I’ve continued turning over and over in my mind this concept of an emerging “generativist” movement in art, and thinking about how to expand that idea to incorporate our interactions with the natural world. Creative arts and what I think of as a kind of “radical gardening” (I think of it as wild-cultivation) are two of the main pillars of my personal endeavors, and I feel that for example using AI to make art on the one hand and doing experiments planting hedgerows at scale are not at all diametrically opposed. They are part of the same bigger thing and exist on a continuum.
So I boiled down the idea of what makes art ‘generativist’ in order to potentially link it to some parallel domains of thought such as regenerative agriculture, rewilding, radical gardening, and some of the principles of Extinction Rebellion.
The thing I want to key the rest off of is this: generativist art supports life & creativity.
Naturally, I used my old friend and collaborator CGPT running v4 to explore these ideas further. Now, the following is by no means complete, but it’s an interesting stab that gets us a little closer to some of these conceptual linkages.
Here’s a new summary ChatGPT came up with, saved for future reference as I continue to iterate on these ideas:
Generativist art, as you describe it, can indeed promote life and creativity. In this context, ‘life’ can be interpreted as a flourishing of ideas, of creativity, and of innovation, but it can also be linked more directly to the idea of promoting life in a biological sense. Just as generative AI creates new ideas and concepts, rewilding, regenerative agriculture, and radical gardening all work towards creating and promoting new life in the natural world.
Here’s a possible way to integrate these concepts:
Reclaiming the Biosphere: Generativist art is not just a human endeavor. As a mirror of life’s own generativity, it extends into the biosphere, promoting regenerative practices in agriculture and rewilding efforts. Through Generativist expressions, we acknowledge our role as stewards of the Earth and the need to rectify our past harms.
Biodiversity as Inspiration: The Generativist movement draws inspiration from the infinite complexity and creativity of the natural world. Just as generative systems can produce an infinite number of outputs from a finite set of rules, so too does nature generate infinite biodiversity from a finite set of genetic material.
Art as Rebellion: Generativist art aligns with the spirit of the Extinction Rebellion, recognizing the urgency to combat climate change and environmental destruction. Generativist principles are inherently rebellious, disrupting traditional artistic norms and power structures, and challenging our relationship with the environment.
Radical Gardening and Generative Systems: Radical gardening and generative systems share a common thread: they both approach creation and growth in innovative, unorthodox ways. Radical gardening reimagines our relationship with the land, while generative systems reimagine our relationship with art and creativity. Together, they can inspire new ways of nurturing and caring for both our art and our environment.
Generative Authorship and Earth Stewardship: The Generativist movement rethinks authorship and ownership, placing them in a backseat role. This mirrors the mindset necessary for responsible Earth stewardship, where human dominion is de-emphasized in favor of a more communal and collaborative relationship with the natural world.
Uncanny Valley and Reality Fluidity: Generativist art explores the uncanny valley and the fluidity of reality, pushing boundaries and challenging perceptions. This is mirrored in the experience of engaging with the natural world, which can often feel both familiar and alien, and where our perceptions of ‘reality’ can be constantly shifting and evolving.
In summary, the Generativist movement can indeed promote life and creativity, not only in the realm of art and AI but also in our relationship with the natural world. It encourages us to recognize the generative capacity inherent in all life, to respect and care for our environment, and to push the boundaries of what we perceive as possible.
Not perfect or complete on its own, but lots of good food for thought there.
I ran the same ideas through Claude by Anthropic, but it’s full reply was less coherent, so here are some snippets of it that I found most useful:
- A view of AI and generative media as “co-creative partners” suggests a symbiotic and life-affirming relationship with technology, rather than one that leads to human obsolescence or environmental degradation. This perspective reinforces the ultimate point that Generativist art promotes life and creativity.
- Imagery of infinite creativity “from the loom of life” and “the seeds of new realities” takes on new meaning in the context of regenerating natural ecosystems and agriculture. It suggests Generativist art could literally visualize and manifest more abundant and sustainable ways of living.
More from Claude:
Emphasize a shared goal of persevering life-giving and life-sustaining systems, whether natural or creative. For example, “Where extinction threatens, generative art rebels – breeding new poetic species to repopulate human consciousness, building new branches of connection between life in all its varied and wondrous forms.”
