This research exposition studies the role of generative art systems in contemporary socio-economic developments. It asks how generative technologies can contribute to artistic interventions in order to alter the shared perception of surrounding environments. The exposition takes a cosmotechnical approach to avoid taking generative systems as sovereign technological entities. Cosmotechnics (Hui 2019: chapter 5, §44) refers to each technology as representing certain cultural currents and social practices, therefore not developing in neutral separation.

This intermingling of living and technical beings via cultural ties is a starting point for interpreting the generative system’s autonomy. I propose that such autonomy always arises from the various aspects of human autonomy that contribute to the creation of these systems for which I introduce the notion of ‘transferred autonomy.’ In investigating the effects of artistic appropriations and interpretations of technology, this text opens up novel paths between artistic-technical objects and human collectives.

Since the exposition presented here is a formulation of an ongoing artistic practice, it does not offer taxonomies or general historical overviews of developments in generative art. Rather, it focuses on an artistic method that ties together elements from various movements, whether artistic, philosophical or technological as described in the sections ‘Practice of Synthesis’ and ‘Autonomous Computational Social Genesis’. The former investigates methods of social intervention for artistically engaging with socioeconomic conditions. In this section, the ephemeral institutional body and logic immanent to it is approached through notions of tactical media (Galloway 2004) and strategic duplicity (Todoroff 2018). The latter section gathers and analyses the appropriation of elements from various artistic practices, for example Burnham (2014), Haacke (2016), Komar and Melamid (1997).

The sections ‘Registers of Disinhibition’ and ‘Desire and Disobedience — Deterritorialising the Opinion Poll’ respond to these central research questions:

  1. What kind of social and material individuations can we find when we remove the conditions enforced by actualised ideological/economic formations?
  2. How can contemporary technologies, namely generative art, web-based polling, 3-D visualisation and simulation, enable and analyse these individuations?

The former section examines notions of individuation and the technical object, as proposed by Gilbert Simondon (2016), which is also the core theoretical reference for this research. Bernard Stiegler (2019) provides a valuable re-reading of Simondon, stressing the immanent connection between digital tertiary retention and collective individuation. This idea is relevant here since it places technology at the centre for studying individuation and transindividual protention. An opinion poll is used to gather input from various individuals and make the exploration of different individuations possible serving as a concatenation of registers of disinhibition. The formulation of disinhibition (Sloterdijk 2013) is a process in which a subject converts theory into practice in order to shape surrounding conditions, providing a means to open up territories for individual perceptions of ideal working and living conditions. A presentation of the structure and principles of this specialised survey forms the core of the chapter. The prospect of discovering new directions of social genesis, beyond specific institutional or industrial goals, explores individuation beyond actualised socioeconomic structures.

Deterritorializing the Opinion Poll’ interprets the medium of a poll through an assemblage of enunciation, a concept by Deleuze and Guattari (2003), as well as enunciative recursion (Guattari 2013) and immanent morphogenesis (DeLanda 2000). It positions a poll as an interventionist and generative technique rather than an analytic, generalising and scientific method. It deforms and reframes the idea of an opinion poll to open up interrelated geneses. Animation and installation pieces investigate these different domains of generative activity. The research aims to show how it is possible to use generative technology as part of an artistic inquiry into collective processes of individuation. This section approaches the subject through an analysis that is creative, metaphorical, and speculative.

These different sections are currents that approach the presented practice from different angles. They provide relevant cross-references and characteristhe research object from various viewpoints, opening up different aspects each timeThe artworks and exhibitions I have created and present here are at the core of the method. This schematic also acts as navigational tool - the sections can be clicked to jump there; a click on any of the pink circles distributed across the grid of this exposition will lead back.

The exhibition documentation for ‘Happy Space 1 and 2 and Midscape’, containing the previously listed works, provide installation context. The labels of the photographs can be accessed by hovering over them, a click will show the image in isolation. Clicking on a video starts the playback. I recommend reading Registers of Disinhibition’ to begin with, and from there to choose how to proceed, since I intend no strict order. After the initial section, the exposition is divided into two parallel text strands with the visual reference presented in the middle part for easy access. The research diagram (8), conclusion, and references can be found at the bottom of the page. The research diagram presents core concepts, working methods, and their relations in a concise graphical form. The texts refer to these when necessary.


The project began as a thought experiment, a meditation on contemporary organisation culture and lifestyle. I was trying to conceive of a role for the individual as an organic part of a more inclusive structure of institution, organisation, and society. An individual’s immediate surroundings are a kind of membrane connecting them to an even larger structure of local and global communities. Despite my interest in the psychic realities of living individuals and collectives, I decided against a study of a specific organisation. Since every specific institution or organisation stratifies and thus articulates the goals and interests of its board of directors, a series of specific case studies would only lead into descriptions of these actualised formations, rather than the broad virtual collective structure, which I was interested in.

This more inclusive approach was an attempt to lift everyday conditional pressures, namely the specific, near-future goals and rationality bound to these, in order to reveal perceptions underlying a larger collective vision. Generalisations gathered by common opinion polls seemed to be at the other extreme. The usual approach to statistics is too general and does not reveal a connection between the specific individual and the entire group. A thought experiment led me to conceive of an abstract institutional body that does not serve any specific interest group but rather acts as an agent to connect an individual with its perceived ideal organisational structure. It is therefore a pathway to a virtual collective structure, a means to connect different visions. I named this organisation Robert Oppenheimer’s Charitable Think Tank.

To gain insight into a collective psychic environment, it became necessary to disinhibit the imaginary process in a way that it was no longer directed by actualised stratifications of organisational structures. Processes of disinhibition proceed through interconnected proposals for workplace development (Working Environment Development Form (2), shown below). These proposals connect the actual to the virtual, always departing from a specific situation of an individual’s immediate surrounding environment and directed toward a collective imaginary sphere. In conceptualising the process of disinhibition, I follow Peter Sloterdijk’s reasoning as outlined in his book, In the World Interior of Capital. For him, a subject is an actor that transforms theory into practice; this transformation is disinhibition, and helps to achieve specific goals (Sloterdijk 2013: 57). In the case of Working Environment Development Form, theory is a set of proposals to develop an ideal working and living environment. These proposals make up the registers of disinhibition (8). Different sections or registers of the form enable developments in different areas of a working environment. Register 1 (2.2), for example, deals with services an individual would like to receive as part of an institutional suite. I interpret preferences in this section as gradients of privatisation (Privatized Communes [1]). These are the gradients that make up the pathways of capital through a collective virtual environment. Register 4 (2.3) configures the aesthetic and spatial properties of a working environment.


