Member 1986
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(M, 38)
San Francisco, US
Immortal since Nov 19, 2008
Uplinks: 0, Generation 3

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Generative art, visualism, code, maps, geometry, psyche, thumping bass, lamps, evolution, augmented reality, flow, photography, connection
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    From wilfriedhoujebek
    Crystal Constructors
    From rene
    The Age of Optimization...
    From Michael Gaio
    Meta-Language Technique :...
    From iPenguin
    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    From lign's personal cargo

    Magnetic Wind

    Here is an introductory post to explain why I'm here and what I'm working on. First, enjoy the video above - then let me share some personal history, various things I find interesting, and try to tie them together. As a kid Logowriter fascinated me - the convergence of computer programming and drawing - teach the computer step-by-step rules for making pictures, then watch them appear on the screen.

    PENDOWN ; lowering the pen so it draws again
    FD 20 ; drawing a line and moving
    PENUP ; lifting the pen so it won't draw anything

    In high school I wrote TI-BASIC calculator programs during study hall that grew monochrome pixelated gardens and crawling vines. The "rand" command (random number generator) was my best friend, adding uncertainty to the growing scenery and generating serendipitous compositions.

    When I started listening to Brian Eno and reading interviews, his ideas about generative art & music resonated strongly with me: offloading an aesthetic sensibility to machines and letting them create new pieces faster than a human could paint and taken in original directions.

    In the future, you won't buy artists' works; you'll buy software that makes original pieces of "their" works, or that recreates their way of looking at things. You could buy a Shostakovich box, or you could buy a Brahms box. You might want some Shostakovich slow-movement-like music to be generated. So then you use that box. Or you could buy a Brian Eno box. So then I would need to put in this box a device that represents my taste for choosing pieces.

    - Gossip is Philosophy, 1995

    And so, I eventually found myself at a showing of his 77 Million Paintings in San Francisco. "400 bodies laid out in complete silence, bathed in the glow of 48,000 lumens of high definition imagery" immersed in a slow, chiming, bass-heavy soundscape. I made a small drawing in my notebook:

    A stream of inspiration came tumbling into my head as if opened into some collective idea-space, and pages and pages of notes had filled themselves in by the end of the event. Patterns, shapes and forms that could be unified in a single, ever-shifting world. Some months later I left my job as a 3D graphics developer, dug out these notes and started coding.

    First steps

    6 months later

    "Makes me think of Egypt and the Nile. Snakes, desert, and a pyramid," says a commenter. What I had in mind creating each of these forms separately: extruded Delaunay triangulations, platonic solids, curly ornament, and some hybrid of moss, striped socks, and octopus tentacles (I like stealing art forms in nature).

    I think culture is an oracular system in a way, it's a way in which we can map things that are quite vague and muddled up in here, out on an external matrix of some kind. This is exactly what happens with the I Ching: you pull an I Ching thing, and it says something to you, and you say, 'What does that line mean?' What you're really saying is, 'Which part of me can I describe in that way?' And as soon as you do that, the bits of you start to separate out, and you can start to look at the dynamics of them. I have always thought that this is what I wanted artworks to do. I don't want to make things that are transmitters; I don't have anything to say in that sense of, 'Here's my message, and I'll shout it down this long tube called the artwork, and you'll get it at the end if you're clever enough.' What I want to do is to make things that you can open and make use of, which become a place where you can create meaning.

    - Eno, Strategies for making sense, 1995

    Allowing the computer to breed shapes and structures, juxtapositions and color combinations seeded from visual motifs I find interesting. Apophenia, pareidolia, the Ganzfeld effect - names for seeing (literally) your own mind laid out on an external screen of randomness and fine detail.

    Take a look at my flickr favorites, images I've been collecting for inspiration and possible integration into my project. Now visit the SC gallery. When I found this I was blown away, overcome with dizziness, a sensation of connecting with a larger part of myself out there. (A few artists & exact images I recognized from my own collection.) Also a sense of being terribly unoriginal.

    It turns out we have thriving and prolific communities of computational / generative artists online with eerily similar visual obsessions. Here are a few pointers to some notable work:

    generator.x and its flickr pool
    dataisnature, jared tarbell, theverymany
    Processing, a "language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and interactions."

    Why are these patterns so fascinating? What are we getting at? For one, they emerge from simple rules, repeated endlessly. Maybe entoptic phenomena figure into our aesthetic tastes and pursuit of complexity - tendencies of the visual system to construct certain patterns based on physical neural interactions.

    In retrospect, a common thread through my inspiration and creative work: higher-level flow and field gradients visible over a vast array of these smaller discrete elements. The forest for the trees; the wind through the forest (in some sense, all realtime 3D graphics inherit this property, since objects are fundamentally meshes of triangles). Escher was my favorite artist growing up. He does it too:

    Escher, Metamorphosis I

    Did you ever play with magnets and iron filings as a kid? I loved that stuff.

    How about sheets of temperature-sensitive liquid crystal?

    Vector fields, paint, smoke, clouds, and weather systems.

    I think as we spend more time immersed in vast informational structures (say, social networks), we become more adept at conceptualizing the patterns of flow over them - rather than thinking on the level of individual interactions and transactions, awareness moves up a level of abstraction, to fields of potential, flows of information, energy, attention and resources. I find fluid dynamics and energy fields beautiful models of visualization. Thanks for reading! More snapshots of this project can be found on flickr and vimeo.

    Sun, Jan 25, 2009  Permanent link

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