« Ars Virtua Presents: | Main | Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization »

April 04, 2007

Paul Brown


Stepping Stones in the Mist

Paul Brown, one of the most prominent pioneers of British computer art, is back in the UK, and will present his work at Tesla under the title Stepping Stones in the Mist :: April the 17th, 18:00 :: Malet Place, Eng 1.02 :: All are welcome.

This presentation is an ongoing, idiosyncratic and non-rigorous account of my work as an artist who has been involved in the field now known as Artificial Life for over 30 years. I begin with a few opinions that define my position within the visual arts (which is far from the current mainstream) and then go on to describe early influences from the 1960's and 70's that have framed my involvement in the field of computational/generative arts. This includes some examples of my work from this period. The latter part of the presentation describes my working methodology and includes examples of my more recent work and ends with a some speculations about where I may go in the future.

The title is a metaphor for my self view as an artist and individual. A long time ago I stepped off the bank of a misty river or lake and onto a line of stepping stones. Now, many years later, the stepping stones are shrouded in the mist. Those behind me are dimmed by the mists of memory and those in front are hidden by the mists of uncertainty. The one in front of me is quite clear (as is the one behind) but then they quickly fade as they progress. I have no idea what lies on the further bank, or indeed if such a shore even exists! Memories of the bank I left are now long eroded. I only really know where I am at this moment or, perhaps, where I have just been.

Statement: During my 35-year career as an artist my principal concern has been the systematic exploration of surface. Since 1974 my main tool has been the computational and generative process. I have established a significant international reputation in this field of work and was recently described by Mitchell Whitelaw as. one of the ... pioneers of a-life art (Metacreation - Art and Artificial Life, MIT Press, 2004, pp.146, 148-152).

My work is based in a field of computational science called Cellular Automata or CA's. These are simple systems that can propagate themselves over time. CA's are part of the origins of the discipline known as Artificial Life or A-life. I have been interested in CA's and their relationship to tiling and symmetry systems since the 1960's. Over the past 30 years I have applied these processes to time-based artworks, prints on paper and large-scale public artworks.

In my artwork I attempt to create venues which encourage the participant to engage both visually and physically with the work. Because my work emerges (in the computational sense) from game-like processes I include elements of play in order to capture and sustain the participant's attention.

Rather than being constructed or designed, these works " evolve". I look forward to a future where computational processes like the ones that I build will themselves make artworks without the need for human intervention. The creation of such processes is something that has always fascinated me.

Paul is currently Visiting Professor at the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, University of Sussex.

Posted by jo at April 4, 2007 12:43 PM