The Working Environment Development Form (WEDF) and its related framework, which is used to analyse and generate presented formations, constitutes a technical object. Here I interpret a technical object, and its structure, following Gilbert Simondon ([1958] 2016: 25-29, 63-66). Simondon suggests that the evolution of technical objects is analogical to that of living organisms, and its genesis proceeds on three levels: elements, individuals and ensembles. The relation between these levels is inclusive: individuals are composed of elements, while ensembles are composed of individuals. It should be noted that the three-level structure here only describes the general topology of a technical object and the relationship between them characterises the general logic of inclusion of structural units, on these levels. It does not describe the dynamic interrelation of entities on different levels, which can be very complex in some cases.






In relation to developments in generative art systems and research into computational creativity, the problematic of autonomy and creativity have become objects of common interest in art and scientific communities (McCormack et al. 2012; Rifaie et al. 2012). This research includes the question of how to conceptualise the intentionality, creativity and autonomy of computers and algorithms. Further research could make more complex and adaptive generative processes possible. The aim of this section is to first introduce notions of active and passive autonomy by elaborating core ideas about generative systems and computational creativity research. This is followed by an analysis of a relationship between a human and a technological object, and an introduction to transferred autonomy. After this, I analyse transferred autonomy in a wider social context and describe it as a link between machine, human and society. Finally, I show how the concept of transferred autonomy lets us rethink the role of a generative art system, as an actor in social processes.

In this research, the distinction between passive and active autonomy is central. Active autonomy means a capability to plan the structure of the process and its goals. Passive autonomy means a capability to generate or process the pre-established structure (8). This distinction relies on the opposition between strong and weak creativity in computational creativity research (Rifaie et al. 2015). Within my artistic practice, I conceptualise all digital computer programs as systems possessing a passive form of autonomy. This proposition provides a novel interpretation of a relationship between generative art system and human agents. We can view the duality of weak and strong creativity and active and passive autonomy as interpretations of John Searle’s Chinese Room thought experiment (Searle 1980). In it, he compares a computer, executing a code, with a man sitting in a room answering incoming questions written in Chinese. The man has no knowledge of the language and is guided solely by formal instructions provided from the outside, meaning he is a blind executor. For Searle, the weakness of machinic reason is its inability to grasp the meaning of its operations. Following syntax alone does not provide semantics. Syntax is a set of instructions for segmenting and presenting semantic structures, not the carrier of meaning. Meaning exists in its own disparate domain. For passive autonomy, it is the inability to enact upon the set of rules that determine its operations. Passive autonomy follows instruction blindly and cannot decide and create concepts in the domain of meaning and sense-making.

Some suggest that when the animal brain is altered using an electrical circuit or implant, an increase in intelligence is witnessed. Increased action potential in, for example, a mouse being able to navigate the maze, is provided as proof. Once again, the problem of internal understanding and external conditioning arises (Nasuto et al. 2015). Here, the mouse is like a zombie or animal in a drug-induced psychosis, whose behaviour is altered by external stimuli. It follows then that a man in the Chinese Room would not have any greater understanding of his actions, even when the instructions come from an electrical chipset planted inside his brain. To make an analogy regarding autonomy: neither computer nor technologically altered mouse can cross the threshold of self-conditioning, since their operations are routed and re-routed externally.

In this conceptual framework, only human experience provides active autonomy. This means that one can route and re-route or structure and re-structure the processes one is planning or is part of, based on the understanding of the surrounding conditions of these processes. Active autonomy is a form of embodied understanding of oneself in the surrounding environment. Thus, human consciousness provides experience that makes active autonomy possible. In a relationship with a computational or digital generative system, only the human is truly autonomous. What makes up the nature of such a relationship is the specific design of a system. If systems are not flexible enough in terms of the control feedback between human active autonomy and machine passive autonomy, an oppressive lockdown may result. We understand human-made technological objects as products of active autonomy. This autonomy is a species-specific experience that can restructure the surrounding conditions in mind and matter. The resulting technical object encapsulates a certain movement, first perceived by its creator and then transferred to the specific material structure. In this way, a transfer of autonomous experience is taking place. In the process of this transfer, active autonomy degrades into a passive state. This passively autonomous material construct is a disparate representation of human intentionality. For example, a simple trap, such as a fishing net, represents an alimentary function in a disparate material structure.

A technical object, then, is an entity that has autonomy transferred from the human that created it. Human autonomy remains in such an object in a passive form, losing its original properties. The degree to which it remains intact depends on the design of the object. It would be a curious enterprise to talk about the autonomy of a knife, watermill or any other simple technical device, since their passive existence seems so obvious. When we are talking about more complex technology, such as a self-driving car, the autopilot of an aeroplane or a facial recognition system, concerns regarding the characteristics of their autonomy become more relevant, because the complex operations these systems perform raise questions of accountability and responsibility. In the case of technologies influencing social interaction, safety and control, the question of transferring autonomy from a human to a technical system is not only philosophical but also an assessment of responsibility, trust, and accountability.

Before proceeding with transferring autonomy from human to complex technological infrastructures, let us examine a much more common process of transferring autonomy from one human to another through the legal system. The conventional version of this would be a testament, through which one hands over property rights via a legal system to another person. This is a transfer of autonomous will after the death of an individual. Voting, in representative democracy, can be seen as another form of transferring autonomy from a group of people to a single individual or group of individuals, as a transfer of the executive privileges specified in the constitution. Various transfers of autonomy are made possible by the legal system, and these are possible only because common understandings of language enable the articulation of rules governing these transactions. These rules make possible the passage of autonomy from one person to another. The nature of this transfer lies in encoding a material operation to a rule-based logic system. Examples of these encoded material operations may be, for example, an owner’s name in a property register or a contract to perform physical labour.

It appears then that transferring autonomy becomes truly possible only when there is a common language between bodies taking part in this transfer. To return to the context of contemporary technology, such a transfer between a human and a technological object becomes increasingly important where a common language between them exists. In the case of digital computation devices, this language is a ‘programming language’, where the term is used to describe sequences of computational instructions. When we follow the rules of the language, the computer executes these instructions properly. This linking via language makes the passage of human autonomy to digital devices possible and because these transfers can be very complex, the specifics of this transfer become significant.

