A) Slime mold is one of my favorite examples of a natural system that exhibits effective complexity. There was an experiment that put food sources in locations imitating the destinations of the Tokyo railway system, and then allowed the slime mold to grow. It ultimately formed a network that matched the efficiency of the actual Tokyo area railway system. Each cell makes decisions on the highly ordered and simple side of the spectrum, but the emergent system with many cells vastly boosts effective complexity.
(Images from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, GIF by Mark Fricker)
B) Galanter's The Problem of Meaning is the problem that I have struggled with the most in generative art. I would like my art to be relevant beyond just the intrigue of the medium, and I would argue that generative art is wholly capable of achieving meaning in just about every subject matter that non-generative art can. However, in artwork where the system that made it is so significant, it's difficult to make something interesting enough that the viewer sees past medium and into content.
1A. Something I've always been fascinated with that exhibits effective complexity is the appearance of the Fibonacci sequence in nature. Not only do (most) flowers have a number of petals which is a Fibonacci number, but the arrangement of the seeds in the centers of flowers is determined by Fibonacci numbers. For example, the flower below has seeds arranged in spirals. There are 55 spirals going to the right, and 34 spirals going to the left, both numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. This is an example of almost total order - while different flowers have different numbers, flowers of the same type are virtually indistinguishable from one another.
1B. I relate to Galanter's idea of the problem of meaning. While I value creating works that are visually or technically interesting and enjoyable to see, there is a big difference for me between that and a piece that holds a lot of meaning. I struggle with whether or not the process or the product is more important to me as well as the viewer, but I think they are equally as valuable in different ways. Intent and concept are important in making art to me, but I'm certainly open to "happy accidents" that are part of the process of making generative art.
Question 1A. Aquaponics is a system that exhibits effective complexity. It is in fact a very simple symbiotic system that mimics a natural waterway where plants can live off of the nutrient rich water that a fish tank produces. In this sense, it is highly ordered since the the stream of energy transfer is strictly from fish food to fish and then to the plant. On the other hand, it is also highly disordered because on a molecular level, the ran formation of energy happens ver organically and it's very hard say how energy is exactly being transported to a new place.
Question 1B. I would like to say a few words on the problem of authorship here. The example that the article refers to in the second last paragraph of this section really brings me back to an other probable that I have been thinking of recently regarding the popular recommendation engine that is now omnipresent on the internet. Similarly in that case, if the engines suggest you things that you might like, how do we make sure that the results are truly derived correctly from your personal preferences? Even if you do end up liking the suggestions, how ca new know it is not a confirmation bias in the sense that "Since the powerful machine that I believed in suggested that I would like these things thus I must have a higher chance of actually liking it". Here, regarding the authorship of the generative art work, we face the same dilemma once the system becomes highly intelligent. I think if we, as the creator of the systems that generate art work, believe that we still posses full control over the system and we know exactly how the magic is done, then we still have full ownership over the work. However, on the other hand, if the work is truly accidental then the ownership becomes more of a problem.
1A) Something I like that exhibits effective complexity is the circle patterns made in sand by pufferfish. These patterns are highly ordered as they always follow a specific geometric procedure that seems to create nearly identical circles each time. I find this interesting because the pattern is created so instinctively, but cannot be perfect as it was created by a living being under varying underwater conditions.
(photo from National Geographic)
1B) The Problem of Dynamics
This problem stood out to me because I thought it was strange that people would try to put a restriction on generative art, saying that it MUST exhibit change over time in order to be truly generative, otherwise it is just an artifact. While I think that being dynamic is an interesting quality to have, I don't think that it should be what qualifies art as generative or not. Even when results are "frozen", the process through which they were created was generative.
I was immediately reminded of Ian Cheng's work Emissaries in relation to efficient Complexity. The work seems entirely arbitrary, and in some ways his design of it is, but the underlying relationships between his avatars organize this system in a way that is simultaneously perceptible as both ordered and chaotic. I would say that it tends toward the randomness as a viewer unaware in the skills required for generative making, but the underlying narrative and relationship structure is what makes it ordered.
gif courtesy of : http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com/2017/09/ian-cheng-at-moma-ps1/
The Problem of Uniqueness: Given that alot of my work before CMU was primarily in the medium of print making, the idea of the uniqueness of prints strongly echoed for me in this statement. Through this, I fully agree that generative art creates completely new and unique artifacts, which contribute to a larger body that comes together to make that work of art. In a way this problem explores how the same idea can also evolve rapidly with the smallest of changes that generative systems inherently produce.
