20 February 2020

what did we use to say?

I was looking at the January 2020 issue of Art in America which is a theme issue on "Generative art: the history and future of creative machines." I wasn't familiar with the term in art and started investigating. The "Generative art" article in Wikipedia is quite mature and traces the history of the term in the arts back to the 1960s. A keyword search in the Library of Congress catalog yielded about 100 hits and about a dozen of them seemed to be relevant, that is, the phrase "generative art" appeared in the title/subtitle. I looked at some of the records and several had the subject heading "Computer art" along with other headings.

The Wikipedia article starts "Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. An autonomous system in this context is generally one that is non-human and can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist." It's a little like social practice with a machine. You give it a situation and it proceeds as it can. Wikipedia also compared it with algorithmic art ("algorithmically determined computer generated work") but generative art doesn't need to be based in an algorithm, I guess.

It definitely seemed like it was time to work on a subject proposal for LCSH. I checked the Art & Architecture Thesaurus and they have a record for generative art. The scope note defines it as "electronic art that incorporates process in the creation of the work. The work itself is usually experienced through time and space, and may include sound, motion, animated graphics, sculptural elements, or any combination of these. Generative art has a performative aspect. For visual art that incorporates algorithms to produce static visual works, use 'algorithmic art.'"

And then the word "generative" started leaping into my life: right, left, and center. Not as part of "generative art" but, for example, to describe the origin of an idea. Sam and I talked around it after an artist talk a couple weeks ago. I was at the College Art conference last week and heard at least a half dozen speakers include the word generative in their paper. I was reading the January 24th New York Times after I got home and this sentence appeared in a review of a book entitled The longing for less by Kyle Chayka: "More generative for him are the examples of artists who became known as Minimalists even as they disavowed the term." What word would have been used a while ago? Not generative, I don't think. Maybe I'm just noticing a word that's been out there all along. Whatever, it's good to have an expanding vocabulary.

1 comment:

Sherman Clarke said...

As I was driving home last night, someone on NPR used "generative" as in a new thought being germinated from other thoughts about related topics. I might grow to like the word but let me know if I'm overusing it.