Algorithmic art

Algorithmic art

Algorithmic art, also known as "algorithm art", is art, mostly visual art, of which the design is generated by an algorithm. Algorithmic artists are sometimes called algorists.


Algorithmic art is a subset of generative art, and is practically always executed by a computer. If executed by a computer, it is also classified as computer-generated art, but in much computer-generated art the role of the computer is confined to the execution. In contrast, in algorithmic art the creative design is the result of an algorithmic process, usually using a random or pseudo-random process to produce variability. Algorithmic art is also related to systems art.

It is usually digital art, although a number of artists work with plotters. Fractal art is an example of algorithmic art.


The earliest known examples of algorithmic art are artworks created by Georg Nees and Frieder Nake in the early 1960s. These works were executed by a plotter controlled by a personal computer, and were therefore computer-generated art but not digital art. The act of creation lay in writing the program, the sequence of actions to be performed by the plotter.

Aside from the ongoing work of Verostko and his fellow algorists, the next known examples are fractal artworks created in the mid to late 1980s. These are important here because they use a different means of execution. Whereas the earliest algorithmic art was "drawn" by a plotter, fractal art simply creates an image in computer memory; it is therefore digital art. The native form of a fractal artwork is an image stored on a computerndashthis is also true of very nearly all equation art and of most recent algorithmic art in general. However, in a stricter sense "fractal art" is not considered algorithmic art, because the algorithm is not devised by the artist.

The role of the algorithm

For a work of art to be considered algorithmic art, its creation must include a process based on an algorithm devised by the artist. Here, an algorithm is simply a detailed recipe for the design and possibly execution of an artwork, which may include computer code, functions, expressions, or other input which ultimately determines the form the art will take. This input may be mathematical, computational, or generative in nature. Inasmuch as algorithms tend to be deterministic, meaining that their repeated execution would always result in the production of identical artworks, some random factor is usually introduced. If the algorithm is executed by a computer, this can be the use of a pseudo-random number generator. Some artists also work with organically based gestural input which is then modified by an algorithm.

By this definition, algorithmic art is not to be confused with graphical methods such as generating a fractal out of a fractal program; it is necessarily concerned with the human factor (one's own algorithm, and not one that is pre-set in a package). The artist must be concerned with the most appropriate expression for their idea, just as a painter would be most concerned with the best application of colors. By this definition, defaulting to something like a fractal generator (and using it for all or most of your creations) would in essence be letting the computer dictate the form of the final work, and not truly be a creative art. The artist's self-made algorithms are an integral part of the authorship, as well as being a medium through which their ideas are conveyed.


"Algorist" is a term used for digital artists who create algorithmic art. One group of algorists is known as "Les Algoristes".

Algorists formally began correspondence and establishing their identity as artists following a panel titled "Art and Algorithms" at SIGGRAPH in 1995. Jean-Pierre Hébert is credited with coining the term and its definition, which is quite unsurprisingly, in the form of his own algorithm:

if (creation && object of art && algorithm && one's own algorithm) { include * an algorist * } elseif (!creation || !object of art || !algorithm || !one's own algorithm) { exclude * not an algorist * }

Algorithmic artists

*Yoshiyuke Abe (Japan)
*Manuel Barbadillo (Spain)
*Steven C. G. Bell (UK)
*Peter Beyls (Belgium)
*Harold Cohen (UK – USA)
*Charles Csuri (USA)
*Hans Dehlinger (Germany)
*Brian Evans (USA)
*Helaman Ferguson (USA)
*Herbert W. Franke (Austria – Germany)
*Jean-Pierre Hébert (USA)
*Channa Horwitz (USA)
*Hervé Huitric (France)
*Yoichiro Kawaguchi (Japan)
*Hiroshi Kawano (Japan)
*Wolfang Kiwus (Germany)
*Manfred Mohr (Germany)
*Vera Molnar (France)
*Ken Musgrave (USA)
*Monique Nahas (France)
*Frieder Nake (Germany)
*Georg Nees (Germany)
*A. Michael Noll (USA)
*Eugen Roth (Germany)
*Remko Scha (Netherlands)
*Celestino Soddu (Italy)
*Roman Verostko (USA)
*Edward Zajec (USA)
*San Base (Canada)

Further reading

* Oliver Grau (2003). [ "Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion"] (MIT Press/Leonardo Book Series). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-07241-6.
* Wands, Bruce (2006). "Art of the Digital Age", London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-23817-0.

External links

* [ The Science Of Digital Media] - Jennifer Burg, Wake Forest University
* [ Algorithmic Art: Composing the Score for Visual Art] - Roman Verostko
* [ Database of Virtual Art] Pioneer Archive of Digital Art since 1999. Editors-in-Chief: Oliver Grau; Christian Berndt; Wendy Coones.

Web sites of algorithmic artists and artists' associations

* [ Harold Cohen]
* [ Hans Dehlinger]
* [ Jean-Pierre Hébert]
* [ Channa Horwitz]
* [ John Greene]
* [ Manfred Mohr]
* [ Roman Verostko]
* [ Celestino Sodden]
* [ "Les Algoristes"] – French algorists' association
* [ The Algorists]

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