Archives for the ‘no boxes!’ Category

Spreading Time Chromatographically – The Painted Hills of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Painted_Hills_Bernhard_EdmaierPainted Hills – Bernhard Edmaier

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon is known for its layers of fossil plants and mammals that lived in the region during the Eocene and Miocene era – 44 million years ago. Part of the area is covered by a chromatographic landscape known as the Painted Hills.

Combined layers of volcanic materials, red fossil beds, grey shale and darkened dead vegetable matter are eroded and diffused by wind weathering and reconfigured it into well-defined chromatographic patterns. The hills appear as if the earthwork artists Christo and Jeanne Claude might have draped the landscape in Tie-dyed cotton, in subtle colours, instead of plain polypropylene.

Painted_Hills_Marc_ShandroPainted Hills – Marc Shandro

The patterns can be interpreted as terrestrial depositional sequences of materials originally existing over the vast swathes of time recombined into the present. In much the same way Chromatography separates constituents of mixtures through their movements at different speeds through a mediating substance, the Painted Hills spatio-temporally organise themselves into striate and plume patterns, resulting in a natural earthwork visualisation of ancient fossil eras, fragmented.

Pfeiffer_chromatographyPfeiffer Chromatography Pattern

A Flickr gallery of photographs of the Painted Hills can be found here.

Mind Expanders – Haus-Rucker-Co

mindExpander_Haus-Rucker-Co_1967Mind Expander – Haus-Rucker-Co 1967

Mind Expanders I and II, made in the late 60’s, by architectural group Haus-Rucker-Co are a couple of performative-architectural sculptures allowing two enclosed bodies to entwine within them – facilitating a conjoined altered state of psychedelic comm(union). The first Mind Expander uses the group’s trademark inflatable clear plastic material in which a cybernetic fly-head balloon appears decorated with layers of reflective materials in geometric patterns.

mindExpander_Haus-Rucker-Co_1969Mind Expander II – Haus-Rucker-Co 1969

Like other works by the group, such as Environment-Transformer, these enclosures create a space for intimate introspection and hyper-awareness via sensory deprivation. It’s also a simple metaphor for the removal of oneself from consensual reality. Liberated from external distractions the user journeys inwards to generate personalised sensory impressions of their own. Taking the inflatable enclosure one step further – Haus-Rucker-Co proposed to populate the future with nomadic bubble-like houses, called Pneumacosms.

Work Gallery, London, will open an exhibition of the groups works from June through to September this year. They had this to say:

‘Haus-Rucker-Co.’s designs for inflatable structures, prosthetic devices and interventions into public spaces were also blueprints for social change and an experiential theory of architecture. Situating itself in the transitional ground between architecture, design and action art, the group was unique in its distinctive emphasis on the perceptual realm.’

Nils Barricelli’s 5 Kilobyte Symbiogenesis simulations and ‘molecule shaped numbers’ – A precursor to DNA Computing

Processing simulation of  Nils Barracelli's Numerical Symbiorganism systems – Alex Galoway Processing simulation of Nils Barracelli’s Numerical Symbiorganism systems – Alex Galoway

‘We have created a class of numbers which are able to reproduce and undergo hereditary changes’ – Nils Barricelli. [circa 1952]

Described as balancing a thin line between truly original and a crank (an ultimate accolade) Nils Barricelli can claim rights to being a pioneer of computational biology and evolutionary algorithms – if not its originator. In the early 50’s he utilised the Institute of Advanced Study’s computer (one of the very first electronic computers) developed by John Von Neumann and his team for Hydrogen bomb simulations in Princeton, New Jersey. On night shifts Barricelli ran programs that mapped the foundations self-reproducing entities simulated entirely by numbers.

Barricelli’s computations were carried out to substantiate his alternative theories of evolution – one that argued for gene swapping in organisms or Symbiogenesis (the idea that complex organisms evolved from the symbiosis of simpler ones). A cycle of 512 generations of self-reproducing algorithmic organisms evolved in a numerical universe of 5 kilobytes. Representing genes as on/off states in pixels – his organisms appeared as self-organized textural patterns contained within autonomous shapes. He noted biophenomenon such as parasitic infiltration, natural disasters and stagnations. Barricelli’s algorithms were clearly the distant ancestors of Cellular Automata and well-known artificial-life simulations such as Conway’s Game of Life. In his most recent book ‘Turing’s Cathedral’ George Dyson hints that some of Barracelli’s work may well have been sublimated into Von Neumann’s posthumously published Theories of self-replicating Automata [PDF].

Output Card from Nils Barracelli's Numerical Symbiorganism programsOutput Card from Nils Barracelli’s Numerical Symbiorganism programs

As noted by Dyson there is some irony in the fact that the first computer in the human universe was by night seeding the first species of the digital Universe while at day it was solving problems of the most efficient way to destroy human life.

