Stephen Bell's work is hyper-continuous and discrete. It explores boundaries in multidimensional space. His creatures have a dimensionality of their own and leave trails in space, documenting their interaction with one another. This leads to all sorts of beautiful figurations of movement in abstract form.
The hyper-continuity lies in the generative nature of the work. The user/participant can select the behaviours of the creatures and then release them in 3-D space to see if they generate interesting trails. It is the visceral nature of the work which makes it so compelling, with predator-prey behaviours being among the primary traits.
Although Bell has talked about participatory skill being important in participatory art, it only takes a bit of practice with the program to realise what generates interesting possibilities visually. However, it takes alot of expertise to generate the images Bell produces using his Smallworld and other programs.
The work is continuous (generative) in itself as well as in its reception, if that is in a participatory form. Other forms include plotter drawings from the late 70's, photographic prints and video.
The prints are discontinuous relics of the generative process, and still exude a continuity of process which is unique.
The work is generative in a systematic way, using behavioural programming. Systematic and Conceptual at root, the computer can calculate effects that the artist can't predict, or at least has come to know but can't initially predict. It takes Systems art further, into multi-dimensional space.
Perhaps this is why a meta-authorship is created, sometimes allowing the participant to experience making the work with the computer. This is all because of the use of the algorithm, which Conceptually and Systematically is an appropriate continuation in contemporary terms.
The hyper-continuity of the extrapolated algorithm is what is so interesting about Bell's work. The generative concepts of Systems art are extended to identify mapped behaviour.
Victoria Halford & Steve Beard