A new creativity (introducing picture machines)
Configurism is a whole new way of creating artwork and being an artist. Since ancient times the creation of artwork has revolved around the artist and was an expression and extension of the artist’s intellect and thoughts. Understandably, it was hard to do, slow to do, and always running out of new ideas and returning to common themes. Artistic inspiration and the ability to render it is always in short supply when it relies on human efforts. But there is now a source of visual creativity that requires very little effort and is actually fun to use. It’s a type of computer program that creates visual imagery all on its own, that is to say, automatically: it’s an automaton but of a very advanced type. What was hard has become easy; slow is now fast; and the common and cliche is easily avoidable where the imagery is naturally wild and unpredictable and doesn’t depend on your own imagination.
How it works (where configurism comes in)
Some of these computerized automata (plural of automaton) have no adjustable settings and exist in the form of exotic screen savers. Most however, have some configurable settings because they’re implementations of some complex algorithm or transformation and the complexity is reflected in the number of variables that can be variously configured. The artist works by altering and adjusting the variables which in turn alter and adjust (control) how the automaton functions when creating the artwork. The artist’s part is to configure the program so that when it goes to work it will be more likely to create something worth looking at, like art. The automaton does all the drawing of the artwork and it does this autonomously, independently of the artist. That’s what “automatic” means in this context: “on its own”. So there’s two functions here: configuring and drawing. Subsequently, there’s two roles being performed: the role of configurist, and the automated role of renderist.
A Creative Symbiosis (what configurism comes down to)
Configurism is all about the symbiotic relationship between artist and automaton. This symbiosis comes from the fact that “the artist” who is the author of “the art” is really a function and a role that is performed by the combined efforts of both the configurist and automaton. For the sake of simplicity I refer to the configurist as the artist since they’re “the person most closely associated with the creation of the artwork”, but the relationship between the artist and the artwork, as you can probably see by now, is different than it is in the traditional situation where the artist is performing all the creative functions himself. The artist and the artwork have a different relationship. This is one of the things that makes configurism so unique: there is really no artist at all. Configurism, you could say: is art without an artist.
Symbiosis, rather than any other type of relationship is the best way to describe this unique creative arrangement because automata are a type of idiot savant: something that is brilliant in one way but stupid in all the others. These automata are computer programs that can quickly render a vast panorama but are absolutely blind as to what it looks like. But even if they could see, they could not relate what they’ve drawn to the concept of art in the way in which even the average person can. The configurist then does more than just come up with random settings (some programs will do this on their own, ie. automatically) the configurist thoughtfully experiments with different settings to discover more aesthetic imagery and fine tune the rendering of it.
What to expect (configurism as it relates to other art forms)
A pair of eyes and the artistic sensibility of the human mind are the only things automatons lack in becoming full-fledged artists themselves. Conversely, the inexhaustible and perfectionist rendering talents of an automaton are likely to be the only thing holding back the average artist from creating better artwork. And this is all about average artists, not great ones. I put it this way:
“Configurism will never produce artwork that rivals the greatest artists, but it will often produce artwork that rivals the average artist.”