Today we are witnessing a sudden increase in devices that are connected online in real-time, serving various tasks that are important for the proper functioning of society. As a result, transferred forms of autonomy are having increasing influence on the lives of human individuals. Yuk Hui (2019: chapter 4) describes this interconnected technological structure as ‘organising inorganic’. These devices are no longer just mouldings of functions into material form, as simple technical devices, but an infrastructure that itself moulds and conditions the functioning of societies on a planetary scale. This infrastructure can, of course, be profitable, but it raises questions about the characteristics of various feedback loops that recursively act on human lives. Be it AI algorithms that affect stock exchanges and can cause financial crises in various parts of the world, the degradation of mental health because of excessive and uncontrolled flows of commercial and social information in digital media, or technical systems that change the nature of labour and increase unemployment. Although technological devices are passively autonomous, it does not mean that human-technology relationships always increase human active autonomy. Technological infrastructure can reduce territories of active autonomy, as seen in oppressive regimes.

The problematic of a relationship between human and machine autonomy leads to the problematic of interindividual or transindividual influence between humans connected through technological systems. Different groups in society perceive the same situation differently. It may very well turn out that a rich man’s utopia is a poor man’s dystopia. The owner of an industrial complex may perceive the society as a flourishing oasis, full of opportunities to explore different routes of investment and the application of new technologies to ever-widening spheres of human life. His employee, however, may be a self-subsidising, drug-fuelled drone, whose body is full of proprietary monitoring and surveillance tech and self-enhancement mods, reminiscent of the zombie mouse described above. The radicalised pursuit of physical and mental optimisation is a means of keeping up with increasing working hours and the pressures of competition.

Cultural and ideological framing play a crucial role in how people perceive their role and duties. According to Bernard Stiegler, self-exploitation through technology for the sake of economic growth is propagated through the transhumanist fantasy ideology, that conceives of human body as a testing bench for various technological innovations and chemical substances. Transhumanism presents the corporate exploitation of the human body as an opportunity for creative and emancipatory self-expression of an individual, thus working towards a total proletarianisation of society (Stiegler 2019: §106). For Stiegler, transhumanism is serving the same function in society as psychoanalysis did in Deleuze’s and Guattari’s interpretation. In their view, psychoanalysis is an operator, the main working principle of which is re-routing emancipatory individual production into frameworks of capitalist social structure, through an Oedipal representation scheme (Deleuze, Guattari [1972] 2000: 312). In transhumanism, Oedipus becomes a cyborg, yet the re-routing of emancipatory impulses remains intact: the transhumanist individual, or dividual, is always open to modification in order to become the ever more efficient proletariat. Interpreting Stiegler, there is an active antagonism between transhumanist individualism and transindividual collectivity.

A close relative of the transhumanist subject was envisioned by Joseph Stalin’s man-and-ape cross-bred soldier who is insensitive to pain and mentally incapable of disobedience. Although this project failed, the possibility to create such a soldier or worker using bio-implants and nanotechnology remains a possibility. Autonomy and exploitation are tightly connected to relations of power and capital, as elaborated in Santiago Sierra’s hybrid practice of conceptual art and human experimentation. He treats the human body as an object on which material speculation takes place, be it in form of payment for meaningless, physically-exhausting labour or pseudo-scientific experiment of perceptual tolerance (Sierra 2017). As an artist, he creates interventions that explore the limits and nature of social and economic practices, that are geared toward producing passive subjects. His investigations into proletarianisation in various domains, and the interest groups profiting from the process, constitute a body of work that describes the industrial-scale degradation of the autonomous will of individuals.

As this research is investigating collective processes of individuation, the concept of transferred autonomy is a means to link machinic, individual and collective autonomy. Instead of considering the autonomy of a generative art system as a sovereign domain of inquiry, this project links such autonomy to a wider social context. Disciplinary isolation of generative art systems does not happen without certain risks. Namely, it could be reduced to folly, reminiscent of the pastimes of the men of Laputa, the floating island in Gulliver’s Travels, who were obsessed with various abstract geometric shapes and patterns, spending most of their time in an escapist fractal zone. In fact, fractals or generative art studies are far from useless. When brought out from disciplinary isolation, they can be exploratory devices to gain perceptual insight into otherwise inaccessible collective individuations. For example, in the Privatized Communes visualisation (1), fractal generation is no longer directed toward purely aesthetic ends, but serves as a collective perception of the social environment.

Transferred autonomy provides the means to play out individuations otherwise incomprehensible, due to various actualised social and technical formations. The individuations that occur within this experimental plane depend on the participants. One important characteristic of the system is that it allows similarly directed actors to have unified influence upon their relation to surrounding groups. This project is an attempt to decrease the disruptive noise of isolation and increase the transindividual noise of collective perception. What distinguishes this inquiry from scientific practice is its constructive rather than purely analytic process. It does not presuppose that, to make predictions possible, one has to depart from facts and move toward abstract principles that make up these facts. Instead, this approach considers these principles themselves as objects to create and grow. This fundamental difference separates the described practice from the natural or social sciences and from social media analysis and its related practices. It is crucial in also differentiating this practice from generative social sciences, which, although having similarities regarding technological methods, have conceptually different aims and underlying principles. Following this, the formations presented in Privatized Communes (1) or other visualisations (3, 5, 6) follow a more distinct path of becoming than those that lead to scientific generalisations or laws, and objects created based on these principles. The individuations, as formations of collective creativity, do not need prescribed principles derived from empirical facts. Instead, they assemble themselves prior to these principles. The emphasis on creating the conditions and pathways of becoming, for various forms, places this practice in the realm of arts rather than sciences.

As socially concerned conceptual art, like that of Komar and Melamid, Hans Haacke, Santiago Sierra and others, this practice deals with problems arising from social power structures and their influence on private and public existence. Here the scope shifts to contemporary concepts and practices concerning technological frameworks and their influence, like Alexander Galloway’s (2004: 206) notion of ‘tactical media,’ meaning analytic and creative involvement in protocological processes, beyond simplified opposition. In Galloway’s sense, tactical media is an intervention that leads a general protocol into a state of hypertrophy, which is then redirected toward different goals more suitable for people engaged in the connected structure. This attitude is also obvious, for example, in Brian Clifton’s practice, which re-contextualises technologies otherwise geared toward marketing and economic disruption. Such an artistic intervention and subsequent analysis can help conceptualise, contextualise and restructure technological formations.

