Ket Katarina Popović media arts portfolio
Posted on December 8, 2018 by ketworks_cp8esr on Blog

Gardening, the Chaos theory – and how I met Brian Eno

*The research blog within the group project “Computing With Impossibility”.

It was May 2018, in the History Museum in Sarajevo. As we were in an intrigued crowd (artists from the CEE, representing each country in pairs), he took the stage to deliver an opening speech for the exhibition “77 Million Paintings”. Calm, eloquent and with mod British humor, Brian Eno invited us to – go home and come some other day! Because today, anyway we will not be able to experience the artwork in such crowds. Meeting and talking with one of the most important artists of the Century can be a bit hard to put to words, especially because upon meeting we agreed to be silent in each other’s company and not to speak, but to rest our minds and our mouths after his hour long talk on the creative process in generative art.

Luckily, he spoke about his processes with clarity and insight throughout his career, and he still does it.

Into the possibility of the error being the space for unforseen potential

In our team research project we have been examining the opportunity for machine creativity in a “borderline situations” – the program shows no errors but starts “experimenting” with the execution and the results are unexpected and possibly even with some aesthetic value.

With the initial set of rules, minimally manipulated, we kept getting strange and strangely evolving results which led us to research the Chaos theory as well as the theory of an artwork fulfilling the potential of existence. Within the perfect mathematical order of the machine, “the erring” is unplanned, but it is where we wander into the possibilities, into “new plans” (or even – planes).

For Deleuze there exist two planes of events developing simultaneously: on one level is actual events, as real events that are the solutions to particular problems, and on the other level is virtual, as a set of ideal events embedded in the condition of the problem. (1)

Your garden has a plan of its own and you know just a little piece of it

Strangely as it may sound in the world of computational art, the creative process observed in the machine has no finished top to bottom plan, but a set of rules at the start and something like a “trust in the machine process” develops with the somewhat surprising result at the end. Brian Eno described this process as gardening as opposed to an architectural (controlled) approach.

Unless it’s… Versailles, which is, to me, the most grotesque of all gardens, since it’s the total denial of nature and the complete expression of human control over nature… I suppose my feeling about gardening, and I suppose most people’s feeling about gardening now, is that what one is doing is working in collaboration with the complex and unpredictable processes of nature. (2)

When you set about to create something, you usually approach it from a demiurg’s point of view – in a way, you are like a demigod creating something (whole, intriguing, meaningful) out of nothingness. However, in the case of another medium having its “say” in the process, the things get a bit more interesting with the output. The stern, solitary genius of the 20th century now has a robot working for him/her. How about that? And it does not work with colors, strokes, words or sounds, it works with binaries and binary representatives of the abovementioned artistical “stuff” and with mathematical relations. What can go wrong?

In the deterministic chaos theory, the system set up on a few variables (call it – simple) with the smallest changes can produce a hugely varied results as an output. And with no linear correlation to the set rules at the beginning.

The seed does not know what shape the tree will take; instead, it must actualize the tree as it enacts a process of negotiation between its internal limitations and the environmental circumstances that it encounters along the way. (3)

The theory of degrees of freedom come from Manual DeLanda’s work on the philosophy of science, where degrees of freedom are the object’s variables that can change. The limitations of the medium are not a novelty in art but medium having its own feedback or “say” in the process is a bit new and strange.

I still find it intriguing as well as rather inorganic to work with variables in terms of an art piece. As one of the authors of the interactive TV series Black Mirror supposedly said – I never had a script “crush” because it was always written in words, not in the code.


(1) (3) Nunes, M. editor, (2011)  Error: Glitch, Noise, and Jam in New Media Cultures. New York London: Continuum Books.

(2)Edge (2011) Composers as Gardeners. [online] Available from [Accessed November 14th, 2018].

Cover image – from the cover of the documentary ” Brian Eno: 1971-1977 -The Man Who Fell To Earth”, 2012, executive producer Rob Johnstone

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