Slave To The Machine
Brit does the art his computer tells him to

Hidden somewhere in London, an automated art factory is spewing out a mass of paper flowcharts. It's picking out unique instruction sets, specifying subject matter, size, shape, medium, and color. And all its inventor -- former shipbuilder and current Brit artist Keith Tyson -- has to do is create them.

See also...
... by Chris Campion
... in the Scope section
... from August 19, 1999

Since the Artmachine's inception seven years ago, Tyson has produced some 40 finished pieces a year from the 500 proposals it generates. It's a process that calls for him to invent work-arounds that sometimes take years to finish. The 38 instructions for "Country Fair With Prize Tent" demanded a painting that was not only 26 feet by 10 feet in size but 18 inches thick. Tyson's solution was to use bathroom sealant to create gravity-defying, 18-inch spiked dollops of primary-colored paint. But it took him three years to complete because, he says, "It took half an hour to mix just a tiny bit of paint and the fumes were atrocious."

Totally different instructions came up with "Expanded Photographic Encapsulation," 101 touch-sensitive lighting rods connected to a mass of wires, each one stenciled with a word like an interactive association game. Picking up a baton marked "Lennon" lights up "Hitchcock" which links to "The Birds," "Seagulls," "Beach Boys," and so on. Tyson describes it as "My memory of a found photograph solidly represented as a sculptural object."

It's all part of what he calls "an ongoing pseudo-scientific enquiry of the world using many different systems." One of those systems, "Table Top Tales," forms a series of found surfaces which Tyson will look at "until they reveal their significance to me and then I'll write it all down." A piece titled "8 Duke Mews" consists of a sawed-off section of white-washed floorboards from a former [demolished] home, sketched over with a wildly elaborate metaphysical chart of the universe, not unlike the workings of a mildly psychotic, obsessive-compulsive individual.

Tyson admits he's like a slot-machine junkie. "You pull the lever, metaphorically speaking, and then you go, 'I wonder what it would look like if I pull it again.' So you have to do the next one, and the next one." He jokes that he is chained to the Artmachine until death do them part, but denies he's a mere slave to his creation.

"It's not so much master-slave as a blurring of the boundaries between it and me. It's a kind of relationship with a way of thinking, which is other than myself but completely created by myself, utilizing chance to get away from the autobiographical."

Of course, nobody else has ever been allowed to see the Artmachine. You have to wonder if it actually exists anywhere outside of his head, or if the artworks are simply the product of a deranged mind. But if he is crazy, Keith Tyson is too clever to let on.

Chris Campion lives and writes in London, contributing to (among others) The Daily Telegraph and Dazed & Confused. He also produces his own degenerate art for his T-shirt company, Cloak & Dagger