'Algorithmic Artworks' Are Changing the Landscape of How We Interact with Art

Technology has long been thought of as the killer of human creativity, but artists are utilizing it in some profoundly beautiful ways.

Artists in the 21st-century have a number of new means to express their work. No longer are artists relegated to brushes or clay, rather now they can use highly complex technologies like robots and code.

A new branch of artistic expression has launched in the technological era, often referred to as algorithmic art.

This kind of art is created through code and creativity, rather through formal mediums. These algorithmic artists are able to create breathtaking visuals and increase the interactivity of a piece. To understand just what can be expressed through algorithm art, let's take a look at a few notable artists in the field.

Artists utilizing technology and code

Philipp Schmitt

Philipp Schmitt uses his artistic skills to enhance or transform the world around him through interactive art pieces. He's a German-born designer that explores the implications of technology in his work.

Take a look at one of his recent projects below. He created a camera that stops you from taking too many pictures of a certain place. It's one major way of how artistic vision, coupled with some creative coding and tech, can be used to get people thinking about how they interact with the world.

The camera works like this. It's connected to GPS that identifies how many images have been taken of a certain location throughout history. If tens to hundreds to thousands of people have taken a lot of pictures of a certain place, say like the Eiffel tower, then the camera stops you from being able to take the picture.

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This particular piece is unique in that this form of artistic expression would be impossible without technology. Artists of the past could never have expressed their ideas in this way. This concept is at the core of algorithmic art.  

Kyle McDonald

Kyle McDonald utilizes some clever code to create interactive pieces that focus on the subject of relationships. Since all of his work is code-based, he's made it all available on GitHub too, meaning that others can learn how he was able to create his art pieces. 

For example, take a look at Kyle's project below where he utilizes image sensors and art pieces across different geographies to connect people with similar attributes. In this video's case, a person's height.

Named Sharing Faces, the interactive artwork above utilizes a self-built digital mirror that reflects another person that's in the same pose or orientation.  The "reflected" imagery isn't live, rather it's recorded and stored into a database for playback later. In theory, as more and more people view the art piece, the algorithm behind it gets better and better at matching the user up with the same pose.

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Bradley G. Munkowitz

The previous two artists' works, at least the ones we featured, were highly interactive in nature. While that is still somewhat the case with the work of Bradley G Munkowitz, his work tends to be more experiential.

Known as GMUNK, he creates immersive graphical and visual works of art, usually presented through screens or robotic lights. He programs lighting arrays, maps projections, choreographs industrial robots, and works with a number of other technology moving parts on each piece.

To fully grasp what all of that means, just take a look at the video of his work below.

Futuristic and a little bit mind-blowing are the best words that come to mind when viewing his work. Technology is a fantastic medium for modern art.

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Technology as a means of artistic expression

Ever since IBM's Deep Blue computer beat a chess master in 1997, the world has been keenly aware of the intrusion of technology into deeply human spaces. Art has for centuries been one of the purest expressions of humanity.

Whether you love art or not, one thing you can recognize is that all art, good or bad, is uniquely human.

All of that has been changing though, as we've seen AI systems start creating their own art that can be passed off as human-made. It's a strange era we live in where computers are expressing what we would usually call "creativity", yet we know that their basis for creating the work was pure algorithm.

As computers evolve, so too does art and the way it's expressed. For all of the artists above, new technology is a means of connecting with the viewers of their art in a deeper way than ever before possible. Technology is the medium of interactivity and constant customization. Art pieces don't have to tug at your heartstrings through tone and structure anymore (though they certainly still can).

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Rather through technology as a medium, art can meet your right where you are, connect with you on a human level, just as well as paintings from the renaissance.

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