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Kathryn Farley, Generative Systems


Professor Sheridan referred to Generative Systems as a “self-generating centre” in which ideas about communication technologies and their application to art production could be tested in a real-world setting. (1) In keeping with her objectives concerning the research orientation of the program, Sheridan constructed a classroom environment that closely resembled a science lab. Lessons were presented in a workshop format in which guest lecturers (visiting scientists, engineers and industry executives) presented their methods of study, discussed their findings, and responded to student feedback in an immediate manner. In this video, taken from a Generative Systems class in 1980, Dr. Harold Edgerton, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT, demonstrates electronic flash strobing techniques in relation to innovations in photography. (a) In addition to speaking about their own work, guest lecturers discussed prescient issues involving the connections between art and technology studies, such as new directions in scientific inquiry brought about by creative practices, as articulated by physicist and optical engineer, Rudy Guzik. (b)

Kathryn Farley © 2007 FDL

(1) Sonia Landy Sheridan, “Mind/Senses/Hand: The Generative Systems Program at the Art Institute of Chicago 1970-1980,” Leonardo: Journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology, vol. 23, no. 2/3 (December 1990) p. 175. The article details her approaches to teaching and her reasons for starting Generative Systems.