Posts Tagged ‘generative’

Group Exhibition at DNA Artspace, November 29th to December 15th, 2013, London, Ontario.

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Giles Whitaker and Chris Myhr, 2013

Found appliances, surface-transducers, speakers, computers, and electronics.

The former workplace kitchen of the Fodemesi Shoes factory is reanimated with sound and motion. An array of computer-controlled appliances operates autonomously within an immersive field of sound generated by devices embedded in the walls, ceiling and cupboards of the space. The work aims to evoke and intensify the forlorn qualities of this abandoned site, and engages with ideas of labour, consumption, appetites, and noise.

Giles Whitaker works with machines, microcontrollers, and found objects. Sound is a key element of his installations, which aim to reveal and analyze the political and cultural properties of the spaces they occupy. Giles completed his undergraduate degree in Wellington, New Zealand, and his MFA at Western University, London, Ontario. His past exhibitions in New Zealand and Canada include abstract video, sound, and interactive multimedia installations.

Chris Myhr is an interdisciplinary media artist whose studio practice moves between media installation, sound-based work, video and photography. He is currently working with visual programming languages and surface-transduction technologies in the generation of live and immersive listening environments which address the interconnected relationships between sound, body, and space. He is particularly interested in the ways in which the natural and built spaces we inhabit, together with our acquired and conditioned approaches to listening, shape aural experience and perception.

You can hear the sounds of the installation here: https://soundcloud.com/gileswhitaker/clamour


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I have an interactive, projected work in an exhibition at McIntosh Gallery, London, Ontario, presented in conjunction with the conference “Intensities and Lines of Flight: Deleuze, Guattari and the Arts”.


About the work:

netLines is a complex interactive system which exhibits a range of different behaviours. The composition consists of 10,000 lines which traverse the whole space, and the voids in the space are created by the absence of lines. The lines are simultaneously repelled from all these voids until they reach positions of equilibrium. Voids can be expanded by clicking or dragging on them with the mouse pointer. This affects the whole field and the lines are forced to jitter around until they find new equilibrium positions. Different behaviours can be elicited with different levels and intensities of interaction. The sound of the work changes to reflect these different behaviours.


Public Events:

Friday, May 4, 5:00 P.M.
Keynote address: Josée Drouin Brisebois, Curator of Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Canada, Conron Hall, University College, Western University

Friday, May 4, 7:00 P.M.
Lines of Flight reception, McIntosh Gallery. Join Josée Drouin Brisebois, exhibiting artists and conference delegates to open the exhibition and conference. Hors d’oeuvre and aperitifs served.

Sunday, May 6, 11:00 A.M.
Intensities and Lines of Flight exhibition tour, McIntosh Gallery

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Vision Persist, an interactive, abstract projection, will be showing at the Hide & Seek, Show & Tell event which is part of the Nuit Blanche art evening in London, Ontario.  Saturday 18th June, starts 9pm, finishes 3 am. The space will also feature live music, zine tables, and art workshops.  http://museumlondon.ca/programsevents/nuitblanche/

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I have created a new abstract painting generation algorithm which chooses colours according to certain colour harmonies, arrranges the starting elements in a (somewhat) random manner, and then evolves the painting gradually over time using the Four Winds algorithm. I’m very pleased with this work as it not only creates interesting colour/texture/composition combinations, but the colours continue to be pushed around into new combinations as the program runs. It changes slowly, but it’s interesting to watch if you enjoy this sort of thing.

The initial colour harmonies are based on colour theory,  with monochromatic, complementary, colour triads and so on – with a lot of random variation in the colours and some extra colours sometimes thrown in randomly. The number of colours is kept integral (8, 16, 64 or 128), and the colours used are stored in arrays and then drawn on when the “initial seed painting” is drawn. This is analogous to a painting process where the artist mixes the colours he needs before starting painting. The evolution process cannot create any new colours – no blending occurs. This keeps the painting surface pretty flat and digital-looking, which I like.

I like digital paintings that look like digital paintings. There’s no need to try and draw on the prestige of a “superior” medium by trying to emulate its effects. No, these paintings are unashamedly digital.

I have kept the gamut of variability pretty wide on these paintings – so the colour harmonies are not too tightly programmed. So some surprising colour combinations can still occur (not always pretty!).

