The Synthetic Aesthetic
The Synthetic Aesthetic is the artistic appeal of mechanically made imagery. That is, imagery that is not made with the hands but instead is made remotely, through a device or machine. Although it sounds modern, I think it’s probably the very first form of art –the original art form– because it depends solely on hunting and gathering.
Art without an artist
Sounds unlikely or maybe just uninteresting but creating imagery that lacked human intention and was disconnected from the guidance of the human mind was one of the favourite ideas of the founders of the surrealist art movement. But it’s less about eliminating the constraints of the human mind than it is about featuring mechanical creativity: syntheticism.
Because the results can be exciting. It’s art: the moving of the mind. It’s not a subjective thing either or a matter of opinion, the results can be seen. This blog is an exploration of that mysterious creativity which has achieved a renaissance in the era of computer algorithms and yet is still as old as the hills. A weird thing.
Computers can draw but not sing
Computer programmers have never been very successful at designing software that can actually compose music or write poetry all by itself. Those kind of creative arts seem to depend entirely on the faculties of the human mind and yield very little of interest when harnessed to the powerful calculating machineries of computers. But the graphical arts work differently than music or writing and computers can actually be creative when applied to the visual medium.
Mechanical devices are fast and prolific producers of imagery, but ninety-nine percent of the time the results are just garbage; computer algorithms have no sense of aesthetics and can’t see or reflect on what they’re doing. They’re digital idiot-savants and they need help. That’s where the user’s contribution to the creative process comes in: they steer the machine in a more profitable direction, ignoring the steady stream of junk that pours out and watching for that sudden exotic curiousity that eventually –just happens.
There’s something fascinating about a computer, or any kind of machine drawing a picture. Obviously we can’t call them artists, but at the same time, once you clear away all the garbage, those few “curiosities” that remain have a certain artistry to them and while they may not rival the work of the greatest artists, they certainly qualify as rivals to the average artist.
This is my hobby. I don’t have any professional qualifications or training. I’m a stay at home dad in his fifties and I don’t know much about programming and I’ve never finished reading a single book about art. But all my life I’ve been preoccupied with art and trying to understand my own reactions to it. If the existence of an Aladdin’s lamp of art interests you then I think you’ll find the images and commentary in my blog postings practical and relevant.
It’s not all about fractals
I get bored with them often and that’s what drives me to experiment with other devices: cellular automata; voronoi things; IFS cloud pictures from Kandid; photoshop filter gauntlets; block-wave transformations; and various other programs of which many were never intended to have artistic uses or rather, misuses.
It’s about art
…from pushing buttons. Not any particular buttons either. Most digital art enthusiasts are really computer craftsmen whose pursuit is technical rather than artistic innovation. But someone whose primary interest is art is less devoted to the specific techniques and methods of their medium than they are about the actual artwork that comes from them; the technology is just a tool and maintaining the purity of an unmixed medium has no purpose. Synthetic methods have more variation than those of the traditional hand-made arts and for that reason are harder to categorize, define and build internet fan clubs for.