Archives for the Month of December, 2004

Ice crystals

Ice crystals – Bently Collection

The Bently Collection has 1183 records/images of snowflakes in its database arranged in categories relating to their geometry.

Check out the 8 bit frozen postcards at Antartica Dispatches, Using a palm pilot as a crude sketchbook Simon Faithfull is making a drawing a day that is then dispatched to the web via email.

Atmospheric optics is a collective name for effect of light and colour in the atmosphere caused by different conditions – obvious atmospheric optics include rainbows, sunset colours, solar rays, and the light curtains of Aurora. There is a large range of effects caused alone by ice crystals in the air, with inspiring names such as infra and supra lateral arcs and parhelic circles! Of light pillars, another category of atmospheric ice optics, we have this paragraph :

‘A light pillar can sometimes be seen above the sun when it is setting or rising. It is caused by reflection of light off the base of horizontally aligned plate ice crystals in the atmosphere. Light pillars are possible above and below the sun or moon; however, for earth-bound observers, the upper light pillar is most common, while the lower pillar is more likely when you are in an airplane flying above a cloud of ice crystals. The upper and lower light pillars at the sun can be present together with the parhelic circle and then form a giant cross in the sky, which was considered a much feared omen by ancient and medieval folklore.

Sunday Laylines

Sunday_Laylines has a collection of java applets that draw organically! Theres also some nice stills taken from these random generative works.

Elout’s Zabnulvier is a hyper-painting java device for instant chromatic and geometric gratification! Of it he says ‘the project is about constructing and de-constructing image and painting, give me some paint bombs, let me rip it apart and create something new in the flash of time.’

Hexagon’s Griddle is like the Powers of Ten film – this time a web cam is falling into a fractal Sim City!. Lichen is a visualisation of the territorial campaigns of different lichen groups colonising Javaspace. And then theres Jigglepaint a ‘Nervous Action Painting.’ Machine.

Of course we also have Manetas’s Pollock machine done in Flash which leads us to other simulations of tangible art, paintings and sculptures, – my favourite of which is Living Mobile, a Calder simulation by Martin Wattenberg. Alternatively you can build your own Calder mobile with this ingenious applet from

Net art loves old art is a page collecting digital simulations of ‘old’ art. Theres also this generative Piet Mondrian and this 5k Bridget Riley screen sim to keep you going.

Natures Pixels

Abstract Codex

NaturalPixel is a bi-monthly manefesto of interactive design collecting works from a group of italian designers. Contributors include Biollogic and Abstract Codex, both excellent computational art and design sites.

Gianni’s Biollogic has a great range of Flash and Proce55ing sketches. There are some particularly nice typographical experiments done in Flash and a slick kaleidoscopic toy to keep Dataisnature happy.

Alessandro’s Abstract Codex is a wonderful gallery of computational proce55eses housed in a clean and minimal interface. Chlorophyll is an interactive L-tree in 3 dimensional space! Abstract space, is a mouse configurable faux 3D object that looks like a polythene cast of a microscopic glacier!

Yet more Art Machines!


Java Kali is a nice javatronic drawing machine enabling the creation of symmetrical geometric tilings and wireframes. Multi symmetrical line plots forces you to think and draw in a particular way.

Toxic, lets you evolve fractured metallic filings and dense plaid spatial convolutions. Often things get glitchey and unpredictable, infact there’s even a glitch slider, nice! Each offspring can be englarged.

Zsófia Ruttkay has made simulations of historical drawing machines that allow peculiar forms of transformational drawing. The applet even allows you to build your own machines and as she says

‘The task is to find out what the machines do and how they work. Experiment with each machine, and try to find out what kind of geometrical transformation the machine performs.’

Biotelemetry at Life 7.0


Some really interesting artworks and artefacts have come into being for this years Life 7.0 competition. One of the winners and also my favourite is Spore 1.1

Spore 1.1 makes visible, in an ironic manner, the artificiality of our immediate reality by relating the business market to the ecosystem.

‘The artist purchased a plant at the Home Depot superstore and inserted it in a mechanized installation that is connected to the Internet via a wireless connection and programmed with open source software. The installation periodically checks the value of Home Depot’s stock over the internet, activating a watering system: if share values are up the plant gets watered. The underlined paradox is that Home Depot guarantees the well being of the plant for one year and, if the plant dies due to either falling or rising share values it has to be replaced by the multinational, —a contract relating life and death.’

Paul Laffoley – Psychotronic Schematics

The Parturient Blessed Morality of Physiological Dimensionality Aleph-Null Number = Paul Laffoley

Paul Laffoley makes visionary schematic diagrams of metaphysical knowledge systems with incredible complexity. I first encountered his work in Raw Vision – a magazine devoted to Visionary Art and Art Brut. Back then, maybe around 6 or 7 years ago, I couldn’t find a single word on his work let alone a picture, now luckily for black hole eyes, there are many sources to be found on the web – here and here for example.