J. K. Brekke’ s (2016) theoretical analysis of technological frameworks and their influence on social, cultural and political domains acts as an important reference in terms of technological subjectification. Brekke argues that any new technological framework, once widely applied, requires alternative forms of bureaucracy that make up new zones of dysfunction and corruption. In a process of transition from old to new technological frameworks, previously successful actors have considerable influence. It means that while the new system is taking shape, currently dominant systems have an effect on what shape it will take, as they impose restrictions and provide degrees of freedom, arising from their inner workings. In this inquiry, sociopolitical engagement in relation to its technological formation tackles problems of influence and individuation.

The critical and creative approach to post-blockchain technologies in Erin Manning and Brian Massumi’s work (Todoroff 2018) is an important reference here since it introduces the process of strategic duplicity. This process can operate in parallel modes of meaning-making. Conceptualising blockchain as a potentially productive means of collective collaboration, they find it necessary to acknowledge that we are complicit with a capitalist economy. If we do not admit this, we risk deluding ourselves into thinking that it is possible to exist outside and independently of it. Accepting the reality of our circumstances is the only way to have a meaningful relationship with the processes we are part of. This awareness enables us to operate on two separate levels simultaneously. On the first level, acting in accordance to organising principles presupposed by actualized social formations, while on the second level, making connections that follow different sets of rules. Thus, it is possible to maintain intensities that follow pathways not directed by a predominant scheme. These intensities remain consistent and communicate through a membrane that allows connections to a previous level, but only if they follow the rules that these collectives have agreed upon from within.



A single proposal in a WEDF is an element. A representation of a person and their complete set of preferences make up an individual. The connected groups of individuals based on different schemes of formation are ensembles (Privatized Communes [1]). This means that individuals and groups are parts of the inclusive technical structure. Each participant of the WEDF, thus, creates a technical individual inside this framework able to form relationship with others


Crucial for understanding what forms a technical individual, is the principle that an individual is implicitly tied to its associated milieu (Simondon 2016: 63) providing the necessary conditions for it to function. In the case of the technical framework considered in this project, the associated milieu of a specific technical individual, created by a participant of the WEDF, rests in the participant as living human being with their autonomy, imagination and decision-making. Alas, the technical individuals created by the participants of the WEDF are paradoxical, since the function of their existence is to encapsulate and represent the very conditions that make their existence possible in the first place. This discrete representation of an associated milieu through a technical individual allows for connections with other individuals and the forming ensembles. Hence, the WEDF, with its related algorithms, is a synthesiser of associated milieus. Such a technical individual is also a digital representation of the autonomous decision-making taking place in the associated milieu, and therefore I conceptualise it here as transferred autonomy.

The goal of WEDF is to provide various perspectives on ideal working conditions and to gain insight into a collective virtual landscape of preferences. These virtual landscapes are used to generate new perceivable spatial and structural configurations. On a technical level, a very important step is the object-relational mapping of the initial poll data. The object-oriented data structure is built on top of the original two-dimensional matrix or the common tabular format by using a custom object-relational mapping program. It is this core process that enables the formation of disparate groups. This process adds a graphic layer of connectivity to the initial dataset, which is crucial, because besides the basic one-to-many relationships of a common poll structure, it also enables the one-to-one and many-to-many connections between participating individuals.


This graph formation is a multi-agent generative network that forms the basis for the next steps in the generative processes (geometric generation, for example, as seen in Privatized Communes [1]). It provides direction to processes of genesis that can proceed through various layers of these networks. Since every member of a group has a link to the initial poll data, we can make an arbitrary number of cascaded groupings within any group or between a set of groups. It also provides access to initial data when needed by a procedural algorithm; for example, getting individual workroom parameters while generating geometry for a specific group.


2. "Working  Environment Development Form"

Different sections of the Working Environment Development Form (WEDF)  (below). The first plate presents the overall structure of the poll. Each subsection includes results presented as graphs.

The PDF files can be zoomed and scrolled in the browser.

Methods for processing, gathering and handling of personal data are approved by the Estonian Academy of Arts Science committee and follow best practices of technical and ethical principles.

3."Commune Visualization 1" (above).
digital print. Matthias Sildnik. 2016. 

Following this logic, I propose a think tank to support this project. This think tank gathers and analyses data via online polls concerning the preferences of working and living conditions of individuals. Instead of being founded by one private company and directed towards the development of a specific corporate environment, this think tank would collect everyone’s preferences regardless of institutional membership. By doing so it avoids simply serving the aims of any specific private or public enterprise. The institutional body of this project — Robert Oppenheimer’s Charitable Think Tank (ROCTT) (manifesto on the right) — embodies neoliberal principles in its proclaimed aims, rhetoric and aesthetics. Its branding, subtitled ‘How Does One Become What One is Under the Sun of Capitalism’ (4), is a three-metre in diameter logo, an inflated sphere floating in the air, covered with a Jackson Pollock-style pattern. This pattern resembles a camouflage pattern for a military corporate initiative and also embodies the neoliberal preoccupation with disruption and opacity. The sphere symbolises the sun, that enables and disables growth according to its own principles. The actual principles themselves are not clearly articulated and therefore leave directions for virtual integration open. The institutional interventionist body is ephemeral in the sense that its name, specific goals, projects and symbolism are elements open to change after a period. This amorphous entity reflects and adopts conditions imposed by neoliberal perception economies. At the same time, the data and connections gathered through it persist on another level that keeps operating regardless of various phase shifts or decays of the institutional body or bodies representing it.

This research combines social philosophies, conceptual intervention and generative art techniques in art practice. In my work, the development of digital systems is instrumental. It provides an experimental framework to gain insight into collective individuation processes as they develop in socio-psychic reality. These systems involve the processing and analysis of data gathered for the project, and code that processes this data in accordance to inscriptions made by participants. Algorithms generate geometry and connect various formations immanent to the dataset (diagram 8). In this way, this practice represents a transdisciplinary synthesis in which social intervention as a conceptual art technique connects with the philosophy of technology and individuation and technologies of generative art.

1. "Privatized Communes" (above). digital print.

