Task 2 – Generative Art and Literature

First of all we should determine what is generative art, in order to avoid latter questions on the matter. Philip Galanter suggests that generative art can be looked at from two perspectives, from the bottom-up or from the top down. He brings out a list of different activities that are a part of the generative art scene. It includes computer graphics and animation, the demo scene and VJ culture, industrial design and architecture. It must be pointed out that this list is not consecutive in any means and the main part which keeps it generative is the autonomous part of the creation process.

The top down approach is more philosophical and focuses on the pair of words that identify the scene, „generative“ and „art“. The definition, in Galanters mind, must contain two parts. Firstly art, which is in a way a fuzzy set theory, which is often recognized as a social and historical notion that changes over time. As for the generative part, he is more straightforward and identifies it as a subset of art, a subset where potentially multiple results can be produced by using some kind of generating system.

Altogether, Galanter defines generative art as any art practice where the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, which is set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art.

A very important case brought up by Galanter is the fact that we often do not distinguish between random and chaotic behavior of systems. That for it is very important to keep in mind, especially within the context of generative art, that chaotic systems are not the same as random systems. Natural chaotic systems may be difficult to predict but they will still exhibit structure that is different than purely random systems. For example weather is very hard to predict in the long run because it behaves in a chaotic manner. But it can be predicted a shor time ahead. The weather cannot be just random so that if today it is as warm as 30 degrees outside and tomorrow it would be -40 C. It might be raining in a weeks time but that is within certain confines 

An important aspect in creating generative art is the combining of order and disorder. The autonomous system that is used in order to create generative art provides the necessary part in order to balance the order of things. We do now know the different generative art forms that we are surrounded with every day and most of them include computers or computerized devices to create the works of art. But it is also important to mention that generative art existed long before computers. Many different ways of creating generative art have been used in the past. One does not need a computer in order to create generative art. It is important, as said before, to have an autonomous process within the creation of the work. It may well be another person who uses the system created by the artist in a random way as Galanter puts it.

Similar traits to generative art can be found in generative literature also. Jean-Pierre Balpe has defined „generative literature“ a literature where the texts are produced through a computer by means of a set of formal rules, the use of any kind of algorithm, specific dictionaries and eventually knowledge representations. There is also a similar question with the authorship of a creation. Because a computer for example gives out the text with regard to different rules but the final text is not created by the original author. The author has only set the rules and boundaries for creation. But the set of rules is extremely important in this case because a computer does not understand the meaning of the text. A computer only sees the text as a series of numbers and meaning has to be given to the text again by the reader.

To sum up, it would be important to mention that generative art is often considered and approached as a style of art. Actually it is more a referral to a way to create art rather than an art style. And in order to create generative art or generative literature for that matter, one must find a way to import an autonomous component into the creation process to balance order and disorder.


  1. Galanter, Philip. 2003. What is generative art? Complexity theory as a context for art theory. In In GA2003–6th Generative Art Conference
  2. Balpe, Jean-Pierre. 2005. Principles and Processes of Generative Literature. Dichtung-Digital

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s