Burroughs used the random to avoid making the choices he normally would;
he talked about using it to cut the loops of one's conditioned
behaviour. Perhaps he hoped that the results would "stimulate the
unconscious" of the reader or listener.
Speaking of different distributions, in
I wanted the location of
the 'brush strokes' to be random--but I wanted them to happen more
frequently in the center of the screen. That is, I wanted them to
randomly occur anywhere on the screen, but happen more frequently at the
center than at the left or right. The solution I came up with was to
generate three random x-axis values that could be anything from 0 to the
width of the screen, and then calculate the average of those three
values. That gave me the x value of a brush stroke. The y value was
simply a random number from 0 to the height of the screen.
That's one way to generate a non-uniform random distribution: take the
average of several random values.
x1 = Math.random();
x2 = Math.random();
x3 = (x1 + x2)/2;
Both x1 and x2 are random nums between 0 and 1. So too is x3. But x3 has
a different distribution than x1 or x2. x3 has values around 0.5 more
frequently than it has values around any other number.
x1 = Math.random();
x2 = Math.random();
x3 = Math.random();
x4 = (x1 + x2 + x3)/3;
And in the above, x4 is yet more tightly clustered around 0.5
On 7/10/2018 3:44 PM, Philip Galanter wrote:
I randomize the initial gene pool in evolutionary systems. If things
are working properly it doesn’t really matter much what the initial genes are, as long as
there is some diversity in the gene pool. But spreading them out in the parameter space
can help find the maxima quicker/better.
In my generative art class I warn students that randomization is the first and most
obvious generative method. It’s a good starting point, but at this point in history
probably not a good stopping point.
I suggest that there should be a reason for using it. Cage used randomization to
emphasize a zen-like sense that all sounds are of equal value, and it’s an illusion of our
human condition to hold some higher than others. Burroughs used randomization to stimulate
the unconscious. Ellsworth Kelly used randomization as a result of his interest as to how
decay (entropy) can create complex form from what used to be highly ordered (and thus less
So my two challenges would be this. Why use randomness? And why use uniform distributions
rather than, say, normal distributions like those typically found in “random” aspects of
> On Jul 10, 2018, at 8:40 PM, John Clavin via eu-gene <eu-gene(a)we.lurk.org>
> Randomness is a touch of seasoning artistically added to the design of an algorithm.
> John Clavin
> Sent from my iPhone
>> On Jul 9, 2018, at 11:38 PM, Jim Andrews <jim(a)vispo.com> wrote:
>> What do you use the random for in your art?
>> The main thing I use it for is exploration of a compositional space. I think of a
compositional space as the set of all possible screenshots you could take of a program in
action. The compositional space is the set of all possible compositions your program can
create. The compositional space involves various parameters/variables that have different
values from frame to frame of the program's animation. Such as the positions of the
objects in the art, or the particular set of objects in the art, if there's a large
set of objects to draw from and you don't have them all on the screen at once. And
their sizes, opacities, rotations, possibly their colors, backgrounds, borders, and so on.
Giving these properties of the compositional space random values (constrained within some
suitable range) is a good way to explore the compositional range of the space.
>> As opposed to giving the parameters values that are incremental by small amounts.
Because, generally, there are enough possible values that the number of possibilities is
astronomical, and giving the parameters small incremental values would result in exploring
only a small part of the space. Like the difference between exploring the total space of
the universe via the usual travel (inch by inch) or by appearing, from moment to moment,
in random parts of the universe. Now you're near the beginning of the universe. Now
you're someplace 4 billion years into the thing. Now you're near the end. You get
a better sense of the range of the thing, maybe, than the inch by inch approach.
>> Another example; this is what I've been working on recently: consider the
compositional space defined by the bill bissett dirtee konkreet brush at
. This uses 300+ images (440
Mb) of the concrete poetry of the amazing poet bill bissett in a remix/synthesis. There
are lots of possibilities. Each time you view this animation, it's different from the
previous time cuz of the use of the random. Whenever it draws a circle, the position of
the circle is random, the size of the circle is random, the bill bissett poems chosen to
fill the circle are random, the size and position of the bissett poems within the circle
is random, and so on. There's a lot of random choices going on. This explores the
compositional space more interestingly than if each of those parameters was incremented by
a small number each frame of the animation. Cuz, in that case, the changes from frame to
frame would be too small.
>> Mind you, if the values were incremented by big numbers relatively prime to the
number of values possible for each parameter, that'd be a different story. It would
both move through the space quickly and cycle through all possibilities (the product of
the primes in the prime decomposition of the number of elements of each parameter) before
repeating, so would look fairly (but not quite) random.
>> Years ago I called a compositional space a combinatorium when I was developing
the stir fry texts ( http://vispo.com/StirFryTexts
). I thought of a combinatorium as the
set of all possible texts (or screenshots) that can be created from a particular stir fry
text. Once you get into programmed art, you eventually start thinking about compositional
spaces or combinatoriums or whatever you want to call the set of all possible texts or
screenshots that your program can generate. Or, if it's more narrative-oriented, maybe
you're thinking about the set of all possible paths through some kind of story space,
>> Still, I don't think the random is the main source of surprise in my work,
though it hopefully does provide an element of surprise. The surprise is when we come
across good ones. I don't make my art so that everything it generates is good. I make
it so that the possibility hopefully exists of some strong work being generated. My
philosophy is that if you want that possibility, you've also got to let shit happen.
If everything that the system can generate is more or less equally good, then nothing is
>> Other artists may put things together differently. But in my work, most of the
generated instances aren't as well-formed as a few of them—at least as I see it;
others may see it differently. That is, they may have different favorites or not have
favorites at all and be able to argue convincingly for their point of view.
>> In most of my generative visual works, I take screenshots of what I take to be
good ones and present those screenshots in slidvids such as
in which you see a slideshow of 200
screenshots of Aleph Null chewing on a considerable portion of bill bissett.
>> Similarly, contrast http://vispo.com/aleph3/an.html?d=Jim%20Andrews
. The former is Aleph Null chewing on
230 photos of Trump, his cabinet, his advisors, and a few Republicans. The latter is a
slideshow of 430 screenshots from that dynamic animation. The dynamic animation does a lot
of becoming; it doesn't look particularly face-like, often. But sometimes a real
gargoyle pops out, momentarily, of the stream. Those are the sort of screenshots I'm
interested in. The compelling ones (evil, ridiculous or whatever). They aren't morphs.
Morphs carefully map noses to noses and eyes to eyes etc. In these ones, the position of
the eyes varies between photos. Same with the other features. So that sometimes the
dynamic animation doesn't look face-like. But the largeness of the range of position
of features is what makes for some unique, compelling results, occasionally.
>> The experience of looking at the screenshots is different from the experience of
viewing the dynamic animation. The dynamic, never-quite-the-same-twice animation has a
raw, protean energy of swift becoming. The experience of viewing the slideshows, on the
other hand, is one of slowly viewing a series of completed compositions.
>> The dynamic animation is dynamic largely through the use of the random to
determine the values of many parameters from frame to frame of the animation. There's
nothing random about the slideshows, however.
>> Still, I think the main source of surprise in my work is not from randomness.
It's surprising to discover you can import your own images into Aleph Null. More
generally, it's surprising that Aleph Null is both a tool and an art work in itself.
And it's surprising that there are amazing visual poets who each have a nib or two in
Aleph Null. It's surprising that this sort of thing is available on the net. These
realizations are more surprising than when something good pops out of the stream of the
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