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...]
abstrakt Abstrakt: Thilo Kraft - Und

Thilo Kraft – Und, 2005
Dimensions variable, digital image and sound data

The image and sound manipulation “und” consists of a recording of the spoken word ‘und’ (German: and), which has been edited and arranged to form a rhythmical piece. We see the portrait of a man whose features become distorted in all kinds of impossible ways.

The minimal movements of the mask seem to be controlled by an invisible power, producing by turns the appearance of an android and a human marionette. By controlling the face – the visible surface of human emotion – with technical means, Kraft repositions man in the neighbourhood of automated creatures.

This text is taken from the NODE10 catalogue, written by Eno Henze and Marius Watz and edited by Valérie-Françoise Vogt. Please read the introductory curator text for an overview of the exhibition topic.

abstrakt Abstrakt: Robert Hodgin - Sketches 2005-2010

Robert Hodgin: Sketches 2005-2010
Digital video

Computer code is perhaps the most immaterial of materials, consisting of text sequences dotted with obscure typographic symbols that read almost as concrete poetry. Writing code requires the description of the desired outcome as a result of the atomic steps required to achieve it – an algorithm.

Robert Hodgin is an alchemist of such algorithms, manipulating computational processes as the very material from which his work is created. In “Sketches 2005-2010” we trace the evolution of his work, often disregarding final versions in favor of work-in-progress sketches revealing the material explorations Hodgin goes through in order to produce the final work.

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abstrakt Abstrakt: Leander Herzog - Sound Object

Leander Herzog – Sound object (data.matrix, Ryoji Ikeda), 2010
Laser cut plastic

The human ear perceives sound as an intangible presence, produced by vibrations travelling through a physical medium (air, water, even solids). Recorded sound is produced by measuring these vibrations for later reproduction by mechanical means. What we experience as harmony and rhythm appears to the computer as a one-dimensional number sequence.

Leander Herzog’s data sculptures perpetuate this disregard of the emotional dimension of music, looking at the sound input simply as a frozen space of random-access data. Herzog replicates this data stream by perforating plastic ribbons at intervals matching amplitude measurements, producing ornate collections of short and long loops. The result is a curious data artifact, numerically correct but completely disconnected from its own origin as sound.

This text is taken from the NODE10 catalogue, written by Eno Henze and Marius Watz and edited by Valérie-Françoise Vogt. Please read the introductory curator text for an overview of the exhibition topic.

abstrakt Abstrakt: Leander Herzog - Sound Object

abstrakt Abstrakt: Ben Fry – All Streets

Ben Fry w/ Eugene Kuo, Chris Brown, Katy Harris: All Streets, 2008
Digital print, 4,7 x 3 meters

“All Streets” is a vision of the United States as represented only by its infrastructure of roads. The country that invented car culture is rendered quite clearly by drawing its 26 million streets. Focusing not on geographical features or political boundaries but only on routes of travel, the resulting map is revealing. Population-dense areas become complex fractal clusters that dominate the eastern parts of the country, while westwards the open landscapes of America’s heartland reveal blanker spots reflecting the harsh terrain.

Ben Fry is a pioneer of the new model of computational approaches to information visualization, applying design principles to revealing structures in huge sets of data. Fry does not consider himself an artist, but the emotional affect of his visualizations is undeniable. They represent a new form of augmented vision through which we might understand the complex data streams that increasingly dominate our digital lives.

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abstrakt Abstrakt: FIELD - Interim Camp

FIELD: Interim Camp (2008), Muse (2010)
Computer-generated short films

The experimental short films “Interim Camp” and “MUSE” show us a glimpse into fluid dream worlds, synthetic spaces generated through custom software processes. The cinematic vision is here a product of algorithms controlling the camera’s motion as well as the simulated terrain it moves through.

