Barcelona Cultura

'I use programming code as the language for my artistic creations'

Alba G. Corral is a visual artist and creative programmer who has been producing generative art through programming for the past decade. This artist explores many realms of expression such as live performance, video, digital media and site-specific installations.

She is one of the fifteen artists participating in the exhibition Digital impact with the work Mercurio, which can be seen at the Disseny Hub until 27 August. We talked to her about her career, her work and her creative process.

You have collaborated in the first collection in Spain specialising in science and technology. Now you are also participating in 'Digital Impact'. Is digital art still considered exclusive to a very specific sector of the public? Do you perceive that policies are moving to make the leap to the general public?

I've never thought or felt that digital art is exclusive to one sector of the public, in fact, digital art is much more expansive and popular than it is considered within the circuits of exhibitions and galleries. Perhaps they have been the last to exhibit it, to recognise it. We still have to listen to criticisms that digital art isn't art or that it's cold and there are still some contemporary institutions that turn their backs and don't consider it sufficiently substantial to exhibit. However, the public is more than educated in digital art, in fact, it consumes digital art through devices, video games, concerts and shows. The art market's policies are shifting because it is now possible to engage in more speculation with it.

Has your training as an engineer helped you become a better artist? How has it influenced you?

I learned the language I use for my artistic creations in programming code long before my training as an engineer. (with an Amstrad CPC 464 Bits, using BASIC programming language). It's linked, I don't distinguish my practice in artistic or computational, it's linked, what perhaps makes me a better artist is practice and perseverance.

Can you explain what the creative process of an artist in the digital world is?
I can't generalise, as each process is totally different, and even more so in the digital world where there are so many different tools, so many different approaches. I could explain mine, which is very similar to the creative process of painting, except that my brushes are digital. They are logical constructions made with algorithms that allow me to paint and modify parameters in real time (while the programme is running). This is a co-authorship with the machine, which generates previously defined behaviours, somewhat randomly, but with a large manual craftsmanship component and creation.

What is the beauty of an algorithm?

It is very much like the beauty in nature as it is the mathematical beauty in our environment. An algorithm can be useful, beautiful, or useful and beautiful, or useless and beautiful. The most formal and obsolete definition of an algorithm is "an ordered and finite set of operations that leads to the solution of a problem". However, we no longer say that the algorithm solves problems in computational creativity. Algorithms allow us to frame the artistic piece in a series of processes and steps, like a cooking recipe. The beauty of an algorithm can be in the aesthetic appreciation found in the design and implementation of it. But it can also be in the outcome, at times unexpected, at other times beautiful.

Who are your influences in digital art? And in non-digital art, do you have any influential figures?
Regarding digital art, I would like to mention Elena Asins (1940 - 2015), a pioneer in mathematical and digital art. The first time I saw an algorithm exhibited in a museum was at the Reina Sofía and it was one of her creations. She connected art with mathematics and technology. I was lucky enough to exchange a few emails with her before she passed away. She is definitely a key influence. Another artist is Lia, another pioneer who has been producing pieces since 1995. She is a great influence and reference in generative art. She is still active and it is wonderful to be able to always count on her encouragement and her way of leading the way. The Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, a pioneer of abstract art. A master of modelling the invisible and drawing from the subjective, long before other men who were recognised as pioneers. Unfortunately this is still happening in today's scene.

You are also a teacher. How do you see the future of this discipline?
I still give introductory workshops on programming and how to draw with code, I think it's fundamental to break the stereotype that programming is difficult. In the words of my good friend Sam Aaron, it's not difficult, it's just different. Perhaps I feel that teaching has been made more commercialised and should be even more decentralised than it is at the moment. There is a huge supply in the big cities, and a lot more information and content to learn, but it tends to be more about conceptualisation than practice, and that worries me a bit. We should go back to the labs, to common teaching processes, without having such a pronounced hierarchy, and we should have more places to experiment, to make mistakes, to enjoy learning. I miss that.

Ajuntament de Barcelona