Automatism and La forêt

Often when procedural generation is mentioned, someone will express, without room for debate, that things generated by an algorithm can never match up to the human touch. It’s always a huffy kind of statement, like it’s a waste of time to even consider any virtues. Really, it should be obvious, these styles of creation are not competing whatsoever. Still, people recoil at art that cannot transfer directly into some agreed upon essence of humanity, art that doesn’t reflect some soul or personality. That which cannot be rooted in the skill and cunning of its creator. It can seem like rejecting a personal touch is undermining the statements and abilities of a human author. Underpinning this an implicit fear that the recognition and social capital of the artist is under attack. As if making things needs to service the potential of perfect human genius, where each part is positioned with the utmost care; art as a contest of how much a master agonizes over small details.

Automatic art, random art, aleatoricism, mean to leave some part of the process of creation up to chance, though each in different ways. Automatism has a history in spiritualism—unconscious writing was believed to be the work of possession or some kind of psychic link with the afterlife. I can’t claim those or any irrational conclusion as false, because automatic art is an expression of the irrational. Classic surrealists were enamored with automatic techniques. They allow for creation uninhibited by rules or expectations, communication without any specific code-switching. Subconscious art can emulate dreams, incorporate the unexplained, pay tribute to the real omnipresent factor of the arbitrary.

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