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 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 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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Dezzie Dimbitsara : IPSE

Dezzie Dimbitsara: IPSE

Dezzie Dimbitsara : Monbelengin

Dezzie Dimbitsara: Monbelengin

Seems like there is interesting work going on at the Frank Mohr Instituut's MFA programme in Interactive Media and Environments. The IME web site states clearly that it is not a design programme, but rather aims to produce artists with a knowledge of programming as well as media art theory.

Karl Klomp was blogged a few days ago, this time it’s IME alumni Dezzie Dimbitsara. After studying graphic design art in Strasbourg, she went on to the Frank Mohr Instituut where she started creating installations and generative works. Her IPSE installation visualizes connections between people moving in a space by drawing rhizomatic networks between them.

Her site a bit thin on project descriptions, but features a series of works with a strong graphic influence. It’s interesting to note that she has experimented with different techniques and media, from photography and illustration to visual generative works like IPSE and hardware-based projects like Monbelengin (image above). Monbelengin is a mechanical etch-a-sketch, using a repurposed scanner to create an interactive drawing device.

Dimbitsara also has a blog over on, where she posts about media art.


Chris Robbins has posted a paper on the notion / nature of material in digital media. It was originally presented in Christiane Paul’s lecture series for Digital Media at Rhode Island School of Design. He describes the tendency to construct digital analogies of physical artifacts, and reflects on attempts to quantify digital material as semantic units.

Also enjoyable is a record of a chat between Robbins and his mother on the pseudo-science of morphogenetic fields.


Since Golan's questions for generative artists and Jim Campbell’s Formula for Computer Art proved so popular, here are three other lists of questions and creative strategies.

Oblique Strategies: Honour thy error as a secret intention. In 1975 Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt (a painter) published the Oblique Strategies. The Strategies is a collection of cards, with short texts on one side meant to inspire artists to try a different approach when experiencing a creative block. The creative process is often fickle, and most artists develop certain tricks that they tend to rely on when things get tough. For good or bad these develop into clichees and become potential impediments to the work itself.

Enter the Oblique Strategies: Draw a card by random, and it might give such sage advice as “Honour thy error as a secret intention”, “Be less critical”, “Steal a solution.” etc. Intentionally non-specific, the cards are meant to jog the mind to see the problem from a different angle.

Gregory Taylor has a great page on the Oblique Strategies. A new edition of the deck (as well as T-shirts) can be bought from the EnoShop There are also many online versions, again Gregory Taylor has an overview of these.

Bruce Mau: Don’t be cool. The Incomplete Manifesto for Growth is a classic text by design guru Bruce Mau, (co-author of "S M L XL"). The manifesto outlines a critical approach to creative work, some of which (like no.26: “Don’t enter awards competitions.”) are design-specific, but most apply equally to the art field. No. 24 is bound to amuse: “Avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.”

Written in 1998, the manifesto now seems a bit didactic. For a critical take on it, read Dean Allen's annotated version. At the time it appeared it was of part of a critical discourse struggling to make designers more critical in the whirlwind that was the dotcom. Depending on who you ask, that discourse has by now either succeeded or fallen out of fashion. However, that does not mean that Mau’s points aren’t still good.

Vademecum of Digital Art: If an artwork consists mainly in its description on paper, wonder if it is really necessary to produce at high cost its real size version. Written by Antoine Schmitt in 2003 as a response to “digital art” of dubious quality, the Vademecum of Digital Art aims to provide a context for criticizing media art. It outlines a series of tests or questions by which a work of “digital” art may be appraised. Some of the points are well-observed, like no.6:

If a project consists in a mere mapping, that is if it can be described by “this is transformed into that”, [...] Wonder if the artist brings a shape, a meaning, a style or an approach to this arbitrary mapping, and which.

The Vademecum does not allow media art the defense of “newness”. Once presented as art, it must be subject to history and critical theory.

Realities:United - SPOTS media facade

Realities:United: SPOTS media facade

Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz is getting new eyes. The SPOTS media facade opens Sunday on the Park Kolonnaden building. SPOTS will be a gallery for a series of curated art projects for public space. Commissioned by ad agency Café Palermo Pubblicità for HVB Immobilien AG, the installation was designed by Realities:United, a Berlin-based architecture studio with previous experience in creating large-scale light installations. Their BIX facade for Kunsthaus Graz garnered much international attention, and won them more than a few awards.

SPOTS will last for 18 months, with four commissioned works by Jim Campbell, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Carsten Nicolai and Realities:United in collaboration with John Dekron. The selection was curated by Andreas Broeckmann, director of the Transmediale festival. Visitors to Transmediale 2006 will have a chance to see all four works, as they are shown one per day in a special showing for the festival.

