I have just returned from the Norwich International Animation Festival (NIAF), where festival director Adam Pugh had been courageous enough to present generative art and kinetic sculpture as part of the festival. Interestingly, the claim “I am not an animator” was often heard during the festival, pointing perhaps to a problem of positioning versus an old craft. The juxtapositions created by the festival made this dilemma all the more interesting, for instance as seen in the programme of abstract videos presented by Dietmar Schwärzler from Sixpack Films, with much of the work relating to the Austrian Abstracts blogged here recently.
Two panels on generative art were also presented. The first, chaired by Helen Sloan of SCAN, was an attempt at placing generative art in the context of animation. The panelists were Leonardo Solaas (creator of Dreamlines), Paul Smith Vicky Isley of Boredomresearch and myself. No real conclusion was reached, as none of the three participants would see their work as relating to conventional animation. Nevertheless, the inevitable time-based and performative nature of software does imply that ideas from animation could have an impact on the work.
The second panel (titled “Art on autopilot”) was organized by the Cambridge-based media arts organization Enter_, which will premiere a new international conference and festival next year. Geoff Cox acted as moderator, Geoff is an artist theorist who have written several articles on generative art and co-curated a generative exhibition called Generator. I spoke about the commissioned piece created for generating the festval identity visuals. Paul Brown talked about generative music, copyright and applications in music therapy (see this article). Finally, Dave Miller presented his work with creating an automatic approach to political cartoons. Here the practices of the participants were quite dissimilar, highlighting yet again the potential problems of the broad definition of “generative art”.
Quasar is an amazing film-based performance by artists Jürgen Reble and Thomas Köner, presented during the festival at the Norwich Arts Centre. The work starts off with a droning minimal soundspace and two juxtaposted 16mm film projections of crackly images that could be images off far-off star clusters. As it builds, a total of 6 projectors are activated (projecting in multiple directions) and enormous amounts of smoke pumped into the venue. The image is finally obscured, with the presentation transformed from a semi-traditional film to a kinetic space, where both sound and image become volumes rather than simple surfaces. The result was mesmerizing, and again points to the vision of the festival for including unconventional works.
The renowned London-based VJ group the Light Surgeons also presented a performance of integrated sound and visuals, with sampling being the dominant technique. The end result was a kind of video turntablism, as though a scratch DJ like Kid Koala had suddenly expanded to doing videos.
A new exhibition in Lancaster, UK is highlighting creative uses of digital fabrication techniques. Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders features the work of artists, architects and designers using rapid-prototyping, generative design and other computational strategies for creating new types of objects. The exhibition is significant as practicioners working in this way tend to fall somewhere between art, design and research practices, and hence don’t always have a good venue for showing their projects.
Artist Justin Marshall has collaborated with a manufacturer of architectural ornamental plasterwork to produce a series called Coded Ornament. The series includes the installations Morse, with elements resembling dots and dashes, and Penrose Strapping 1, a plasterwork version of a classic tiling system. His use of decorative elements combined with digital pattern generation makes for beautiful, if unintentionally ironic, objects. More examples of his work combining traditional and digital practices can be seen on justinmarshall.co.uk.
The installation Cyclone.soc by Gavin Baily & Tom Corby presents the viewer with a new take on flamewar-ridden online discussion groups for politics and religion. By mapping texts taken from these forums onto the atmospheric topologies of extreme storms, the artists comment on the volatile nature of debate, while simultaneously highlighting the beautiful forms of cyclonic weather formations.
Lionel Theodore Dean (whose FutureFactories project was also featured in the Generator.x exhibition) is showing Holy Ghost, a baroquely ornamental chair design that is created by a generative model. Two “hard copies” of the chair have been produced for the exhibition using rapid prototyping.
Be sure to look at the exhibition web site for an overview of the other artists. Even better, see this excellent documentation on Flickr. Perimeters, Boundaries and Borders is a co-production between Fast-uk and Folly, for the f.city festival of digital culture in Lancaster. It runs until the end of this week.
- Exhibition documentation on Flickr (by John Marshall)
- More pictures on Flickr (by Michelle Kasprzak)
- designedobjects.blogspot.com, a blog by John Marshall of Fast-uk
Thanks to Michelle Kasprzak for the link.
Boris Müller: Poetry on the road 2006
Boris Müller has put online documentation of Poetry on the road 2006, a poetry festival for which he creates a computational design identity every year. A specific text is used as raw material, then treated by Müller’s software in some way to create a visual representation. This visual is then used for posters and other publicity materials, including the book that is released every year.
Eschewing the more magical approaches of previous years, the 2006 edition has seen Müller has gone firmly in the direction of information visualization. Words in a poem are given a numerical code by adding the values of their letters together. This number gives the word its position on a circle, which is marked by a red dot. Gray lines connect the dots in the sequence the words they represent appear in the poem. The diameter of the circle on which the dots are placed is decided by the length of the poem. In this way several poems can be represented in a single image.
To get a feeling for the system, try the interactive demonstration. Click the “write” tab to have a go writing your own text.
Müller has being doing Poetry on the Road since 2002, and the series are a wonderful showcase of computational ways of treating text as more than just typography. This writer’s favorite remains the 2003 edition, where letters were used to control a drawing machine much like the classic turtle graphics used in LOGO.
The Austrian Abstracts
22.09.-15.10.2006, Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam
The Austrian Abstracts is an exhibition of 27 Austrian-based artists, collected through their concerns with principles of abstraction while working in a wide range of media, from software to sculpture and painting. The show continues the investigation from the 2003 Abstraction Now at the Künstlerhaus in Vienna, with several of the artists appearing in both.
As the title implies, the Austrian art scene forms a nexus for the show. Even though the participating artists are from different countries, many of them are based in Vienna or have a special connection to Austria. However, the point of the exhibition is not to establish a patriotic position. Rather, it takes as its starting point a renewed interest in abstract art, which could be clearly observed in the Austrian scene of the last 10 years or more.
As the work in the exhibition demonstrates, the new interest in abstraction became evident in work with video and digital media. From the mid-1990’s artists like Dextro, Lia, Tina Frank etc. began experimenting with code, creating mostly web-based works that dealt with generative systems. These works became popular with net audiences at the time, and were loosely seen as related to net.art even though they essentially were formal investigations. Gradually these works became recognized as a coherent movement, and many of the artists involved have since expanded beyond the web to work with installations etc.
This movement has been given the de facto title “Austrian Abstracts”, deriving from a series of screening programs of digital experimental video that first gathered many of the artists in the current exhibition. Counting Abstraction Now, the show at Arti et Amicitiae is thus the third manifestation. Curator Norbert Pfaffenbichler has effectively become the chronicler of the movement, giving the works a framework in art history even as the artists themselves often refuse to comment on their conceptual aspirations.