The creation of artificial worlds has been a constant trope in computer graphics since its inception, reflecting the desire to model an alternate reality in silicon perfection. FIELD (Marcus Wendt and Vera-Maria Glahn) acknowledges this utopian vision, embracing a graphic style that clearly reveals the illusion they present to the viewer. Their films show three-dimensional landscapes but are constantly on the verge of becoming pure abstraction, space devolving into a composition of surfaces. Perhaps we should understand them as much as moving paintings as renderings of artificial worlds.

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abstrakt Abstrakt: Ralf Baecker - The Conversation

Ralf Baecker: The Conversation, 2006
250×250 cm, Solenoids, strings, custom electronics, cables, wood

“The Conversation” is an autonomous apparatus, consisting of one analogue and one digital part. These elements, which are almost inseparably tied together, simultaneously attempt to adapt to one another. As the process follows no linear program, it is not obvious which part is controlling which.

Even if Baecker describes the arrangement as a “Pataphysical Processing Environment” and declares it nonsense or else a machine without a purpose, we can nevertheless read it as a cybernetic diagram. Cybernetics employs the same method to describe both machines and living organisms as information processing (communicating) objects. In this, circular causal and feedback mechanisms play a crucial role. Through a feedback loop, the installation constantly supplies itself with the data on its deviation from “inner equilibrium.” The state of the apparatus, which in theoretical discussion is generally represented as a ‘black box’ and remains hidden, is visible in “The Conversation” as a relation of tension, so that we may view the machine talking to itself.

This text is taken from the NODE10 catalogue, written by Eno Henze and Marius Watz and edited by Valérie-Françoise Vogt. Please read the introductory curator text for an overview of the exhibition topic.

abstrakt Abstrakt: Ralf Baecker - The Conversation

abstrakt Abstrakt: Ralf Baecker - The Conversation


This is the first in a series of posts about the exhibition “abstrakt Abstrakt – The Systemized World”, which was part of the recent NODE10 festival in Frankfurt, Germany. The exhibition was curated by Eno Henze and Marius Watz to explore the use of abstract systems as artistic strategy and focus of aesthetic investigation.

This post consists of the curator text by Eno Henze. It will be followed by a series of posts describing all the works in the exhibition.

abstrakt Abstrakt – The Systemized World
NODE10 – Forum for Digital Arts
Frankfurter Kunstverein, Nov. 15-20, 2010

Artists: Ralf Baecker, FIELD, Ben Fry, Leander Herzog, Robert Hodgin, Thilo Kraft, Brandon Morse, Louise Naunton Morgan, John Powers, Patrick Raddatz, SOFTlab, Jorinde Voigt, Zimoun

Curator text by Eno Henze

The way of the world is increasingly controlled by relations and conditions that reside on an abstract plane. Cause and motivation for many events remain secret, because they trace back to invisible sets of rules that permeate our society and guarantee its functioning.

The two complementing events of the festival, exhibition and symposium, seek to analyze the nature and effect of such systems of abstraction. The exhibition draws upon artworks as visual evidence for the changing conditions of production in an abstract world. The symposium approaches the topic from a more theoretical perspective, facilitated by contributions from economists, scientists, artists and philosophers.

At first, abstraction appears as a method to contain certain properties of the world in a new medium. Formalized in this manner, these properties can be edited in a completely new way, demonstrating the power of abstraction as a productive tool. By these means the things of reality become transformable in an unprecedented way. This also implies a reversion of causality: the motivation for ‘real’ events now resides in an abstract place, in a certain constellation of values of the formalizing medium.

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Andy Huntington: Cylinder

Andy Huntington/ Drew Allan: Cylinder (”Seahorses”, “Designed”, “Market”)

Cylinder by Andy Huntington and Drew Allan is an elegant series of data sculpture based on sound analysis. A mapping of the frequency and time domains produces cylindrical forms representing the spatial characteristics of the sound input. Physical versions of the digital 3D models are then 3D printed using stereolithography.

The idea of mapping sound to space is not unfamiliar. The Cylinder project shows similar strategies to those used in the exhibition Frozen, which showed sound represented as a continous space rather than as a one-dimensional signal. However, Cylinder is from 2003, predating Frozen and making it somewhat of an early example of the data sculpture genre.

