FTP is an ongoing meetup and series of events at Phoenix, Leicester.

For our November session we looked at different techniques for using generative programming and coding.

Below I will summarise some of the areas investigated and links to additional sources. As well as looking at the history of generative art, we hoped to identify several strategies for accessing and the creation of these kinds of work.

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Photo by Charlotte Coneybeer on Unsplash

As an introduction to the session we had a read through this article by Jason Bailey that gives a good account of different practices within this area. In particular it draws really good comparisons and links between the post-internet, post-processing shape of the genre and 20th c. movements such OpArt and the algorithmic processes of Conceptualism.

Following this we watched a couple of video interviews with different artists talking about using generative code within their practice:

Generative art is really prominent in Leicester with the work of Interact and the Computer Arts Society regularly programming exhibitions. The Computer Arts Society maintains a large online archive here, which is a really useful resource for examining different practices within the field. Many of the tutorials available for beginners looking to use Processing and other tools, build recreations of the earlier works.

Processing is an essential tool for exploring generative artwork. Last year its creators, Casey Reas and Ben Fry published a fantastic history of the tool here.

— Processing can be downloaded here.

P5.js is an online iteration of Processing. You can start learning and experimenting completely in browser.

p5.js editor

A couple of great beginner tutorials are:

I really recommend just following along a couple of these and getting a sense of what’s possible. A lot of what we talk about at the FTP meetups is really just building this understanding of what kind of things are possible. This approach helps to develop new ideas that artists feel confident building themselves or building sketches/prototypes of with the additional ability of being able to explain to a collaborator how that could be adapted into a particular technology.

Related to the idea of prototyping we highlighted several other tools that provide a space for artists without coding experience to begin to build and play:

Finally, the topic for this session was inspired by the newly opened exhibition at Phoenix, Three Breaths in Empty Space — Bret Battey. Bret often creates his own pieces of software and tools to achieve and explore the different sound and visuals he is interested in. During the session we had his Nodewebba tool running which was interesting to play around with, if a little limited by the lack of synthesisers available on the computer we were using.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is an active generative art scene in Leicester. This week an exhibition featuring works by local artists will open at LCB Depot, Interact ’19, 4/12–20/12. Bret Battey’s exhibition at Phoenix will run until 31/12 and includes a free artist talk on 6/12.

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