Archives for the Month of July, 2007

Robert Henke – Atlantic Waves

atlantic_waves - Robert Henke
Atlantic Waves – Robert Henke

One of the more impressive audio-visual events of last few years, for me, was the Nicolai/Henke/Ikeda gig in the Tate Turbine Hall, London, back in May 2006. All three performers won me over, providing very different interpretations of the audio-visual aesthetic.

Robert Henke performed his Atlantic Waves piece, a custom software application which drives Ableton Live. It’s a graphical mutating score that provides a visual representation of the sound and acts as a kind sequencer to the music itself. A nod in the direction of Mondrian’s grid paintings perhaps, the screen is populated with moving coloured squares that seem to interact like traffic or Cellular Automata, sometime imploding and regrouping in perfect synchronisation with the abstracted beats. The process is fascinating to watch as you have no exact idea what the connection is between the software and music, so you tend to invent connections as way of making sense of this hermetic dashboard.

Atlantic waves is performed with in collaboration with Scott Monteith whose site contains a detailed description of Atlantic Waves:

‘Atlantic Waves is an improvised network music performance by Monolake and Deadbeat. A special application, the Atlantic Waves Interface III, makes it possible to create music together in real-time while being thousands of miles apart. The Atlantic Waves Interface utilises a beautiful graphical surface which is projected during the performance. This interface is simple enough to be controlled in real time but allows for building up complex musical structures. It also allows the audience to follow all actions and to become part of the process. Every sound generated has a visual representation and all interaction with the software is displayed. The result is a unique and constantly evolving and changing piece of audio-visual art, created simultaneously in two different locations on the planet.’

Vagueterrain has a good interview with Henke, in which the artist talks about different aspects of using Atlantic Waves live, and in collaboration.

Borges, maps, terrains & Neogeography

Hypocenter in Hiroshima
Hypocenter in Hiroshima – Elin o’Hara slavick

‘A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face’. – Afterword to El hacedor, 1960 Jorge Luis Borges

Moonriver is posting some great examples of maps and terrains in art and their associated psychogeographies. Dataisnature loves maps, imaginary or real (the real of course just another layer of the imagined). Click on the posts and follow the path through to the artist pages.

Urban American Macrocosm; Bypass; Carbon Drawing; Fetish Map of London; Aerial photography; Wild maps

Bldgblog features some very exquisite charts of the Mississippi Delta in fine colour palettes. Bldgblog comments ‘This is geology as a subset of Abstract Expressionism: rocky loops of the Earth’s surface in the hands of Jackson Pollock.

Previously mentioned at dataisnature regarding maps are Timetube and Psychogeographic Paintings. Then over at Flickr we find the Diagram Diaries pool and the Neogeography pool of which Selflesh’s excellent Map set is part of.

On the paradox and mystery of the perfectly accurate, one-to-one map, Borges wrote in A Universal History of Infamy:

‘In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guild drew a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, coinciding point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography saw the vast Map to be Useless and permitted it to decay and fray under the Sun and winters.

In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of the Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; and in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.’

Aljazar – live coded robot music

Aljazar presents a novel approach to live coded music. Using his bespoke game engine, Fluxus (which is written in Scheme) Dave Griffiths uses the isometric tile based game model, populated with robots as a live Generative ‘score’. Using a game pad to control the robots, music is generated by the resulting interactions of the robots as they pass over audio triggers. Check out the interesting and somewhat esoteric sketches that provided the developmental framework for Aljazar.

‘Al-Jazari was an influential scholar and engineer who lived at the beginning of the 13th century, this project was inspired by his robot musicians who were designed to play at royal drinking parties.’

Exotic mathematical surfaces.

Sliceforms – John Sharp

Mathematical surface models are sculptural visualisations of mathematical formulae or a representation of a mathematical concept. Surface modelling originated in the 19th century Germany, when there was a revival of geometric ideas in mathematics, which stemmed from the architectural and engineering movements of the time. Felix Klein, who gave his name to the famous paradoxical bottle, which has no edge, no inside or outside, set up a workshop in the 1870’s purely in the business of producing strange shapes and forms that wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery.

The intersection of math and art is always interesting, and its one of the main inferences of this blog as you will know. Things have a special allure when they avoid easy categorization – and in the same way these models have the power to engage the viewer on an artistic level through their sculptural character, not least since they represent the abstract and render intangible mathematical concepts tangible. There is also playfulness about these shapes and geometrical forms; this quality was undoubtedly picked up by the Kindergarten education system.

Angela Vierling has a page with exhaustive links and annotations regarding mathematical models, she’s even made us a nice family tree of historical model makers.

The Surrealist and Constructivist art movements have also flirted with these kinds of models. – And here’s a good overview on this particular area. The Surrealists were particularly enchanted by Algebra and Trigonometry. Giorgio de Chirco, one of my favourites, made his well-known ‘metaphysical’ studies of mathematical instruments and ominous compositions of surfaces and spheres in dreamlike landscapes – some of them contained surface models. Later Escher experimented with tessellation and recursion infinitely to produce endless variations of math art.

My favourite models, aside from variations of the Klein Bottle and perhaps Polyhedra, are the Sliceforms. Invented by one Olaus Henrici at the end of the 19th century they are modelled using cross sections of quartic surfaces and are similar to a spheres but with cross sections which are ellipses, hyperbolae or parabolae. The Strange Surfaces exhibition at the Science Museum in London contains some Sliceforms from the 19th century to the present day and other interesting historical models of surfaces – check out your local museums for the equivalents. Unfortunately I recently lost my camera memory card containing many snaps of these beauties.

