PBS Series 'Off Book' Shows Us How Technology And Art Come Together (VIDEO)

12/07/2011 02:57 pm ET

How do you "recreate the essence of life in digital form"?

For generative artist, the answer is in using technology -- like computer algorithms, and other mechanical, randomly self-generated processes -- as an essential part of creating the artwork. The latest from the PBS web series of mini-documentaries on art, Off Book, "Generative Art - Computers, Data, and Humanity," takes a brief look at three different artists using these methods to inform their work.

The first, composer Luke Dubois, turns "data into music and stories. For one string quartet, Dubois used data from the casualty stream of the Iraq War to help structure his music. For example, eight years of war translates to eight minutes of music, with surges in action represented through crescendos.

"This century is the century of data," Dubois says.

The second, Scott Draves, discusses Electric Sheep, a screensaver that connects hundreds of users' computers to make a super computer that renders animations users can alter and interact with. His goal? To "make people realize that there can be a soul in the 1s and 0s." In his view, the complexity of these technological systems mirrors the complexity of human life.

"One cell might be simple but a billion of them creates a mind and has some kind of spirit," Draves says. "One computer is mechanical, but a million computers ... can create something truly magical."

The last, video game designer Will Wright, discusses his game Spore, which lets users create and control entire planets filled with creatures that they invent. Connect all the users, and you get a galaxy full of unique spheres.

"If we realize that the machine is really part of us that will enable our merger with the machine and ultimately with each other," Draves concludes.

Watch the video below:

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