Category Archives: Science and Art

Generative Art 2009 Conference (Milano)

This week (15-17 December) I attended the Generative Art 2009 conference in Milano, Italy. It is a conference with a quite broad and diverse focus attended by both artists and academics from many different fields. And, as far as I know, it is the only conference on Generative Art.

I do not think of myself as an artist, and neither do I work in the academia. So it was not at all obvious for me to attend the conference. But when I got a an email from Celestino Soddu (the chairman of the conference) asking me to consider participating in the conference, I became curious since the conference revolves around many of the concepts that interests me: genetic algorithms, swarms and flocking, multi-agent systems, sound synthesis, architecture, digital photography, etc…

So I went, and gave a short introduction to Structure Synth and its history (Chomsky’s formal grammars, Chris Coynes context-free design grammars, and the relation to Lindenmayer systems).

The paper is available here (PDF):
Structural Synthesis using a Context-Free Grammar Approach.

Structure Synth image.

I will start out by saying that I enjoyed the conference a lot. People were very friendly and interesting, and I had a lot of good discussions. And I think the diverse mixture of different cultures, nationalities, fields and practices is exciting – even though it also meant that some of the presentations became too tangential to my interests – and some were even nearly incomprehensible to me.

Some of my personal highlights in the conference were Arne Eigenfeldts “In Equilibrio”, a multi-agent music system, Daniel Bisig and Tatsuo Unemis “Swarms on Stage – Swarm Simulations for Dance Performance” and Philip Galanters theoretical essay on “Fitness and Complexification in Evolutionary Art” – even though I do not agree with Philip here: I think the idea of establishing an aesthetic fitness function, which could be used by genetic algorithms, is a futile endeavor. The AI community seems to have had little progress with mimicking human behavior the last forty years (e.g. see my conversation with last years Loebner prize contest winners), and surely aesthetic judgments require a lot beyond what is needed to pass a simple Turing test.

Sculpture (found somewhere in Milano).

Another highlight was Celestino Soddu’s own introduction – it contained a slideshow with an enormous amount of his own generated architectural works, and I think it demonstrated an impressive and consistent approach to generative architecture. But it also made me wonder if we will ever see a skyscraper created by a generative system.

As a final note, I also think the academic community should try to establish some sort of communication to the vibrant generative art internet community and demo scene practitioners. I am not sure exactly how this could be accomplished, but many interesting projects seems to emerge from these settings.