Generative Art Exploration Chapter IV: Ringers #879 (The Goose)
Using automation as his artistic medium, Dmitri Cherniak creates artwork evoking an array of emotions akin to those from traditional mediums. A native of Toronto and now living in New York City, Cherniak pursued Computer Science and Physiology at McGill University, where he began creating art using algorithms and code. As a software engineer Cherniak discovered that the creativity necessary to automate solutions to complex engineering problems often went unrecognized, and this realization inspired him to channel his creative energy toward the automation of visual systems.
Generative art shifts the artistic expression from crafting a single, static piece to designing a dynamic, autonomous system. Inspired in part by the exploration of form in Armin Hofmann’s Graphic Design Manual published in 1965, Cherniak embarked on a project to create algorithmic art based on string and pegs that he hoped would look organic, even human-made. Cherniak has long considered the potential for eliminating the curation step from the artistic process. Using as a foundation an algorithm he has iterated on for years, Cherniak conceptualized Ringers to illuminate, to both fellow artists and collectors, the potential for non-curated generative art.
The thousand-piece Ringers project was released in January 2021 on Art Blocks, a platform for launching code-based generative art. The simple elegance of the relatively large collection demonstrates both the possibility within an algorithm—simple pieces or intricate, colorful or not—and the specific beauty of a single Ringer, each piece inextricably linked. Cherniak’s art balances control and randomness, creating a dialogue between the artist, algorithm, and observer. The collection sold out in eighteen minutes.
Ringers employs no explicit curation by the artist. Instead, a random seed injected into the algorithm generates a unique work of art created in a fraction of a second, revealed to both buyer and artist simultaneously. The collector becomes curator, crafting a distinct narrative by way of the pieces acquired, often displayed in grids reminiscent of Lygia Pape’s Livro do tempo.
The relative probability of any particular attribute occurring in Ringers is by design, as determined by the artist. However, the algorithm bounds the potential frequency of occurrence, not the actual occurrence. It is the algorithm catalyzed by randomness that determines how many pieces do in fact exhibit a particular attribute such as color, recursion, peg count, and bullseyes.
Attribute-based statistical rarity can be a factor in which generative artwork is most sought after. Let it be said plainly and uncontrovertibly: the Goose is not, in this respect, rare. There are more than fifty Ringers exhibiting a yellow body, more than 130 with a recursive grid. It is not statistical rarity that makes the Goose singular.
What sets the Goose apart is the particular result of serendipitous collision of code and randomness. Unnumbered things had to happen just right for there to be a goose. A million-piece collection of Ringers might not have resulted in something that looks so deliberately designed, yet isn’t. The improbability of there being a goose united an assemblage of unacquainted collectors, the fact of its existence becoming a symbol of community, a source of delight: it is not a goose, but the Goose.
Critics might dismiss the automated, algorithmic aspect of generative art as being robotic and cold, but it is automation that breathes life and surprise into this artwork. Within the realm of unpredictability lies the true enchantment of Cherniak's art.
That the Goose exists bears witness to the serendipity of emergent properties intrinsic to this form of art. Looked at this way, one might argue that Cherniak did not “create” the Goose. Not in the traditional sense. And therein lies the magic.
The Goose: creature of chance, born of a million perfect coincidences. The undeniable capstone of a collector’s impeccable curation.