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 early-to-mid 1990’s were an interesting time. “Multimedia” was a hot buzzword, and people were wondering if CD-ROM and Internet was here to stay. Macromedia Director ruled the world of interactive graphics, and World Wide Web and HTML was finally transforming the Internet into a visual environment.

Early experiments using the web for art purposes quickly became iconic: Jodi hacked HTML, Form Art was briefly defined as a genre, Net.art considered ironic approaches to art production via this new channel and artists like Stanza explored Director as a tool for generative graphics.

During this (golden) period, Vienna was a hotbed of experimentation. A large group of artists pushed the boundaries of abstraction in visual art as well as music, often experimenting with code-based tools. It should be noted that the term “generative art” was not in use at the time. Nevertheless, the work produced at the time clearly articulated generative and procedural approaches to sound and image synthesis, prefiguring the current interest in such work.

Among this loosely affiliated group were artists like Farmers Manual, Tina Frank, Monoscope, Pure, Lia and Dextro. The music label MEGO and the film label Sixpackfilm provided publishing outlets. Norbert Pfaffenbichler put together an overview of the scene in the exhibition Austrian Abstracts in 2006, which expanded on the previous exhibition Abstraction Now, focusing specifically on the activities of Austrian artists.

Lia: Turux.at

Dextro: Turux piece / c079

Early pioneers of generative Director programming, Lia and Dextro quickly became influential both inside and outside the Director community. Their mix of crisp pixels, erratic animation and blurred surfaces was unique at the time, presenting a perfect visual counterpoint to a musical scene experimenting with glitch and sound defects.

Together, they produced Turux, a seminal web site which featured Director “soundtoys” and generative visual sketches. Thanks to the site’s intentionally cryptic interface design and the “anonymous author” fad popular with the Vienna artists (many of which used pseudonyms or group names), the authorship of Turux was unclear to outsiders. Often, visitors had no idea if Lia, Dextro or Turux were actual people or just project names. Nevertheless, Turux became an important reference for the nascent scene, its fame only heightened by its obscure origin.

When the collaboration ended some time later, Turux remained online practically unchanged. As a document of a specific time period, it became a time capsule of styles and strategies.

The original Turux.org is now offline for good, having been replaced by a placeholder. But Lia and Dextro have both set up their own archives. Lia recently launched Turux.at, a partial archive of her half of the project. Included are 21 works in Director, documented as stills and interactive Shockwave movies.

Dextro’s Turux experiments have been integrated into dextro.org, which presents his work chronologically organized from his early period up to now. See the Turux subpage for a list of sketches. For an example of his newer work, see c079.

 

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.

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