Nature as source of Generative Art


Mario Costa

University of Salerno, Italy

I intend for Generative Artwhat results from the activation of a technological device and it is characterized by the following ownerships: itself-operativity of the device, renouncement to the control, flow, indeterminateness, casualness and unpredictabilty of the results.

The application of this concept to the computer programs, also if corrected, it results largely limitative; I speak in this case of Aesthetics of software and not of Generative Art; the aesthetics of software, that can be identified as software art, is only a type or a subspecies of the Generative Art.††††

I intend to illustrate another field of the Generative art that I valuate particularly meaningful because besides the general aesthetical sense, that is common to all the Generative Art, contains some philosophical implications and specifications that must be analyzed and understood.††

I depart from some necessary references:

in the 1951 John Cage performs Imaginary Landscape N. 4 with 24 performers that manipulate at random the tuning and the volume of 12 radio instruments; in the 1963 Nam June Paik introduces 13 Distorteds TV Sets in which a same program transmitted by 13 televisions becomes, in each of them, casually and unpredictably deformed by magnets placed on every single instrument; Alvin Lucier in 1967 composes a piece, Wistlers, tuning low frequency radio receivers to the noise coming from the ionosphere; the project Jardin bio-acustic of Nissim Merkado proposed, in 1978, to reveal the micro-waves of the leaves turning them into a sound laboratory and acoustically following the transformations of the vegetable substance up to its being dry; from the end of the '70thnumerous artworks of …rik Samak use and electronically manipulate some animal sounds as the croaking of the frogs, or of the data coming from the physical environment, as in the Autonomous Acoustic Forms that turn into sonorous issues the information furnished by the anemometers by the thermometers and by the hygrometers,; in nearer years Shawn Brixey, with 1987 Photon Voice or Domenico Vicinanza, with Etna's seismographic signals, get sounds still from the action of the photons on the graphite or the vibrations of the Etna.

In all the cases here quoted, and in many others that are skipped, all the necessary and enough conditions are given for being able to speak of Generative Art: the jobs are produced by technologies elettro-electronics, sensory, computers, interfaces, they consists in a flow of acoustic phenomenons or also visual that they manifest out of a whatever control and that they are entirely casual, indefinite, unpredictable and aleatory.††

But these jobs, similar from this point of view, also manifests among them a deep difference that must be gathered and interpreted: some play on a casualness drawn by the activation of the only technologies, others instead are realized making to work together technologies and nature.

At this point is necessary to mention a more articulated discourse on the case and the indecision.

L' interest for the "case", its investigation and its activation in aesthetical sense start with the historical avant-garde: memory among the whole case of the 1913/14 Duchamp Stoppages-…talons where some plates of glass are shaped according to the forms assumed at random by a thread of left cotton fall from a meter high. In this case, and in all the numerous other envoys made by the dadaists, there is a purely and only mechanic casualness , in which the technology neither the nature have still involved.

The 1951 Cage's job marks a turn: here casualness is entirely inside to the technology, the radio, and to it only; the indecision is tied up to the unpredictable and varying nature of the sonorities put in wave from the twelve broadcast broadcasting stations, and from the equally casual formalities in which they is manipulated by the 24 performers. The same, and still more, is the job of Paik that eliminates the same human presence of the performer and, it gives birth more radically to born the case from only the activated technological regulating,: the telecast, the televisions and the magnets deforming the signal.

In comparison to the jobs of Cage and Paik, the Wistlerses of Lucier contain an important element of novelty and mark, for this reason, a further turn: here for the first time casualness is produced making to work together technology and nature: the unpredictable and casual Whistles, in fact, are produced not here by the radios beginning from issuing broadcast and therefore from other technologies but from signals coming from the ionosphere, and therefore from the same nature.

At this point the picture is complete and prefigures with extreme clarity the actual situation that, simply hands to conclusion that preceding,: todaycasualness is produced by a constant work inside to the new technologies, and the most rigorous case is represented by that we can indifferently call Aesthetics of the programming or Software Art, that of Celestino Soddu or of Casey Reas. Particularly, in Generative Art casualness is aroused using as matrix and as source the same casual and aleatory phenomenons of the nature that are repeated or also technologically transformed : the jobs of Merkado, Samak, Brixey or Vicinanza, above quoted, are some examples that we could do.

Getting an interpretation of all these experiences, the interpretation have to go beyond the limits of the aesthetical approach.

To what this obstinate research of"casualness" replies, a research that crosses big part of the history of the art of the '900? To what replies this going aheadand progress from an ingenue mechanical and manual casualness to a technological casualness, until a more complex and hybrid form of casualness that results from the mixture of technology and nature?

The search of casualness is, first, a sign and a symptom of the "de-humanization of art" that appeared, in the first decades of the '900 as an ineluctable result of the whole history of the art.

Duchampexpressly spoken about "de-humanization", but it constitutes equally the horizon toward artists like Mondrian, Gabo or Moholy Nagy went, and the signs of a "de-humanization of art" have been identified, time ago, by Ortega Y Gasset and from Hans Sedlmayr.

The analysis of the to progress of the "de-humanization", following to the increase of the new-technologies, constitutes a remarkable aspect of the research activities that I am developing.

But the concept of "de-humanization of art" limits all events to the aesthetical field and it gathers only one aspect of the matter. To deepen it, therefore, it is necessary some consideration on the techniques.††††

The requests originated by the techniques is not so much a request considering the reality as "first layer", as identified by Heidegger. This approach to techniques works, at best, for the "technological"epoch but it not suits to the "new-technological" era, in which also the reality as "first layer" is behind in a faded distance.. The injunction that comes from the technique, definitely made clear at the advent of the new-technological era, is instead, as it seems well understood by GŁnther Anders, the approach to transform everything given. The technique, in short, try to build its own world, to make its world that replaces the other one, that "natural" one, already "given", and that doesn't have anything to exhange with this other.††††

The "humanization" of the world, identified and described by Leroi-Gourhan, now is replaced by the "Technologyzation", that is when technology take possession of the world.

In this situation, everything that survives still as "given", is worth as an intolerable "rest" , and the nature is the "given" for definition.

Here then the sense, perhaps more depth, of the walk crossed by the research on the "case": it, moving from the ingenue mechanical casualness of the "dadaistic poetry" of Tzara, of the "delicious dead bodies" surrealists, of the "great glass" of Duchamp, held only by him finished when casually broken, and so on, moves and displaces in various way on the technologies to land to a re-writing or technological translation of the nature and to transform it so that something of "given" in something of technologically "done".

The artists, was said, are the "spar" and the "sensory" of the humanity: and therefore, what their job has started to point out and to put already in scene beginning from the years '60, are anything else than the wish of power of the technique, that still and more always pushes her toward the most complete and radical technological appropriation of the nature.