Finite vs. Infinite Instantiation in Generative Art

All things being equal with respect to individual artistic merit, when one reads a poem outputted from a text-generating program, the impact may be different from reading the product of, say, a comparably algorithmically generated poem in the Dada/Surrealist/Oulipo/etc. traditions.

What is responsible for the different effects, I think, is that the computer program can offer infinite instantiations or productions of the generative process, whereas the Dada/Surrealist/Oulipo/etc. poet-in-algorithmic-mode offers finite instantiations.

You can’t click “Refresh” on an algorithmic Tristan Tzara poem to see what other possible instantiations of the process. The product is final.

Of course, not all code-generated art and poetry offers infinite instantiations; it’s just an option available in the medium. Examples of finite-instantiation code-generated art and poetry are often found in media like email, forums, and imageboards/surfclubs.

And spam. Where the process is neither presented nor explained alongside the product, or where the presentational context is not explicitly geared toward artistic performance, such art is often dismissed as spam. So framing matters, too, I guess, but to adequately address that notion is another ballgame altogether …

What could be the difference in effect between infinite and finite instantiation?

Sometimes I just click “Refresh” or some such button in the art until the “Okay, I get it now” moment and then close the site, often forgetting most if not all of any the unique products of the process. In those cases was my experience of the art diluted by the infinite instantiation?

When I read Oulipo poetry I actually try to digest the horizontal relationships between the words, only afterwards finding out that the guy had used an N+7 dictionary crawl to write the poem. Even when I find out beforehand, I find that I am as or more attentive to the product than the process.

And of course some artists have tried to bridge the gap between the historical algorithmists and net art, e.g., Raymond Queneau’s Cent Mille Milliards de Poemes at

(P.S., I realize that most generative art is not technically infinitely instantiable, but often it’s enough to give an impression thereof.)


, Salvatore Iaconesi

if you look here:

your browser will probabily crash after a bit, trying to open up all of the links in' most recent bookmarks page, in one screen.

if you search on the web about delicious poetry you will find it featured on several art festivals and exhibitions, as well as on several webmasters' forums, trying to figure out if it's a malware or a crazy website.

if you open it up and let it go, assemblages made by layer over layer of text, images and movies form on your screen, created by the things people like most in that moment on the web.

when i go to supermarkets i sometimes feel a deep sense of beauty when i look at the symmetries of the products on the shelves, under the neon light and the weird sounds of the crowd and of the voices and soft music coming from the speakers. more than in many galleries or museums.

a couple of days ago i went at ikea store in rome. there was a box filled with plush toys. if you pulled to extend them, they would play some sounds for a short while. i pulled them all at the same time, about a hundred of them, and placed them around an exhibition of furniture for babies. it was quite psychedelic, and i kept randomly pulling them to keep the sounds going. people really enjoyed it and a small crowd formed, their ikea pencils and graph paper stopping for a moment. the store clerks didn't bother me, but they kept an eye open, to see if something "dangerous" was going on.

then i went to the in-store cafeteria, and i looked outside: there were three enormous flags - italian, swedish and the one of the european community - as they usually exhibit flags outside embassies.

i am not sure that giving an "explicit" and/or "explained" art-context to something creates more art than naturally generates in ways that are only part human or, for that matter, partly material.

most of the beauty of the digital realms is that they tend to materialize immaterial domains. and not by creating objects, but by creating new senses.


, Vijay Pattisapu

The happening is the ultimate finitude. Part of the beauty of what you did with the toys was in its spontaneousness, its singularity, its relation(s) to its prior and posterior nonexistence.

, Vijay Pattisapu

Delicious Poetry did crash my browser the first time, but I liked it when I could get it to work. :-)

"I am not sure that giving an "explicit" and/or "explained" art-context to something creates more art than naturally generates in ways that are only part human or, for that matter, partly material."

I didn't say that. I was just noting as an aside that the presentational context can add or remove certain conditions on how the viewer receives the work. That doesn't mean a difference for the art; it's just a different set of constraints the artist can make herself more aware of, in addition to and different from the constraints of infinite vs. finite instantiation.

It looks like you've experienced something like that reception ("Is this malware?"). Even then, I think you have a certain art-oriented context, because I visit your site from Art Is Open Source, Rhizome, etc., so I'm already prepared for crazy shit.

On the other hand, if someone randomly stumbled upon a Jimpunk site, he'd probably just get annoyed. I know that that's a simple and stupid thing to say, but there's a lot to be said for that.

So much of what would be considered edgy in the art world is just annoying anywhere else and vice versa.

