Art from code - Generator.x
Generator.x is a conference and exhibition examining the current role of software and generative strategies in art and design. [Read more...]
Archive for October, 2005
Oct 31/05
TAGS: No Tags

Lab[au] are Manuel Abendroth, Jérôme Decock and Els Vermang,

Readme 100 - Temporary Software Art Factory

The programme for Readme 100 - Temporary Software Art Factory is online. Expect project presentations, software art theory as well as live Excel art, lots of play with code, performative live perl scripting and code music.

The festival will take place in Dortmund 4-5 November, with the core actors of the software art scene strongly represented. The festival is hosted by Hartware MedienKunstVerein Dortmund and organized by Inke Arns, Olga Goriunova, Francis Hunger and Alexei Shulgin, with Amy Alexander and Alex McLean assisting with the selection committee.

This year Readme introduces outsourcing to software art practices, a problematic but fascinating idea:

What position does an artist working with software take on outsourcing? At what point a hired coder becomes a co-author if at all? What is the probability of mutual understanding if a coder comes from a culture where the very concept of software art (and even that of contemporary art) is highly irrelevant?

Web sites like Rent A Coder acts as connection points between coders and potential clients. Readme 100 will address some of the potential results of applying these ideas from capitalist culture to artistic practice.


Cory Arcangel has done an interview with Tom Moody, who was blogged here not so long ago. There is a bit of an overlap with the NY Arts interview mentioned previously, but in the Rhizome interview Moody also talks about the specifics of working with MS Paintbrush, his music projects and the relationship between craft and digital media.

The interview is presents an artist with many facets, dealing with aspects of digital media culture but placing it in a traditional (if alternative) art context. It gives a fresh view on the new media ghetto of festivals and dedicated shows that cater to the scene, isolating electronic art from the larger art world.


Here’s a followup on the post earlier this year about John Maeda designing a skateboard for French skateboard company Mekanism. The board was released last Friday, and is available in a very limited edition of 100 decks. It will be for sale in select shops and online from jrqjd (still in stock at the time of writing). At 75 euros it is very reasonable, Mekanim has a policy of keeping their collector decks the same price as their regular line, an enviable policy for which they deserve props. There’s even a few signed by Maeda, in case you are a true fanboy.

The board (called “thrrrrrrust”) looks stylish, with a silver finish on top and a collage of arrows indicating speed on the bottom. It looks much better than in the sketches previously published, in which the design looked too clean and sterile, although that might have been due to the impossibility of representing the silver finish on the bottom. There is an interview with Mekanism by RTHQ in which they talk about the French skate scene and how they came to hook up with John Maeda.

Thanks to Fred Maechler (founder of Mekanism) and Greg Fraser, who both emailed about the release.

Paul Slocum: dot_matrix_synth

Paul Slocum: dot_matrix_synth

I remember the terror of printing school essays on my old 9-pin dot matrix printer. Not only did it take forever, it made a terrible noise and the tractor feed was prone to jamming and needed constant attention. Several times I was late for school due to printer mishaps at the very last minute. But the magic of seeing each line appear dot by dot was impressive.

dot_matrix_synth by Paul Slocum (a “geek artist/musician/hacker living in dallas, texas”) uses the dot matrix aesthetic to the maximum effect. Slocum turns Epson LQ-500 printers into musical instrument, using the sound of the printer printing pre-programmed patterns as well as the built-in error beeps to create strange and wonderful sounds. He does this by hacking both the printer hardware and software. His original intent was to create a kind of low-cost mellotron, but he quickly realized other possibilities.

The project also turns image into sound:

There is interaction between the images and music. The image dithering patterns fluctuate depending on what notes are played, and the music’s volume and rhythmic patterns change depending on the pattern in the current horizontal section of the image. The printer can store about three pages of black and white images which print in order and then repeat.

dot_matrix_synth was shown in an interactive version for last year’s Readme in Aarhus. Slocum also uses it in his live music performances. MP3s of the piece in action can be found on the project web page.


