. community —

genetic art

Do you know how genetic algorithms work?

Entities are broken down into their constituent parts. The components and
the relationships between components are put into a list. The entities are
then put into competition with each other and those which compete most
succesfully are mated with each other and their offspring replace the
losers who are gradually killed off. By mating, is meant the random
recombination of large sections of a pair's lists to produce a hybrid
offspring. As the generations go by, the population of entities get closer
and closer to satisfying the purpose or goal of the competition.

Genetic algorithms only reach satisfactory conclusions if they have a very
large number of generations. The Web has the capacity to provide such an
environment for many types of genetic algorithmic games.

Take art. It can be broken down into a finite number of specific brush
strokes. As such it could be represented as a list which would be amenable
to genetic algorithms.

Suppose mating of these lists of brush strokes were determined by the
pleasing affect they have. Say thousands of people choosing separately
(from say twelve) the best two to mate - and the worst two to die ( being
replaced by the offspring of the winners).

What sort of art would evolve? Would their still be room for real artists
or would they become exstinct?
If a creative person is not aware of, or does not consciously cater for,
the group mind, then, lacking any functional substance, the success of the
"creator's" work must be subject to randomness i.e. the "creator" is just
lucky in being able to appeal to the current group mind.


In computer programming terms there is a top down approach and a bottom up
approach. The top down, or structured approach, is where you start with a
master plan and then work out all the progressively more detailed steps to
put that plan into its final form. A top down approach in any creative
endeavor requires vision and is the stuff of the master or the genius.

The bottom up approach, usually associated with object orienting
programming, is where a seed idea begins with small modules or beginnings
which are built upon as opportunity and inspiration suggest. Such a
technique is often the methodism of creativity where the result is as much
a surprise to the creator as it is to the people who observe the creator's

My question, to the creative people who are reading this list, is "How much
does targeting for appeal come into your creative decision making?"

+ + +

Date: 4.24.96
From: pwnr@interport.net (Paul Warren)
Subject: targeting for appeal

In my experience, targeting for appeal is a marketing technique and not a
creative process. Within the art world there are artist/marketers who are
attempting to use this method to generate and sell art. But interest in
this work is beginning to dissipate even among the hard-core art audience
because it lacks resonance with the self.

Ironically, these same marketing techniques, which were meant to generate
interest in art, may have adversely influenced art audiences and the art
market. There is a significant downturn in the prices for modern and recent
art (recently, Town and Country magazine ran a chart showing the price
drops). The audiences for modern and recent art have also fallen (e.g.,
memberships at MOMA and the GUG, etc. are down significantly).

In regard to individual creativity, the info/stream seems to begin without
any measurable intent, so I think that whether it's a top down or a bottom
up approach may not be a determining issue. Proust was impelled to write
his works by smelling a tea cake. Mozart created entire operas in his head
before he wrote them down.

And what about the scientist who figured out the benzine ring from having a
dream about a snake with its tail in its mouth? Is this top down or bottom
up? I can't see way of applying this model to these kinds of creative

Recently I have been in contact with a Paul Haeberli. He has written a
Manifesto of Futurist Programmers which directly addresses some of these
concerns regarding creativity and programming. The URL is


I think he is raising some very powerful issues. I feel that some of these
programming issues may affect the meaning of art as programming continues
to have an enormous effect on global culture.