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...]
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The Generator.x 2.0 workshop is now well underway, with participants starting to get to grips with the laser cutter and CNC mill. To give an idea of what we’re working on we’ve set up a project blog as well a Flickr group specifically for the workshop. Expect to see some early results in the next few days.

The first evening of public presentations saw plenty of Berliners turning up in numbers to hear some very interesting talks. Boris Müller gave an introduction to thinking computationally about design issues, exemplified by his series of projects for Poetry on the Road. A high point was his response to criticism of the 2006 edition, which used poems as datasets to create intricate graphs:

“Creating beutiful [sic] images to impress people is relatively easy, while making visualizations to explore, enable profound insights, and see the invisible, is extremely harder and requires a lot more devotion than this.” – Enrico Bertini

Besides the questionable truthfulness of the notion that creating beautiful images is easy, this criticism misses the point. The intention of Boris’ piece was never to “enable profound insights”, but to provide a visual context for the poetry festival. While his beautiful graphs do in fact constitute decodable data, that fact is all but incidental to their real function: To be visual poetry.

Eno Henze / Satoru Sugihara

Morphosis: Phare Tower / Eno Henze: The Human Factor

Satoru Sugihara presented his computational design work for Morphosis, in particular the Phare Tower in Paris. A 300 meter high skyscraper scheduled to be completed by 2012, Phare Tower will dwarf the nearby Arche de La Défense. Sugihara worked on optimizing the building’s window grid using physical models, taking both cost of construction and energy efficiency into account. The “skin” of the building includes metal plates placed at computed locations and angles, in order to reflect sunshine as well as produce a signature facade pattern.

Last presenter out was Eno Henze [DE], a generative artist whose ambivalence towards the use of computers only serves to give his work a greater depth. While his high-end interaction design for Meso is impressive, his work with spatialized computer drawings like Wirklichkeitsschaum and The Human Factor show a conceptual depth combined with a great attention to formal composition.

The second round of presentations tomorrow Monday should be a worthy followup, featuring Aram Bartholl, Tim Schork, David Dessens and Skylar Tibbits.


Generator.x 2.0 kicks off this Thursday with an evening of presentations open to the general public. This is the first of two such evenings, bringing the topics of the workshop to a larger audience and providing a discursive track to an otherwise hands-on event.

  • Keynote: Marius Watz [NO]
  • Boris Müller [DE]
  • Satoru Sugihara – Morphosis [JP/US]
  • Eno Henze [DE]

If you are in Berlin we hope to see you at the Ballhaus Naunynstrasse!

» Marius Watz [NO] is an artist exploring visual abstraction through generative systems, and has recently started using rapid prototyping to translate his forms into physical space. He is the founder of Generator.x as well as a lecturer at the Oslo School of Architecture and the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO).

» Boris Müller [DE] is Professor of Interaction Design at FH Potsdam. Educated at the Royal College of Art in London, he is a veteran of computational designer. His series of works for Poetry on the Road has received multiple awards.

» Satoru Sugihara [JP/US] is a computational designer at the renowned architecture studio Morphosis, having previously worked with Greg Lynn Form and DR_D (Dagmar Richter). Possessing Master degrees in both computer Sscience and architecture, he uses parametric systems to investigate adaptive solutions to spatial problems.

» Eno Henze [DE] explores the duality between computational and human processes, often combining manual labor with generative systems. Dissatisfied with the screen as interface, he is constantly experimenting with innovative modes of presentation.


Generator.x 2.0: Beyond the screen is now only a week away, and we’re busy planning the last details. The call for participants was a definitive success, allowing us the privilege of a strong group of candidates to choose from. Participants were selected for the quality of their work as well as for their diverse approaches to digital fabrication. The result is an interesting mix of artists, architects and designers, united by their use of code-based processes, but showing very different strategies and intentions in their work.

For now the Club Transmediale site has the most complete list of Generator.x 2.0 events. In addition to the workshop and exhibition, there will also be two evenings of public presentations. A precise schedule with more details will be published here in the coming days.

Generator.x 2.0 – List of participants

CTM.08­ – Unpredictable
Festival for Adventurous Music and Related Visual Arts

Generator.x 2.0: Beyond the Screen
24 Jan -­ 2 Feb 2008, Ballhaus Naunynstrasse / [DAM] Berlin
Workshop / Exhibition / Performance


Leander Herzog: thePhysicalVertexBuffer

Generator.x in collaboration with Club Transmediale and [DAM] presents Generator.x 2.0: Beyond the screen, a workshop and exhibition about digital fabrication and generative systems.

