Artwork analysis: Algorithmic Poetry (Green Cloud)
(2011), Roman Verostko
By: Citali Guzmán
I consider important the analysis of this artwork to introduce us into an important paradigm within contemporary digital art: in a piece that uses digital media for its production, is it important due to its content, concept and outcome? or for being created by a human prosthesis through an electronic device? Now, let us take in consideration for this analysis the history of drawing (and art), from the conception of its existence (historically speaking): Drawing has reduced human expression to defined lines that refer to a perception of the reality. Over the years, drawing techniques have varied gradually, but exorbitantly. And this is how, taking up postmodernity, we are faced with the fact that humans have created a "set of mobile and fixed elements whose operation makes it possible to take advantage of, direct, regulate or transform energy, or perform work with a specific purpose": machines.
About the artwork
Algorithmic Poetry (Green Cloud), has been brought into the world through an algorithm. The latter presents challenges and paradigms that are very necessary to analyse nowadays since we are more immersed than ever into digitality.
Artistic practice was born with the human being; therefore, it is natural that its evolution runs simultaneously. The twentieth century presented important changes through which we have modified our way of existing and of understanding reality through technology; and more recently, during the 21st century, we’ve fully linked digitality into our lives. Because of this, art has presented an obvious transformation and digital development. This is where we should raise the following questions:
Are the pieces created through a computer, a software, a robotic prosthesis, art? Is an artwork that wasn’t generated through a classical technique worth the same as one created through non-conventional techniques? To what extent will technology end up becoming essential for art production? Is art a human act or an act that can be performed by a technological entity? It is important to remember that the artwork analysed in this text is located within generative art and algorithmic art.
An algorithm is a "set of rules that, systematically applied to appropriate input data, can solve a problem in a finite number of elementary steps" (Peña Marí, 2006). While generative art is, according to artist, theorist and curator, Philip Galantier: "any artistic practice in which the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedures, which can be set in motion with some level of autonomy central to the production of an artwork".
And in the words of Roman Verostko: "Algorithmic art can be found throughout history, from the weaving of prehistoric baskets to geometric and conceptual art in the twentieth century. However, the advent of computers provides us with leverage to generate forms that, in my opinion, are unprecedented in the history of art. It is in this sense that the algorithmic artists of the late 20th century, initiated procedures that have come to penetrate the visual and sound arts in the 21st century "(Verostko, 2012)
With these words I venture to confront the issues that concern us:
According to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, art is a manifestation of human activity through which a personal and disinterested vision is expressed while interpreting the real or imagined with visual, linguistic or sound resources. Art is an activity that has arisen with the human being and has accompanied it along with its transition, in its history.
Let's review history:
In the era of the Enlightenment and the first industrial revolution, the Impressionists came to break and give a change in the classical aristocratic system of artistic production and, thanks to the hall of the independents, it was possible to break an idea of aesthetics, of concept and of conception, of what art was and how it had to be done: providing new guidelines to the free will and self-determination of the people dedicated to the creative world and, thus, breaking a paradigm that brought as a consequence a whole world of artistic movements .
From mid-20th century, and with the end of the Second World War, there was the third industrial revolution where, because of the technology developed for the war, automation and the very famous ICT 'S, information and communication technologies, were introduced to the masses. Here we are hitting the nail: communication.
Of course, art, apart from aesthetic, regularly seeks to communicate, it wants to tell us something, express something. Therefore, it is not hard to see why the artistic field went to experiment with this new possibility: technology. "Sometimes new artistic trends arise from the arrival of new technologies and other times aesthetic needs are those that promote research for the creation of new technologies" (Lobato 2014)
This is where we got to the point where, as the Impressionists once did, a paradigm within the history of art was broken again: machines can create.
This paradigm is extremely important because nothing like it had ever been seen before.
However, even though machines have a certain creative capacity, it is those individuals behind the creation of said machines who will give the characteristics of what can be created, who design and, finally, who create.
This is how human creativity found a new tool, a tool that from a century ago has offered new opportunities to experience reality, to forge new ideas and visions, to venture and to exploit the idea of what is and is not art.
"In the last quarter of the 20th century, I was part of a group of like-minded artists who committed themselves to writing instructions to execute our art. In the 70s and 80s, Computer Art was the term generally applied to all art associated with computers. Some of us had been working with algorithmic procedures for about a quarter of a century before our 1995 statement as algorithmic artists. The 1995 manifesto of the algorithms was not a declaration of something new; rather, it was giving identity to an artistic practice that had already brought about a radical change and would continue to change the way we would create art in the 21st century. In the early days of computing there were no software tools for artists. Frieder Nake told me how he came to the task of writing software for a drawing machine at the University of Stuttgart in 1963. The company did not supply the software with the machine and was assigned the task. During the 1960s, several artists such as Manfred Mohr and Hiroshi Kawano saw the generating power of computers as an opportunity for art. Hiroshi Kawano had hoped to get a glimpse of the underlying logic of our creative process. The software and the technical procedures for the visualization grew hand in hand with the hardware. Artists who hired new computer and visualization technologies had to collaborate with engineers to program their ideas or create their own programs (algorithms). Artists who used computers in the process of creating art were often called computer artists. Frieder Nake, a pioneer in the creative use of algorithms, has served, in recent years, as the main researcher who documents first-generation digital art at the University of Bremen in Germany. From the 1970s to the early 1990s, this work was generally called computer art, a term that became the umbrella of any type of art associated with computers. "(Verostko, 2012)
These words of one of the pioneers in generative and algorithmic art make us see the human essence that surrounds machines. Currently, for better or for worse, virtuality and the intangible world that the internet offers us are taking over our lives. Cyberculture is a fact. We are reflecting our actions in this digital construction.
The dream of humanity is to communicate (Mendoza, 2018), and of course, this communication, this creation, takes and will take all the fields and means to achieve it. The challenges that the digital reality poses are many, but I think it is pertinent that we create a general awareness that humanity can take many paths through it. We must be aware that both physical reality and digital reality are equally important and are taking the same weight in the balance. Creation, either with traditional techniques or with digital techniques, will not be fought, because both come from a human being.
"With the advent of computers, we find ourselves writing procedures that go beyond solving mathematical problems. The detailed instruction that guides a drawing machine about how to draw a visual form is also an algorithm. Today, more broadly, a composer's score for a sound piece and a choreographer's notes for dance can also be algorithms." (Verostko, 2012)
What better than the words of the artist of this work, Green Cloud, to reach the conclusion that human beings through technological revolutions are exploring this new part of ourselves, unknown until now: we are thinking of digital paths, we are being and existing through technology.
However, when it comes to technology within the arts, we are still in diapers, we must be extremely intelligent to be able to build compelling links within this production.
Technology is offering us another kind of tools, we are taking artistic practice from other perspectives, approaching this to be able to create things that perhaps the classical techniques would not allow us. We should not close ourselves to the classical idea of essence, because digitality is parallel to physical reality. Therefore, it has its unique essence.
We should not be afraid to explore all the possibilities offered by this new century, however, as artists and creators, we must not forget that art has been and will be in essence a means to shout truths, to make people think, to make people feel, to weave humanity, and that is something for which we must fight always, whatever the time is, and with the technology that is: keep us human.
Revista online: “la hoja de arena”, número octubre 2014, articulo: “arte generativo: antecedentes y perspectivas”.
LOS ALGORISTAS por Roman Verostko
“De euclides a java: historia de algoritmos y lenguajes de programacion” de Ricardo Peña Mari, 2006