“Generative art refers to 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.”
Philip Galanter (“What is Generative Art? Complexity theory as a context for art theory”, 2003 International Conference on Generative Art)
These pieces were algorithmically generated by a custom program I wrote in the computer language “Python”. Some were fully generated by the program, and some were further modified in a more traditional photo editing program, Paint Shop Pro.
While the term “generative art” has only come into use within the last 50 years or so, generative techniques have been employed for hundreds of years. Usually associated with the use of computers in the design or creation of music, film, graphic art, literature, sculpture, architecture and even dance, examples of generative techniques can be found throughout history.
Well-known examples in the field of musical composition are the dice games invented by Johann Philipp Kirnberger in 1757 and later popularized by Mozart. Other examples include J.S. Bach’s fugues, composed following a strict set of rules, or early church music composed according to a set of rules described in “Gradus ad Parnassum” by Johann Joseph Fux in 1725. More recent examples include the serialist movement of the 20th. century, or works by John Cage, Brian Eno and the Greek composer and architect, Iannis Xenakis, all of whom employed aleatoric techniques, or methods of chance.
In the field of visual art, much of the tiling patterns common in North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and Persia were created using generative techniques involving repetition, reflection and other forms of variation, often inspired by geometry. Since the invention of computers, the use of generative techniques has become ubiquitous. Possibly the most well-known practitioner of these techniques was Harold Cohen (1928-2016), who created a software program called “AARON” in 1968 and continued to develop it throughout his lifetime.
In the realm of literature, early practitioners included the Surrealists and Dadaists, who developed techniques of “automatic writing”, and William Burroughs (1914-1997), who developed a method known as the “cut-up” technique, based upon the aleatoric or chance methods used by Dadaist poet Tristan Tzara (1896-1963). And one of the first literary works involving the use of computers is the short novel “The Policeman’s Beard Is Half Constructed”, ‘written’ by a computer program called “Racter” (short for “raconteur”) created by William Chamberlain and Thomas Etter, and published in 1983.