‘Interested in diagrammatic structures, Paul Laffoley has studied architecture at Harvard and M.I.T. Since the 60s Laffoley has been painting in his downtown Boston studio, exhibiting his work in the Boston area, and writing and speaking on three topics including Dimensionality with relationship to Duchamp, Utopic Space, and research and mapping of the possibility of an idea he developed concerning physically alive architecture by means of grafted vegetation.‘

It seems machines for time travel and perpetual motion are metaphysical motifs recurring throughout Paul Laffoley’s work and these ideas feature in some of my favourite works such as Geochronmechane – The Time Machine from the Earth, Dimensionality – the manifestation of Fate and The Solitron.

An intriguing annotation to The Solitron reads as follows :

‘The Solitron is a design for producing perpetual motion. As an object itself (a painting), the Solitron is in the tradition of American abstract painting, especially similar to the visual structure of the later work of the Adolph Gottlieb. That is, it is a “solid surface” of flat colour that avoids both schematic two-dimensionality and the full three-dimensional spatiality that a free manual touch engenders. Also the design is psychotronic (a mass-consciousness interactive) device, which can be efficacious in a two-dimensional or a three-dimensional modality. The Solitron makes use of the natural motion properties of the correctly generated Solitron wave (which retains its velocity and form during energy encounters) in conjunction with the mass-consciousness unifying capacity of lucid dreaming’

At a distance his work has a computational feel to it, relying on faux three-dimensionality and complex structural schematics that resemble work from a 3D program. What really puts these visionary works in a class of there own however is the hermetic interlinking of complex metaphysical ideas and their respective correspondences. Amazing work.

Finally, for good measure, it is worth mentioning that,

‘During a routine CAT-scan of his head in 1992, a miniature metallic implant, 3/8 of an inch long, was discovered in the occipital lobe of his brain, near the pineal gland. Local M.U.F.O.N. investigators declared it to be an alien nanotechnological laboratory. He has come to believe that the “implant” is extraterrestrial in origin and is the main motivation behind his ideas and theories.’

At present there seems to be just one book on Laffoley’s work in Print, Architectonic Thought Forms: A Survey of the Art of Paul Laffoley, 1968 – 1999 – by Paul Laffoley, Elizabeth Ferrer , Jeanne M. Wasilik , J. W. Mahoney

Drawing Machines


Today, recreational research takes me to lesser technologically advanced drawing machines, but no less fascinating. As I a kid I was transfixed by ‘Spirograph’, generator par excellence of complex geometric moirés from mechanical cogs and pens invading paper space. At school learning the B.A.S.I.C.s of computer programming I made simple plotter routines of mutated equations of a circle – Spirographic echoes more Art than any 2HB could fathom. I was often reprimanded for ‘wasting’ printer paper!

When we talk about Generative Art its often implied that computers are an integral part of the process but really a Spirograph is a much a generative art machine as any combination of software and hardware in the computers of today. In fact the cogs of the Spirograph are actually the equivalent of both the Software and the Hardware .

Spirograph was invented in 1962 by British engineer Denys Fisher. His family was so excited by Spirograph that he eventually decided to sell it as a toy. In 1965 (later in the US) the new toy was shipped to its first customers. It was voted the best educational toy for 4 years in a row (1966 – 1969). It can still be bought today.

Mathematically, Spirographs produce Hypotochoids and Epitrochoids . The Spirograph also falls into the class of patterns known as Roulette Guilloche’s and this type of pattern is seen on bank notes – it’s a way of making counterfeiting more difficult.

You can find a chirpy Spirograph applet here and another nice one here.

Surely the inventor of the Spirograph must have had knowledge of the Harmonograph, an earlier pendulum-based drawing machine used to produce beautiful figures called harmonograms or Lissajous curve’s. Again, I remember being excited by remakes of this machine in 1980’s – captivating the imaginations of kids and turning innocent wonder into £’s. There are plenty of sites on the www explaining how to make your own Harmonograph ranging from the high to the low tech. Outside of making one, you could visit one of the many online versions done in Java.

I can’t leave the moment without mentioning the Metamatics of Tinguely’s machines for meta-mechanical expression.

“In machines intended for practical use the engineer tries to reduce the irregularities as much as possible. Tinguely is after the exact opposite. His objective is mechanical disorder. His cogwheels are so constructed that they jump the cogs continually, jam, and start turning again, unpredictably. (. . .) The same movement can appear ten times in succession and then, apparently, never be repeated again. This creates an unusually acute sense of time.”

Marius of evolutionZone has made some software drawing machines whose output uncannily resemble the motions of a mechanical drawing device, with a sense of motion and temporality – these are spatially beautiful generative art pieces. The colours are amazing too!

more info here