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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abstrakt Abstrakt: Louise Naunton Morgan

Louise Naunton Morgan: The Human Printer, 2008
Various sizes, felt tip on tracing paper

As “The Human Printer”, Louise Morgan offers her services of ‘printing’ images manually. In the same process as for offset printing, the motifs  are separated as CMYK halftones. These grids are then, dot by dot, meticulously transferred onto paper by hand. The motifs dissolve into a coarse technical structure with a washed-out quality that reminds of the approaches to representation invented by pointillists.

Morgan’s indifference toward the motifs that are ordered bespeaks a democratic image regime in her work, which is otherwise encountered only in the production lines of industrial photographic laboratories. At the same time, she makes a new case for technical image production in art, which has been discussed ever since Warhol’s Factory and Benjamin’s ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’.

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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.

Italian generative art: Franchino, Capozzo, Limiteazero

Franchino: Petals #1 / Capozzo: Code.specific / Limiteazero: Laptop orchestra

C.STEM | Art Electronic Systems and Software-Art practices
1-2 June 2006, Sede 32 Dicembre, Turin

An upcoming exhibition / conference / club event in Turin looks set to blow the lid on the Italian generative art scene. C.STEM is organized by artist Fabio Franchino, and is possibly the first Italian event dedicated to generative and software-based procedural art. In a traditionally conservative Italian art scene this should prove an interesting event.

C.STEM will show the work of 3 Italians and one Norwegian, with myself (Marius Watz) representing the Nordic contingent. The remaining three are Fabio Franchino, Alessandro Capozzo and Limiteazero, all significant Italian artists or artist groups working with code. Their work has long been seen on blogs and web sites, and despite individual differences shows a tendency towards poetic, self-contained works. Aesthetics is a clear focus for all three, with a warm organic feel given to even the most abstract visuals. Whether this is an Italian specialization is hard to say, but it is interesting to note local differences in style and expression. Compare for instance to the Austrian scene with its focus on hard-edged abstraction.

Fabio Franchino shows an interest in autonomous virtual drawing machines, and has an at times painterly approach to his images. At home in print media, he creates sumptious compositions like City on sea, Suff and Petals. Other works like Homo and Blow are carefully exposed chaotic systems, in what is practically a kind of generative photography. Yet others (Silus, Toys) explore permutations of algorithmic form systems.

Alessandro Capozzo is more concerned with structure and topologies than with surface. His online works often deal with organic growth processes, but recently he has been branching out into installations and more complex interactive projects. One example is RGB, “an interactive musical installation for 2-9 users” where colored flash lights are used by the audience to influence the live music. Code Specfic is a new Processing application which interactively visualizes the structure of its own source code.

Limiteazero is an architecture, media design and media art studio based in Milan. Together, Paolo Rigamonti and Silvio Mondino create installations that are elegant not just in their simplicity, but also in their pureness of concept. Their Laptop orchestra sees the user “conducting” the sound and visuals on 15 laptops, turning them off and on to create a variety of soundscapes. The glass of a_mirror mirrors the world around it, but not without adding its own visual modifications, tracing the outlines of what it “sees”.

As for myself, I will be showing a new series of 4 prints called C/M/Y/K, produced as offset-print posters to be given away in the gallery. This project marks a welcome experiment with a medium I have not worked with for a long time, and it’s exciting to be able to exploit the sheer detail and scale of large prints.

For the purpose of stimulating discourse, C.STEM will feature a short panel of presentations moderated by theorist Domenico Quaranta. See the event program for details. The panel will then be followed by a C.STEM club event, with projections by the artists in many different locations. C.STEM is organized by Fabio Franchino and produced by Associazione Culturale 32 Dicembre with the support of

For the record, I generally try not to blog exhibitions I am participating in. But this show is too interesting not too, purely by virtue of the quality of the work shown by the Italian contingent. I hope it will prove a fruitful platform for future C.STEM events.

Joshua Davis: Z4byJD

Joshua Davis: Z4byJD. Left: The prints (details). Right: The car, the artist.

Joshua Davis is at it again. This time he was commissioned by BMW to do a series of prints based on their new Z4 Coupe, in what could be considered a followup to the BMW Art Cars. The result is Z4byJD, consisting of a limited series of unique generative prints and a rockstar-style web site documenting the process.

The Z4byJD site, while highly polished and well executed, verges on pure designer camp. The site’s intro sequence begins with the payoff “The most radical artist… takes on the most thrilling BMW”, set to a rock/hip hop soundtrack. Davis is shown posing thoughtfully kneeling by the car in a clean showroom, inspecting every line of the car while the camera makes much of his famous tattoos.

Once past this curious opening, visitors can enjoy some generative graphics courtesy of Davis, and a “making of” video that threatens to become even worse than the intro, but miraculously saves itself at the last minute. After a frenzied start, it calms down and has Davis speaking with the soft-spoken Chief Designer Adrian van Hooydonk. The rock guitars give way to pleasant ambient music and talk about lines, light and surfaces. Joshua Davis explains his generative work processes, and the BMW heads make a comeback explaining their support for experimental art.

So despite Davis’ coarse initial quip about the car’s “sexy ass”, the video suddenly becomes plausible high-class BMW branding. This is a luxury car they’re selling, after all.

The prints (shown in a Gallery section with curiously low resolution images) do not literally reference the Z4 Coupe, even if segments of the car are buried in the composition. The images follow the vein of the organic-feeling generative systems Davis show on Once-upon-a-forest, a look that he does very well. The work has an effortless organic quality to it, with great colors and composition. A single print (all unique) can be bought online for EUR 275, not a bad price for a 61 x 112 cm print (unmounted). Obviously, the selling of the prints is not the money-making part of the deal.

It’s interesting to see that BMW (or at least their ad company) think that promoting a new media designer slash electronic artist in this way will help them sell cars. Using artists to endorse luxury products is of course common-place, and the BMW Art Cars do set the precedence, but still this seems an odd pairing. Then again, maybe Joshua Davis really is the Eminem of new media.

Just for balance, here’s some alternative takes on the same project: MPH Magazine, Autoblog, Dexigner, Leftlane News. Make up your own mind, don’t listen to us.

Tom Moody: Swarm

Tom Moody: Swarm

Tom Moody’s work is done with lo-tech digital tools: MS Paintbrush (the old version, mind you) and consumer printers. Quite a stretch for someone who originally started out as a painter. Moody also maintains a wonderful blog on life, digital art and everything (his art work is here). He posted yesterday about an interview with him in the magazine NY Arts. To quote him slightly out of context: “..the text is an attempt to legitimize working with the computer to my brethren in the gallery world; that quest seems totally doomed..”

The interview and Moody’s own reflections on it is worth reading for anyone who cares about overlaps between the electronic and commercial art worlds. And if you’re not, then just read his blog for the pleasure of it.

Boris Müller: Poetry on the Road

Boris Müller: Poetry on the Road

Boris Müller is a computational designer and educator based in Berlin. His work combines an analytical approach with a personal signature. This strategy is used to great success in his series of posters for the poetry festival Poetry on the Road. To create the graphics, Boris writes software that interprets texts and turns them into visual representations.

The 2003 version is particularly beautiful, with each letter of the alphabet being interpreted as a command to draw lines or change the quality of the line being drawn. The result is a complex tangle of shapes, expressive and poetic in their own right but also containing the code of the original poetry that was used as input. There is a simplified interactive version online to illustrate how it works.

Boris recently became professor for Interaction Design at Fachhochschule Potsdam, where he teaches students using Processing and Flash. Expect interesting work from Potsdam in the future…