Alex Galloway has written an excellent essay for Cabinet magazine exploring the work of Barricelli which includes an in-depth appraisal of Barricelli’s strategies used in his bionumeric evolutionary systems. Even better, Alex has re-staged those original early 50’s experiments in Processing adding colour to the cellular values to increase clarity and enhance the visibility of individual organisms within this computational Universe.

Alex’s essay mentions a later paper by Barricelli, ‘ Numerical Testing of Evolution Theories’, in which a ‘chemo-analogical computer’ is proposed using DNA molecules, or ‘molecule shaped numbers’. Base-pair interactions of DNA nucleotides would be used to interpret commands, compute and run algorithms in their native wetware environments and then output to a more standard hardware environment.

IASMachineThe IAS Machine, circa 1952, Princeton, New Jersey

Now that lateral gene transfer has become more accepted, the theory of symbiogenetic organisms seem much less far-fetched – Barricelli was anything but a crank. His final (and intriguingly titled) paper ‘Suggestions for the Sharing of Numerical Evolutionary Processes intended to Evolve Symbiorganisms Capable of Developing a Language & Technology of their own’ was published in 1987.

Selected Tweets #14 [July-Aug 2011]

Lattice-Receptacles - Yoichiro-KameiLattice-Receptacles – Yoichiro-Kamei

Selected tweets from my Twitter stream: @MrPrudence

Lattice Receptacles – Yoichiro Kamei. Grid system lattices constructed in Ceramic.

‘Electronics In The World Of Tomorrow’ (1964) – Erkki Kurenniemi. Acousmatic/noise cut-up circuit-board meditation at Ubuweb.

The Automatypewriter is a ‘self-reflexive’ & self-typing interface for interactive fiction games.

Miragemachine is well executed sonically active Flash toy of the ribbon/mouse trailer species.

Stadsmuziek – Akko Goldenbeld. 3D map schematic used as piano roll to generate an atonal composition.

Formations – Syntfrarm. Emergent cloud patterns generated from data satellite imagery made with Processing.

Alluvial Fan, Iran - Pathological GeomorphologyAlluvial Fan, Iran – Pathological Geomorphology

Accretions of arable farming fields around an Alluvian Fan in Iran featured at Pathological Geomorphology.

Hippocampus 1 – Daniel Canogar. Illuminated discarded telephone cables evoke neural synapse firings.

Metropolis II – Chris Burden. Large scale kinetic artwork with 1110 tiny cars.

Buran Suprematism at Kosmograd. Multi-dimensional spatial forms by switching 3d Spacecraft objects to bounding-boxes.

Black Mirror – Robert Seidel’s Gossamer mirrored projection sculptures.

Hydrogeny – Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand

Hydrogeny – Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand
Hydrogeny – Evelina Domnitch & Dmitry Gelfand

Evelina Domnitch and Dmtry Gelfand’s recent work Hydrogeny consists of a tank of ultra-pure water scanned by a white laser sheet. Electrodes at the bottom of the tank liberate hydrogen and oxygen bubbles through the process of hydrolysis. Diaphanous bubble clouds and rise in bifurcating paths to the surface while a penetrating laser sheet reveals the intricate dynamics of the bubble flow matrix. The water is further transduced by sound which generates complex spatial configurations and vortexes within the bubble clouds. The streams appear iridescent as each of the bubble acts as a lens to reflect and refract laser light.

Continent, an new online journey, that attempts successfully to ‘map a topology of unstable confluences and traverse the interstices of alternative culture, theory and art’ has an unmissable article exploring Hydrogeny in greater detail.

Samuel Thomas von Sömmering's
Samuel Thomas von Sömmering’s “Space Multiplexed” Electrochemical Telegraph (1808-10)

An Aside

Hydrolysis was proposed in 1808 by by the German physician, anatomist and inventor Samuel Thomas von Sömmering as method to transfer messages over a distance of a few kilometers. The Electrochemical/Bubble Telegraph receiver’s wires were immersed in a glass tube of water. An electric current was applied in a sequence by the sender through the various wires, each of which represented a digit of a message. At the receivers end the electrolysed water released streams of hydrogen bubbles next to each associated letter or numeral. The telegraph receiver’s operator would watch the bubbles to decode the transmitted message.

Also see:
10000 Peacock Feathers in Foaming Acid
Camera Lucida
Optofonica – Anharmonics, Synthaesthesia & Sound Spatialization

Music Animation Machine – Spatio-temporal Insights into Music

Music Animation Machine - Stephen Malinowski
Music Animation Machine – Stephen Malinowski

The Music Animation Machine is a tool that allows the visualisation of musical compositions (in MIDI form) as an animated time-line of graphical and geometric elements. Rather than presenting music in its traditional format of the score with a standard 5-line staff notation of symbols and note placements, Stephen Malinowski’s software displays notes, voices and tonality in a scroll. Coloured bars and circles are employed using the visual music of Oskar Fischinger as a model. The history of the MAM began in 1974, and having gone through many iterations, Stephen has grappled with the intrinsic problems of representing musical elements such as consonance/dissonance, the history of recently heard notes, the interactions of overtones, and triadic relationships.

