What is Art?

… it’s not an easy question. From the dictionary:

Art /ɑːt/: human activity aimed at creating works that have an aesthetic value, by means of shapes, colors, words, sounds or other media: the art of sculpture, painting, poetry, music; museum of modern art; art history.

I prefer to change the point of view: art is the “product” of an artist; an artist is a human that consciously or unconsciously feels the need to interact with the reality by adding “something new” to it: an object, an experience, a performance; and this “something new” – the artwork – can have a life of its own albeit for a limited time.

The artwork starts as an idea inside the artist; it’s a like seed that grows undeground more or less quickly until (if it’s lucky enough) it sticks out of the ground. During the creation process the artwork gradually separates from the artist and starts interacting with him, with other people and with the outside reality as an independent entity. This interaction is both physical and metaphysical. A great artwork (piece of art) is able to have a strong interaction with the reality, that can also continue, grow, develope and change for a long period of time, even centuries.

Note that the artwork is somewhat immutable (or immutable in its mutability if it is was created with particular techniques); what changes is the external reality and the way people relate to it.

The conscious or unconscious motivations that lead an artist to create can be different and are often mixed together, for example: use the artworks as a new and deeper way to communicate with others; doing something that makes feel happy and satisfied; creating something that is beautiful and pleasent for the others; as a way for a better self-knowledge; aim to immortality; and so on.

It’s possible that the original intention of the artist is to represent the reality, but this representation is not a mere copy; the artist sees and lives the reality in his personal and intimate way and the artwork can reveal, enhance, share or complement aspects of the reality that other people may or may not view or interpret in the same way.

Van Gogh – Café Terrace at Night

Hokusai – The Great Wave

What is an Algorithm?

The word algorithm is derived from the appellative “al-Khuwārizmī («native of Khwarazm») of the 9th-century mathematician Muḥammad ibn Mūsa. It designates a sequence of well-defined mathematical operations and rules that can be used to solve a problem.

In computer science, an algorithm is usually a sequence of computer instructions (written in a programming language) that executed by a computer starting from an initial set of data (the input) produce an answer (the output). The answer can be a simple Yes/No or another set of data (e.g a numeric value).

In informal language the words instructions, rules, steps, operations are often used as synonyms.

There are three important aspects of an algorithm:

  1. the instructions of an algorithm should be unambiguous: they can be expressed using natural language, or formulas, or they can be part of a programming language, but their meaning should be clear and fixed;
  2. also the sequence in which the instructions must be performed should be unambiguous;
  3. they should lead to the solution in a finite number of steps (in finite time).

Though the operations are unambiguous, sometimes it can be useful to use random values given as input or generated by some specific instructions.

An algorithm is

  • deterministic if no randomness is used: on the same input it will always produce the same output;
  • randomized if some kind of randomness is used; for example a specific instruction could produce a random value; in this case if we apply the algorithm to the same input we could obtain different results.

A simple example of algorithm that can be used to escape from a maze:

  • turn yourself until you have a wall of the maze on your right side
  • lay your right hand on that wall
  • keep walking forward along the wall touched by your right hand
  • never detach the right hand from the wall

maze

… soon or later your right hand will “touch” the exit. This simple “algorithm” works well for mazes that don’t contain isolated parts or sections.

 

Algoritmarte Manifest

Algoritmarte “manifest” (as of September 2020)

The word “algoritmarte” is a combination of the two italian words: algoritmo (algorithm) + arte (art).

This site is a collection of ideas, artworks and articles about the relationship between math and art. It’s a long term project and the topics covered will be various:

  • music and algorithmic music composition
  • sound synthesis
  • visual art and algorithmic art
  • artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • philosophy
  • games
  • programming and programming languages
  • … and many others

I hope that soon or later it will become a fully interactive site and will allow you to discuss and experiment directly with the published stuff.