Avoidance behavior is a response designed to protect the infant from behavioral disorganization. If we transfer this concept to adult life, we can see that an avoidant infant might very well develop into a person whose principal need was to find some kind of meaning and order in life which was not entirely, or even chiefly, dependent upon interpersonal relationships.” —Anthony Storr, Solitude: A return to self (via jeralyndwile) (via fuckyeahsolitude)
More than Just Pretty Pictures: Three Questions for Generative Artists
These questions were posed to the audience during a lecture I gave at the Generator.X Conference on Generative Art in Oslo, Norway.
Golan Levin, September 2005.
Marshall McLuhan stated, in 1964: “The medium is the message.” Assuming we agree with this premise, in the way McLuhan intended it (as elaborated in his book Understanding Media), I pose the following questions concerning generative art:
0. So, with our generative artworks: what kinds of meanings are we making? In other words, what sorts of messages do generative artworks communicate, not through their medium, but as a medium?
1. How can generative strategies, which are designed to produce (or reflect) infinite variations, yield forms which nonetheless feel inevitable (i.e. which do not feel arbitrary)? Or is arbitrariness the point — the message of the medium? Here, I showed Jim Campbell’s Formula for Computer Art (2001). As an illustration of different approaches on the spectrum between “arbitrary” and “motivated” generative designs, I contrasted Mark Napier’s Black & White Carnivore client (2005), and Natalie Jeremijenko’s Live Wire project (1994), both of which visualize network traffic. Both of these artworks subscribe to Campbell’s Formula, but with very different results.
2. How can generative strategies tap into richer perceptual spaces? What other meaning-making potentials are latent in computational abstraction? Can we generalize the idea of generative form? Here, I showed Karl Sims’Evolved Virtual Creatures (1994). These creatures have extremely simple forms (rarely more elaborate than a couple of rectangular blocks) — but highly evocative, generatively-evolved behaviors which address our perception in a very rich way.
3. How can generative strategies tap into richer conceptual spaces, without sacrificing the experiential aesthetics of abstraction? Assuming we value abstraction for its powerful ability to address our perceptual and aesthetic senses (as I do), how can we expand the conceptual scope of (abstract) generative art? Put another way, how can generative strategies activate further dimensions of our psychology (beyond retinal experience), such as our imaginations, symbolic [Jungian] minds, or unconscious minds? Here, I presented Jason Salavon’sForm Study #1 (2005). This project taps into rich cultural psychological territory, and provokes our imaginations, without (I claim) sacrificing generativity or abstract formalism in the slightest.
Augmented Shadow, by Joon Moon, 2010. used openframeworks. It’s a tabletop interface on where artificial shadows of tangible objects displayed. You can play with the shadows lying on the boundary between the real, virtual, and fantasy.
Vision statement on the future of graphic design (50- 150 words):
In one dystopia, we project ourselves into the art supply store of the near future. The wind howls through the room, whose shelves are empty but for three small cartons: Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator. For today’s digital designers — many of whom have eagerly adopted the narrow horizons dictated by this small handful of commercial products — this vision is, I claim, already a reality. And the unquestioned hegemony of these tools has launched an unprecedented proliferation of homogenous and disposable electronic designs. To state that computers can offer an unimaginably greater world of possible forms than these products is not techno-optimism; as computers are provably capable of simulating any other machine, it is mathematical fact. My own work is simply one person’s attempt to reclaim computation as a personal medium of expression. In my practice, I focus the radical plasticity of the computational medium on an examination of non-verbal communications protocols.
golan levin : statement for graphic design in the 21st century : 2001
Artist Statement, October 2005 Golan Levin, October 2005.
I am interested in the medium of response, and in the conditions that enable people to experience “flow”, or sustained creative feedback with reactive systems. In this regard I have found inspiration in the engaging interactive artworks of Myron Krueger and Toshio Iwai, and in the research of cognitive psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi. I am drawn to the revelatory potential of information visualization – whether brought to bear on a single participant, the world of data we inhabit, or the formal aspects of mediated communication itself. Here I have drawn from many teachers in the disciplines of conceptual art and information design. And I am fascinated by how abstraction can connect us to a reality beyond language, and the ways in which our gestures and traces, thus abstracted, can reveal the unique signatures of our spirits. My recent projects have explored the gestures of the hand and voice; in my new work, I now turn to the gestures of the eye, with the aim of creating engrossing, uncanny and provocative interactions structured by gaze.
In my artistic process, I devise new forms of interactive media in order to explore novel conduits for non-verbal expression and communication. I then employ these systems in installations and performances which strive to be educational, whimsical, and sublime. The work I propose here represents a conceptual and aesthetic inquiry into a relatively under-explored mode of human-machine communication: interactions which are enacted with, and in response to, our gaze. As my systems are designed to be open-ended, I cannot predict what will transpire between visitor and machine. This unknowability is a core condition and motivation for my experimental art-research.
Experience has taught me that user observation is an invaluable design technique in the development and refinement of interactive artworks. After watching literally thousands of adults, children and seniors interact with my previous projects, I have come to the conclusion that — when I am fortunate enough to have designed an interesting and intelligible interaction — it often has a broad appeal that is not restricted demographically. For this reason, I intend no cheekiness when I state my intentions: that the audience for my body-tracking artworks should be anyone with a body, and the audience for my eye-tracking artworks should be anyone with eyes.
For the past decade, I have chiefly made interactive software artworks. I am now interested in branching out into much more physical forms, such as interactive mechatronic sculpture. My aim is to develop themes of interactivity in more tactile ways than have yet been possible for me, and to more deeply subvert and engage people’s extensive psychophysical intuitions about the world.