Using different graphical metaphors the MAM visualisations reveal the unique spatio-temporal fingerprints of musical compositions – re-configuring time into space through the transcription of notes into visual form..

Debussy’s Arabesque #1 is presented as a flowing node network each note increasing velocity as it reaches its moment while Clair de Lune is presented as a modernest block design. Its interesting to note how the generated graphical configuration feedbacks onto the auditory perception of the music to create new melodic insights.

You can watch more visualisations from Stephen Malinowski’s MAM here.

Data is Nature at the Brighton Digital Festival

Natures - Quayola & Mira Calix

Dataisnature is honoured to have its title used for night of audio visual performances at the Pavilion Dome Theatre, Brighton, for the closing of the Brighton Digital Festival on Friday 30th September. I will be performing two visual music pieces along with a performance by Quayola & Mira Calix. Data is Nature is curated by Lighthouse/Honor Harger.

Here’s a passage from the PR, the full text of which can be found here:

‘Data is Nature features the Brighton première of Natures by renowned musician Mira Calix and visual artist Quayola. In this performance, the organic behaviours of plants become part of an audio-visual world where the natural and the artificial coexist harmoniously.

Data is Nature also includes Paul Prudence, a London-based musician and visual artist, known for his stunning audio-visual performances, which use data visualisation and generative techniques to give us striking new views of nature.’

Quayola – Architectural Augmentation & Digital Constructivism

The Wave – Earth Waveform Oscillations

The Wave (detail)- Weshargrove
The Wave (detail) – Weshargrove

The Wave is a prominent geological feature located on the Colorado Plateau near to the Utah and Arizona border. Composed of striated waves of cross-bedded sandstone, the landscape appears to have the quality of a frozen liquid, its appearance not unlike cooled molten lava fields. The layers of ribboned red coloured rock are in fact generated by what could be described as one of Earth’s many endlessly long doWhile loops – millions of years of precipitation of water and deposition of oxidization minerals. These geological linear patterns of self-organisation generated by this repeating process are know as Liesegang rings and are commonly found in other sedimentary oscillation ‘computations’ – a good example being Banded Agates (There is also a cross-referencing here with the spatio-temporal output of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction).

Linear Landscape (detail) - Leonardo Solaas
Linear Landscape (detail) – Leonardo Solaas

Both Leonardo Solaas’s ‘Linear Landscape’ set and Jared Tarbell’s ‘Happy Place’ applet have used algorithms to generate artefacts with notable similarities to the geological patterns found at The Wave. The former uses a particle system to create an illusion of three-dimensional organic surfaces, the latter a node system to give rise to broken sedimentary textures.

Further Viewing & Reading
360 degree Panaroma of The Wave
The slot valleys of Antelope Canyon as a hydro-dynamic computation
The Melodies and Megaliths of Pseudocrystalline Terrains

Selected Tweets #13: 12May-29July 2011

Tube – Ara PetersonTube – Ara Peterson

Recent selected tweets from my Twitter stream: @MrPrudence

Ludwig Zeller’s Introspectre, Dromolux & Optocoupler speculate the future of different kinds of information exchange.

The Do-Nothing Machine – Charles Eames’s Kinetic solar toy [Video]. More info can be found at the Airform Archives.

AH // Dissections – Realitat. Illustratively styled computational work using Voronoi and Catmull Clark algorithms.

Structure Series – Marcos Montane. Circular and spirographic Delaunay triangulations.

Any Colour You Like (Pyramid IV) – Dev Harlan. Optical pattern projection-mapping.

Piotr Kamler – Une Mission Ephémère A cryptic, geometric mind-food breakfast.

The Square – Stanley Tigerman and G.L. Crabtree [1975] Kaleidoscopic combinatoric projection drawings at Rndrd.

Vasarely – P. Kassovitz [1960]. Exhibition documentary with music ‘NEG-ALE’ by Xenakis.

Ara Peterson’s laser-cut wood assembled sculptures with time-based properties are featured at DesignBloom.

Felix Turner has created a WebGL emulation of the Rutt-Etra Video Synthesizer [scan-line displacement video effects].

Virus Models [1965] – Ted Klotz including the lamp-like Adenovirus with its 240 nut-shaped units in 20 equilateral triangles.

Emoc’s Paysages -textural compositions from photos by translating pixel colours to deterministic shapes.

Digital Archeology: Excavating the 6502 Chip. Its schematic – one of the last to be hand drawn.

