The Engine of randomness
Source document: Opuscula historiae artium. vol. 66, iss. 2, pp. 196-203
ISSN1211-7390 (print)2336-4467 (online)
License: Not specified license
The article compares three different examples of the use of randomness in works that draw on or transcend the rational order of mathematical combinatorics and notes how the meaning of randomness has changed over time. However much it may be regarded as an ancestor of the computer, the knowledge engine in Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, with its randomly generated word sets, is a parody on the rationalism and encyclopaedic projects of the 17th and 18th centuries. In modern art, however, the concept of randomness changed substantially and it relates to more than just surrealism. In the first half of the 1960s, art was being influenced by modern science and technology, and randomness became a method in its own right used to relativise, but not disrupt, this rigorously adhered to rational order. In the field of literature randomness became a source of new associations in unsentimental poetry (Ladislav Novák's Poetry Machine), and in painting computer-generated randomness came to signify artistic freedom and a higher level of objectivity (Zdeněk Sýkora's Line/Lines). Here, unlike in Swift's work, randomness introduces the idea of a different, previously unknown order.