Always Already Just

innovative combinatorics and invention in new media art


This chapter explores the creative and cognitive aspects of symbolic and procedural thinking, innovative combinatorics, and inventiveness in new media art.

The introduction provides a conceptual framework of innovative combinatorics and an overview of its manifestations in the arts and culture, leading to the specific new media art applications of the emerging technologies for transforming the existing ideas, processes and materials into new artworks. It focuses on generative methodologies which interact the predefined elements with different factors of unpredictability in making and presenting the artwork, thus underlining the uncontrollability of the creative process and the contextual nature of art.

Organized in eight interconnected subheadings, the central section discusses the conceptual and poetic qualities of the exemplar new media art projects which take their source material from the fine arts, film, the Internet, computer games, music and popular culture. They often merge innovative combinatorics with strategies such as bricolage, and exert the dynamic technical infrastructures and unstable protocols.

The conclusion addresses the cognitive aspects of these artworks, such as translating the seemingly intangible mental processes into algorithms and code in relation with the unpredictable motives and circumstances of analogizing, generating ideas and meaning making. It states that the successful new media artworks motivate both innovation and invention by presenting their background thinking processes playfully and engagingly. They efficiently apply and communicate the intellectual and emotional energy of the ludic cognitive drive as a layer of creativity which comes before scientific/artistic method, and can incite original—often surprising—new configurations and ideas.

Keywords: Abstraction, Algorithm, Analogy, Animation, Artificial Intelligence, Code, Cognition, Creativity, Database, Digital Art, Digital Culture, Error, Film, Generative Art, Imaging, Infographics, Innovation, Intuition, Invention, Language, Learning, Machine Learning, New Media Art, Photography, Procedure, Programming, (Re)creativity, Semantics, Software, Statistics, Transcoding, Visualization.

Publication: Eduardo Navas, Owen Gallagher and xtine burrough, eds. The Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities. New York, NY: Routledge, 2020 (forthcoming).