Art, Science & Technology | Exceptional Midterms

Art has definitely evolved from the traditional paint and canvas. Now with computer programs, electronics, and new technologies, art has found a new medium in the scientific realm. Yet, though this bridging of "two cultures" - art and science - may seem new, the techniques of generative art, seen in the works of Casey Reas, may be just as old as art itself.

Presented in the form of still captures of an ever changing live artwork, Casey Reas's piece Process Drawing is the result of a computer program. Reas first writes down in plain English simple directions that are to be followed. Then he translates these directions into a computer program using scripts and codes. It is then left up to the computer to interpret the inputted data to produce art. A limited set of rules that leads to limitless possibilities.

Generative art can be defined as a piece of work that is influenced by an external source. As Philip Galanter describes in his interview, Generative Art is as Old as Art, this type of art is very much about the process than the actual result. And Reas's work truly exemplifies that. His work is more about the different combinations and interpretations the computer can come up with rather than the finished drawings. His work also leaves somewhat of the control to the computer, after entering the parameters the computer finished up the work. It raises the question of who is the artist. It also brings up the question of how new this process really is. "There is still a little bit of old art in generative art" Galanter explains and can be seen vice versa. Taken by definition anything left to the influence of outside forces can be generative. And these new artworks, like Reas's Process Drawing, are still reminiscent of traditional pieces.

However, one can say that Reas's process of scientific and artistic integration is a new wave, a merging of "two cultures" such as C.P. Snow entails in his similarly titled article. An artist like Reas must not only have an artistic eye but must also be knowledgeable in math, especially geometry, and computer programming. Before, as early as 1000 AD and the Renaissance, math and geometry were used to revolutionize the aspects of perspective and dimensionality, when now it is used electronically to revolutionize how art is produced. It seems that the relationship between math and art is very old as well.

The same principles of generative art can be related to science as well. As an artist Reas lets the computer influence the art while a scientist may let external sources influence his experiment. Science just like generative art is also very much about the process, how we got there rather than the destination itself. The subtle yet significant connections between these two often opposite cultures has sparked a new way of looking at art and science.

Their relationship is older than some recognize and their merging and futures are closer than some people think. Casey Reas's works are only some of the examples of the bridging of two cultures. With time and the advancement of ideas and technologies the lines between science and art might be blurred all together.