Une Mission Ephémère - Piotr Kamler
Une Mission Ephémère – Piotr Kamler

Visual6502 has some very high resolution images [Die Shots] of early pioneering CPU chips including a Motorola 6800 [75MB!].

The Sun Cutter Project – Markus Kayser. Extreme Solar powered laser cutting.

Digiman discusses the objectivity of his own existence and generative modular synthesis from binary signals.

Flottille – Etienne Cliquet. Micro-origamis unfold via capillary action of water.

The Proof – David Colosi. An interior of a math equation & the laboratory used for its generation as art piece.

Automatypewriter ‘self-reflexive’ & self-typing interface for interactive fiction games.

Piet – A programming language in which programs look like the grid abstractions of Piet Mondrian.

Very Slow Scan Television – Gebhard Sengmüller. TV images encoded into bubble wrap at 1 frame/day.

Microvenus – Joe Davis. ‘feminine’ code inserted into a bacterium and sent into space.

Processing patterns for flyer/poster design including Puddle – Andreas Gysin.

60’s electromechanical calculating machines and rotary calculators photographs – Mark Glusker.

Mechanical Calculators – Kevin Twomley. Intricate/complex/alien gear systems of early calculating machines.

Fans of Zimoun will also enjoy Pe Lang. Multi-form mechanised kinetic-sound sculptures.

Large collection of old Electronic Music Resources at UBU including periodicals and books.

Olaf Stapledon & Lewis Fry Richardson – A Serendipitous Meeting

Illustrations of a Cellular-Numerical Model of Weather imagined by Lewis Fry Richardson (Source unknown)
Illustrations of a Cellular-Numerical Model of Weather imagined by Lewis Fry Richardson – Philip Emeagwali

George Dyson’s ‘Darwin Among The Machines’ published in 1997, is an excellent account of the history of computers and global intelligence through the evolution of machines. As so often with book reading a chain reaction takes place, references in one book lead you to reading other books and so on. And so this was the case with Chapter 11 of Dyson’s book titled ‘Last and First Men’.

Much of the chapter is given up to Olaf Stapledon, who’s novel ‘Last and First Men’ chronicles the future history of the human race for the next thousand million years. In the story humans evolve through 18 different species (as well many more subspecies). Thriving in Utopias and then decimating each other in wars, nearly wiping themselves out and then re-adapting. Eventually they explore and colonise the Solar System – mutating along the way. Being well versed in the science of the time Stapledon outlines different evolutionary necessities that each species develops in order to circumnavigate impending catastrophes.

The novel anticipates genetic engineering and proposes a prototype of group-mind – a consciousness composed of many telepathically linked individuals. Eventually humans are able to genetically engineer each subsequent species in order to survive and proliferate in inhospitable environments.

Dyson’s chapter on Stapleton details an encounter with a young professor, Lewis Fry Richardson. Both worked in the Friends Ambulance Unit in France acting as conscientious objectors during the First World War. Richardson, a Meteorologist, was interested, at that time, in mathematical models of weather prediction. Using his own ‘intentionally guided dreaming’ strategy he drafted a cellular-numerical model of weather – ideas of which were published in ‘Weather Prediction by Numerical Process’ after the war. His theory proposed a congregation of 64,000 human computers collectively processing numerical data, each human computing a weather cell of discrete location and calculating interactions with its nearest cellular neighbour. Local interactions would generate large dynamical systems of global weather patterns. It appears as if Richardson was laying the path to what was later to become Cellular Automata, although little credit has been given by later proponents of Cellular Automata systems.

Langton's Ant - Chris Langton
Langton’s Ant – Chris Langton

In ‘Darwin Among The Machines’ Dyson ponders as to how much of Richardson’s cellular weather system theory was imparted to Stapledon during the quieter moments of ambulance duty. The answer to this question might lay in the Stapledon’s ‘Last and First Men’. For from an immense distance of time and space, Stapledon’s story of our species appears as an massive organic tessellation automata. An endless ebb and flow of cells, that interact in complex birth-death oscillations reforming and reconfiguring breeder seed patterns. Dense layers of complex ant-like interactions -human space-filler patterns folding and unfolding.

After the war Richardson dedicated his time to the statistical analysis of conflict. While studying the causes of war between two countries relating to border length part of his research was in the measurement of borders and coastlines. At the time this research was ignored by the scientific community. Today, it is seen as one element in the birth of the science of fractals and was cited by Benoît Mandelbrot in his famous paper ‘How Long Is the Coast of Britain’. It seems as if Richardson’s ‘intentionally guided dreaming’ gave birth to a great many prescient ideas of which have now become some of the most interesting and far reaching areas of modern mathematics. Many of these ideas, embryonic in form, found their way into Stapledon’s books, at times encoded, but never the less highly suffused.