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I’m quite excited by this program as it addresses some of the concerns I have with generative art I have seen in the past, which I talked about in my last post. Starting from a single image, this program shifts colours around from place to place, creating what appear to be competing colonies of colour which grow, move around, and die off over time, almost like fungal or bacterial colonies in a petri-dish. It’s very pleasing to watch this run and see just how long it will run for, creating surprising and interesting compositions from the original colour palette of the image.

“Four Winds” refers to the four drawing methods which are essentially competing against each other in the picture frame. What is drawn in a particular area of the image depends on the hue that is already there, but also on an internal “clock” in the program (360 degrees, which advances one degree every second). It is this clock which creates the cyclic nature of the transformations. Without this feature, one colour would outcompete the others quite quickly. The effect of the “clock” is to create a cyclical changing selection pressure which drives the composition through its cyclic (but never repeating) phases.

You can see the program running here . Use keys 1-4 to select the seed image. ‘R’ resets to the original image, keeping the current seed image.

Screenshots: below we see the starting “seed image”, followed by some phases of evolution (each a few minutes apart).

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I observed in my last post that many of the generative drawing/painting programs I have seen tend to have similar characteristics. The “wow” factor on first seeing it, being impressed by the cleverness and novel behaviour of the program (and often, also, by how high the frame-rate is) followed, after a few minutes, by boredom, as you realise you have already seen everything the program has to offer. In many cases these programs are made by people with backgrounds in programming, rather than art or design, and their goal is to achieve just this – a novel, elegant visual effect achieved with the minimum amount of code. These are beautiful visualisations of mathematical structures – which lack something (for me).

I have a Fine Arts background, and my main interests are in colour and abstraction. Creating an abstract painting with colour, composition and texture that is complex enough to hold sustained attention, and yet unified enough to not look too contrived, is quite challenging and enjoyable. When you add the time-dimension to this in a generative work, you are faced with a daunting task – the complexity goes up because you have a whole extra dimension to deal with – and the possibilities (which were already infinite), swell to another order of magnitude. How can I deal with all the usual “problems” of abstract painting, but also deal with the fact that the work is changing/transforming over time?

There are so many possibilities, and I explored some of them in my Digital Phenomena exhibition in Wellington, New Zealand last year.  All of this work was pre-generated – videos presented either as large-scale projections or on TV monitors – but the principles of “abstraction that changes over time” are the same. Some of these works were like abstract paintings that simply morphed from state to state – which felt like a sort of narrative progression. Others were more like  sort of unitary compositions that went through different oscillations or phases – but the “same object” was present the whole time.  Some of the works had sound, which was either very strongly (algorithmically) linked to the video, or serving as a sort of “soundtrack” for it. Other works presented a sort of “fixed frame” in which activity took place – like a frame which can only see part of the “abstract universe” which it is observing.

But, back to the discussion of programming art. The simple, elegant generative work is like a “sketch”, an great little idea which is ready to be incorporated into a larger work.  The finished work should have what I will refer to as “time complexity”. Over time, significant and surprising changes should occur, rewarding sustained viewing. This does not necessarily have to arise in some clever way out of an elegant, unified algorithm. It could be a really complicated, ugly algorithm that nonetheless achieves the desired result –  a work that is capable of changing tack, moving into different states which contrast with the ones that came before.

These states can be explicitly programmed – “every 60 seconds randomly change into a different state”, for example, or, “if screen colour characteristics reach <condition> change into state x”. A program like this can become quite complicated, certainly not elegant. It is always checking to see if certain conditions have been met, and if they have it flips into  different modes. It is this complexity of rules which are known to the programmer but not to the viewer which creates the “unpredictability” that make the work interesting to watch. For someone who likes the elegant, well-crafted programs, this probably seems ugly and unsatisfying, because their aims are different from mine – I don’t want to create some glittering internal algorithmic structure – programming is just a tool for me. In a way, my programs “cheat” by having some sort of staging behind the scenes rather than using clever mathematics for the complexity to arise out of. And, from what I have seen, the clever mathematics fails to create interesting art – it creates interesting visualisations of beautiful mathematical structures – which I enjoy looking at – but it doesn’t have the gritty, down-to-earth contextuality  – the human element – I am searching for.

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Latest version of the genetic algorithm abstract painting generator. I’ve removed lines and arcs as they tend to create a lot of small lines with a range of different colours which can look quite horrible. This version just uses rectangles, ellipses, brushstrokes and scribbles (plus some filter-type effects).  I think it looks much more painterly.

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