1A: Effective Complexity--Kyuha Shim's Generative Typography

In the past two years (mostly), I've become very interested in typography, how it moves and how it scales. However, it wasn't until last year that I really encountered Kyu's work as his student in his Computational Design class. Kyu's work in generative typography has greatly effected and also falls in line with broad movements towards parametric design in the visual design world. I love this work because it gives the very language and content of our world character and movement, engages the viewer in completely new ways. In terms of Galanter's article, I would say that this kind of generative typography, that is, typography that changes based on external input(s), still definitely leans towards order (crystal lattice). No matter what, typography is still driven by language/linguistics, and whatever alphabet its shape is taking. That line is extremely concrete. However, I love that it finally is offering a source of variation within the previously static world of type.

Peep it here:

1B: The problem of uniqueness

"Whether in the context of market value or cultural value, traditional works of art have been treasured as unique and thus rare objects. "

"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. "

Generative art is by nature repetitive in some way, and I don't believe the same problem of uniqueness that might arise in non-generative art can apply, at least without differentiation. When it comes to generative art, I believe that the more important point/source of uniqueness is the generator (code, etc), not the generated content.


1A) Something that exhibits effective complexity is shaving. With the stroke of a razor, a 2 dimensional area of skin is shaved, removing the hair that's growing there. The goal of shaving is to remove enough of these areas around your face so that there's no hair left. The shapes of these areas have to be arranged so that:

-Every point on your face lies in one of the areas

-You don't shave the same place too many times and give yourself razor burn (these areas will have many areas overlapping them)

Most people do this by shaving an area at the edge of the face, and then removing the hair around it until the face is empty of hair or they start working on a different section. These areas are arranged and ordered so that the edge of each stroke  slightly overlaps the edge of the previous stroke. Longer strokes make for more efficient shaving because it reduces the number of strokes and the area of overlapping shapes.

Shaving is pretty chaotic because it depends on the person's abilities and methods of packing shapes into a area. Everyone who shaves is generally going to remove the hair that they want to remove, the most variation lies in the razor strokes that remove that area of hair.

1B) The Problem of Meaning touches on some interesting ideas in terms of finding purpose and meaning in generative art. The idea behind generative art is to create functioning systems where each component interacts with another in a ordered, calculated way. The reasoning and logic behind the systems operations or products is what is interesting about the art. If these systems are based on systems that already exist, the art becomes the study of that system and the ability to simulate it in a different medium (like simulating the way clouds form in code).

These systems are designed by artists with a product in mind. Despite the fact that a generative work may be based off of an existing natural system, the artist has to understand that system in order to exploit or reproduce it. It's a study of how humans reason over dynamic processes.


Question 1A.
I really like clouds. It's interesting that it can be easily represented, but they seem very difficult to model. The cloud itself is a collection of gas molecules distinctly different from the molecules around them, and that system interacts with the weather system, to change the shape of the cloud based on wind, temperature, and humidity. It falls more on the total randomness side, but it isn't quite as random as gas molecules alone.

The Problem of Postmodernity intrigues me because I'm personally a greater fan of more traditional art, and I disagree with the notion that the future of art means neglecting or leaving traditional mediums behind. I'm often more impressed with art that uses old techniques in new ways, rather than new techniques in new ways. But I accept that the prospect of a completely new framework to explore literally any aspect of life is exciting,and part of my reason for taking this class is to become more familiar with that.


1A. Strandbeests, the gigantic sculptures created by Theo Jansen that use wind power to walk up and down the beaches of the Netherlands are an example of effective complexity. They exhibit qualities of both randomness and order. The mechanism for the legs was developed through an evolution simulation (randomness). The geometry of the legs is rather simple, but when assembled together, the legs create an intricate walking thing. There is a formal order to the mechanics of the creatures, which lends itself to the graceful movements of the sculptures. In this case, the randomness led to an order, mimicking our own development as a species.  Some of the Strandbeests even feature abilities to respond to their environments -- they are able to turn away from water or anchor themselves in the case of too much wind.


1B. The problem of uniqueness: As mentioned in the essay, part of the value of art for a long time has been its one-of-a-kind nature. While I understand that rarity has value, I think we often place too much emphasis on it. Valuable art is art that you can develop a connection with. It doesn't seem particularly important whether everybody else also has access to the same art. In fact, I think art has the potential to be even more powerful when it can be mass produced. If a piece of art can be mass produced, whether each piece is unique as is the case for some pieces of generative art, more people can access it, and, therefore, more people have the opportunity to derive meaning from it. If enough people derive meaning from a piece, that piece might have the power to effect society on a macro scale.


Question 1A
This is perhaps an obvious example of a generative work exhibiting effective complexity, but Markus Pearsson's Minecraft in my opinion sits in a very pleasing balance between total order and total randomness. The terrain generating algorithm and mob spawning behavior has just enough order to it so as to create a gameplay experience that the player feels is fair and can adapt to, but there are so many examples of simply bizarre and wonderful points of interest that are generated within the order of these terrain chunks that makes every player's experience unique and memorable.

The footage above is from an "amplified" world generated in Minecraft. The noise used to generate this chunk makes much more of an extreme use of LOD and falloff as opposed to its "normal" counterpart.