It should be noted that Potsdamer Platz is a problematic space in Berlin. Depending on who you ask, it’s either a symbol of regeneration or an attempt to erase history. A vibrant city center in the 1920s, it was practically destroyed in World War II and then divided by the Berlin Wall. It became a no-go zone, empty and desolate.

With the Wall down in 1989, the empty Potsdamer Platz became a prime investment opportunity and saw aggressive commercial development. The area is now dominated by corporate headquarters, three cinema multiplexes, restaurants and a shopping mall. The Sony Center is one of the most ambitious building projects in the area, and has achieved iconic status. While detractors will lecture you on the horrors of modern architecture and inorganic urban planning, the area is a de facto success, with 70 000 visitors per day.

The official opening is Sunday November 27 (tomorrow) at 17:00, so if you’re in the neighbourhood you can catch the official presentation of the project. Be sure to bring warm clothes.

OpenStreetMap: London poster

OpenStreetMap: A0 poster of London

The good people over OpenStreetMap continue their quest for free cartography. Collaborating with bike courier service eCourier, they’re rapidly filling in the gaps of their London map.

Tom Carden and Steve Coast recently produced an attractive OpenStreetMap of London as an A0 poster. They also put online a MPEG movie showing GPS traces being made by couriers travelling around the city.

Lovely stuff, really. If you have GPS data to contribute, you can do so by using their OpenStreetMap editing tool.

(via Tom Carden)

Ultrasound: TileToy and Pan Sonic

Ultrasound: TileToy and Pan Sonic

Ultrasound 2005, 21-25 November
Media Centre, Huddersfield, England

The Ultrasound 2005 festival is just around the corner, filling Huddersfield with audiovisual performances, experimental music and media art. The list of artists include Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman (who together and solo will perform in 3 different projects), Jan Robert Leegte, Pan Sonic, Sue Costabile, Owl Project and many more.

This year, Director Tom Holley has decided on an interesting twist. In cooperation with PixelACHE organizer Juha Huuskonen this year’s festival has a section called “Finnish Partition”, presenting a number of Finnish artists and performers. The legendary noisemakers Pan Sonic (pictured above, in front of the TV tower in their current home town, Berlin) will perform, as will Grey Zone. Exhibited projects include Kick Ass Kung-Fu, the classic Habbo Hotel and the Open Source "Modular Electronic Game Prototype" TileToy.

There will be a TileToy workshop during the festival, see the workshop page for information. It looks like a great lineup, sure wish I was Finnish in Huddersfield.

Ryokai  / Ishii: I/O Brush,

Ryokai / Ishii: I/O Brush

Want to paint with textures sampled from the world around you? I/O Brush is your ticket. By embedding video, light and touch sensors in a standard paintbrush it allows you to sample textures, colors and even video sequences without any external user interface. These can then be used to paint on a projected surface using motion capture. Intended for use by young children, the I/O Brush is a tool for play and exploration. A full paper on the project is available.

A product of MIT’s Tangible Media Group and credited to Kimiko Ryokai and Hiroshi Ishii (the Professor of the group), I/O Brush bears all the hallmarks of a Tangible Media project. It focuses on simple ideas for applying computational techniques to physical environments. Technology is made transparent and immaterial, transforming physical objects into intelligent tools while avoiding classic computer interface conventions. Anyone interested in classic Human-Computer Interaction issues are sure to pick up some tips from their projects and papers.

For reasons not completely clear, it appears that there was fierce rivalry between Ishii’s Tangible Media and John Maeda’s Aesthetics & Computation groups. One would think they had similar objectives, but perhaps different methods.


The Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts will hold its biannual European Meeting in Amsterdam from 13 to 17 June 2006. The conference will be entitled “Close Encounters.” Prospective speakers can enter their paper proposals into one of 11 streams, which are, as fits a large conference, extremely wide-ranging and include panels on “The New Aesthetics”, “Soundscapes, Sound Technologies, and Music”, “Arts and Genomics” and more. Sounds like a potentially interesting forum for researchers and producers of generative art to formulate and exchange some ideas in the context of a humanities-oriented conference. Scheduled plenary speakers include Gillian Beer, Evelyn Fox Keller, Andrew Carnie, Richard Wingate, and Robert Zwijnenberg. The deadline to submit proposals is 5 December, 2005. has posted 4 new articles, including two observations on the exhibition The Algorithmic Revolution at the ZKM German Center for Art and Media. Søren Pold gives an art historical perspective, with references to the early history of algorithmic art. Emil Bach Sørensen looks at two specific works, SeoulB by Casey Reas and Yellowtail by Golan Levin.

From the ZKM exhibition statement:

A revolution normally lies ahead of us and is heralded with sound and fury. The algorithmic revolution lies behind us and nobody noticed it. That has made it all the more effective – there is no longer any area of social life that has not been touched by algorithms.