The Aesthetic Aspirations of a Coral Polyp

Where’s the magic in a work of “generative design”? The best examples I have stumbled across have the beauty of crystalline mineral formations, or (and this is perhaps a better comparison) exotic coral structures. But is that enough? I have been led to believe that coral structures are structurally superlative in every way. But of course they are the products and domiciles of brainless mollusks. What are the aesthetic and structural aspirations of a coral polyp? I wrote once before that I saw a sort of latent, credulous Pythagorism in blind faith in the “perfection” of math-generated forms…and I’ve begun to perceive them as a manifestation of anti-humanism. These forms determined by non-human laws are viewed as if they have a virtue untainted by flawed human beings and their atavistic cultural impulses.

Of course, the preceding statement reads as ridiculously, perversely conservative, and I like to imagine myself as consciously progressive. I am aware of the possibility that I am reacting to this sort of work in a solely reactionary manner, and therefore (and admittedly with a kind of unenthusiastic doggedness) I follow the work of several artists and architects who have developed an enviable reputation as designers, largely through their adroit manipulation of scripting languages, software, and related technology.

And sometimes still I even try my hand (so to speak) at this sort of thing.

I seem to spend a remarkable mount of time rediscovering my own misplaced work. That’s the subject of this post: some imagery I created in 2009 with some free software that I do not pretend to understand (and which no longer seems functional, after a couple of years of hardware and software updates). As far as I can remember, I changed settings; put some numbers in; hit buttons that read, “Render”; and saved the results. These were sorted and later digitally collaged, as my conscious (and probably unconscious) impulses dictated, and finally given ominous Post-Lovecraftean names.

Except for the technology, the process reminds me of a game I used to play as an insomiac child while lying in bed and wondering if I would ever sleep again: I would stair at the knots and whirls of the wood paneling of my bedroom walls until, in the dimness of the night-light, they took on the outlines of faces or strange animals. As an adult and an art student, I discovered that the celebrated Surrealist artist Max Ernst would play a more elaborated form of the same game, rubbing paper placed on rough planks or other surfaces with graphite or other media and developing his compositions from the forms he half-recognized in the results.

I wonder if this form of editing is more common in the work of generative designers than is generally acknowledged? Could it be that, as opposed to the beautiful manisfestation of an inhuman precision, much generative art is (under the pixels or the voxels) in fact a messy cut-and-paste job dictated by the most irrational human impulses?

The hand in the last image is in fact my left one…I hurriedly drew it with my right (using a painting program with a gaming mouse), and then “flipped” the bitmap image horizontally. I rather think this piece, which introduces a more typically traditional idiom for representation, is the least successful of the set.

April 18th, 2011
Categories: Artwork, Other Creative Work, Technical
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