Nathan Selikoff’s New Heights in Computer Art

By Egberto Almenas. Originally published on Suite101.

Nathan Selikoff’s computer art earns top tier status in the Fine Arts.

In validating Postmodernism, no other element of discussion stands so impervious to controversy than the quality leap entailed in the late convergence between art and science. The artwork of Nathan Selikoff epitomizes a genuine break from gadgetries meant to profit from the neoteric vogue, and which in the interest of this exploit have remained aesthetically aloof to Fine Art lovers.

Reticence has always acted as a hardening counterpoint for each successive shift toward of a new age. In the early days of the Renaissance, purists had sneered at painters who began experimenting with oil. The delayed drying property of the innovative mixture, they contended, allowed for multiple corrections reckoned unnecessary to the truly talented.

Expressions cranked out of the latest electronic cogs have not scored any better, though it is by this manner that Nathan Selikoff beams as he accesses and offers beyond doubt an advanced, postmodern experience.

Glitches in Computer Art as Fine Art

Often perceived merely as a combined derivative, computer art’s reliance on hands free, hard science (or the left side of the brain, as Nathan Selikoff quips), stirs theoretical issues about the creative worth of its doer. For many, the occasional real-time and site-specific interaction compounds the synthetic wile and foils even further the authenticity—however mythical—of the artistic event.

The immensely malleable and transient electronic visualizations that Daniel J. Sandin pioneered back in the 1960’s also turned the new emerging medium into a market-elusive commodity in the Fine Arts. Almost two decades later, “a paradigm shift,” as Donna J. Cox suggested, had yet to come about for “art criticism to assimilate the nonlinear branching of aesthetic activities in our era,” and here lies the main foible with the often-derogated computer artist.

The Postmodern Zeitgeist

Critics who clone institutionalized discourse should indeed tune freely to the dictates of the postmodern Zeitgeist. Nathan Selikoff’s Faces of Chaos, for instance, can generate an infinite number of variances out of the same theme matrix, which may at first strike the “unassimilated” as nothing more than recycled, hi-tech versions of Rorschach’s inkblots.

Viewed from a prospective angle, the Faces of Chaos series ascend to a “higher dimension,” where the “Lyapunov exponent to the image plane” parses order from disorder, or stability from dynamical systems. This “meta” level exerts in turn substantiated repercussions on the main intent of Postmodernist expression: to maximize atemporal openness by the infinite possibilities that, in this case, mathematical complexity and problem solving affords.

True, as with every post-industrial avant-garde blockbuster, much bogus in the Fine Arts clings on the bandwagon effect, but the artwork of Nathan Selikoff appears to run in front, and those entangled at the belated ivory tower may be missing the real joy ride.

Art and Science

Nathan Selikoff bestrides a choral role as designer and developer, whose “intuitive aesthetic decisions” boom current thought and practice. Processes that create “mathematical and generative imagery” recap the essence of his visions. The seemingly candid stores underneath the same in-depth analysis required for effective programming. Results yield a universe of ultra-oneiric vistas, splendid in their fluid grace… and science.

His exploratory fields cover interactive algorithmic motion conceived as performance and installation, the Fibonacci (Golden) Spiral, sustainability, digital chronophotography, sprites (colossal electrical discharges occurring high above storm thunderclouds), among many others.

Aerial, or as if contemplating “from above,” Nathan Selikoff computer artwork commands more than token attention, for it anchors the desultory byproducts of a new era to a higher order of existence and beauty.

(July 3, 2010)