Digital fabrication (also known as “fabbing”) represents the next step in the digital revolution. After years of virtualization, with machines and atoms being replaced by bits and software, we are coming full circle. Digital technologies like rapid prototyping, laser cutting and CNC milling now produce atoms from bits, eliminating many of the limitations of industrial production processes. Once prohibitively expensive, such technologies are becoming increasingly accessible, pointing to a future where mass customization and manufacturing-on-demand may be real alternatives to mass production.

For artists and designers working with generative systems, digital fabrication opens the door to a range of new expressions beyond the limits of virtual space. Parametric models apply computational strategies to the analysis and synthesis of space, producing structures and surfaces of great complexity. Through fabbing these forms may be rendered tangible, even tactile.

"Beyond the screen" explores these new types of spatial constructs in a hands-on workshop, bringing together artists and designers working with code-based strategies for producing physical form. The workshop will feature public presentations bringing the topics of the workshop to a broader audience, culminating in an exhibition of fabbing works at the [DAM] gallery. In a continuation of the Generator.x concert tour, "Beyond the Screen" will also include an evening of concerts, showing the use of generative systems in audiovisual performance.


Jared Tarbell: Spheroids and cubes

Call for participants

We are looking for 15 artists, designers and architects who have an existing practice based on generative systems and custom software, and who are interested in investigating physical formats through digital fabrication. The workshop will be practical in nature, and will produce a selection of works that will be included in the exhibition at [DAM]. Participants will have access to an on-site laser cutter, and an introduction to this technology will be part of the workshop.

The workshop is free of charge, but we will not be able to provide support for travel or accomodation. Participants are expected to have experience with programming software that will allow them to produce work suitable for production, such as Processing, VVVV or any other system capable of producing vector output. Previous experience with laser cutting or digital fabrication technologies is a bonus, but not a requirement.

Applications must be in PDF format and should including a CV and a short statement of intent, describing why you want to participate in the workshop and how fabbing relates to your existing practice. You should include a maximum of 5 images of relevant work, with a total file size of 2 megabytes. Feel free to provide links to web sites containing documentation such as videos or downloadable software, but please don’t send such content by email.

Please submit applications by email to generatorx [at] The deadline for application is December 21, 2007, accepted participants will be notified at the beginning of January 2008.


Theverymany (Fornes / Tibbits): Tesselated panels

Generator.x & Club Transmediale

Generator.x is a platform for generative strategies in art and design, founded in 2005 to produce the conference Generator.x: Art from Code at Atelier Nord in Oslo. Other events have included a travelling exhibition as well as a series of audiovisual concerts. The Generator.x blog promotes code-based work of an experimental nature, bringing a critical discourse to the field of generative art.

Club Transmediale 2008 is the 9th edition of this international festival for adventurous music and realted visual arts, and takes place in Berlin under the theme “Unpredictable” concurrently and cooperatively with the transmediale ­ international festival for art and digital culture. It is a prominent festival dedicated to contemporary electronic, digital and experimental music, as well as the diverse range of artistic activities in the context of sound and club culture.

Characterised by the title Unpredictable, the 2008 festival investigates artistic concepts that imply the surprising and unforeseeable, accidents, mistakes and coincidences as a means to alter the dynamics of creative processes and to discover new aesthetic forms.

[DAM] Berlin has since its opening 2003 been a leader in the field of digital art, showing pioneers of new media as well as emerging contemporary artists.

Generator.x 2.0: Beyond the screen is supported by The Office for Contemporary Art Norway. We also thank our partners: Institut HyperWerk HGK FHNW and Lasern. .

Erik Natzke: Exploring the Medium

From Flickr – Erik Natzke: Skyy / Summertime / MLCP 1c

We recently posted an entry about the rise of Flickr as a community resource for artists and designers working with computational strategies. Well-known figures like Erik Natzke post documentation of their work, while Flickr groups like, VVVV and Create Digital Motion gather a wide variety of people, with great diversity and high quality of work.

Nevertheless, there is still not a good general group dedicated to generative art and computational design. The tool-oriented groups are great, but naturally confine themselves to topics related to those platforms. The remaining handful of “digital art” groups typically suffer from varying quality and unclear guidelines. They are also frequently flooded with Photoshop collages and dubious fractals, meaning that the signal-to-noise ratio can be quite low.

