Argenìa, Artís Idea as Generative Code
presented at GECCO workshop, Las Vegas, July 2000

Prof. Celestino Soddu
director of Generative Design Lab, Milan Polytechnic University, Italy
chairman of Generative Art International Conference, Milan, Italy -


    Woman Portrait :Argenia from Picasso #1

    Generated Woman Portrait #2, Jan 2000


The Generative Art has born as a representation of the Idea as code, this is a generative code that is able to generate a multiplicity of possible "artworks", like DNA in nature. In generative approach the real artwork is not a product like an image, music or 3D model. The generative artwork is an Idea-product, a software representing a "species" able to generate an endless sequence of individual events, each one different, unique and unrepeatable, but each one belonging to the same species, the identifiable Idea.

Art is a creative process through a scientific approach. With Generative Art we can approach, directly, the complex paradigm of proportions and logic. So we can directly design the Beauty, or better our idea of beauty, before the realization of each single possible artificial event. This is the heart of the generative approach. Generative Art works for beauty, in the sense of the humanistic approach of the Renaissance, because the generative code is the real structure of the idea. It defines how to bring together all the parts and the dynamic relationship among these parts in the evolution of complexity. The generative project defines what is the law of proportion and which logic the dynamic evolution will follow. All the events that this code can generate will be, in a humanistic sense, beautiful, or, if we prefer, will belong and represent our Idea of the world.

And more. The Generative Art produces events that are unique and complex. This uniqueness and complexity are strongly related to each other. As in Nature, each event is generated through an artificial life, which, as in the natural life, produces uniqueness, identity and complexity during an identifiable time. In the artificial life the unpredictability of events is the opportunity to explicit choices, and then to build the identity and recognizability of the idea.

The gained complexity is a natural-like complexity. We can recognise, in the artworks we made through this generative approach, the harmony and the beauty of natural-like complexity that refers to the Humanistic approach of Renaissance: Man, Geometry, and Nature as references for "the harmony which is not thought as an individual caprice but as conscious reasoning", as L.B.Alberti wrote.

  1. The Idea as Generative Code: the aims.

  2. a. The recognizability of each artwork by the imprinting of the artist. The Idea as generative product exists only if the Idea is recognizable through each generated events..
    b. Identity of the artist and the uniqueness of each artwork. The recognizability comes from the subjectivity.
    c. Aesthetic approach. The complexity, as stratification of multiple sense, is the main channel to gain the possibility to fit the artistís subjectivity with the user unpredictable request of meaning and of beauty.

  3. The idea as Generative Code, the complexity performed as Artificial Life: Argenìa

  4. 1st Step. The construction, by the artist, of his own world of interpreted references. This is the fruit of the passage from the exegesis to the hermeneutica, that is from the comprehension of our existing environment and of human experience to the interpretation of the same environment and of the cultural references belonging to manís art activity.

    This is the artistís notebook. Each sketch traces and discovers the subtended logic that each one has found looking at the environment that he lives. In Generative Design this notebook is realized through a series of sketches/algorithms. In other words the sketch, relating to the interpretation of his own references in terms of transformation, of a code of evolution of complexity of an event, can be annotated with an algorithm which, evidently, defines how the transformation of input to output would happen. Every possible result, obviously, "remembers" the initial event but the process of transformation is able to characterize the final event using identified objectives within an open process. ( objectives of sense, of beauty, of recognizability of artistís imprinting, etc.).

    Woman Portrait #3 and #4

    This memorization of algorithms is the historical memory of the generative artist, but it is at the same time the motor of his Art activity. It acts directly on the characteristics and on the recognizability of his artworks.

    In the "Generative notebook" each procedure can generate unpredictable results depending on the "artificial environment" generated up to that point. But this notebook is not a database of forms. It is not a database of pre-cooked solutions. If it were a database of forms it would be impossible to use it in buildingcomplexity, because different forms, by nature, cannot be used all together. Being a repertoire of procedures, the algorithms are usable in the desired quantity and in series, without fear that some procedure contrasts with another. This approach brings the possibility to attain, simultaneously, a whole series of objectives even when they are in contrast with each other. The final project has the ability to surprise also the artist, but only for the unpredictable representation of his own idea.

    The charm of Generative Art is that it is possible to use complex structures of proliferation and omothetia as fractals, not acting on forms, but acting on logic. After all, the experience with fractals has taught us that, in the recognizability of the final image, the form from which we departed from doesnít count, but the idea, the recognizability belongs to the procedures adopted and repeated.

    2nd Step. The management of the construction in progress of the artwork through an evolutionary structure that means the realization of a structure of artificial life able to let the artwork evolve, testing and increasing its complexity, and surveying the multiplicity of possible results as multiple representations of the same idea.

    So we can consider the double face of Generative Art: the existence of a code, of an identifiable and designed DNA in a way which represents the idea, and the existence of a designed artificial life, built as an unpredictable environment, that can also be sometimes "hostile", but anyway not structured to be a simplified route, but which allows the code of the idea to germinate, to self-organize, to grow and to increase its own "personality" really in journeying, making experiences and sometimes fighting adversities in this "artificial environment" that interacts with its evolution.
    Two Portraits Generated in the same Generative session

    Artificial DNA and Artificial Life are the two systems that must be designed together for activating a Generative Art. They are two separate projects, sometimes contrasting, but they represent the two faces of the same idea. With a deep difference. In the first one randomness doesnít exist, in the second randomness is one of the factors of control and amplification of the idea. In every case randomness must not be used "to produce random shapes" but to upset the code/Idea letting it react in a way as to increase, and to render explicit in the artwork, its identity and recognizability. This is an exposing unexpressed potential of the idea.

  5. Argenic Art: a woman portrait generator.

  6.   Woman Portrait #7

    One of my last projects of generative art is the Woman Portrait Generator. WPG is able to generate an endless sequence of 3D models of womanís portraits; each one is different but belongs to the same idea. As Picasso has repainted Velasquez and has referred to the African sculptures, so I tried to repaint Picasso with a generative art project able to generate a sequence of womanís portraits each one different and unpredictable, but recognizable as Picasso and, also, as belonging to my interpretation of these portraits.

    I was sure that this challenge was realisable because the identity of an artwork is a stratification (or nidification, as in fractal structures) of multiple identities, and the women of Picasso are a strong example of this evolutionary stratification. My generative project, and the generated portraits, had to be only a further stratification of sense as everything inside the art and cultural approach must be.

    (Presentation of WPG working in real time)

  7. Some topics for the workshop
Recognizability, the identity of possible. It is possible to draw the recognizability before the each individual artwork. It is the representation of the Idea.

The artist imprinting as answer to the userís need of identity. The identity of the artist represented by the species (the generative artwork), the identity of the user explained by the choice of one of the generated artworks.

Beauty, the subjective laws concerning proportion and logic as representation of a creative idea, performed as artificial DNA.

Harmony, as result of an evolutionary path, performed as Artificial Life.


1. Celestino Soddu, "Líimmagine non Euclidea", (not-euclidean image), Gangemi Publisher, Roma, 1987

2. Celestino Soddu, "Cittaí Aleatorie", (Random Towns), Masson Publisher, Milano 1989

3. Celestino Soddu, Enrica Colabella, "Il progetto ambientale di morfogenesi", (Environmental Morphogenetic Design), Esculapio Publisher, Bologna 1992

4. Celestino Soddu, "Generative Art", Editrice Dedalo Publisher, Roma 1999