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...]
Tag: software

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Despite our enthusiasm for folksonomy and tag-based navigation, the Generator.x blog has not utilized tagging to manage its own content. While all entries were tagged, those tags could not be used to navigate the blog itself. Until today. Help has arrived in the form of Christine Davis' nifty WordPress plugin Ultimate Tag Warrior 3.0. As the name would indicate, this plugin presents a complete solutions for all things tag-related.

As a result, there are a few new features, although they can be hard to spot right away. Where previously the tag links under the post titles would lead to a search on Technorati, they will now present you with an archive of all entries tagged with that keyword. You can also access the tag search directly with URLs of the form, or choose Browse Generator.x by tags from the Categories menu.

There is also a small collection of the most popular tags in the sidebar. It doesn’t look so great right now, but it provides the basic functionality. The Generator.x blog templates are due for an overhaul in the not too distant future, the tag list will be more elegantly resolved then. For now, the new tag features add to the ease-of-use of navigation.

A behind-the-scenes change is the migration from tracking visitors using, to installing the excellent Mint stats package. At $30, it’s hardly much of an investment, and the design and presentation of information is spot-on. In fact, one could argue that Mint features some of the best table design on the, for proof, see the demo over on Add to that the fact that like WordPress, Mint is specifically built to be extended upon and there are already a host of great plugins, it was an easy choice.


This site went live while Generator.x was having a holiday, but it deserves a repost even though it’s a few weeks old:

The ever-productive gentlemen Tom Carden and Karsten Schmidt (Toxi) have launched Processinghacks, a user-contributed Wiki intended to provide the Processing community with documentation of advanced techniques.

Processinghacks nicely fills the gap left by the lack of tutorials on the Processing site, combined with the beginner focus of the built-in examples. While a lot of answers are available on the forums, they are sometimes out of date or hard to find. Processinghacks provides details on specialized techniques that are beyond the scope of the core Processing project, such as integrating Processing with Java or hacking the source code itself.

A big plus is that this effort is completely independent of Ben and Casey, which means that they can focus their energies on the core project of bringing Processing to version 1.0. For those who remember the debate brought up by Karsten a little while ago, this should set an example. Instead of just complaining about the state of things, people like Tom and Karsten are actively providing a service to the community.

Some highlights from Processinghacks:


Toxi aka Karsten Schmidt has been playing productive troublemaker the last few days, blogging some loose thoughts about what kind of tools and ideas are needed for a productive evolution of the computational design field. To roughly summarize: He is critical of the current state of the generative / computational scene, and the tools that are being hyped. Among his criticisms is that the work that is currently popular in the scene is often focused on immediate gratification, duplicating already existing work. It also often found lacking in niceties like software design, or even a more general understanding of good coding practices.

Karsten used Processing as the basis of his statements, pointing out that the procedural syntax of Processing could educate lazy coders and ultimately a dead-end for serious users of the tool. Not surprisingly, this has caused an explosive (but not incendiary) discussion over on the Processing forums. Ultimately, the discussion deals with the theoretical foundation for a tool like Processing, but also with possible future directions for the project. It’s on the techy side, but relevant for anyone who fancies her/himself a coder or who wants to understand what makes a programming language/tool capable of maximum freedom of expression.

Be sure to also read Karsten's followup where he clarifies his position after some misunderstandings.


The concept of the artist software work camp is spreading. Piksel in Bergen has been a hit with the live visuals performers and developers, now the French city of Poitiers is host to Make Art 2006 later this month. The event is organized by the Goto 10 collective, who describe Make Art as a “festival dedicated to the integration of “free and open source” software in electronic art”.

This is an event for and by people who make stuff as well as talk about it, so expect a hands-on approach. The schedule includes a Pure Data workshop, an exhibition and a program of lectures and software presentations. Most of the tools presented tend towards applications in sound or community building.

Now what is needed is for someone to organize an open source work camp for the visual people, rallying the Processing, VVVV and Open Source Flash communities. Any takers?


Halfshag’s pixelArt tool must be heaven for Eboy wannabes. Isometric pixel graphics might be oh-so-2002, but this tool gets big kudos for its cool architectural styling, more futuristic Modernist than retro Atari.

PixelArt is developed in Flash, by halfshag aka Richard Simpkins, a London-based Actionscript developer & designer. The tool itself is easy to use. Blocks are selected from a pre-existing library, and can then be dragged around the grid and placed on top of each other. No particular isometric skills are required, the tool does it all for you.

There are also community functions that allow you to save your and reload your creations once you’ve registered as a user. Saved pieces will be displayed in the pixelGallery, as well as in a downloadable screensaver. The screensaver retrieves creations from the web site, and shows them locally in high resolution. It’s almost better than TV.

The images shown above are the following (left to right):


Coder community: CodeTree

Rich Hauck: Flying X

Rich Hauck: Flying X

Rich Hauck has just launched CodeTree, a new and ambitious project that, if successful, could become a gathering point for coders, artists and designers. CodeTree is a community-based depository where users upload pieces created in Flash and Processing for others to look at. If they like the work, they can download the source code and learn from it. Taking some cues from Flickr and, CodeTree lets registered users tag works as well as rate them.

From the about page:

Can digital artists learn new techniques, be exposed to new coding structures, and better express themselves by working in tandem or in a group?

CodeTree is an attempt to create a worthwhile dialogue between new media artists of different skill levels and backgrounds. The project’s objective is to offer a social network that facilitates learning and artistic expression—a place where coders can dissect, share, and expand upon one another’s code.

