Generating a form is always an intriguing process… but what about generating a set of rules that generate a form? Or even more intriguing, a form that generates itself?
There are many roots of the generative thinking, but there is no doubt that biology provided in the 19th and 20th century the fundamental ideas to comprehend the natural phenomena as the result of rule-based processes. We can cite here Darwin’s natural selection, Watson and Cricks’ discovery of the DNA structure and the seminal work of D’Arcy Thompson On Growth and Form. Along the 20th century, with the propagation of systemic theories and information technology, rule-based processes occupied an important role in art and design. Terms like “complexity” and “emergence”, research fields as “artificial life” or techniques such as “form-finding” or “evolutionary algorithms” permeate current production.
The idea of this post is to present an interesting branch of art that instead of maintaining a inspiration in biological processes, utilizes theses natural processes as the raw material for a generative art. Cyberneticians such as Gordon Pask were also interested in things like slime molds and ferrous sulphate solutions in the 1970s. Particularly, slime molds (and other molds) are interesting because they morph from unicellular entities into aggregate.
The project magical combination (and here, 2012-2014) by Antoine Bridier-Nahmias explores the visual characteristics of different molds. It is very interesting to have all these organisms growing and presenting different patterns. However, I believe that the emphasis on the pictures end up treating molds as static visual compositions, and hides its growth process and all the techniques behind the project. Of course, if the author adopted a critical discourse, this conflict with the logic of an growing organism could be seen as the exposure of the arbitrariness of an artistic image or even a critique about the privilege of human creativity in aesthetics.
There is another project that tries explicitly to register the growth of the molds and also to influence it. The Nexto biologic workshop ( and partners, 2014) was based on the use of programming and 3d-printers to simulate/generate a pattern upon which the slime mold would growth and adapt itself to. I believe this project does not have a huge visual impact, it did not took so long as the first and it also does not have a space to question the structure of the artistic field and aesthetic discourse. However, it has a fascinating characteristic. As it explicitly exposes human interference (it is a workshop) the results depart from the field of visual aesthetics to a kind of curiosity associated with the development of simulations and (at some level) even with board / strategy games.
I’ve never used OpenFrameworks before, and up until this Looking Outwards, I wasn’t clear on what it was. After seeing the large variety of projects created with it, I am very excited to learn it.
My interest in animation led me to look at a library of animated GIFs created in OpenFrameworks. I was looking of giphy.com which had a lot of submissions by Adam Ferriss. a BFA student at MICA. I was particularly interested in the following GIF (link):
This GIF, although computer generated, has a sense of material, in the way that it references drawing techniques (contour lines). It also reminds me of the shape of an ink line on paper. I aim to make work like this, work that is referencing very organic, physical phenomena. However, I really wish this GIF would have been seamlessly looping. Every time it restarts so abruptly, I am reminded of how it was created. Transitions are never as abrupt as they can be on screen.
Next, The Color Project at IFP Media Center. For this project, the artists selected movies filmed in a city. Then, they got the recording locations of scenes in the movie and plugged each location into Google Maps. The maps are displayed in a grid, and are synchronized as they zoom in closer and closer to each location. Eventually, the whole map is filled with a field of color, and the whole grid is filled with a color palette that related to the city being filmed in.
One of the things I enjoyed about this piece was its presentation. This is not software for any users besides the artists involved. It was not presented in browsers or as an application; the piece was presented on 27 HD screens. This is an awesome piece: Information visualization, Open frameworks, and Art.
Untitled from Christian Moeller on Vimeo.
