Archives for the Month of November, 2004

Robot Art and Art Machines

Robot Art and Art Machines

A mail pinged through datasphere to alert me to the Robotarium, a new environment by Leonel Moura whose artistic robots I’ve always had a soft silicon spot for. The robots work tirelessly producing rectilinear action paintings; Obsessive maps of deep-space robot lay-line connections.

“A set of autonomous robots, each supporting two colour marker pens, invest a white canvas. At the beginning they move in a straight and indifferent manner imprinting here and there small ink dots. As these casual strokes meet to form small patches, the robots become more active. When colour is recognized, they choose the pen corresponding to the same shade and reinforce it. The excitement grows and soon amazing forms emerge filling the canvas. At a given moment, determined by his sense of rightness, the human partner decides to put an end to robots’ activity. The artwork is ready.â€?

I also recommend Hectors stunning graffiti work. Hector, whose body parts consist of some electric motors, belts, cables, a laptop, a battery and a spray can holder, is controlled from Adobe Illustrator via a scripting environment for AI called Scriptographer.

From a more political angle The Institute of Applied Autonomy offer us GraffitiWriter – “a tele-operated field programmable robot which employs a custom built array of spray cans to write linear text messages on the ground at a rate of 15 kilometres per hourâ€?

GraffitiWriter was developed in response to the advent of next generation military/police technologies for urban surveillance.

I suppose to many of us a robot is seen as mechanical/computational device with a morphology that resembles a human being or animal. Plotters are really robots too, its just their hands are made of fine points and arm movements are confined to simple range.

Aside from the exquisite circuitry plots by Mark Wilson mentioned earlier in this post, check out these algorithmic and epigenetic plots by Roman Verostko.

Browser Space


Sterile Variables is approaching the serenity of 4’33’ of silence in some oblique way.

A nice collection of Fractal video feedback screens can be seen at dmtr as well as Sereia Displacer, an interactive 3d visualisation of a scanned picture.

Further out Automata like glitches are breaking out all over Scant Fever at Invisible Chamber. Elsewhere the Randomized Views sequence is excellent collection of random compositions, my favourite being number8. Click to reconfigure.

The Time Machne is an interactive interference pulse installation! It might be the visual equivalent of Time machines, music to facilitate time travel, by Coil. A tone-time dilation capsule I can recommend!

On returning check out the organic cellular transformations of Computed Paintings.

‘a symmetry breaking operation between each of the pattern generating transformations reconstitutes the process and allows each pattern to build a unique form.’

Expressive Typography

TwitterMaze – Chronotext

Chronotext is a sketchbook of typographical structures made with proce55ing, many of the pieces utilise 3-dimensional space and some of them are interactive. Textworm and Textwire are kinetic sentences that can be pulled around the screen to be reconfigured at will. The Book of Sand is an interactive version of a short story by Borges, coincidently one of my favourite storytellers. The sentences of the book flow according to the contours of piles of sand, try affecting the flow of the sentences by forming mounds of sand.

Peter Cho’s letterscapes at Typeractive explores each letter of the alphabet, giving each glyph character through interaction and motion. It’s interesting how each letter’s shape has to some degree dictated the type of transformation, interaction and motion used. DataIsNature’s favourite right now is W!

Uncontrol’s ‘One hundred million poems’ is a modular combinatorial piece that explores ‘expressive typography’ – a phrase initially coined by Robert Massin. (Click the square on the second row, 4th from the right labelled ‘massin’)

In the past poets and writers have tried to free up their poetry and prose to avoid the static rows and columns of the standard printed page. In 1918 the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire published a book of poems that did not look like poems, he named the book ‘Calligrammes’.. The poems were essentially configurations of letters or words forming an image of the subject of the poem itself. In “Il Pleut” (1916), words appear to cascade down the page like raindrops on a windowpane itself.

Picture poems actually go back a lot further than Apollinaire. When travelling through Morocco with a friend a few years ago I managed to pick up some beautifully illustrated books containing typographical pictograms and intricate geometric patterns made from words in stylised geometric type – a tradition that has existed for centuries.

My own fascination with calligraphy and kaleidoscopes lead me to make a set of experiments that I called Calliscopes. Calli means ‘beauty’ and Scope means ‘to look at’. These are essentially circular formations of dynamic text fields with skew transformations and rotations set by the position of the mouse pointer.

Try changing the typographic formation by entering a new message in the dynamic text field at the top of the page, especially with unorthodox characters.

see also Expressive Typography #02

Thought Architecture

Thinking Machines

Thinking Machines displays the traceries of machine thought as a computer plays chess. The result is a signage of artificial thought, and a mutable gylph set of evolving computer strategy.

Chess House is an architectural isomorph of a game of chess. Habitable space is mapped from the motion of the individual chess pieces as they move about the board.

The final 3d renders, with their strong sense of perspective, have a metaphysical quality about them (as in Giorgio de Chirico)

Each game of chess can generate a different building! So each room is a kind of subset of chess strategy

The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants

The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants

If you kept your eye on the weblog I had running at, you will know that I have a particular interest in patterns found in plants and related concepts such as recursion, symmetry, self-similarity and phyllotaxis – all of which result in complex, geometrically exact, replicative forms.

The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants (Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz, Aristid Lindenmayer) is a classic in the field and is available in PDF format (scroll to the bottom of the page) at algorithmicbotany. The book is a great place of study for any code biologist looking to nurture nature with data!

A lot of art is also informed by these models. Botanical Scan is a 3 dimensional plant installation constructed from a sequence of transparent layers. The work is heavily informed by self-organisation in plants and trees.

“Here we can observe a natural intelligence that informs all matter, organic and inorganic, an intelligence that also structures the universe spatially.

Architects are also increasingly utilising these mathematical models to communicate ideas and ‘grow’ algorithmic and organic buildings. is predominantly a repository for experimental plugins and software for 3D design, architecture and visualisation. Check out the projects page and you will find some interesting work involving L-systems and Biomorphs.

Pattern Machines

Dreamachine Brion Gysin

The Computer Arts Society, originally founded in 1968, seems to have reignited activity. PAGE 58 (0.5mb PDF), one of its bulletins, has a nice article on the history of lightshows of the West Coast in the late 60’s by Robin Oppenheimer. This lead me to think about other pioneers in the area not covered in the article like Brion Gysin and his work with the Dream Machine.

“With the current vogue for high-technology brain-machines at an unparalleled height, the original concept as developed by Brion Gysin and his collaborator Ian Sommerville is a welcome reminder that whilst technology advances space, the conceptual base for interior research is as ancient as the sun and the trees. Its beauty is in its simplicity, and in its ecologically sound construction which requires no more than a sheet of card and the recycling of a redundant record player.â€?

Of course no late 60’s lightshow would be complete without the projection of a moiré pattern. A moiré pattern occurs when two or more different geometrically regular patterns are superimposed and visual interference occurs. Qpqpqp has an interactive optical installation with Moiré patterns made with Director; its liquidity gives the impression of light refracting through water. iMoire is a piece of software written in OpenGL used to build and explore bespoke Moire patterns.

Circuit Geometries

Mark Wilsons
Mark Wilson

The Digital Art Museum is a treasure trove of art made with computers, here we can tap into a very rich history of computational and digital art. The DAM lead me to Mark Wilsons site, possibly the most exciting work I’ve seen in quite some time. His early acrylic paintings, dating back to 1973, refer to imagined modular circuitry and intricate dashboards, the recent works are also compelling. The hi-tech laser engravings, from 1998, swap plotter and paper for laser and acrylic sheets.