In the 1960s and '70s the basis was laid for what we today call conceptual art. That meant that the meaning of art was expanded to include ideas, techniques, materials etc. Art was no longer synonymous with visual artwork such as paintings, sculptures etc. In Sol LeWitt´s “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” (1967) he claims: “the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” The word machine is figurative and pertains to a repetitive process without human intervention.
The idea of a physical machine that could generate artwork has been within me for a long time. It resulted in my designing of a computer program that was implemented by Simon Carlson, a master's student at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. This futuristic “artist”, named ArtGen, can generate unique pictures in a constructivist spirit given certain prerequisites. One of the central requirements has been to enable ArtGen to be used for different purposes. The program´s functionality shall be able to be changed in a flexible and effective way to support multiple project ideas with different vantage points.
With every project I can control how ArtGen should behave. I give the prerequisites by changing seed data or the program code. The pictures are created in layers. I can affect factors such as form and color, number of layers and transparency. Added to this is a random generator, a “free will”, that can be utilized for different purposes. The images produced cannot be envisaged and the probability that they are reproduced is virtually zero. No human hand is involved, except for the initial setup that is provided every time ArtGen is run. ArtGen raises questions regarding the circumstances in which a work of art can be created.
© Ove Carlson/BUS 2017.