Generative Art in Video Art (1st draft)

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Generative art in video art

Abstract: The pace of science and technology never ever stopped as far as human civilization keeps developing, it’s always thrilling to see how artists are inspired by science and technology. Generative art is a typical collision between art and science.


Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. An autonomous system in this context is generally one that is non-human and can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist. In some cases the human creator may claim that the generative system represents their own artistic idea, and in others that the system takes on the role of the creator.

However, The labels attached to these new art forms vary, and have not yet settled down into a generally accepted taxonomy. The names preferred by the artists involved include: generative art, computer art, digital art, computational art, process-based art, electronic art, software art, technological art, and telematics. In addition, there are names for subfields: interactive art, evolutionary art, video art, media (and new-media and multimedia) art, holographic art, laser art, virtual art, cyborg art, robotic art, telerobotics, net art ... and more. Again, the extension of these labels is not always clear. Most of generative art works rely heavily on digital computing, and in particular on methods drawn from AI/A-Life. It is the idea realized as genetic code of artificial events, as construction of dynamic complex systems able to generate endless variations. Each Generative Project is a concept-software that works producing unique and non-repeatable events, The resulting artworks are highly diverse. They include music, sonics, the visual arts, video art, multimedia installations, virtual reality, kinetic sculpture, robotics, performance art, and text.


During the interview of Ernest Edmonds who is a artist in the field of computer art, generative art, algorithmic art and interactive art from the UK, descripted: “Time-based work is very hard to make if each step has to be explicitly constructed. Using the computer as a generative engine magically removes this major problem. So, from a pragmatic point of view, I constructed a generative engine to make my time-based work so that the cycle of making, evaluating, and refining the work was faster and tighter.” This directly demonstrates the massive potential of generative art in video art. The following examples show the main factors of generative art in video art.

1. Color: Color has different attributes: saturation, hue, brightness, transparency. In generative art, the combination of colors is usually digital looking. It can be glitched complicatedly as well as it can be extremely minimalist.

2. Shape: By applying generative art technique, it’s possible to create shapes in thousands of forms, thus, the movements of shape are also ultimate. Those shapes can be entirely randomly and unpredictably generated.

3. Image: Images in video art which are created in a generative way are usually glitched, twisted, distorted, copied, etc.

4. Random and Noise: Noises can be found in many audio/visual art works. In 1983, Ken Perlin developed a stype of gradient noise – Perlin noise, which is used by visual effects artists to increase the appearance of realism in computer graphics. Additionally, nowadays it’s been used a lot in video art.

5. Oscillation Figures: Oscillation figures are also used in various of audio/visual art as far as they could visualize sound and music in a intuitive way. Generally, generative art provides more possibilities for video art. On one hand, it is unpredictable, on the other hand, it is also can be controlled by artists writing certain programs or codes.

Artists are able to create video art based on randomness, programming and coding are the main factors for generative art, in that case, the way of creating video art can be also real time, same to the way of showing video art works. Generative systems in video works can be modified while artists operate, for example by using interactive programming languages such as Max/MSP, vvvv, Pure data, etc. This may be used to create live video by manipulating generative systems on stage, a performance practice like this has become known as live coding.


Generative, video artists create their visual language by a variety of ways. They tend to create video art by visualizing data, music and sounds.

In the work “test pattern” (figure 1), Japanese artist Ryoji Ikeda converted a various types of data (texts, sounds, photos and even movies) into barcode patterns and binary patterns of 0s and 1s. This project translates the digital data that surround us in everyday life into flickering barcodes. Therefore, all the motion movements of those barcodes (position, flickr, scale )are generated and motivated by different kinds of raw data in “test pattern”. The work was shown in several different forms: real time performance, screening and video installation. Additionally, in the 100m version of “test pattern”, audience could be immersed in the video projection, which offers the video art a brand new experience.

figure 1

In Austria visual artist Rainer Kohlberger’s audio/visual work “Arcana” (figure 2), he visualized Edgar Varèse’s music work “Arcana” based on algorithmically generated graphics. He performance this work in the music hall while music part was played by a group of classical music band in real time. In the visual part, those generated graphics create a perceptual consistency both in audio and visual. As Ernest Edmonds mentioned, it would be hard to create this work in traditional way if each frame needs to be constructed precisely.

figure 2


Generative art is a method of making art, but it carries with it no particular motivation or ideology. In fact the use of generative methods may have nothing to do with the content of the work at all. For example, filmmakers may use generative methods to synthesize imagery for purely economic reasons. At the other extreme some generative artists create works where there is no distance at all between the generative production method and the meaning of the work. These are generative artists exploring systems for their own sake. Meanwhile, filmmakers and video artists are using generative to express their concepts and experiences in a philosophical way. For instance, in Rainer Kohlberger’s short film < Not Even Nothing Can Be Free Of Ghosts >, he tries to do experiments that provide audience with powerful physical and metaphysical experiences. The extreme light-dark intervals incessantly vary, climaxing in a black-and-white stroboscope storm. Abstract “ghost beings” become manifest in digital “nirvana.” These “ghosts” appear from “nothing” and are “nothing”.


Philip Galanter, ‘What is Generative Art? Complexity Theory as a Context for Art Theory’

Margaret A. Boden, (2009), ‘What is Generative Art’

Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Gross, Julia Laub, (2012), ‘Generative Design: Visualize, Program, and Create with Processing’, Princeton Architectural Press

Off Book, documentary, ‘Generative Art – Computers, Data, and Humanity’

Leonardo, (April 2014), ‘Ten Questions Concerning Generative Computer Art’, MIT Press