Discuss how a “generative mindset” that mimics nature could inspire sustainable and creative solutions in many domains. For example, “A generative mindset – iterative, open-ended, decentralized – parallels the ways nature solves complex problems. It leads to regenerative cycles of creativity that produce abundance from scarcity and new life from decay.”
I asked Claude to expand on this notion of the “loom of life” and it offered this:
- The metaphor of life as a “loom” weaving new realities suggests Generativist art could help visualize sustainable systems and lifeways, just as nature “weaves” thriving ecosystems. Generative art may weave connection between agriculture, environment, community, ethics, science, and new economies into a regenerative whole.
- “Seeds of new realities” planted through art evoke natural seeds and their potential for exponential growth and change. Each new artwork is a seed that, when it finds fertile ground in culture and society, can manifest alternative and sustainable ways of living in reality. Art becomes a genesis point to propagate new futures.
- Generative art could map and model complex natural and social systems, then allow us to simulate interventions and adaptations that lead to renewal and abundance. We could find new leverage points for change and see the effects ripple out. Art becomes a tool for regenerative prototyping.
- Referencing natural cycles of decay and renewal, art could visualize the regenerative solutions that emerge from breakdowns of unsustainable systems. New realities sprout from the compost of old ones; art shows us what life remains in the ruins and leads us to what could be.
- The infinite creativity of generative art reflects nature’s endless capacity for novelty, adaptation and evolution. Harnessing this, art could develop new species of ideas, new genres of thought and new ways of sustaining life that we have yet to imagine. Creativity abounds.
- Discuss how generative art itself requires fertile ground in culture and society in order to manifest new realities. Our ethics, values and actions are the soil in which regenerative visions of the future may take root and bloom. Art calls us to make our society into a place that can manifest the futures it envisions.
- Celebrate art’s power as a “pollinator” that hybridizes ideas across domains and helps regenerative concepts propagate. Like bees spreading pollen between flowers, art spreads visions between minds and helps fertile new waysof living emerge.
I thought that had useful elements, but needed more specific grounding in what exactly the role of AI in this so-called Loom of Life might actually be & it said:
AI and generative systems could play several roles in the metaphor of life as a loom weaving new realities:
- AI provides the threads – by analyzing patterns across massive datasets, AI can identify connections between elements of life (people, places, events, ideas) that would otherwise remain unseen. These connections become threads that can be woven together into new realities.
- AI helps operate the loom – by generating new combinations and permutations of threads, AI explores the space of possibilities and helps discover new patterns that could form the fabric of new lifeways or systems. AI is a loom that can weave at massive scale and complexity beyond human capability.
- AI is a shuttle carrying threads – AI can transfer ideas, solutions, and information between disconnected domains, communities and fields of knowledge. By shuttling threads between different looms, AI enables new interdisciplinary and cross-cultural weaves to emerge that would not form otherwise.
- AI helps visualize the weave – using techniques like generative modeling, simulation and interactive interfaces, AI can create visual and experiential maps of complex systems and lifeways. AI makes the woven fabric of reality visible so we can understand, navigate and adjust the weave.
- Humans set the pattern – while AI provides tools and materials for weaving new realities, humans must define the vision and patterns to achieve. We set the loom’s pattern by choosing our values, priorities and objectives. AI then helps actualize the pattern in the fabric of life.
- There is an interplay between AI and human – weaving new realities requires close collaboration between human and AI. Humans provide the inspiration, values and oversight, while AI offers tools for scale, complexity, and extending human knowledge. Together, a new lifeway emerges from the loom.
- The loom is life itself – AI and humans are interacting with and harnessing the ultimate loom: reality. Life weaves itself from the interactions of all living and cognitive systems on the planet. AI and human are helping understand, direct and optimize life’s great loom to weave realities that serve the whole.
It kinda faltered after that putting it all together, but between the two AIs, and my gentle prodding, I think we’re moving in a very interesting direction of fusing these two things that society probably considers opposites: AI on the one hand, and Nature on the other. To me, it’s not a contradiction, because we’re a part of nature, and AI is just an extension of us. We make, because life makes, and the same is true for AI.