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Monro, Gordon: THE CONCEPT OF EMERGENCE IN GENERATIVE ART. Master-Thesis, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney, 2007



Generative art is any art practice where the artist creates a process that in turn acts with some degree of autonomy to create all or part of an artwork. It represents a particularly intriguing interaction between art and science, as not only does the artist use technological means (typically computer programs), but also the art itself often relates to fundamental questions about life and what it is to be human in the face of rapid technical advance. Indeed much generative art is closely allied to the scientific discipline called Artificial Life, which asks similar questions from a scientific point of view. A concept underlying much generative art, and the science of Artificial Life, is that of emergence. Broadly speaking, a system exhibits emergent behaviour if something “extra” occurs; in some sense more comes out of it than was put in. The concept of emergence has links to several disciplines, and it has no clear definition; it appears that there are several concepts going under the same name. This essay aims to tease out a definition of emergence suitable for discussions of generative art. The first two chapters of the essay contain introductory remarks on definitions and on generative art. Chapter 3 considers examples of emergent phenomena in science; these examples are largely, but not exclusively, connected with Artificial Life. Chapter 4 discusses several definitions of emergence from the literature; again these are mostly connected with Artificial Life, and have some relation to discussions of generative art. In Chapter 5 a definition of “generative-art emergence” is proposed; this definition is specifically adapted to discussions of generative art. Chapter 6 applies the definition to a selection of generative artworks that are contenders for exhibiting emergence. The essay concludes with reflections on some of the issues raised.

Extended Abstract


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