Thursday, January 22, 2009

On machines and intelligences

I have been thinking about the class today. Disrupted weeks always have a strange rhythm. That and the heating system made it difficult to hear and concentrate. But those things aside I think a number of really important ideas were expressed today. The notion of process over product, of the interaction with the environment, the incompleteness of Generative Art, the willful release of control, and the notion of changing one’s way of seeing.

When Bob and I sat down to structure this class we discussed a traditional structure – discussion, assignments, readings, etc. To a certain extent we have employed that structure in this class. The difference was that we decided to start with the student rather than the context. We could have spent a few weeks reading articles on generative art, looking at works by people like Eno or Reich and then taken that knowledge into the projects. I doubt that we would have reached the ideas expressed today as quickly. Sometimes you just need to be tossed into the pool.

We resisted approaching the topic in a linear way because it is largely not about what others say or do, but about asking questions and focusing on the process of addressing those questions regardless of the outcome. I realize that as artists you are trained to explore art in a certain way, starting with “machines” was an attempt to shift that focus. We often employ such a clear division between art and science, between the mechanical and the artistic, between nature and nurture. I tend to agree with Derrida that those divisions, which usually value one term at the expense of the other, are somewhat arbitrary and limiting. The question is not whether examining art as a machine is good or bad, but what questions that lets you ask, what viewpoint that encourages. If you are frustrated by the question or embrace it that may say more about you and your approach than it does about the topic.

Bob suggested that he is interested in robots. There may be some of you that are interested in that also. I am currently fascinated with the collision of analogue and digital – an interest that manifests itself in the post-digital, in glitch. There may be some of you interested in that. You may have your own interests and projects. Use the class as a laboratory – bring in ideas, projects, sketches of projects. Pose your own questions. You may find others interested in the same ideas. We will eventually get to readings on the subject, on examples of generative art – so if you find anything you think connects to the course post it on your blog or on the discussion board. Keep in mind that one of the goals is for the class to operate as a machine, to operate as a distributed intelligence.

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