Matthias Sildnik. 2016

The print depicts formations which were generated from the results of the survey. The description of the generative process (below) is followed by a presentation of specific groups (right). The detailed rendering of the overall view including all formation is presented above. All plates can be click zoomed.

9. "ROCTT manifesto". Matthias Sildnik. 2015.


The artistic method presented in this exposition incorporates generative art technologies to study and enable collective individuations. The medium of an opinion poll grounds generative processes in a way that is not static but rather open to the forces it brings forth. It is the pre-individual field, which is the source for the ever-increasing flow of incoming elements. The collective inscription produces elements that feed the process of techno-social individuation. The creation of collective assemblages connects individuals who desire production.

This exposition describes the autonomy of a generative system as implicitly interlinked with the human autonomy that creates these systems, as well as with the humans interacting with them. It is an attempt to think of autonomy as digital tertiary retention, as encapsulations of active human intention transferred to a passive digital form. Despite being passive, these can still be productive since they enable and disable pathways of generative processes acting on the pre-individual ground. Since the form of these encapsulations is not static, they are structures that always remain open for reconfiguration.

This treatment of the notion of autonomy offers another interpretive twist on the generative system. Instead of thinking of autonomy as the capability of a system to produce an aesthetic object of varying degrees of quality, autonomy itself becomes the product of genesis. Since the key actors in the interplay of autonomy are the autonomy of the creator of the system, the autonomy of the system and the autonomy of the user, together all of these make up an assemblage of elements. These elements constantly form unique connections in the system. The various possibilities of how participants, engineers and systems can modulate these connections remain part of ongoing research.

The individuations considered here contribute to collective perceptions of would-be worlds that do not remain isolated in the personal sphere or, worse, turn into an escapist imaginary. They feed back into the collective and make possible their future intensification and rearrangement. These visions construct protentional geographies, simultaneously perceiving and creating the world.





I would like to thank Rolf Hughes, Margus Ott, Liina Unt, Danielle Wilde, Estonian Academy of Arts Doctoral School and Science Committee and JAR editorial board for their efforts, valuable discussions, guidance and support.

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Robert Oppenheimer´s Charitable Think Tank (ROCTT)

Robert Oppenheimer´s Charitable Think Tank (ROCTT) is a non-profit initiative focused on cultivating institutional brainstorming culture around the world. ROCTT aims to create a broad resource of ideas and projects. All statistics and analysis that is related to idea production is public and charity-based. The concentrated resource is not directed at certain age, job or other target group. Ideas bank is open for everyone, who is interested in using creative ideas for any purpose. The ROCTT institution is not a profit-based enterprise instead it develops its mission for the society. Robert Oppenheimer's contribution to the development of the structure of institutional brainstorming, is the legacy, where ROCTT draws its basic values. These values are articulated in the goals of ROCCT initiative:


  1. To spread and develop brainstorming culture;
  2. To increase the amount of incidentally spreading non-profit information as positive chaos;
  3. To ecourage individual ideas production under the conditions of acknowledged institutional
  4. surveillance;
  5. To map the process of collective ideas production;
  6. To reduce the need for privacy.

4.“How Does One Become What One is Under the Sun of Capitalism (3D logo of ROCTT)”. Inflated polymer sphere. Matthias Sildnik. 2015. 

Documentation of the exhibition "Happy Space" (2015, 2016) presenting installation views.


6. “Game of Devouring”. 3D simulation/animation, presented on LCD screen. Matthias Sildnik. 2018. 

Video clip above, click to play.


5.“Surplus”. 3D simulation/animation, presented on 3 LCD projectors. Matthias Sildnik. 2018. 

The video clip on the right shows a single animation sequence. The exhibition "Midscape" (2018) is documented in the video (below), which presents these sequences composed into an installation piece. Click for video playback.


The algorithm that creates these groupings takes, as an input, a register containing the set of elements. It traverses the whole dataset, grouping records that have as many similarly directed preferences as possible. It groups together these records based on the highest common denominator. Groupings represent individuals that, together, have the least possible number of antagonistic preferences. Note that having a common preference in a negative direction also means less antagonism in the group. Furthermore, the register that is used to traverse the initial data is Register 1 in WEDF in the case of Privatized Communes (1), since the aim is to search for structures that are formed in relation to required employer-provided services. It signals to what extent an individual prefers a company-like environment and what makes up the specifics of this preference, in terms of a constellation of services.


A generative network structure, as described above, is a means to act upon and explore processes of collective social individuation. As Bernard Stiegler suggests, Simondon himself does not fully comprehend the role of technical objects as actors in the process of collective individuation (Stiegler 2019). For Stiegler, contemporary, digital, reticulated technology plays a key role in these processes. Elaborating on Husserlian phenomenology, he analyses this technology as tertiary digital retention, which is a form of exosomatised collective memory, a successor to written language and its classical mechanisms of archiving data. Stiegler’s approach to Simondon is important here because it allows full interoperability between technical individualisation and collective individuation. Without going into the intricacies differentiating individualisation and individuation here, it should be noted that individualisation, according to Simondon, is mainly a differentiation immanent to an individual, while individuation is a differentiation between individuals in a collective.

Following Stiegler, I interpret the formations proposed here as phenomena of collective individuation in the digital environment. So, besides being an element included in a technical individual, a single proposal in a register is also an element of collective individuation. An element of individuation is a unit of signification that acts as a link through which one connects and is differentiated in a collective. The individual is formed as a disparate sequence of these elements in a process of techno-social individuation. These elements arise from the pre-individual field which is the ground of individuation. Individuals form ensembles in their mutual connections and these ensembles or groups are generated based on registers of disinhibition (WEDF) as seen in Privatized Communes.

An inquiry into the collective process of individuation becomes possible via a proposed digital layer (WEDF and its analytic and generative counterpart). Instead of analysing and generalising the results and presenting these generalisations as epistemological products or simply new knowledge, it takes a generative approach. This means that collected data is a base that enables the generation of connections and formations. This approach enables Simondonian genetic encyclopaedism (Simondon [1958] 2016: 111-121) through artistic methods for a generative system. A genetic encyclopaedia is not a static collection of epistemological products, but a structure that captures the processes of changes of different morphological stages of technical or living individuals. This comprehension of an episteme as a dynamic process rather than static form makes generative technology naturally suitable for inquiries into processes of collective individuation.

