wanted to choose a gif design that validated the use of a computer…..otherwise, it’s needlessly complex.

Question 1B. Quickly skim the remaining 10 pages of the article, in which Galanter outlines nine different problems with generative art (The Problem of Authorship; The Problem of Intent; The Problem of Uniqueness; The Problem of Authenticity; The Problem of Dynamics; The Problem of Postmodernity; The Problem of Locality, Code, and Malleability; The Problem of Creativity; The Problem of Meaning). Select one of these problems for which you yourself feel some sort of internal conflict or personal stake. Discuss your internal conflict. Which side of the argument do you come down on?

YES. VERY MUCH AGREE BODEN! Creativity is so frustrating! Historical creativity is so darn hard to achieve – and yes, I agree that psychological creativity is valid, but it really doesn’t translate as social creativity because it’s already been thought of – that is suuuuuch a struggle!!! Half the time, it’s the impediment to ‘why bother designing something along those lines’?  When I was choosing majors, I was thinking about in what area would I be good at vs what area is there that would be any different whether or not I decided on it. I had at one time, really really wanted to be an anesthesiologist, but while I was good at Bio, and Chemistry, and was confident in my work ethic to carry me through to be relatively ok, there would make no difference whether it was me as an anesthesiologist versus any other person who had a knack for numbers and sleepless nights. There was no extra drive or burning curiousity, no fuel for potential creativity outside simply the psychological. That’s not to say there will necesarily be any HC with my current major….but…..I’d like to think there’s a chance.

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Portrait of Cara Walker by Chuck Close Portrait of Cara Walker by Chuck Close

Effective Complexity

I like Chuck Close paintings. These exhibit effective complexity because the shapes and orientation of the grid is random. The colors are semi-random and rotate between skin tones and pure saturated hues. But the subject and content is always portraiture which is what gives his work order. If i had to choose his work does lie more towards having order, but the fact that you can’t identify a pattern to the color choices is what helps his work flourish in chromatic chaos.

The Problem of Meaning

Should generative art be about more than generative systems? This issue in the chapter takes a very strong “what art should be” approach. I personally think that art should always go beyond just being about the process, function, and properties of art. In my practice, art is a statement. If you aren’t saying something then what are you really contributing? This applies more so in the case of generative systems because the code and the autonomy are just a means to an end. The real fascination lies in what the code and autonomy is able to speak, and if it’s something that people couldn’t speak for themselves.


Question 1A

I think a bottle of water and a sack of bricks are two perfect examples of effective complexity. The bottle is mass manufactured, looking the same as any other bottle of the same brand, yet the water in it is flows around in chaotic behavior; And the reverse is true with a sack of bricks.

Question 1B
I think the problem of authorship is a very interesting conflict. I’m always thinking about whether I or my computer is the artist, and even worse, what if I write a program that writes programs to make generative art, then which of us is the artist? I think one way of arguing is that the artist not the one who made the piece, but the one who found it, the first person/machine/thing to say “This is art.”

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Xastol – Reading03

1) As a young boy growing up in a desert wasteland, clouds always caught my attention. I believe they’re a good example of effective complexity because they’re easy to depict; everyone can tell a cloud by it’s random shape. At the same time, clouds are very complex in their formations and volume of gasses (each cloud is unique).

Here are some clouds formed in the Arizona deserts:




2) The problem I have the most internal conflict with is “The Problem of Creativity”. I often question how my work is unique to that of other’s (i.e – how my aesthetics/purpose differs while creating art in a systematic medium). In terms of this problem, my goal is to create work to counter it; I want my work to be undoubtedly me.

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kander – Reading03

1a: I think a honeycomb displays effective complexity. It’s on the more ordered side of the spectrum, as the tessellation of hexagons is fairly noticeable, but from far away, the  actual shape of the honeycomb itself (the larger shape that the little hexagons form) can seem random, rather than generated by an algorithm of tiny hexagons.

1b: I read the section titled The Problem of Authorship.  I think that it’s rather nitpicky to complain about an artist not personally making the brushstrokes/lines/whatever medium himself. After all, artists have had assistants to carry out their artistic vision forever. It takes the same sort of visualization and insight – if not more – to give a machine instructions to make art as it does to do it yourself.

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Drewch – Reading03

Bound - Plastic Studios Bound – Plastic Studios

Question 1A: I think Bound rests neatly near the center of the effective complexity curve. Although a lot of elements in the environment seem disorganized and random, they slowly reassemble as the protagonist approaches. The ground ripples and the cubic waves crest and fall, but everything disorderly has some algorithmic reason for it.

Question 1B: The Problem of Meaning – Let’s be real, this is a debate everywhere there is art, no matter what it is or how it was made. Meaning can exist, or it might not. Meaning could be in the eye of the beholder, or it could be in the mind of the creator. Maybe that meaning is expressed well, and both parties understand it. Maybe it isn’t, or it’s ambiguous enough to have many interpretations. Suzie Silver would say “It’s not critical”, but in turn, I would say “I don’t care”.

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