CodeTree is still in Beta, read the announcement blog entry for more details. To be successful, it will probably need more ways to include information about the works. The focus as it stands is on visual sketches only, for which it should do a far better job than the user-submitted section of exhibition page. But code that solves particular problems will be more useful in the long run, whether they are simple hacks or actual libraries. It’ll be interesting to see how CodeTree develops.

Rich Hauck is a student at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU. Link via REAS on the forums.


More examples of why software patents are an obstacle both to developers and consumers:

1. Patent holding company NTP threatens to shut down RIM’s Blackberry operations over a patent involving wireless email. See

2. Creative Technology wants Apple to fork over money because they have been awarded a patent on navigation of music on MP3 players. Again, see This is after a Hong Kong company has already tried to make Apple pay 12% of all iPod revenue due to a DRM patent.

This goes nicely with the previous madness of the Eolas plugin patent and the Scientigo XML patent claim. Hands up anyone who thinks this use of patents fairly protects the rights of inventors? If your hand is now in the air, ask yourself if you think consumers and society in general should be made to pay for what is rapidly becoming an extortion racket?

In other news: Wikipedia sees more controversy over the accountability of its editors. First an entry on JFK accused a government official journalist of being involved in the assassination, until the official in question changed it himself. Then podcasting pioneer Adam Curry edited out credits to other podcasters from the podcasting entry. For now, Wikipedia have disabled the rights of anonymous users to create new articles, but they can still edit existing ones.

Update: CNN has a story on the bogus JFK assassination Wikipedia entry. Turns out it was posted by Brian Chase, an operations manageer at a Nashville delivery company to play a prank on a co-worker. Quote: “Chase said he didn’t know the free Internet encyclopedia called Wikipedia was used as a serious reference tool.”

Macromedia == Adobe

Company formerly known as Macromedia

They’ve done it. Adobe has completed the acquisiton of Macromedia. Here’s what they say:

Adobe has always pushed the boundaries of the digital universe. Now, by integrating Macromedia’s creative energy with Adobe’s innovation and leadership, we’re taking another giant step forward. The new Adobe is well positioned to lead the industry and revolutionize how the world engages with information and ideas.

This is one marriage where it could have paid off for the audience to clear their throats and "speak now or forever hold their peace".

Some creatives might see this acquisition as the best thing since fried chicken. It unites competing software, file formats and workflows, thereby easing the load of users. Others (yours truly included) might be a bit more apprehensive. What’s to stop Adobe from becoming another Microsoft, using unfair licensing agreements and proprietary standards to kill competition? Adobe has shown in the past that they don’t really “get” the Web as a medium. Will their takeover of Macromedia stifle online design development?

Ok, so PDF, PostScript and SWF are all open formats, but can we expect things to stay that way? What will happen to SVG now that Adobe controls both SVG and SWF no longer has any real reason to champion it? (Not that it was such a big success to begin with.)

Sure, Adobe could teach Macromedia a thing or two about software development. Flash / Director and ActionScript / Lingo are both slightly eccentric development environments / programming languages, and could do with some cleaning up (to be fair, Director more so than Flash). Flash integration with After Effects would prove a real boost to both motion designers and artists who use Flash and want to make DVD content. But won’t the ultimate result be a vice grip on content developers, with practically all competition taken out of the market?

The “new” Adobe is already offering three software bundles that seem to suffer from a massive identity crisis. The packaging design is way off, and the product motto seems to be “Flash 8 with everything”. The future’s so bright…

Some analysis:


Seth Hunter has posted a short tutorial on how to integrate Processing and Supercollider, using Open Sound Control to send messages back and forth. This means that even if you can’t afford a Lemur controller, you can at least build yourself a spiffy experimental interface in Processing. Seth’s tutorial uses oscP5, an OSC library by Andreas Schlegel.

Caveat: Supercollider is free, but is primarily for MacOS. There is a Windows port of Supercollider, but I’m not sure how stable this is. See also: SourceForge page for Supercollider.


Jason Salavon’s work has been popping up all over the place lately. This week Infosthetics posted about his Playboy Centerfold piece, with several other blogs picking up the link. At the Generator.x conference Golan Levin showed his Form Study #1 as an example of how generative work could tap into richer conceptual dimensions.

Salavon’s project is a kind of anti-visualization. He hints at profound hidden meaning, but ultimately obscures or ridicules it. This is particularly true of his series of what he calls amalgamations, which includes the Playboy Centerfolds, 76 Blowjobs, 100 Special Moments etc. In these and works like Everything, All at Once the strategy of data averaging is an ironic device, ultimately reducing signal to noise. Not coincidentally, the resulting images tends to be pleasing to the eye, composed of pastel colors and soft shapes. In this way Salavon succeeds at creating visually interesting abstract images, while imbuing them with a suggestive content.

As attractive as the amalgamations are, Salavon’s Golem is a better comment on generative art. Golem is a series of 100 000 abstract paintings, created by software designed by Savalon to “relentlessly generate an infinite variety of such paintings”. This is a conceptual piece disguising itself as a visual work. Salavon claims that Golem “might be said to pass a Turing Test for abstract painting”, but in reality it is an ironic (if not nihilistic) comment on generic abstract painting and the use of software to create infinite variations.

Golem cuts to the heart of an issue meticulously avoided by most generative artists: What is the value of a single image produced by a process that generates infinite series? What constitutes the art object, the singular output or the process as a whole? For artists that are trying to operate in a commercial art reality (as Salavon is), these are dangerous questions, potentially undermining the value of software-based work. Artists like C.E.B. Reas have circumvented this problem by selling software works as unique one-off objects with no editions, or as single large-scale prints presenting snapshots of the work. The difference is that Reas is genuinely interested in the single image, whereas Salavonseems intent on demonstrating the meaningless of the same.

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