Not surprisingly Flickr is a great place to track down some recently made sliceforms – check out dsliceform’s pictures. And an apparent increase in origami practitioners has seen a revival in the interest of these shapes, good news!

Today artists use more sophisticated means to produce much more complex artefacts, but none the less mathematical at their core – the resultant works sit within the realm of science as much as art. Rapid Prototyping, mentioned here before, is a technology used to cut impossible-to-hand-craft-shapes, often using complex 3D models developed on computers. For artists using this technique check out George Hart & Bathsheba Grossma’s work for starters.

rapid prototyping art - hart & watz
Paradise – George Hart

Behind the staple fodder of Generative Art lays a canon of mathematical formulae and methods from times past, equations that are borrowed with a rich history remaining relatively unknown. Recently Marius Watz, well known for his Processing work, took the ‘sketch’ into ‘r/l’ with some rapid prototyping work producing some excellent results.


A Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities

The Institute for Figuring – dedicated to the poetic and aesthetic dimensions of science, mathematics and the technical arts. Highly recommended.

The Wolfram site has near enough a complete list of major mathematical and topological surfaces for your inquisitive eyes

Flickr fruits 7 (& Flickr Woes)

Bubble Things – Silav

It would be hard imagine how much visual documentation of art work wouldn’t exist without Flickr, its ease of use providing a hassle free context and platform for displaying finished art as well as newly hatched sketches. This web2.0 megalith allowed disparate groups to converge and connect in new ways – the generative artists mix with the origamist’s and find common threads and appreciation in the aesthetics of mathematical form, for example. One of the reasons Flickr works so well is that the design and layout provides a level playing field for viewing work (and the design is not bad either) – for once applause for homogeneity? Throughout its development there have been teething issues and some other woes. Marius, has commented at length, over at Code and Form, on such techy issues as those black thumbnails and more recently, and seriously, Flickr’s absurd censorship policy relating to non-photographic images. As I continue to post Flickr Fruits I should add the disclaimer that I obviously don’t agree with this policy and add a further note of support to groups making a noise in opposition to it. Some of the these groups are even looking into building alternative photo sharing web apps as a result or using alternatives like Ipernity. The policy does nothing but hurt the individuals and collectives that made Flickr successful in the first place, aside from the fact that many of us pay good money to use (get used by?) the service. Shame.

That out of my system, check out – Tactoms Simulation set, 3D renderings of origami conjectures swirl and undulate in soft grey shades. Silav’s Bubble Things set contains a curious sequence of finely drafted drawings composed of bubbles that form larger structures in a unique style. M9dfukc’s Structure F series made with VVVV contains some undulating ribbon filaments of distracted waveforms. Dave Bollinger’s Sticks & Stones set continues to grow, ‘each piece is built out of just two shapes, a “stick” and a “stone” that are positioned and arranged according to various simple rules. The latest wave contains cartoon capsules as well multi-forms that look as if they have been arranged by a magnet.

Flight 404 – Voronoi, Flowline & Biometric Butterflies

Voronoi and Biometric Butterflies
Voronoi and Biometric Butterflies – Flight 404

Flight 404 has just posted a good summary of the workings and production behind his wonderful Voronoi and Biometric Butterflies. Using a set of algorithms used to facilitate generative wing design in Processing he produced 7 families of butterfly, each with its own decorative wing design.

‘ The outline of the butterfly wings was made procedurally with Processing (based on the wing form of the African Monarch). I placed magnetic particles all along the contour of the wing, dropped in a few gravity particles and a few hundred magnetic particles and let them settle into place. These particles are then used as the center sites for a Voronoi algorithm to create the vein-like structure that spreads through the form.’ Robert Hodgin says.

Looking at the patterns its easy to see why Voronoi diagrams were used as a basis for the designs, Varonoi tessellations bare a distinct resemblance to the fine cellular-like structures of the wings of most insects. Aside from the prints there also some Biometric Butterflies, with laser-cut wings, that come to life according to the proximity of a viewer.

For more Flight 404 goodness, check out The Magnetosphere.

Flickr Fruits 6

Falling Start Light

Time to return to Reciprocity’s photograms of refractography. A new set, Taming Light declares it motives to be the control of light refraction through an assortment of coloured materials – a space where ‘the object itself becomes the lens of the camera’. This new set is more spacious than the previous works allowing for the composition of repeating motifs and galactic narratives. Reciprocity should be congratulated on forming tiny Blakean universes packed with imploded nebulae in these colourful works.

Airform has gathered some feasts from the past for the graphic eye. The Science Set contains a lovely diagram of convergent polarized light in crystals. The Maps, Charts and Diagrams Set might just be a treasure trove of possible oblique strategies for different kinds of (re) visualisation – signals and shapes to be re-appropriated into a different domain from their original signification – makes me want to look at the Tufte books again.

Using centripetal forces and gravity as a creative process Mtnrockdhh presents to us a set of subtle ribbon shapes, blurs and tangles – created by the documented Camera Toss technique (also known as Kinetic photography). Check out CameraToss for more examples and a primer for beginners in the field.

Apophysis, the freeware fractal flame editor for Windows, is, at times, capable of spitting out some excessively familiar fractal forms – Cindasl’s set, Totem Series, on the other hand, sits happily outside of the mundane. Linear iterations form interesting vertical structures – buildings and futurist skyscrapers appear from a mist.