press release


GENERATOR will present a series of 'self-generating' projects, incorporating digital media, instruction and participation pieces, drawing machines, experimental literature, and music technologies. All work will be produced 'live', in real-time, with some elements continuing indefinitely. The exhibition can also be described as 'generative' in that it will develop and expand over time, by acting as a point of connection for different generative practices across disciplines, pointing to the relationship of visual arts to other media - especially sound works, performance, and issues relating to chaos theory and complexity, neural networks and artificial life. The exhibition will operate as if a studio or laboratory space, as a reception points for work streaming from elsewhere and as a portal to other spaces. There will be sounds, images, and objects, distributed online and offline, all generating their contents and possible meanings live throughout the course of the exhibition.

Generative art is a term given to work usually (although not exclusively) automated by the use of a machine or computer, or by using mathematic or pragmatic instructions to define the rules by which the artwork is executed. After the initial parameters have been set by an artist / programmer the process of production is unsupervised, and, as such, 'self-organising' and 'time-based'. Work literally 'grows' autonomously, according to the innate properties of the chosen technology or the particular circumstances in which the instructions are carried out. The outcome of this process of 'complexity' is thus unpredictable, and could be described as being integral to the 'nature' of that technology, or situation, rather than simply the product of individual human agency or authorship. In generative art, the artist-programmer and machine work in partnership to disrupt tired old mythologies of creativity - emphasising that art conforms to formal structures, and that computers might be used for manipulating these structures. GENERATOR will also seek to comment allegorically upon the wider systems within which the artworks generate their meaning. With this in mind, works will follow rules set by the curators: works must follow rule-based structures, and operate 'live', in real-time; they must have some allegorical or analogical relation to the way ideology operates (as a generative matrix), and thus potentially comment upon it; they must address issues of authorship (not by deferral, but more through the critical activities of the artist-programmer) by placing an emphasis on the productive apparatus under contemporary conditions; all working in the context of a (dead) gallery system. Generator serves to throw emphasis on processes, unfolding in real-time, rather than end products or the dead-end commodity form of art.

It is now obvious that organic and technical (or animal and machine) processes are analogous and similarly contain self-organising functions. Self-organising systems have become 'complex' and are arranged in multiple networks - illuminating how biology and technology are bound together irreversibly. In all this, there is a recurring conflict between the emergent understandings based on complexity and old mechanical/materialist lines of enquiry (the question of whether post-industrial society is post industrial or not?). Generator seeks to address these conflicts, tracing 'generative art' both historically and through emergent creative practices. In this way, the show aims to activate these contradictions, and demonstrate how these contradictions themselves generate new ideas and possibilities.

Selected and commissioned works will tend towards the non-figurative in order to throw emphasis upon the productive apparatus and process. Thus, the exhibition title refers to the term 'generator' itself, describing the person, operating system or thing that generates.

Generating what? the politics (if any) of GENERATOR

'An author who has carefully thought about the conditions of production today... will never be concerned with the products alone, but always, at the same time, with the means of production. In other words, his products must possess an organising function besides and before their character as finished works.' [Benjamin, 'The Author as Producer', p.98] GENERATOR investigates creative practices in the context of generative and rule-based systems, and serves to make links between systematic approaches across a variety of old and new media. But why?

GENERATOR proposes that generative works have a useful analogical relation to the way all systems operate and the ways in which artists might interfere with these operations. This seems an effective way of throwing emphasis on the productive apparatus and human agency under contemporary conditions, as if taking a cue from Benjamin©ˆs essay 'The Author as Producer' of 1934. The significance of this reference lies in requiring the author, or artist-programmer, to act as an active agent, to intervene in the production process, and transform the apparatus.

On close inspection, it can be seen that systems express not only express order but disorder too. GENERATOR suggests that disorder is just below the surface and this is where resistance can be found and prompted - this is the role of the artist in fact to prompt these changes. This operation is rich with analogies and cultural concerns - not least, in emphasising the ideological issue of who sets the criteria for setting the rules.

So change is built into the system but might be prompted too by those seeking to engage with the rules by which any system is generated. In terms of ruleˇmaking (the basis of programming), there are three characterisations: those who make the rules, the participants who are involved in rule-making, and those who merely implement rules. One can readily apply these formulations to the production of hardware and software, and identify the subsequent relations of production. In other words, to demonstrate good 'technique', the artist-programmer must therefore combine the first and the last, on the behalf of the second - both conceive and implement rules as well as make them open source.

In generative art, the artist-programmer and machine work in partnership to disrupt tired old mythologies of creativity - emphasising that art conforms to formal structures, and that computers might be particularly useful for manipulating these structures. In this way, generative art might usefully point to contradictions in the art and media worlds (a system in which the feedback loop is incomplete for the most part) and its relationship to other sites of cultural production.

Thus, GENERATOR asks: Does generative media offer a blueprint of contemporary forms of production? What do these approaches express about culture and the generative nature of any system?


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Organisation: Spacex & STAR; Support: Institute of Digital Art & Technology; Arts Council of England

01.05.02 - 22.06.02 Spacex Gallery, Exeter
14.09.02 - 29.09.02 Spacex / Liverpool Biennale
08.01.03 - 29.03.03 Firstsite, Colchester

mit Mark Bowden, Stuart Brisley, Tim Head, Jeff Instone, Angus Fairhurst, Alec Finlay, Sol Lewitt, limbomedia, Alex McLean, Netochka Nezvanova, Yoko Ono, Organogenesis Inc., Jon Pettigrew/Maxus films, Colin Sackett, Cornelia Sollfrank, Joanna Walsh, Adrian Ward, STAR & monkeys from Paignton Zoo