Archives for the Month of February, 2006

Early American Computer Animation

Googlepex - Lillian Schwartz
Googlepex – Lillian Schwartz

As part of the ‘Bits in Motion’ group of events (A sub-set of Node.London) you can check out works by some of the pioneers in the field of early computer animation. The two programs in March at the National Film Theatre 2 on London’s South Bank deal with trans-Atlantic experimentation, the first on Thursday 2nd March explores filmmakers from America. Curated by Gregory Kurcewicz, expect to see some rarely screened gems from Lillian Schwartz, John Stehura and John Whitney.

‘The development of the computer as an animation tool inspired a period of radical innovation in techniques and visual form. By the late 60s, there were a number of filmmakers using the new ‘dream machines’ as their medium, often exploring new aesthetics that had no precursor in the history of cinema. This programme features work by film-makers who overcame the constraints of low memory and primitive interfaces to create works of lasting beauty.’

Interaction is the Crystalpunk Drug!


Yet two more crystalpunk workshops loom on the event horizon. In Utrecht and London artistic, architectural and philospohical punks coalesque to form mysterious gems from unseen matter – crystalline materials exhibiting ferralectric effects and ‘weird things, slightly off kilter’.

The 11-12 March 06 Utrecht workshop has a spectrum of speakers investigating alchemies such as ‘Artificial Intelligence Mark-up Language’, Ultra-active cybernetic architecture, Voronoi-crystals and genetic design. What more do you want?

At the 22 March 06 London workshop the founder of crystalpunk will be presenting his rococo automated search engine as well as delucidating gargoylisation as applied to non-optimisation. Also expect some tales of BacterioPoetics, particularly the wildtype strain. What more do you need?

Deep sequences – Cybernetic sound interaction.


Peter Vogel has been making exquisite sculptures since 1969 using combinations of sound generators, switches, amplifiers, loudspeakers, and photocells. These fine frames of components not only look good but also have functioning memories, behaving differently depending on each individual observer. This interview by NAKAGAWA Shin done in May/July 1992 does a great job of revealing the philosophy and methodology behind these sound sculptures. It turns out that Vogel originally started out as a painter but along the way studied physics and cybernetics as well as doing brain research as a profession. Here are a number links to pictures of Peter Vogel’s works in shows.

Peter Vogel at Galerie Carzaniga

Peter Vogel at Bitforms

Peter Vogel at Galerie Hoffmann

Link discovered at Getlofi – a Circuit Bending resource and space for glitch art and electronic music

Futurological excavations

Asteromo – Paolo Soleri

Pruned is unearthing some great links to utopian futurological speculation and imagery. Take for example the intensely brave, if more than a little fantastical proposition of 60’s architect Paolo Soleri with his Asteromo – an arcology asteroid in deep space fit for a population of no less that 70,000 people!

An Arcology is Paolo Soleri’s concept of an integrated city that combines architecture with ecology.

‘In nature, as an organism evolves it increases in complexity, and it also becomes a more compact or miniaturized system. The city too is an organism, one that should follow the same process of complexification and miniaturization to become a more lively container for the social, cultural, and spiritual evolution of humankind’ – Paolo Soleri – Earth’s Answer

Arcologies have been popularised by science fiction as away of solving the two main problems of the future, overcrowding and environmental catastrophe. Pruned also links to Fabio Feminò’s repository of futurological imagery – a massive collection of beautiful and intriguing retro-future artwork, some of them moon arcologies. Of course a lot of these conjectural drawings recall the ‘absolute egalitarianism’ and utopian ideals of late-60s architectural groups such as Archigram and Superstudio.

It seems inevitable that the logical progression of technology will lead us to the colonisation of space at some time in the future, at least if we manage to find a place before its too late. Another option is to bury Gaia’s booty for a future time when we have sorted the mess out. A possibilty as announced by the proposal of a giant seed bank being built in Norway.

Micro texture-synchro

Sue Costabile uses a variety of methods to create fragmentary movie textures and macro-abstractions. The works often occur in a live improvisational setting – using Jitter, a small camera, a light pad, various drawings and found objects she performs live video by animating the objects by hand. It’s good to see this level of interfacing to the sequence of events – a nice balance between a physical hands on approach and the constrained processes of the machine. Amp_swell sees an erratic strobe of fabric print flickering in time to a twitchy electronic soundtrack by Bequeen.

William R. Olson – Spacelike Tessellations of Tetrahedrons

Spacelike Tetrahedral Tessellations – William R. Olson

If by chance you’re on the look out for complex crystalline tetrahedral structures send a exploratory probe over to where you’ll find a fantastic array of exotic tetrahedrons – all existing as 3 dimensional models as well interactive applets. Those of inquisitive nature will be happy to read the paper accompanying these models and learn how tetrahedrons can be used to model quantized space-time lattices. The work reminds us of the geometric metaphysical ponderings of Buckmister Fuller, notably his Synergetics. Be sure to check out the Projections of Light cone Tessellations too where familiar ornamental tilings, like those in Moorish art, appear out of the complex intersections. ConeM is a work of art in itself, oscillating somewhere between map of cyberspace and a schematic of mutated soap bubble.

