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Archive for June, 2007
Drawings by Hektor (Laurenz Brunner / Juerg Lehni)

Laurenz Brunner / Jürg Lehni:Drawings by Hektor (pdf)

Hektor the Graffiti Output Device is up to new tricks. For the “It’s OK to make mistakes” exhibition at Riviera Gallery in Williamsburg, New York, Jürg Lehni teamed up with designer Laurenz Brunner. Together they created a series of wall pieces based on instructions for school children ("I need to keep my hands to myself", "Be on time / Come Prepared / Be a friend / Follow rules".)

In addition to the wall pieces, Lehni and Brunner came up with a new format for Hektor to play with: Poster-sized spray paint drawings. Working within the limitations of Hektor’s lo-fi output, they have created a charming series of drawings on paper. The motifs play with the primitive geometric forms and the material qualities of spray paint, including a few Hektor classics such as halftone rasters. In an interesting twist (seen above right), one drawing is simply a circle that is drawn endlessly until the an entire can of spray paint has been emptied onto the paper.

At $150 a piece, the Hektor drawings are a bargain. Full documentation of the series can be seen in a PDF on the Riviera web site. For more pictures of the exhibition, see their Flickr documentation. The exhibition closes today.

Previous post: Hektor: The videos.


Australian skateboard mag Refill has put together an interesting exhibition of laser engraved skateboards under the title Refill Seven. 80 artists were asked to design each their deck, which were then produced in a limited edition of 50 copies each. Price? $500.

Laser cutting is getting a lot of attention recently as one of the first digital fabrication technologies to become truly cheap and accessible. It can easily be used for “printing” images into unusual materials, or for constructing parts for complex forms. Usages include custom signage, jewelry design, models in paper or plastic etc.

In terms of laser cutting used as an image medium, Refill Seven is one of the most interesting examples to date. Skate and surf culture has always been fond of customization, so laser engraving skateboards makes perfect sense. Most of the pieces are in the baroque style popular with skaters, with only a few examples of abstract work. There doesn’t seem to be any computational pieces, so in that sense the uniquely digital nature of the technology has been passed over.

Technically, the project is very advanced. A rotating clamp was used to ensure smooth engraving even in non-flat areas. For obvious reasons laser cutting is oriented towards lines, but here filled areas are smoothly drawn. According to Wired Magazine a resolution of 1200 DPI was achieved, which is far beyond most current laser cutting.

For another take on skateboard customization, check out Mekanism Skateboard’s new collaboration with Peter Zimmermann, an established German painter. Zimmermann painted 60 blank boards with epoxy resin, giving a three-dimensional textured surface that is spectacularly colorful.

The Zimmermann boards are intended for the art market rather than teenage skaters, and have so far proven very popular with art collectors. A previous Mekanism collab with John Maeda was blogged on Generator.x in 2005.

Related links:


Neil Banas: rain-penlike-smallbasins-full (section) / Jim Soliven: HTorsion

Flickr surfing is no longer a waste of time. Beautiful works like Neil Banas’ rain-penlike-smallbasins-full or Jim Soliven’s HTorsion make even idle searching worthwhile. Both can be found in the Processing Pool, which has a generally high level of quality. For more excellent examples, see Paul Prudence "Flickr fruits" on Dataisnature.

Despite its bias towards photography, Flickr is rapidly becoming one of the most important resources for generative artists. Its image storage facilities are of obvious use in any art practice, but it’s the social infrastructure that makes it a killer app for artists. In seconds an image can be uploaded and shared with a larger community that can give feedback on the work, while image pools makes it easy to see work by other artists and make new contact.

Flickr can’t replace personal web sites or blogs for in-depth information, but it allows for a sense of immediacy and interaction that those channels lack. While portfolio sites generally show only finished work, Flickr makes it easy to publish work-in-progress and rough sketches that would otherwise never be published.

Sadly, Flickr policy dictates that non-photographic images are not the focus of the service, with some resulting weirdness and frustration. But that still hasn’t stopped artists like Joshua Davis, Golan Levin and Lia from publishing excellent documentation of their work that is far more comprehensive than their personal web sites could ever be.

Caveat emptor: Like any commercial service, Flickr is not a democracy. Nor is it perfect. The dreaded NIPSA (Not In Public Site Areas) policy and the new content filters that have replaced it has made life on Flickr a little pleasant than it used to be. Some people might be more comfortable with alternatives like ComputerLove or deviantART

Recommended starting points for generative art on Flickr


Manuel Lima of VisualComplexity gave an inspiring presentation yesterday at Reboot 9.0 in Copenhagen. Manuel set up the site in 2005 after doing his thesis project BlogViz at the Parson’s School of Design. Frustrated by the lack of a unified visualization resource, he started collecting links and even scanning out-of-print articles. Soon after VisualComplexity (VC) was born.

Since the launch in 2005, VC has grown to feature over 460 projects. Seen over time, it mirrors current trends in the Infoviz field regarding what kinds of data people are visualizing, as well as what techniques are popular. To reflect this, the site now features navigation by topic or by method. The statistics over common searches and subject distribution is also interesting reading.

Although the intention of VisualComplexity is academic, it does reveal a fascination with the aesthetic qualities of networks. In his talk, Manuel compared structures that look similar despite being essentially different in nature. For instance, the massive Millennium Simulation, which shows the evolution of the Universe, looks strikingly like the neural net of a rat. Obviously, this has no scientific relevance, but might explain why networks have such an aesthetic impact.

Lev Manovich has presented a reading of visualization as Data Art, with Infoviz projects often have an emotional impact on par with more traditional art forms. His paper “Data Visualisation as New Abstraction and Anti-Sublime” is downloadable from his web site. Seen in this context, VC is a treasure trove of works with both scientific and aesthetic impact. Simply scanning the page with thumbnails of all the projects will confirm this.

According to Manuel, the next step for VisualComplexity will be to turn it into an open map of maps. The VC database itself will be opened up for people to navigate or visualize in new ways. Hopefully this will help the database grow even further.

Relevant links