The heart of annoyance is immateriality and boundarylessness, a state of being which, as Sartre put it, "never hurts enough." As you put it: "Most of the beauty of the digital realms is that they tend to materialize immaterial domains. And not by creating objects, but by creating new senses." And Hazlitt: "the perfection of art consists not in giving general appearances without individual details, but in giving general appearances with individual details." (Material|Concret|Boundary)ization as aestheticization (αισθ/ - to feel). Digital beauty as that which aestheticizes that which in life so enervates us. The machine.

So maybe our experience of these generative infinities often just provokes our annoyance at machinic iteration.

What about spiritual infinities … ?

, Salvatore Iaconesi

if you go here

a script will try to download all of the images in as reachable by recursively navigating the website.

your browser will probabily crash in a bit.

i often use system crash as a tool for expression. i used it on the web, on second life, in real life, in talking to people…

limiting the discussion to the web, the amount of information available - be it images, movies, news, pornography, pirated software, people - is a big part of any process.

trying to get all this information as input to a human or a not-human system is a greedy algorithm we constantly see: stumblers, googlers, wikipedians, diggers, youtubers…

while the possibility to access limitless amounts content is a great power (socially, politically, economically…) it has ripercussions on the way people/systems perceive information. we learn differently, value information differently, relate differently. stumbleupon is exemplary in his perspective: an economy built on 2-3 seconds of attention and focus.

merchandises have turned visual. products are nt physical objects anymore. marx is not up-to-date. the fetish is not in the merchandise, it's in the communication processes. and the metropolis is not an industrial metropolis anymore: it becomes a communicational metropolis, totally built on communication flows.

the mutation trends are visible in (visual) languages associated to the products. In these last few months of growing oil price, an example strikes me: at gas stations it is becoming common to find "gasolio ecologico" "eco-gasoline". Which is the usal gasoline, with 0.00001% less sulfur inside, and, probabily, with a monstruously polluting industrial refinig process behind it to take that 0.00001% out of the fuel. That specific gasline costs a lot more and the pumps are decorated with green flowery motifs. In the advertisments you find happy families going to picnics, on hills that are nowhere to be found in italy, and the like.

in that case you are obviously not buying fuel.

and mediatic overdose opens up the doors to all these processes. infinite content. no more criticism. 3-seconds attention. visual fetishes.

so we have great power vs great overdoses.

in this setting spiritual and mystical dimensions mutate as well.

many multinationals understood this process really fast. in the same trip to ikea when i enacted the sound performance, the vision of the flags, as if the mall was an embassy of some kind, was, truly, a mystical one.

if you go inside a shopping center i think you will have no trouble in recognizing that you are entering inside a virtual reality, made up from hundreds of material and immaterial components aimed at reshaping space, time and relationships running between people, products, the_world_outside_the_mall…

in a way malls have become cathedrals.

i find the lanes of the mega-stores, with the shelves filled ceiling-high with products in their psychedelic packaging, to be close to one of those infinite, control-center-of-the-universe visions often told by people who got high on dmt, ayhuasca, sanPedro.

so it looks like infinites have their mystic, spiritual dimensions: they're based on overdose and system crash.

, Vijay Pattisapu

"repercussions on the way people/systems perceive information. "
<Crosspost>Some new studies on the Internet's effect on the brain in the latest Atlantic: </Crosspost>

A computer crash is spiritual? A crash is spiritual? Overdose is spiritual? Vegas is spiritual?

, Salvatore Iaconesi

a zen koan is a system crash or a system overload, in a way.

several eastern and central-south american religions use substance overdose to cause access to mystical dimensions.

sounds and repetition are used to reach sensorial saturation points where trance states arise.

vegas can be mystical

, Vijay Pattisapu


I guess I just knee-jerked in one direction only on the Apollo - Dionysus spectrum of spiritual experience.

In accounting for the spiritual, in art and life, there must be room for both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena …

, Frederic Madre

it didn't crach my browser
I got this error though:
Fatal error: Maximum execution time of 60 seconds exceeded in /hacks/4chan/simple_html_dom.php on line 821

Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 41943040 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 44 bytes) in /hacks/4chan/simple_html_dom.php on line 563
anyway, it made me think of this
I was trying to collect (manually) images and build a big page so that it would become unloadable
after a while I realized it would never be big enough for this
specially since I was interested in choosing the images and working on their disposition on the page
so I stopped

btw, I like you text

also, when you write "marx is not up-to-date. the fetish is not in the merchandise, it's in the communication processes. and the metropolis is not an industrial metropolis anymore: it becomes a communicational metropolis, totally built on communication flows. " you should read "the society of the spectacle", debord is so much more relevant to the world as it is today than duchamp or barthes

, Frederic Madre

please, mr and mrs rhizome, please help us correcting our typos!