Question 1B
I chose to address the Problem of Creativity over the other problems that Galanter puts forth because I find myself constantly weighing if I have become too technical in my work. I found this reading productive because it helped me understand what creativity even is, and I think I will be carrying the terms p-creativity and h-creativity with me as I further analyze my practices as an artist.
I am not convinced by the argument that in order for a complex system to be creative it must also be adaptive. I believe the creator of generative art is still strongly affiliated with the audience's experience. Going back to the example I used in 1A, the dev team behind Minecraft listens to its playerbase and regularly releases updates that best serves what the players want to see in the game. While Minecraft the software may not be an evolving system that adapts to each player, the creators adapt to the community as a whole in the way they continue to grow their game. In this way I believe a non-adaptive system may still be creative.


  1. I appreciate the beauty and effective complexity of a sunset. Every sunset is affected by the shapes, sizes, and positions of the cloud, the position of the sun in relation to the earth, and where you are on earth. A sunset is much closer to total randomness than total order--every factor changes sporadically.
  2. I have struggled with that Galanter labels as The Problem of Meaning. Nearly all of my computer-based art is created with an image of the final product in my head. I find it much more difficult to find emotion in something that I have created than it is to create something "forced." Creating something aesthetically pleasing seems easy when the conceptual aspect is mostly ignored.


Question 1A. Be sure to have 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. (It doesn't have to be something made by people.) 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 selected thing.

My understanding for a project being effectively complex is: 1. having a combination of both ordered and disordered systems 2. the whole concept do not only work in one direction linearly but in a random direction and cannot be easily predicted. Therefore, my first thought is to find works that incorporate living objects (because they are less likely to be controlled). For example, a coded ecosystem where things like animals and human beings can act like the unpredictable randomness. However, on my way of finding this kind of project, I encountered "inFORM". "inFORM" is a Dynamic Shape Display that can render 3D content physically, so users can interact with digital information in a tangible way. On one hand, this project generates precisely and predictably when displaying three-dimensional math functions: e.g. plotting hyperbolic paraboloids with the combination of cubes. However, on the other hand, this project also incorporates psychological and physiological elements to increase its complexity. First of all, it reacts to physical human actions. For example, it can replicate actions to interact with a red ball. Moreover, it motivates people to do in ways that hint them to do certain actions. For instance, the cubes will form a changing wave to make the participant's phone constantly moving when someone is calling. In this sense, because the work corresponds with these sort of actions, it incorporates a large extent of randomness when our actions became random and unpredictable. In this sense, I found "inFORM" to be an example exhibiting effective complexity. Moreover, it sits closer to the "total order" end.

Question 1B. Quickly skim the remaining 10 pages of Galanter's article, in which he 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?

The Relationship between Works of Art and the Audience - in Response to the Change of Aura
Having read Walter Ben "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction", I remember figuring out how the development of technology has evoked reproduction of artworks with the medium such as films and photographs. These inventions had rendered and manipulated the aura of artwork and its relationship with the audience. With mass production, not only the reproduced artwork can never fully present the original work with its unique aura, the original work also loses a sense of authenticity and authority by being depreciated. However, is it the same for generative art? For generative art, what is being mass-produced are unique objects instead of copies. Therefore, the idea of aura and the relationship between the audience and the artwork remains ambiguous to me. What generative art brings us is so different from the "traditional" painting and sculptures. Not only the context changed (our understanding and familiarity with technology and our acceptance of what counts as art ), the way we interact with the artwork also changed. For example, we cannot touch a painting in the Le Louvre (or sometimes even taking a photo), however, for generative art, there are so many that welcomes the user to interact, by either pushing a key on your keyboard to generate work or to do some real actions.


1. One example of effective complexity that I am particularly fond of is the sound of shoes walking through gravel. Initially I assumed that similar to white noise and static, this would be an example of total randomness. However, upon further thought it occurred to me that there is some order and rhythm to it because of the way a shoe distributes weight as it steps.


2. I relate to the problem of authenticity. This is because I often times see generative art as an opportunity to solve technical problems and get lost in these challenges as opposed to the form of expression itself. However, in the end the value I derive from such projects is the self expression, so I would say that generative art is authentic.

Sepho – Reading02

Slime mold is a super interesting system with effective complexity. Being organic, slime mold is pretty close to being right in the middle of total order and randomness, but due to it's behavior it leans more towards order. Slime mold works by first reaching out and finding food, then by forming efficient paths to the food, creating amazing synthesized systems to get to and from resources.



I really don't think that with generative art there is a "problem of authorship." I think the "artists hand" is an interesting notion that was questioned by people like Duchamp and Pollock and I think that generative art is another way of experimenting with that concept. Its also interesting to think about separation between arts and crafts, what turns a painter into an artist or a painting into art? well what turns computer code into art? Intention? The audience? The art-world? I think that these are important concepts to ponder and generative artists explore them, but through their artwork. 

02 – Reading

Here's a major major throwback: Craig Reynolds' Boids

I believe that this project is one of the earliest examples of effective complexity in digital and generative art - where simple rules create a generative behaviour that ends up becoming a good mixture between order and disorder. In the spectrum between total order and total randomness, I believe that this sits somewhere in the middle, which is what makes it so effective. Though this slide can be adjusted depending on the number of boids in the system, and the complexity of the rules being followed.

The Problem of Postmodernity

This problem hits closest to home for me, as someone who is an acute observer/believer in the postmodern phenomenon. The shift away from modernist top-down approaches (where the whole must resemble the parts, or the theory of composition) to the postmodern beliefs of bottom-up generation, complex systems and chaos theory hold more truth in the contemporary world, especially one where technology plays such a decisive role. The world unfortunately just is not that coherent anymore.