Interesting article over on OSFlash: How to structure and set up a Flash project without using the Flash IDE. Since OSFlash was last blogged here the Open Source Flash community has matured quite a bit, with literally dozens of new initiatives springing up.


Ah, yes, the holy Grail of programming: Writing software that writes software. Mostly it conjures up visions of films like the Matrix and Terminator series, featuring autonomous soft/hardware gone amok. But some people over at IBM think it’s underestimated:

One of the most under-used programming techniques is writing programs that generate programs or program parts. Learn why metaprogramming is necessary and look at some of the components of metaprogramming (textual macro languages, specialized code generators). See how to build a code generator and get a closer look at language-sensitive macro programming in Scheme.

The actual paper (by Jonathan Bartlett is pretty techy, but interesting:

- The art of metaprogramming, Part 1: Introduction to metaprogramming
- Jack Herrington has an online support site for his book Code generation in action

(via the RSS feed of, Tom Carden’s interesting bookmarks)


Juha Huuskonen of PixelACHE has posted a summary of the lectures Casey and I gave in Helsinki directly after the Generator.x conference. Juha has captured the essence of the lectures well, I particularly like the soundbites he has saved for posterity.

Nicolas Schöffer: Minieffet light box

Schöffer: Minieffet light box

Much like generative art, kinetic and cybernetic art suffer from being broadly defined. As historical movements, they encompass Op Art artists like Vasarely, video artists like Nam June Paik and sculptors like Calder. As art forms they are steeped in the utopian ideas of the 60s, and so often considered to be passé manifestations of Modernist thought.

But the basic drive behind the work sounds familiar: To create images and sculptures that change and move, rather than remain static objects. Norbert Wiener’s theories about cybernetic systems and feedback loops also strongly influenced the kinetic art scene, resulting in reactive sculptures that must be considered early interactive art.

Nicolas Schöffer was one of the pioneers of kinetic art, a classic multi-artist like so many artists working in the 50s and 60s, trying his hand at painting, sculpture, architecture, film and even music, always with a consistent interest in dynamic form. He broke new ground with his sculpture CYSP 1 (1956). Equipped with photo-electric cells and a microphone, it is considered the first reactive sculpture, with light and sound conditions provoking changes in the sculpture’s structure. Schöffer also created psychelic light boxes like Minieffet, which was mass-produced in an edition of 5000 copies by Editions Denise René. Using lightbulbs, perforated masks and screens the box produces a range of animated optical effects. He was a classic multi-artist like so many artists working in the 50s and 60s, trying his hand at painting, sculpture, architecture, film and even music, always with a consistent interest in dynamic form.

Looking at a virtual museum of Schöffer’s work it is striking to see the links both to the Constructivists of the past and the abstract software work being created today. His “spatiodynamic” sculptures look just wonderful. For more information, read [Joseph Nechvatal's review of an exhibition of Schöffer's work] or this site at Leonardo Online, which attempts to present a fairly complete vision of his art. The latter site is mostly in French, but contains many images. There is also a page over on re-title about a "found exhibition" of Schöffer's work (curated by The Centre of Attention.)

(via Antoine on the eu-gene list)


The new VisualComplexity site seems to have been an instant hit, with everybody and their sister linking it. Is data visualization ready to hit entertainment mainstream? Will Ben Fry find a welcome side income from publishing posters that will adorn the walls of teenage abodes? Will budget art book publisher Taschen soon produce a glossy coffee table work on infoviz?

Perhaps not. But it’s interesting to note that has added two visualization oldie goldies (the treemap and the associative network) to their traffic-driving sidebar. Such a move would have been considered daring only a few years ago. After all they make their money from page clicks and can’t afford to lose any. So it follows logically that they assume that using dynamic visualizations rather than lists of headlines will drive more traffic. Knowing the internet business, they’ve probably done usability studies on it too.

That diagrams are beautiful can’t be denied, though not always intentionally. On his tecznotes blog Michael Migurski posted a reference to this visually attractive 1981 visualization of flight traffic density between different cities. In low resolution it looks like a street art piece by the London Police.