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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Cimatics 2007: Otolab: Op7

Last week was a good week for live cinema buffs in Belgium, thanks to the fifth edition of Cimatics, the Brussels-based festival for live cinema and AV culture. The main programme featured three evenings of audiovisual performances, with names like Ryoichi Kurokawa, Scott Arford, Jeffers Egan w/ Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit, Synken and many more.

There were also plenty of parallel projects, such as the Cimatics Masterclass for Live A/V and the Cinematic Experience conference on live cinema. For a general idea, take a look at these Flickr links: Cimatics 2007, flickr.com/tags/cimatics/.

One very striking performancewas "Op7", a three-screen piece by Italian audiovisual collective Otolab. A long sequence of forms and structures move slowly but inexorably towards the viewer, giving the sense of a forward motion into an abstract landscape. But if this is a landscape, it is barren and alien, devoid of color. If anything, Op7 is reminiscent of early computer graphics, but in a good way. Stripped of gimmicks, the spaces it presents are monumental, architectural in scope. The 3-screen setup reinforces this sensation, creating a sense of immersion and demanding the viewer’s attention.

Op7 sounds as monumental as it looks, with rich bass textures and needling stabs of high frequency noise. The same restraint taken with the graphics is here applied to sound, with only a sparse selection of tones and waveforms that gradually shift back and forth across the spectrum. A steady rhythm is never established, but there is a strong sense of narrative within the soundscape that more than matches the visuals.

According to a short conversation with one of the performers, the graphics were made in 3DStudio Max. It’d be interesting to know if any computational processes were involved. Judging from the way it was performed, it seems likely that the visuals were in fact pre-rendered for the performance in Brussels. But with such a sumptuous presentation, it hardly seems appropriate to niggle about its non-realtime status.

Otolab’s performance at Cimatics was part of a programme of events titled +39: Call for Italy, curated by our friends at Digicult. See the Digicult page about Op7 for more details on the project, including the curatorial text.

This post marks the return of the video category here on Generator.x. After having struggled with the awfulness that is the YouTube GUI, we have decided to go with the excellent (and free) Vimeo for video hosting. Vimeo does not recompress your files, and generally have much higher quality both in terms of image and content.

There’s even a Generator.x Vimeo channel for posting videos related to generative art, audiovisual performances etc. Go have a look if you have a minute or twenty…

 
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Boredomresearch: f.wish / Leonardo Solaas: La Mosca 2

I have just returned from the Norwich International Animation Festival (NIAF), where festival director Adam Pugh had been courageous enough to present generative art and kinetic sculpture as part of the festival. Interestingly, the claim “I am not an animator” was often heard during the festival, pointing perhaps to a problem of positioning versus an old craft. The juxtapositions created by the festival made this dilemma all the more interesting, for instance as seen in the programme of abstract videos presented by Dietmar Schwärzler from Sixpack Films, with much of the work relating to the Austrian Abstracts blogged here recently.

Two panels on generative art were also presented. The first, chaired by Helen Sloan of SCAN, was an attempt at placing generative art in the context of animation. The panelists were Leonardo Solaas (creator of Dreamlines), Paul Smith Vicky Isley of Boredomresearch and myself. No real conclusion was reached, as none of the three participants would see their work as relating to conventional animation. Nevertheless, the inevitable time-based and performative nature of software does imply that ideas from animation could have an impact on the work.

The second panel (titled “Art on autopilot”) was organized by the Cambridge-based media arts organization Enter_, which will premiere a new international conference and festival next year. Geoff Cox acted as moderator, Geoff is an artist theorist who have written several articles on generative art and co-curated a generative exhibition called Generator. I spoke about the commissioned piece created for generating the festval identity visuals. Paul Brown talked about generative music, copyright and applications in music therapy (see this article). Finally, Dave Miller presented his work with creating an automatic approach to political cartoons. Here the practices of the participants were quite dissimilar, highlighting yet again the potential problems of the broad definition of “generative art”.

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Köner & Reble: Quasar / Light Surgeons: Visuals

Quasar is an amazing film-based performance by artists Jürgen Reble and Thomas Köner, presented during the festival at the Norwich Arts Centre. The work starts off with a droning minimal soundspace and two juxtaposted 16mm film projections of crackly images that could be images off far-off star clusters. As it builds, a total of 6 projectors are activated (projecting in multiple directions) and enormous amounts of smoke pumped into the venue. The image is finally obscured, with the presentation transformed from a semi-traditional film to a kinetic space, where both sound and image become volumes rather than simple surfaces. The result was mesmerizing, and again points to the vision of the festival for including unconventional works.