There is a tangential similarity between Huntington’s pristine objects and Booshan & Widrig’s Binaural object. But in fact the spiky geometries of both works are a result of the numeric data underlying the form. Any data set will yield inherent patterns, and in the case of digital sound two “defaults” present themselves: The waveform (a 1D graph) and the spectral map found through FFT analysis, which represents a 2D map of spectral energies in the time domain. Any translation of these numeric representations into visual form must grapple with the fact that while they may be faithful representations of the data, they rarely give a good idea of how the sound is experienced by a human listener.

The Cylinder series show a range of different waveforms, some showing an apparent orderly structure with others suggesting a noisier sound input. Titles like “Seahorse”, “Design” and “Breath” imply the source sounds used to produce the forms. Their success as aesthetic objects derive from their complexity as well as from the clean quality given by the 3D printing process.

Information visualization: Social Collider / Synchronous Objects

Schmidt & Pohflepp: Social Collider / William Forsythe & ACCAD: Synchronous Objects

A disclaimer is in order: The following post is not original content, rather it is a collection of links provided by various people on a private mailing list. The initial request (from Memo Akten) was for “really hot data visualization”, and the following suggestions were made by some fairly knowledgeable people.

They are presented here as an unedited list of links, they are listed in the order they appeared on the list. Some are fairly new projects while others are well-known canonical works. Two new favorites are shown above, namely Social Collider and Synchronous Objects.

Some pseudo-random Info Viz links


Jumping on bandwagons is best done sooner rather than later, so we are hereby happy to announce that Generator.x now has its very own Twitter feed.

Microblogs like Twitter allow for a very immediate communication that requires less of a commitment than a regular blog. A 500 word blog post might take a few hours to write, whereas a 140 character long Twitter update only takes a few minutes. The interaction between Twitter users is also more explicit than is typical for blogs, creating a distributed conversation that at best can be thought of as a hive mind.

Here is the feed from so far:

  • Visualization: 2008 Presidential Candidate Donations: McCain vs. Obama
  • Erik Natzke goes to NextFest:
  • Martin Wattenberg talks to WIRED about big text data:
  • Knowledge Cartography – cartography as tool for communication and the production of meaning: Video:
  • Media Facades 2008 in Berlin looks interesting:
  • Blinkenlights: Oldie but Goodie. Now with a library for Processing for creating Blinkenlights movies.
  • Maxalot presents the projection series “Processing Light” tonight at Todaysart, The Hague:
  • @anfischer has posted nice documentation of recent work on Flickr:
  • Podcast from Die Gestalten about Data Flow, their new book about visualization:
  • Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective, MASS MoCA
  • Vizualizar’08: Database City – Call for papers The seminar will be at Medialab Prado, curated by Jose Luis De Vicente.
  • The Piksel festival in Bergen has posted calls for their “abstract code real code” theme:
  • Mitchell Whitelaw has an interesting new series: Limits to Growth See also his Flickr:
  • @toxi retweet : new blog post: Generative design in 4096 bytes or less (Will Wright & the 4k demoscene)
  • WMMNA has a nice summary of C.STEM 2008: Breeding Objects
  • CORE.FORMULA has a nice blog post about Austrian sculptor Erwin Hauger: See also Flickr:
  • C.STEM 2008 – BREEDING OBJECTS currently underway in Turin, feat. fabbing and generative art.
  • Esther Stocker makes wonderful installations of grid structures in 2D and 3D:
  • New issue of Vague Terrain about curating net-based art, guest edited by CONT3XT.NET.
  • Blog post from @arikan: From Network Diagram to Structured Text
  • C.STEM 2008 in Turin has a nice lineup of fabbing works : (In Italian)
  • Jeff Clark is doing some nice visualization work with a focus on social media:
  • Just created a Generator.x Twitter feed to compensate for long breaks between blog posts…