Sunday, June 21, 2009

Galanter's complexist manifesto

I recently came across an article by the generative artist, writer and academic Philip Galanter: an admittedly manifesto-like piece in which he proposes what he calls "Complexism - a new science-friendly paradigm for the arts and humanities".

Galanter discusses modernism and postmodernism in the context of complexity theory from science. He sees post-modernism as offering a corrective to some of the unfortunate aspects of modernism, but now post-modernism has fallen has fallen victim to its own problems. Galanter's Complexism is intended to reconcile the two via the theory and practice of complex systems, and he presents the following table:

ProgressCirculationEmergence and Co-evolution
The AuthorThe TextThe Generative Process
TruthNo TruthIncomplete truth known to be not fully provable
Pro FormalismAnti FormalismForm as public process not privilege
HierarchyCollapseConnectionist networks

There is a lot to be unpacked here. Galanter expands on the table in the 20 pages of the article, which is online at He has also started a blog in which he intends to further develop these ideas, at

I am certainly pleased to see work like this proceeding beyond the now sterile debate of modernism versus postmodernism, and especially work that deals seriously with some of the extraordinary advances in scientific thinking of the last half-century or more.


  1. Hi Gordon. Warren Burt pointed out your post on this article. You may be interested in my comments, blogged here:
    ciao, David

  2. Complexism seems to cover similar ground to my own digimodernism.

  3. I had not previously heard of digimodernism; the introduction to Alan Kirby's book "Digimodernism" is on Alan's website at I don't know enough about either digimodernism or complexism to comment in any detail, but at first glance, digimodernism is much more specifically about "digital textuality"; Galanter's project is admittedly embryonic but potentially more wide-ranging, and has a more substantial engagement with science. I'm willing to be corrected!