The renowned London-based VJ group the Light Surgeons also presented a performance of integrated sound and visuals, with sampling being the dominant technique. The end result was a kind of video turntablism, as though a scratch DJ like Kid Koala had suddenly expanded to doing videos.

 
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delire + pix: fijuu / q3apd

The dynamic duo delire + pix have been hacking game engines to produce sound and visuals for some time now. Their projects typically go much further than simple Unreal or Quake hacks. Instead, they use the game engines to create application environments that are either self-running installations or interactive performance systems. The resulting works exploit the aesthetics and interactivity of computer games while presenting new models for realtime performance tools.

fijuu is a sound performance tool based on the Ogre3D open source graphics engine. The user controls sound synthesis by manipulating morphing 3D shapes using a Playstation-style controller. Different shapes correspond to different “instruments”. See the Fijuu video on YouTube and screenshots for examples.

q3apd uses Quake3 and various bots to control realtime sound synthesis in a PureData (PD) patch. Data like bot position, view angle, weapon etc. are sent to PD over the network interface. The PD patch then uses these to control the soundscape that is being continuously generated. The visual component consists of Quake3 with custom made maps and graphics. See a video of q3apd at Lovebytes to get an idea of the result.

Via Pixelsumo. See also Alison Mealey’s Unrealart.

 
Name: Project

Dein Lieblingsgestalter: Generative hip hop visuals

Jannis Kreft has uploaded videos of his generative hip hop visuals (made in VVVV), which was blogged here a while ago. It looked good in pictures, but in motion it really rocks. Massive kudos to Jannis for proving that abstract generative visuals can stand its ground against speculative booty videos. You can find the video over on DeinLieblingsgestalter.de, it’s short but most excellent.

For those who of you who don’t know German, Dein Lieblingsgestalter roughly means “your favorite designer”, but Liebling also means beloved and so is a more ambiguous word. The name is a play on a German rapper whose artist name is Deine Lieblingsrapper. I have no idea if Jannis knows him or not. In any case, the video features a gem of German rap, created specifically for Jannis’ finals show (note that this is transcribed from the video, and my German grammar is dodgy at best):

DeinLieblingsgestalter.de / Monarch und Thec / this is how we do / Ihr hört die Raps von Monarch und Thec / für deinen Lieblingsgestalter / Jannis Kilian Kreft / das ist innovativ / quasi ganz grosses Kino / vergiss alles was du kennst / Wer war noch mal Tarantino?…

Name: Project

Dein Lieblingsgestalter: Generative hip hop visuals

I should say that Jannis is an ex-student of mine from the Universität der Künste, so I am probably biased when looking at this project. But I love the way he has managed to make the hip hop expression effortlessly his own, all the while making no attempts at satisfying any visual clichees from the genre in his visuals. He manages to create visual 3D spaces with sound-responsive input, without it feeling contrived or unoriginal. The colors are good, and he has a solid grasp of graphic vocabulary. Makes me think it would have been an excellent addition to the Generator.x tour.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if I was still his teacher I’d be proud. Way to go, Jannis. It’ll be interesting to see what you do next.

 

This video shows Berlin-based Frank Bretschneider performing live on the Generator.x concert tour, with excerpts from Trondheim, Oslo and Fredrikstad. Bretschneider creates his own visuals using a highly reduced vocabulary of shapes and colors to create a precise visual representation of his music. More information about his work can be found in his profile.

Video: Frank Bretschneider live on the Generator.x concert tour. (~ 5.5 MB)


 
The following information refers to past events, and is only retained for historical purposes.
Generator.x: The concert tour

Generator.x: The concert tour (Phonophani, Lia vs. Emi Maeda)

Generator.x: The concert tour – 19-29 April, 2006

Phonophani (NO) / Marius Watz (NO)
Emi Maeda (JP) / Lia (AT)
Frank Bretschneider (DE)

This week sees the beginning of the Generator.x concert tour, with 7 dates all over Norway – we’ll even go north of the Arctic Circle. The tour is produced by Rikskonsertene, and presents a selection of artists working with generative strategies in the intersection between sound and visual performance. Co-curators are Marius Watz and Alexander Rishaug, the latter also known for his music and his RandomSystem festival projects.

Norwegian Phonophani (aka Espen Sommer Eide) will play glitchy improvisations using Max/MSP, accompanied by generative visuals by Marius Watz. Helsinki-based harpist Emi Maeda will play harp combined with electronic sound manipulations, with Lia doing visuals. Finally we are pleased to be joined by Frank Bretschneider from Berlin, one of the founders of the renowned Raster-Noton label and a veteran of minimalist beats and sine wave abstractions. In what could be seen as a continuation of the Gesamtkunstwerk tradition, Bretschneider also produces visuals from his sound works.

