Edward Zajec: Creative Participation
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"I turned to the use of computers in 1968. At that time I was experimenting with redundancy in my paintings (repetition of the same module over large areas with only slight shifts in size). The monotony of the manual task and the limited number of variations which I was able to produce in a given time made me realize the inadequacy of traditional methods in dealing with our present reality. At first I designed programs in which, given a basic repertoire of signs and a set of combinatory rules, the qualitative value of each possible combination depended on a predetermined balance between probability and chance. Later, I tried to extend the autonomy of the programs by developing systems which could produce a number of different combinatory strategies. This was achieved by introducing a determinant tendency which kept referring to a few basic criteria for guidance and qualitative feedback. When the output of these programs was exhibited as stills in the form of computer graphics, I realized that the structure of the underlying process was of little or no relevance to the viewing public. This opened up a whole set of new problems which could be summed up by saying that no relevant contribution can be made by using the computer in the arts unless the public can be coinvolved as an active participant. Computer graphics in this context merely represents a transition stage. They stand as stills in a process in motion and fall short of realizing the full potential of the medium. With a computer, we can now describe and communicate the organization, structure, and dynamics of a message. At the same time leaving it open to different interpretations and modifications, or better: only with a computer can we untie the constructive aspects of an idea from its material features and observe and articulate them in time through direct interaction. This potential offers the possibility to develop programs which could actively involve the public and turn the passive spectator into an active participant. In designing interactive programs, some attitudes will have to be changed. The artist will no longer concern himself solely with the sublimation and expression of his internal world in the form of finished objects, but will have to deal with specific and locatable problems (even if hypothetical in nature) in order to be able to lend some of the control over to the participant. I feel that the main shift will therefore have to be from an object oriented art to an art which will emphasize those structural and constructive implications underlying a work or process which are not necessarily stipulated in its formal aspects (or in a final static result) and which can only be communicated in a direct interactive exchange. For example, we can gain very little knowledge about the structural and combinative properties of a system by examining the properties of its constituent elements in isolation. On the contrary, we must actually combine those elements to gain some knowledge about the range of developments which the system may offer. This means that instead of the traditional contemplation, the participant will be offered the possibility to engage in comparison, selection, and decision making; in short, creative participation."
Edward Zajec is a pioneer of computer art. Born 1938 in Trieste, Italy, he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubliana, Slovenia, and made an MFA in painting and printmaking at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. Upon returning to Italy, he worked at the Computer Center of of the University of Trieste. In 1980, he established the computer graphics lab at Syracuse University. He is Professor Emeritus of Art, Design, and Transmedia at Syracuse University.
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