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Themesicon: navigation pathGenerative Toolsicon: navigation pathSoftware Art
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Code as Executable Text: Software Art and its Focus on Program Code as Performative Text
Inke Arns


«Software is mind control. Come and get some.» [1]


'Generative art' has become a fashionable term over the last two years and can now be found in such varied contexts as academic discourse, media arts festivals, architects’ offices, and design conferences. It is often used in such a way that it cannot be distinguished from the term 'software art', if not as a direct synonym for it. Generative art and software art are obviously related terms–but exactly what their connection is often remains a mystery. This essay attempts to shed some light on the relationship between generative art and software art.

Generative art ≠ Software art

According to Philip Galanter (2003), generative art refers to "any art practice where the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural intervention, which is set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art." [2] Thus, generative art refers to processes that run autonomously, or in a self-organizing way, according to instructions and rules


pre-programd by the artist. Depending on the technological context in which the process unfolds, the result is unpredictable and thus less the product of individual intention or authorship than the product of the given working conditions. [3] This definition of generative art (as well as some other definitions) is, as Philip Galanter writes, an 'inclusive', comprehensive, wide-reaching definition, which leads Galanter to the conclusion that "generative art is as old as art itself." [4] The most important characteristic of any description (or attempted description) of generative art–in electronic music and algorithmic composition, computer graphics and animation, on the demo scene and in VJ culture, and in industrial design and architecture [5] –is that generative processes are used to negate intentionality. Generative art is only concerned with generative processes (and in turn, software or code) insofar as they allow–when viewed as a pragmatic tool that is not analysed in itself–the creation of an 'unforeseeable' result. It is for precisely this reason that the term 'generative art' is not an adequate description of software art. 'Software art', on the other hand, refers to artistic activity that enables

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