Dave Bollinger: Tangle

From Flickr – Dave Bollinger: Tangle

As some readers may know, there is in fact already a Generator.x group on Flickr. It has sadly been inactive for some time, being originally intended to document Generator.x events. It seems like a no-brainer to repurpose what is essentially a dead group and turn it into an arena for work that is related to the scope of Generator.x.

If you are a Flickr user creating work using computational strategies, please join the group and contribute to the community. Add old favorites as well as new work, post exhibition announcements in the discussion area and generally make yourself at home. As long as your images are clearly related to the topics of Generator.x, it doesn’t matter what tool or material was used to produce them.

A Generator.x Flickr badge to display images from the group is in the works. We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ll post!

Update: The Flickr badge has been implemented (using the excellent phpFlickr library), and can be seen in the sidebar on the left.


It’s rare that something gets blogged on Generator.x simply because of its wow factor. There are plenty of design blogs out there to take care of that end of things. Even more rarely are “cool web sites” reported here It’s quite rare these days to see anything that’s really all that surprising in any case.

Despite all this, something just clicked when the Flash-based portfolio site of Japanese art director Kashiwa Sato came up while blogsurfing. Simultaneously minimal and gorgeously over-the-top, it has to be one of the sexiest interfaces out in a long time. The elements used might be nothing new, but the combination is unusually potent.

The front page of the site displays a large grid of projects, each listed with a title and short description. But what steals your gaze is the animated color bars over each project, combining to turn the page into a constantly moving RGB space. Each color bar contains a selection of colors from the project in question, brilliantly giving a unique visual identification. The resulting look is not just gorgeous and visually complex, it also instantly communicates a sense of Sato’s design aesthetics.

[Via Yukio Andoh]

mos: Ivy coat rack

Michael Meredith / mos Office: IVY coat rack

Here is an unusual promotional quote: “IVY is a coatrack for people who hate coatracks and wall art for people who hate coats.” It might sound like hubris, but IVY could just deliver.

Designed by Michael Meredith of New York architects mos, IVY consists of a set of building blocks. Y-shaped elements are joined by 4 different connectors to create geometric configurations that are reminiscent of the Penrose tiling. The result is a wall-covering form that both looks good and is capable of bearing a moderate weight – perfect for hats and coats.

Available in a few select colors (grey is stylish, but who doesn’t love chartreuse), IVY is sold in bags containing 16 Y elements with matching connectors. See the web site for images and a list of retailers. Rare Device sells a bag for $60, which seems affordable enough. There is a software demo in the form of a Java applet, which shows the system growing in two dimensions. But playing with the real thing is probably a great deal more fun…

mos is in the Scriptedbypurpose show, which opens today. See their bio page for more examples of computational strategies for architecture.


Currently on display at the Espeis gallery in Williamsburg, Tropism is a collaboration between New York product design studio Commonwealth and generative artist Joshua Davis. Inspired by the endless variations of form in the plant world, they have worked together to create a series of computer-designed vases imprinted with generative graphics.

For his images, Joshua Davis first created a library of elements by sampling shapes from an old book on floral mechanics. He then recombined these into complex organic compositions using a generative algorithm. A selection of the resulting images were either printed or output digitally as ceramic paint transfers, ready for application to the physical objects.

Influenced by the perforated ceramics of Edmond Lachenal, Commonwealth used Maya to produce a curved and perforated model using surface subdivision. A stereolithographic (SLA) 3D print of the model was then output to create a mould for casting. The finished vases were produced by Boehm Porcelain, with Davis’ images being applied to the the vases during the firing process.

Tropism: Commonwealth vs. Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis w/ Zoe Coombes & David Francisco Boira of Commonwealth / Prints

The final result is a series of one-off objects that are at once high-tech and organic. Their smooth curves and unconventional form signal their origin in digital processes, but the tactility of the porcelain counteracts any sense of sterile techno-fetishism. Davis’ organic forms creep and crawl over the surface of the vases, reenforcing the link to natural processes.

The vases are available in a limited run of 21, each featuring a unique motif by Joshua Davis. The large-scale prints on paper shown in the exhibition are also for sale. Contact Maxalot for information about available works.

The "Vs." series is curated by Max Akkerman and Lotje Sodderland of Barcelona gallery Maxalot. The series has so far featured Commonwealth collaborations with Kenzo Minami and Michael C. Place of Build. Upcoming is an exhibiton of Commonwealth vs. Matt Pyke of Universal Everything.

Relevant links


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:


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.