I elaborate on the problem of how a static poll can act as a base for collective individuation in the section titled ‘Desire and Disobedience — Deterritorializing the Opinion Poll’. In short, no static formation can capture the pre-individual field of individuation. Instead, any technical layer must be flexible enough to enable movement between pre-individual field and technical signification. The section titled ‘Transferred Autonomy’ digs deeper into the question of how the human subject can relate to the digital environment and enquires into the relationship between human and computational autonomy. The section titled ‘Computational Autonomous Social Genesis’ describes different artistic techniques combined in this practice to analyse and enable collective individuation in the digital environment.

8. Research diagram

This diagram maps all the core concepts in this exposition. This visual guide indicates how the theoretical and practical elements interrelate.


7. “Dream Enclave 1 and 2”. 3D renderings of group formations, presented on LCD screen. Matthias Sildnik. 2018. 

What kind of artistic developments can the idea of transferred autonomy in relation to a generative art system bring forth? Influenced by early applications of system theory in the arts, as in the work of Jack Burnham (Burnham [1968] 2015: 115) and Hans Haacke (Haacke 2016), my interest has been drawn to socially engaged and informed practices. Haacke, for example, started as a painter, continuing the avant-garde tradition. He was experimenting with optical phenomena, moving through kinetic forms toward physical and biological systems. The systems approach was his first breakthrough, since it moved his focus from the field of cultural representation, as in classical and modernist painting, towards entities that have an existence of their own, outside perceivable and culturally-signified registers. From there, he took the logical step toward social structures, which he called real-time social systems (Haacke 2016: 48.), as in Shapolsky et al. Manhattan real Estate Holdings a Real Time Social System (Haacke 1987: 86). In this work he presented graphs and photographic documentation of the dealings and real estate holdings of a shady entrepreneur and his collaborators. The work is a landmark, since it is among the first artistic works that directly entered the sphere of capital and ownership without retreating to symbolism and aesthetic exploration. It operated as a view into a ‘real-time’ social process.

What still remains a challenge is how to move criticism toward construction, since critical awareness can, at best, serve as a starting point of developments in a desired situation. I try to extend critique by opening perceivable pathways into fields either suppressed or hidden due to actualised formations in social structures. Following Gilles Deleuze’s idea of a parallelism between the virtual and actual existence of an entity, I interpret the state of social circumstances as an actualised formation always open to changes arising from its inner, virtual structure (Deleuze [1968] 2013: 313). Gaining insight into what such a structure comprises is a goal of this ongoing practice. Using methods of generative art alongside institutional critique and technologies of polling and simulation, an inquiry into this field proceeds as described in the sections ‘Registers of Disinhibition’ and ‘Desire and Disobedience’.

An artistic experiment by Komar and Melamid, Painting by Numbers (Komar, Melamid 1997), manifests an artistic technique that used a polling mechanism to construct artistic imagery. In their study, they collected data about preferences in painting to devise the most beautiful painting. Using accumulated data and relevant means in specific attributes, they compiled the most popular elements to create paintings. In my practice, I also use data to generate imagery but, instead of using statistical averages, I interpret data in ways that consider every individual separately. This means that generalisation does not exclude individual profiles, but rather groups form by relative distance in data space. Also, beauty is not my primary interest, but rather social conditions. The special properties of working spaces in Privatized Communes are personal preferences. In providing spatial representations, I use a combination of collected data and generative algorithms, specifically an algorithm that uses random numbers and instructions about placement logic to generate the layout of the rooms in a group. My practice to explore social structures therefore incorporates formalist generative techniques such as those explored by Manfred Mohr (Keiner 1994) or Sol LeWitt and others.

I interpret data collected from a specific subject as an encapsulation of transferred autonomy. This is a cut-out of autonomous action represented in digital form or, as Bernard Stiegler proposes, digital tertiary retention (2019: §13). The system processes every subject according to their preferences. As described in the section ‘Desire and Disobedience’, this representation is not static, nor is the number of elements in it a constant. It is also important to note that different processes in an environment can be subject to decision making. This means that everyone taking part can change their respective representation, thus causing the system to process differently. The openness to the forces arising from the ground makes the environment dynamic.

To describe this form of process in the generative system, I use the term ‘autonomous computational social genesis’. This juxtaposition of terms seems to incorporate all the important parts of the process. In this environment, an autonomous computational process connects with autonomous human action (8). It ties multiple human inputs on a united plane and processes them in ways that consider each individual input, so the process is also social. Such a dynamic technological system makes it possible to go beyond critical representations of external social systems, as seen for example in Haacke’s John Weber Gallery Visitors’ Profile 1 and 2 (Haacke 1975: 14-58). Rather than make generalized overviews of the data, real-time feedback interactions are made within parts of the system, which are then analysed to generate formations that present a single person within a larger collective structure.

As described in the section ‘Registers of Disinhibition’, the WEDF (2) on the technical level is a combination of tabular poll data, an object-relational data structure with related mapping algorithms, and procedural algorithms, that perform operations on the integrated structure of this graph and tabular data. The resulting multi-agent generative network is a structure that makes autonomous computational social genesis possible. Each participant inscribes a representation of a disparate autonomous entity or agent. Together they form a complex network that can act as a generator, distributor, or arbitrary operator. In the case presented here, they are agents that contribute to the generation of a collective working environment. However, this does not mean the framework only deals with one theme.

In the WEDF, the search for the ideal working environment extends the sphere of the workspace itself to make different developmental routes possible. These routes and extensions need not be static but can be open to contribution and modification by participants themselves, as elaborated in ‘Desire and Disobedience’. This environment, in a way, enables participants to affect the overall process, granting it with approvals and denials. The overall network is a network of stoppages and free paths. The segmentation algorithms sort the zones by greater output and map relative connections between these zones. We can view the network as a contract space, namely a collective distributed contract of relative allowance and denial. This web is the basis for genesis because it forms the very pathways along which that genesis can proceed. One thing to note is that the outcomes of this collective contract are not fully predictable. The zones that its overall structure might suppress are uncertain. This network can enhance or suppress the individual autonomy of an agent depending on its overall structure. Either way, autonomy becomes a product determined by the generative interplay of individual inscriptions and their relation to each other through the overall process of recurrent cascading formation.

