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The magic of generative coding

Zajega for Paris ACM Siggraph, may 16 at Galerie Charlot

Once again, the magic operated. Gathered around a generative artist, François Zajega and the Gallery manager, Valérie Hasson-Benillouche, some 15 persons shared a moment of pleasure. Would it be for one thing : the absence of Ego boasting from the artist, a common feature among the generative creators. The reason is perhaps deeply ingrained in the technique itself : generative artists transfers more or less of their creative power to the work itself. Antoine Schmitt was perhaps the first to say it explicitly, and Alain Lioret wrote it clearly in his first book, then repeated it with mysefl in our common work, and you can feel it in Anne-Sarah Le meur, Alain Le Boucher. Some of the greatest creator like Eric Wenger are even nearly unknown, since they let the front stage to celebrated names like Miguel Chevalier, who plays more the role of a director or producer (without unnessary boast, anyway) or even artists who played fully the "open" game. Ben Fry and Casey Reas, for instance, chose not only to share their code, but to package it in an easily generative application Processing. Or David Ebert and his fellows, who publisht their quite monumental handbook on procedural texturing : 687 pages with a lot of formulas and source code.

Perhaps also because the "art of code" (an expression that Zajega uses, rather than "art numérique") has two features that prevents plagiarism :
- the space of generative art is so vast that even if somebody uses your code, they will not directly copy you, but break new ground, anc without preventing you to keep growing towards these unexhaustible sklines,
- programming is not so easy, and not anybody will accept its hurdles, its sometimes long hung for a bug that hides under a wrong or omitted semicolon ; if there is a "digital divide" in art (to take the expression from Charles Bishop, quoted by Pau Waedler in ArtPress2), it lies in this magic of the words, easy and pleasant for someones, definitively closes to others.

Well, yesterday at night, in the basement of the Gallery, Zajega gave us some clues about his art and the way he lives this magic. Let's try to get (and translate in English) some of his key sentences :

I come from the world of drawing. Very soon in my life I loved lines. With coding, I experimented he coincidence betwen a plastic intention and a functional (mathematical function) will. At present, the project of a workd can start as well from a representation or from code.

But the junction was a slow process. The difficult was not the programming as such, but the way to translate what I was doing intuitively. Code requires that you explain everything, what my hand did I had to make it procedural.

Presently, the original ideas come neither directly from graphics nor from code, but from something deeper. Actually, I don't choose the medium, its the project itself whidh chooses, for instance between a laser on metal or a pixelled video.

In generative art, you must accept :
- that the work is not at its top every time you launch it,
- that what you see one day, you will never see again.

About color, Zajega says clearly that he feels more at ease with black and white. If he decided to use it its present work (sufficienlty finished, but still open), the reason lies in the complexity of the works life, Black and white is not sufficient to send the information, so more necessary here that the work is interactive.

About art and game, The is nothing properly at stake. The success (a well grown object) will not last. I don't mind to propose a challenge, to compute scores and give success rules to the spectators I want them to discover this life as they go along with it. A sort of non-linear scenario. I wish each experience of the work to be diffrence. The system is richer that its perception.

The work is not only reactive to the spectators action. It takes its own actions. I wish the spectator to feel : "The works reacts this way, I react this other way. Then, what do I do now ? "

Zajega creates also the sound loops. He sometimes gets advice from sound experts, but will not delegate this creation (which is a very frequent case in generative art who combine image and music).


Next probable such meeting : in june with Perconte.






Paris ACM Siggraph, the French chapter of ACM Siggraph, worldwide non-profit organization of computer graphics.




Les Algoristes, an association of artists using their own algorithms in their work.





Galerie Charlot An important supporter of digital art.