MOJO // CHRISTIAN MOELLER
Mojo by Christian Moeller is an interactive art pice that utilizes and industrial robot arm, augmented with stage lighting. The effect is an automated spotlight on the street that follows passers by. The project is a charming intervention in that it creates quite a playful atmosphere on the street. Individuals are given the ability to literally be in “the spotlight” in a public place. I really enjoy the playful aspect of this work. However, I feel that simply using a spotlight was a limitation. Why not use a powerful projector or more advanced dmx lighting? This also has a great opportunity for the presence of sound design. The addition of something like a sound laser may be interesting. Most of all I believe that the interaction could incorporate a bit more. The movement of the robot is quite simple, so some deeper level of interaction could boost the theatrics of the piece. Thematically the piece is very similar to Snout by Golan Levin, however the execution of this project isn’t as dynamic or clear. Although I really enjoy this piece, it set’s a bar for future improvement. There are several ofx add ons that allow interfacing with industrial robots. Although its somewhat unclear as to what was actually used for this project, it is a good example of what could be achieved with the add on.
Kenny Wong and Marco De Mutiis – ][LIMINAL][ Performance Video from Kenny Wong Chi-Chuen on Vimeo.
LIMINAL // KENNY WONG + MARCO DE MUTIS
Liminal by Kenny Wong and Marco De Mutis is a work that utilizes a flock of hacked drones to deliver sound throughout a space. The drones work together to create a distributed sound system that knows no limits of gravity. This allows for a completely free exploration of spaces in ways that un- aided humans cannot. This aspect of the project is very interesting to me. The drones expose something that doesn’t exist otherwise. To me this is a strong justification for their presence. The only missed opportunity that I find with this piece is the absence of visual presence. Although I appreciate the purity of simply engaging sound, I feel like a visual accompaniment could be very powerful. Work with drones has become very prevalent amongst the media arts community. Things such as light painting, and projection have found nice couplings with this hardware typology. There also is a comprehensive ofx add on for the ar drone, which allows a broad low level control of these platforms. This enables adaptability to a number of purposes and networked communications.
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CSIS Global Data Chandelier from Sosolimited on Vimeo.
As a fan of 3D art and clever data visualization, I quickly found “Global Data Chandelier” by SOSO Limited.
The chandelier itself is a series of hanging colored dots that change to display different worldy statistics.
Quite honestly, this pieces bores me. I find parts of it subtle, and the concept seems a little overdone, but I was able to appreciate its seamless integration into its surrounding, and its ability to get a point across without rubbing it in the viewer’s faces.
Looking at a Horse from Evan Boehm on Vimeo.
I’m not a horse fanatic, but I find horses majestic. In fact, when I think of the word “majestic” I automatically think of a horse running in slow motion; that’s why I was drawn to the piece “Looking at a Horse.”
“Looking at a Horse” is a work that shifts based on the way a person looks at it.
In the school of art, I’ve been told to think context many many times, so this piece instantly struck a chord with me. The horse keeps moving forward no matter what, but the surroundings change constantly.
My favorite thing about this piece, other than the horse, is that it constantly challenges the viewer’s relationship to the art. A painting viewed in a white room can be viewed completely differently as the same painting in a black room.
Setting is everything even if the subject remains static.
Theme: OpenFrameworks & OF Addons
EyeWriter is an open source, low cost eye-tracking system that allows ALS patients, physically paralyzed and patients with motor impairments to draw on a computer using their eyes. The project was created by Free Art and Technology(FAT), OpenFrameworks, and the Graffiti Research Lab. The software for EyeWrite has two components, one software tracks the movement and location of the eye using blob detection, and the second is a drawing software which creates drawings using eye movement, both of which are programmed in OpenFrameworks. This project allows people to utilize their creativity when they are limited by physical demands, although I am unsure of the accuracy of the drawing tool. I find this work to be inspiring as we are constantly focused on the medical aspects of physically disabled rather than how we can allow them to experience opportunities they are limited from. The tracking system is impressive to be able to track the eye, but I wonder how long someone can do it without hurting their eyes or getting tired.
A years worth of runners workout routes in New York, London, and Tokyo aggregated from Nike+ to create a mapped visualization using OpenFrameworks and OpenStreetMaps. This installation was created by YesYesNo, and Dual Forces for Nike retail stores. This visualization allows viewers to understand these cities from a runners perspective, the more dense the white the more times that path was travelled. It would be interesting to see a week by week visualization of the routes to understand patterns in correlation to weather and time of year.