Participants can allow policies that have indirect consequences, which could lead to a dissatisfying formation. This web, however, allows for reformation by reconfiguration and offers a simple way to determine the source of an unwanted outcome. The autonomous computational social genesis can simulate and reconfigure interrelations of collective and individual autonomy. By doing this, the collective can traverse different potential configurations of the network in creative ways. This structure narrows the gap between the observer, the observed, the participant and the computational infrastructure. It aims to bring these roles and functions into proximity and allow direct overlapping of these functions. This treatment of a system proposes functional distribution in a manner that each node in the network is simultaneously a product and a part of an overall production line and process that produces it.

I intend to capture these dynamic processes in a genealogical form. Digital media allows various ways to proceed in this direction. Animation pieces Surplus (5) and Game of Devouring (6) approach the dynamic plane of social genesis via allegorical installation. At the same time, they are studies of important technological and conceptual methods, which are crucial to this research. The exhibition ‘Happy Space’ is an installation setting that incorporates a physical object, the ROCTT (4) symbol logo, as the manifestation of an all-inclusive corporate body that segments and produces stratification on its surface. Privatized Communes (1) is presented as a corporate informational graphic tableau, with general statistics on the opposite wall. The large-scale visualisation is a vision of a collective psyche. While ‘Happy Space’ is about capturing a single state and describing its complex relationships, the ‘Midscape’ is all about living dynamics.

The material aspects of these presented artworks and their related practice develop on two parallel levels. Since conceptually and technically most of the presented pieces involve the processing of data, data is a material. But as data physically exists in electric circuitry of computer hardware, its material form needs to extend toward more perceivable domains. Computer graphics, as in animation pieces on LCD screens and projectors, are the closest to the original material, while producing prints achieves greater materiality, and physical three-dimensional objects such as ROCTT (4) are a metaphorical treatment of the underlying idea. All these different objects are parts of a spatial installation aiming to provide an immersive bodily and sensory experience. The gradual material connection to processes of data manipulation is a rhetorical means in composing installation spaces, seeking to bring the data’s subjectivity into proximity with physical, sensory, and cultural human life.

In doing this, I emphasise the importance and impact of the data industry on human, everyday life and explore means for a less opaque and functionally reciprocal interrelation and adaptation between these domains. Although I am addressing the problematic of human existence within human-created technological infrastructures, this does not mean that I consider the human as the ultimate source of autonomy. The natural environment, in its complexity, surrounds and provides the associated milieu for human beings and remains an actor in every aspect of human activity. I think of human autonomy as an associated milieu that arises when the human mind adopts the structures of the natural environment and socio-historical context within itself. This process of adoption creates relational territories that human individuals can enact upon. The works and projects here focus on interhuman and collective technological relations, and the autonomy of these relations, leaving all other aspects and actors indirectly addressed. The indirect relation to the surrounding natural environment is a point to consider, since all of the services and conditions required by participants of WEDF must ultimately consider the actual resources and natural conditions at hand, in case some formation gathers enough support and moves toward actualisation. It is also important to understand that these transferred autonomy networks can process arguments relating to resource distribution and environmental considerations. This is precisely the distributed process of social adaptation of an associated milieu, in which a dynamic whole is formed and can take relevant conditions into account. This is a recurrent process that is essentially a dialogue between technological, social and environmental forces.

Contemporary data economies produce a dynamic that treats the subject as a passive actor in relation to mechanisms of data accumulation and analysis. This is much like the neurotic, described by Deleuze and Guattari in Anti-Oedipus ([1972] 2000: 135), who sits on a couch outputting the contents of her mind, while the Freudian analyst gives meaning and signification to the streaming content in terms of an Oedipal scheme of representation. This representational infrastructure guides the patient to produce content in accordance with pre-established rules, after a period of treatment. Contemporary data forms a subject similarly, since the representational mechanics lie outside users’ reach and control. The difference is that this time Freud is a code executed on a server, establishing the routes and connections beforehand. In techno-capitalism, Oedipus becomes the architect.

While developments in social media concentrate on intensifying personalised channels of information flow, opinion polls still serve as the predominant method for gathering opinions of larger groups of people in relation to a specific question. Polls adapt to media environments organically and take digital form with obvious ease. As part of a more general technological framework, polls are used to present trends in the data economy and aid research practices. Influenced by the same pressures described above, people are objects upon which the data industry imposes arbitrary signifying schemes. These schemes are technological, as represented by the specific code base and technical logic of the poll, and ideological, due to how the poll frames the problem. Most opinion polls today contribute to a knowledge production model that presents the separation of two parties. First, those who frame the object of inquiry, and second, those who relate to that object.

A principle of this project, however, is to avoid a clear separation between these parties. The opinion poll in my practice is a social entity or an event, a connection between individuals and objects of various kinds, rather than a means to extract accurate statements about a social situation. I reinterpret and reframe the medium of the opinion poll in the light of an assemblage of enunciation, a concept proposed by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari ([1987] 2003: 88-89). An assemblage is an intermingling, a specific configuration of signs and physical objects or bodies, that encapsulates the incorporeal transformations imposed on these objects. Incorporeal transformations are an operation of assigning a new state, in a regime of signs, to an object under consideration. This might include, for example, signing a contract with an employer, in which nothing changes to the physical body of an employee, but a new set of obligations and legal regulations now make up an incorporeal ambience surrounding the physical body. The legal, economic and ethical systems at work in a society contribute to the collective assemblage of enunciation — that is, a formation of power capable of imposing the aforementioned transformations on individuals.

The artistic practice here reframes the opinion poll as an intervention into a collective assemblage of enunciation. It is no longer a method for extracting knowledge from a social reality but an act of creating new relations to a collective assemblage. The episteme is still conceivable, but it is of a different kind. It is reflective and constructive rather than analytic and generalising. As seen in Privatized Communes (1) or the three-dimensional visualisation (3) of WEDF, inclusive formations and constellations take shape, instead of generalising individual input. Thresholds based on shared elements make up the gradual distinctions between groupings, rather than pre-established categories or principles. Principles of segmentation can be objects of inscription, open to participants, rather than prescribed by conventional methods or presumptions. Each grouping forms a new centre of intensity that starts a new recursive movement, to carve out new zones and connections in shared territories.