1A. I think a good example of something exhibiting effective complexity is the structure of a tree. Trees grow in a random way, so no two trees are alike. In this sense they posses some randomness. That said, trees can be relied upon to grow in a fairly recognizable way; everyone can recognize the shape and structure of a tree when they see it. They are ordered in this regard. I think trees, among many natural things, perfectly straddle the line between chaos and order.
1B. The Problem of Locality, Code, and Malleability. This is philosophically an interesting problem, there are clear parallels between it and the mind-body problem. It is an important one as well, as it frames how we think of generative art. The dualist might argue that the art exists discretely from the code, that it exists in the place in which it is seen. The materialist might argue that the art is the code itself. I think to some degree both are correct; though the art is a function of the code, the code may have artistic properties and running it produces other artistic properties that cannot be experienced from just the code itself.
Question 1A: I had already known before reading this that there was a complexity to biological life that seemed generated or highly ordered, but I really enjoyed reading about this scale of total order and randomness. When thinking of an example, my mind automatically goes to the appearance of the golden ratio in nature. For example, these flower heads:
And plenty of other examples from https://io9.gizmodo.com/5985588/15-uncanny-examples-of-the-golden-ratio-in-nature.
In terms of its effective complexity, disregarding its microscopic, structured atoms, it also displays a highly structured form. This example would be closer to total order, near crystal lattices.
Question 1B: "The Problem of Dynamics" is something I am currently struggling with. I always question what defines a certain subset within art. I always feel like generative art is art that is constantly "generating" itself, but I think that generation can also happen behind the scenes. For example, while a piece of code is in the process of generating art, it is still generating.
In my experience, learning to dance, like most art, has two main components: technical understanding and intuitive understanding. The technical side is orderly and logical, and you can apply any number of systems in order to understand it. However, the intuitive side is chaotic and often illogical, and results in many different interpretations by different people. You can't go extreme on either side because that risks oversimplification and a lack of true understanding of the art, so in employing a mix of the two, you achieve successful execution and therefore effective complexity.
For my personal work, relating to the problem of intent, I don't see why I would use generative methods to create art over other more meaningful and comfortable methods for me. When I look at generative art, I'm not always able to identify the intent behind using that method, and I don't exactly know why people would choose to make art that way, but I think this is just a side effect of me needing to study and understand [technological] art in general.
1A: One family of things I like that exhibits effective complexity is snowflakes, which lie almost in the middle of total order and total randomness. Snowflakes as a whole are technically just small pieces of ice, which means at a molecular level they are completely ordered, exhibiting crystal lattice-type structures. The unique look of each snowflake, however, is completely influenced by the flow of heat in the air at that moment, which is ultimately unpredictable; heat itself is random at a molecular level, so it is impossible to know beforehand the rate at which the temperature will microscopically change. Therefore, the outcome of each snowflake is random.
1B: In response to The Problem of Creativity:
I feel like creativity applies the most to me as an artist, but it is hard for me to agree with one "side" or the other because I don't really see sides. I don't think creativity should be considered a problem in the first place -- there is no way to prove that any certain expression of creativity is wrong. Something is creative if it can create. And technically, all generative art is obviously creative at some point -- a human had to create the ideas in their mind before it was computed. I guess it's just a matter of whether one considers using a computer to execute the ideas to be progressive or inauthentic.
I like effective complexity in graphic layouts. Since all decisions are made by a person, it is disputable whether it can be called a complexity formed by a system (probably not). Still, the most intriguing graphic layouts to me are the ones that seem based on strict, well-informed rules, but that also arbitrarily escape them for a more graphically pleasant outcome.
On The Problem of Authenticity:
I like early 20th century oil paintings. I enjoy staring at them and sort of tracing the painter's intentions. An aesthetic composition in paint mediums can provide that unique, warm firsthand experience as if you're talking to the artist. Most generative art, as with the postmodern approach explained in the article, tend to lack this quality.