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Automatic Soul at Electromuseum

History of algorithmic art through visuals and sound.

In a nutshell, algorithmic art deals with computer-generated sounds, visual or other forms created according to a certain algorithm. This might seem like a modern practice, linked with the development of computers, but the exhibition at Electromuseum aims to give a retrospective account of the history of generative art. 

“If you look closely at works by Brueghel, Modigliani, Matisse, Picasso, and many others, you can detect common features in the works of each master. We call this   ‘author’s style.’ The paintings by one artist often look like variations on the same theme not only in terms of plot, but also in terms of expressive means: color palette, character of brush stroke, composition, type of selected models. We can assume that the author’s style is a certain program installed in the mind of the artist, and the variability of the works is created by means of a change of parameters in this very program,” says Alexei Shulgin, curator of the exhibition.

Covering generative art from figurative images to tonal music, the display traces the origins of algorithms back to the work of Amadeus Mozart, who added random elements to his minuets with a roll of the dice. His “Musikalisches Würfelspiel” will be presented as a computer program.

Another attraction of the exhibition is the rare opportunity to hear the “Uralskie Napevi” – musical compositions made by a computer according to an algorithm by Soviet mathematician Rudolf Zaripov. In the late 1950s Zaripov envisioned a machine that could compose music by itself. The idea to determine the rules of musical composition came to him while studying at music school, and in 1959 he wrote an algorithm for a computer machine called URAL-2. This algorithm allowed the machine to produce only three waltzes and several marches. In honor of the composer, Zaripov called these generative songs  “Uralskie Napevi” (Uralian Chants). 

Automatic Soul, Electromuseum, Moscow. Till April 9.