Composing with Uncertainty: Complexity and Emergence in the Media Arts

Alexandre Saunier
Composing with Uncertainty: Complexity and Emergence in the Media Arts

Workshop, English/Deutsch, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
4 Saturdays, 10-17 h: 1.6., 15.6., 29.6., 13.7.2024, Hardenbergstr. 33, room 004

Registration on Moodle starts 15.04.2024:
Moodle Enrollment Key / Einschreibeschlüssel: media

Infosession: Fr, 19. Apr, 16:00 bis 16:30:

What are generative algorithms and how can we use them artistically? What does it mean to create with autonomous machines that escape our control? How can we incorporate scientific principles of complexity, self-organization, and emergence into artistic creation?

"Composing with uncertainty" explores the artistic use of complex systems in media art creation. Complex systems consist of many elements that interact and organize in ways that are nearly impossible to predict. Examples are everywhere around us: we find them in natural ecosystems, human brains, economic markets, and flocks of birds. We also find complex systems in the arts, like in the improvising computers of composer George Lewis, the experimental performances of sound artist Laetitia Sonami, and the stage work of choreographer William Forsythe. In the form of interactive systems, real-time computing, and artificial intelligence technologies, complex systems have escaped from the scientific world to transform artistic practices and aesthetics.

Over four days, we will combine art-science discussions with artistic experiments using computer models. We will delve into scientific principles related to complex systems, emergence, artificial life, and artificial intelligence and observe their contribution to artistic practices of "machine art" (Brockman), "systems esthetics" (Burnham), and "esthetics of behavior" (Penny). The objective is to develop an understanding of the scientific basis supporting complex systems, learn about the histories and theories of art with autonomous machines, and experiment with multimedia programming environments to create with sound, light, and video.
You are expected to prepare readings before the sessions and bring a computer to experiment with multimedia programming (example programs will be provided, no previous knowledge of programming is required). The course evaluation will be based on presence and participation.

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credit points:regular and active participation in the sessions as well as regular readings to prepare for seminar work and discussions.

Alexandre Saunier is an interdisciplinary artist and researcher working with light, music, video, sound, autonomous systems, and sensory perception. His domain of investigation lies at the intersection of the media arts, performance, artificial intelligence, and complex system theory. Alexandre’s PhD research investigated light as an artistic medium with autonomous and emergent properties based on real-time computational systems. He holds a master's degree in sound design from the ENS Louis Lumière (Paris), has worked on robotic design and interactive lighting research at the ENS Arts Décoratifs (Paris), and completed a bachelor in mathematics and physics. His artistic work and academic research are regularly presented in international venues such as Mutek Montreal, Elektra BIAN, Festival Internacional de la Imagen, Ars Electronica, ISEA, Impakt Festival, MuffatHalle, Bcn_llum, ALIFE Conference, Media Art History, and Toronto’s Nuit Blanche. More information on