Photos from the tour will be put online on Flickr.

Generator.x: Tour dates

Our thanks go to Rikskonsertene, Alexander Rishaug and local organizers like TEKS, BEK and Tou Scene for making this tour possible.

For information about the concert that took place during the Generator.x conference in Oslo, please visit the Generator.x Club page.

 
Jannis Kreft: Generative Audiovisual Systems

Jannis Kreft: Generative Audiovisual Systems (rappers Monarch & Thec)

Jannis Kreft (aka "Dein Lieblinsgestalter") has documented his diploma project for Joachim Sauter’s class at Universität der Künste in Berlin. Entitled "Generative Audiovisual Systems", the project is a performatice live show using VVVV to generate interactive sets for rappers Monarch & Thec.

Abstract visuals are normally seen illustrating electronic music, while hip hop typically features ubiquitous booty videos. Kreft breaks the norm, only referencing traditional hip hop aesthetics with an interactive Lowrider model (seen top left). Using IR camera tracking, projections onto the bodies of the performers can be isolated from the rest of the set.

See Kreft’s site for details, including step-by-step progress reports, and be sure to look for the hilarious bluescreen photos. The site also holds documentation of other audiovisual projects Kreft has been creating for media design studio Art+Com.

Respect to the German generative massive. Peace, I’m out.

 

I know glitchy sounds and visuals are appreciated round these parts, so I couldn’t miss out on posting about Karl Klomp and partner-in-crime Tom Verbruggen. These hyperactive boys indulge in video bending, max/msp hacking, hardware repurposing and general sweet mayhem.

A student at the Frank Mohr Institute in Groningen, Karl Klomp (aka MNK) documents his hardware hacks and visual glitch on www.karlklomp.nl. Make sure to see the videos of his live performances, he combines drawn animation with video bending noise. Tom Verbruggen (aka Toktek) is part of the Sonido Gris band / art collective, and also does performance art, installation etc. I certainly hope they drop by Berlin sometime.

 
DJ Strangefruit

DJ Strangefruit

DJ Deadswan

DJ Deadswan

Good news: We’ve managed to book two excellent DJs for the Generator.x club event.

Those of you who come to the event will start the evening by enjoying the sights and sounds of Erich Berger's Tempest, the gorgeous abstractions of TinyLittleElements (alias Lia and Sebastian Meissner) and the video textures and drones of Blind. Then the mood segues smoothly into party time with DJs Strangefruit and Deadswan, both cult figures in their respective scenes.

DJ Strangefruit is a true veteran of the Norwegian club scene, and is considered by many to be Norway’s consistently best DJ. With Strangefruit’s varied playing style and his extensive experience from playing live with artists like Nils Petter Molvær, he rarely finds a crowd he can’t please.

As one might expect DJ Deadswan comes from a less mainstream background, originally organizing the underground club Strictly Kinky as part of the performance trio and TV presenters Genitalia. He’s frequently found behind the decks of various clubs, spinning the weirder side of electronica, poptrash and anything else that’s fun and sinful. The Iconoclastic club nigt that he organizes with DJ Lynch is a famous hangout for people who like their music a little… different.

Having seen Deadswan and Strangefruit team up before, I can promise you an exciting night of hybrid styles. It doesn’t exactly hurt that our venue for the evening, Hausmania, is well-known for being a take-no-prisoners party spot. The DJs will be accompanied by generative VJ sets by GX (NO) and Jan Kremlacek from Spoon (CZ). Jan has a funky setup with an EKG monitor that allows clubbers to influence the visuals through their heartbeats, let’s hope we cab avoid cases of arrhytmia.

 
Golan Levin: Scrapple

Golan Levin: Scrapple

Thomas Petersen from Artificial.dk has written an interesting review of projects at this year’s Ars Electronica that can be said to be artistic interfaces. By this term he means “hybrids between artworks and artistic instruments, which explore the relations between sound and vision in physical and virtual space”. It’s a good read, check it out.

One of the examples Thomas brings up is Golan Levin’s piece Scrapple: A physical active score table. Scrapple is a product of several years of experimentation that Golan has done on active scores, i.e. a score that is used to produce music but which is created and performed live. His AVES project (on which the Scribble piece is performed) has so far been the culmination of this work, but I have to admit I think Scrapple works almost better on a musical level. Golan’s work is always playful, but Scrapple is his funkiest sound so far and it’s an instant audience hit…