Guattari describes this process, from the standpoint of an individual, as enunciative recursion (2013: 166). Enunciative recursion generates new psychic territories from previous ones and reconnects them in various ways. The counterpart of enunciative recursion is enunciative fractalisation (Guattari 2013: 178), a cognitive generative process that proceeds in two opposite directions: Chronic and Aïonic. Chronic fractalization is cognition that acts upon perception and memories of spatiotemporal flows, territories called machinic phyla, generating retentional or protentional forms accordingly. The second is a singular, purely intensive and non-spatiotemporal cognition that acts upon the previous one by opening it up to different contexts, agglomerating disparate, enunciative units to its workings. Aionic movement is the desire that cuts open the structured registers of the discourse. 

My practice situates enunciative recursion and fractalization at the centre of techno-social individuation (8). While the disinhibition acts in the domain of interests, desire arises from the intensities connecting the individual with the pre-individual, surrounding the spheres of interest (Deleuze, Guattari [1972] 2000: 282, 346-349) as it affects the very conditions that those interests arise from. In relation to any kind of discourse, desire is always disobedient. As a process that can mould discourse from within an individual, it enables an individual’s desire to contribute to the construction of collectively shared assemblages. Elements in proposed registers act as construction blocks for assemblages that are as open to desire as possible, at the same time connect to other individuals’ productions. It aims not to cut the desiring production by closing it into the individual or personal sphere. It is an experiment that explores to what extent the desire of different individuals can interconnect via digital technology.

Guattari suggests that enunciative recursion imposes a cartographic logic (Guattari 2013: 170). I suggest here that this is the case only when the viewpoint of an individual is the basis of analysis. If we are considering enunciative recursion as a collective process of desiring production, the outcomes of this process are geographies rather than mappings of pre-existing territories. Instead of individual, retentional cartographies, formations and visualisations here are collective, protentional geographies. As Bernard Stiegler (2019: §130) proposes, there is no future for a disintegrated individual; only individuals in collective formations have a future, in terms of a shared vision of continuous, cyclic and fulfilled existence. The closing of an individual results in nihilism and disruption, which is not a viable vision of the future but rather an undesirable outcome of industrial and consumerist barbarism.

Collective, enunciative recursion generates virtual, protentional geographies that make up various formations, presenting either ‘neganthropic’ or disruptive tendencies. These formations are also assemblages as described above. According to Stiegler, the ‘neganthropic’ refers to a dynamic that acts in opposition to the entropy caused by human activity. We can understand this opposition as caring for one’s surroundings and recognising the relatedness of the environment and human life. It is in simple everyday procedures such as cleaning and maintaining personal hygiene, or on a global scale in industrial policies restricting large-scale pollution. In more general terms, it describes a cultured way of life in all its different manifestations. Anthropy, that is, entropy caused by human activity, is the opposite and is manifest in the lack of care for and disruption to environmental, economic, and cultural domains.

The WEDF project generates the virtual geographies of neganthropy and anthropy. The installation exhibition ‘Midscape’ (2018) comprises three pieces: Game of Devouring (6), Surplus (5), and Dream Enclave 1, 2 (7). These explore different movements related either to disruption and anthropy or to the transindividual and neganthropy. The purpose is to study the various dynamics between formations generated by the polling structure.

Surplus (5) investigates ‘immanent morphogenesis’ (DeLanda 2000). The term refers to a process in which distinct elements form a connected structure, where the genesis does not obey universal norms, but rather rules immanent to these connections of elements, describing how each element reacts to its surrounding environmental conditions. The dynamic of the heterogeneous elements gives rise to emergent complexity.

In the case of Surplus (5), Craig Reynolds’ (1987) boid structure offers a starting point and is further developed to enable and increase complexity arising from simple rules. The boid’s model operates as a swarm or group of agents, each of which regulates the swarm’s movement based on proximity to other members and the direction of the entire swarm. In the case of Surplus (5), the algorithm functions differently: there is no single direction for a group but multiple different ones. It makes the dynamic more complex and resonates with the differentiation of regions presented in Privatized Communes, only this time focusing on the real-time dynamics of morphogenesis. As the number of directions increases or decreases and the mutual reactions vary per agent, further, more complex dynamics arise. These simulations study the possible structural changes in formations that are based on WEDF poll structure. The 3-D animation of Surplus (5) is a real-time screen capture of a simulation comprising 1500 agents, rendered using a real-time global illumination algorithm.

Game of Devouring (6) revisits John Conway’s (Gardner 1970) cellular automata Game of Life. This scheme produces complex movements on a regular two-dimensional lattice. Simple rules govern the change of state of each cell resulting in a tremendous variety of emergent patterns, producing thousands of iterations of the simulation until finally converging in a mute state with very little to no variation. Game of Devouring (6) presents an extreme acceleration of this simulation on a very large board. The board is comprised of 16000 x 8000 squares and its iteration speed is 60 whole board changes per second. This exhausts the thousands of productive iterations in about three minutes. A simple post-processing effect, which represents zones where movement has been active recently, helps to distinguish the relative zones of intensity. The simulation starts from a completely green intensely active state on the board, proceeding to separate zones of activity before culminating in black and white debris. It characterises the disruptive, accelerated disinhibition of the Anthropocene on a planetary scale. On a more general level, it provides a way to explore and connect the activity of vast amounts of individual agents on a unified plane.

Dream Enclave 1, 2 (7) are still images of group formations of the Working Environment Form (2), presented on LCD screens. These are objects that are subject to change, and their present form is temporary. They are open to the aforementioned dynamics. As a part of the whole installation, they link physical space and the abstract social sphere. The installation begins with collective visions generated by the poll, proceeding through the dynamic of transindividuality, acting always on physical and perceivable space. It attempts to integrate various aspects of the overall process, in a spatial configuration. As the Game of Devouring (6) screen is in dialogue with an empty gallery space, it suggests a strategic interpretation of emptiness, since emptiness can always serve as a path for various movements. Surplus (5) emphasises the surrounding crowdedness and intensity of closeness. Together these movements and spatial configurations explore different dynamics immanent to assemblages generated on poll structures, opening up various paths for different levels of generative processes.

It is the exploration of pathways, through which movements of desire traverse the registers of the poll. It is thus possible to use the formation of an opinion poll as a plane of organising and reorganising collective assemblages of enunciation, instead of measuring a likelihood of a specific assumption or hypothesis. Deterritorializing the opinion poll, and making it an interface of desiring inscription, enables the immanent connection between assemblages of desire and collective assemblages of enunciation, via digital generative technology.