For more exotic geometries head here.

Spacelike tesselations via origamitesselations

Dandelions part 2

Les Pissenlits – Edmond Couchot and Michel Bret

Following up on my dandelion post from a few weeks ago, I have several additions.

Guilherme informs us of the work Les Pissenlits by Edmond Couchot and Michel Bret which was featured in last year’s festival Arborescence whose particular theme was “Natural/Digital”.

‘In this interactive work, 9 umbels of dandelion are gently scattered by a virtual breeze corresponding to the real breath that the spectator directs to the screen; seeds detached themselves, then, fly away and fall down slowly. New umbels grow again ready to undergo the puff of a new interaction.’

Karen brings to our attention ‘Blowing Gently’ by Antenna Design (Click on installations) where a soap bubble is the object of interaction. Like the aforementioned installations this work actuates nostalgic childhood memories. This time bubbles grow into male and female mannequins that float off into space.

Pusteblume (Blowball) is an interactive installation where a camera tracking system translates the viewers movement in to a ‘wind’ that carries the seeds away to make new plants grow. There is a Proce55ing applet that’s acts as a simulation of the installation.

Finally Beuro fuer diverses reports on ‘a small exhibition about artificial life’ which also features this archetype of interaction


Exuvia – Abstract Codex

Dragonflies can live for many years in larvae state, only to hatch with wings and ‘live for few days in a state of graceful ephemeral euphoria’. The exoskeleton they leave behind as a record of their larval state is know as Exuvia. Abstract Codex has produced a media installation that poetically explores this metamorphosis.

‘the installation focus is suggesting a narrative flow starting from a metamorphosis – not represented but referred by empty chrysalis (Exuvia) as the printed memory of an absent object – till the spreading wings climax: vital, delicate and ephemeral as software could be.’

Landscape futures

The City as Avatar of Itself – Olivo Barbieri

Many have already pointed out that Bldgblog contains some of the most interesting posts and beautiful photographic finds in the blogosphere. As the tagline proclaims this blog navigates the new edge of ‘architectural conjecture, urban speculation and landscape futures’.

Scrolling down the menu of articles we find ‘The city as avatar of itself’ where stunning photographs of landscapes proposition its inhabitants and buildings as tiny, but detailed, scaled models using a special tilt-shift lens. The particular works in the article are by Olivo Barbieri, however checking the comments reveals that many more have adopted this compelling style.

Elsewhere we find an entry on a dataisnature favourite, Stan Brakhage, then there’s the strange pictures of self similar neighbourhoods, soil maps of Asia and a ‘Natural history of mirrors’. With this kind of blogging action you know you’re in the right place.


The Scanimate

Audiovisualisers has a page dedicated to the arcane history of video synthesizers, machines used to output a variety of mainly abstract imagery through the use of internal video pattern generators. Many of these analogue devices were originally intended for use in live performance settings and are driven by oscillators. In much the same way as sound synthesis has developed in recent years, monolithic analogue hardware has been replaced by computers and virtual oscillators. As artefacts of a bygone age, these video synthesizers are works of art in themselves. For an overview of the technologies used in these early machines check out Jeffrey Siedler’s introductory article.

‘The first video synthesizers appeared on the scene almost a decade after the development of completely integrated audio synthesis systems. Video synthesizers are technically more complex than audio synthesizers with video signals covering a frequency spectrum 100 times greater than for audio signals, and must be constructed according to precise timing synchronisation – the signal must be time-based for a viewable picture to emerge. Because of this reason, the development of video synthesizers had taken longer to emerge compared to its audio counterpart (Dewitt in Vasulka, 1992).’

This led to in systems where the resultant image was the product of the inherent circuit design, or where the electronics produced a more specific visual or psychological effect.

Precursing video synths by quite some years is the ‘Piano Optophonic’ created by Vladimir Baranoff Rossiné, a Russian Futurist painter in 1916. The piano used painted glass discs, which rotated as light passed through them (recalling the mechnism of the ANS sound synthesizer).

‘The Optophonic Piano generated sounds and projected revolving patterns onto a wall or ceiling by directing a bright light through a series revolving painted glass disks (painted by Rossiné), filters, mirrors and lenses. The keyboard controlled the combination of the various filters and disks. The variations in opacity of the painted disk and filters were picked up by a photo-electric cell controlling the pitch of a single oscillator. The instrument produced a continuous varying tone which, accompanied by the rotating kaleidoscopic projections was used by Vladimir Rossiné at exhibitions and public events.’

Looking at the resultant imagery one can only conclude that, in essence, this is the granddaddy of the machine-projectors that were used in the late 60’s West Coast lightshows. Ultimately Rossiné could be named the first VJ!