Explore systems for creating an infinite number of works of art, both imaginary and real. Embrace playful systems for inspiration and art-making, and create a personal generative art-making system.
Over five weeks, we’ll explore systems for creating an infinite number of works of art, both imaginary and real. Inspired by the Surrealists, Dada, Fluxus, Conceptual, and Generative art, we’ll move back and forth between language and material forms. Starting with a meta-instructional deck of cards, The Game of Art, we’ll play with chance procedures and algorithms for making real and imagined works. Together we will explore how to make playful systems for inspiration and art-making, and how to use system-making as a way of asking questions about what art is and can be. The final project for the course will be a personal generative art-making system.
5 Sessions 90 minutes each.
What to Expect
For our purposes, imaginary artworks will be as important as “real” ones (and we will investigate this distinction). You need not have a creative practice (eg painting, drawing, dance, music) to join the class, but an interest in what art is and how it works, both personally and in the world will be important to enjoying the class. A curiosity about chance procedures, algorithms, and systems is helpful. A playful attitude is central.
Our primary work will be done during online sessions (5 sessions, 90 minutes each), involving a mix of in-class exercises and discussion. Outside of class you will have opportunities to engage in your own creative practice in new ways and adapt these methods to your own interests (expect a time commitment out of class of 1-2 hours a week). By the end of the course you will develop your own playful art-generating system and share it with the other participants.
Tools: It will be helpful to have access to a printer and a paper cutter or a pair of scissors.
Readings and Resources
Most of the “readings” in this course are collections of examples, serving more as resources than as traditional readings.
We’ll begin the course with brief introduction to the history of art games and instructional art, looking especially at the imaginary paintings of Yoko Ono and the event scores of Ben Patterson. Making use of cards from the meta-instructional Game of Art we’ll create rapid-fire imaginary artworks. We’ll also talk about how to allow the course to respond to the specific interests and practices of participants.
Sal Randolph - Game of Art cards (download, print, cut apart)
Infinite Art: Anthology of Instructional Art.
Yoko Ono, Grapefruit, New York: Simon & Schuster (2000).
Valerie Cassel Oliver, ed. Benjamin Patterson: Born in the State of FLUX/us, Houston: Contemporary Art Museum Houston (2012).
What are the elements that make up a work of art? In this session we’ll take a closer look at the meta categories in the Game of Art and expand them into new territory. Together we’ll reverse-engineer some artworks of widely different kinds (painting, sculpture, performance, social art) into their elements and begin to create personal lists.
Alastair Brotchie and Mel Gooding, A Book of Surrealist Games, Berkeley: Shambhala (1995).
Ken Friedman, Owen Smith & Lauren Sawchyn, eds., Fluxus Performance Workbook, Performance Research e-Publications (2002).
La Monte Young and George Brecht, An Anthology of Chance Operations, New York: La Monte Young (1963).
“Book of Events I” from Jerome Rothenberg, ed., Technicians of the Sacred; A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, Third Edition, Berkely: University of California Press (2017).
Jerome Rothenberg, ed., Technicians of the Sacred; A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, Third Edition, Berkely: University of California Press (2017).
Franklin Rosemont and Robin D. G. Kelly Eds., Black, Brown, & Beige: Surrealist Writings from Africa and the Diaspora (Surrealist Revolution), Austin: University of Texas Press (2010).
Penelope Rosemont, Surrealist Women : An International Anthology (The Surrealist Revolution Series), Austin: University of Texas Press (1998).
We will engage with rules and constraints as generators of creativity including hidden (tacit) rules, chance operations and procedures, algorithms, permutations and grammar. We will play with oracles (like the I Ching and Tarot), found objects (Chinese Gonghsi, readymades, collage and assemblage), algorithmic walking (Psychogeography) and other examples of rule-systems in action. Together we will reverse-engineer the underlying algorithms of different artworks and work towards a library of rules.
Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, Oblique Strategies, London:Opal (2001).
John Lely, “On the Use of Grammar in Verbal Notation” in John Lely and James Saunders, ed. Word Events: Perspectives on Verbal Notation, New York: Continuum (2012).
Rand Corporation, A MILLION Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates, Santa Monica: RAND (2001).
The I Ching, or, Book of Changes, trans. Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes, Princeton: Princeton University Press (1967).
Ruha Benjamin, Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code, Medford: Polity (2019).
Safiya Umoja Noble, Algorithms of Oppression, New York: NYU Press (2018).
What can’t be expressed by recipe or instruction? Are some works or some aspects of works uncategorizable? Impossible to capture in a system? We will challenge each other to capture a difficult work of art by creating an instruction for it. Can we come up with works of art that cannot be expressed as instructions? What makes a work of art matter, and is it something that can be generated through a system?
Shared library of PDF resources created by participants.
Gloria Anzaldúa, selections from Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2012
Audre Lorde, “The Uses of the Erotic, the Erotic as Power,” and “Poetry is not a Luxury,” Sister Outsider, New York: Ten Speed Press, 1984.
We’ll share our newly-minted personal systems and try them out together. What does this mean? Systems may take the form of decks of cards, oracular methods, game boards, choose-your-own-adventure branching paths, dance diagrams, instructional protocols for working with found material, guided meditations, pattern languages, art algorithms, and more. We will all have created systems for ourselves and for each other, and expressed them in some downloadable form. During the session we'll have a chance to share systems and experiment together.
PDF (or other) Resources:
Shared Personal Systems from all participants.