Archives for the Month of May, 2008

Eno Henze – The Human Factor

The Human Factor (detail) – Eno Henze

Attractor fields, particle trails and the traceries of atomic decay appear heavily in Eno Henze’s large scale generative drawings realised in VVVV. These drawings encourage views from both a close-up perspective and from afar. At a distant the macroscopic gaze formulates complex systems of filaments and trace lines forming large coherent structures, as in The Human Factor. Under the microscope the lines appear to be hand drawn, as if a shaking hand scribbled a chaotic mess of lines with a coloured marker. Its to this end that The Human Factor hints at the intercorrelation between machine and hand, the micro-scribbles coalescing into a large scale vaporous structure – a snapshot of an iridescent fabric caught in a complex dynamic. Eno recently showed a new drawing, ‘The search for the absolute’, at Node08 that was inspired by spatial simulations of particle physics. The piece used a laser rigged up to VVVV so that a large composite drawing could be made on 32 panels of photosensitive wood. The resulting decorative surface contains glyphs and spiralling calligraphs of radioactive emission.

Info Abstractions – Alex Dragulescu

Spam Architecture – Alex Dragulescu

Romanian born, Alex Dragulescu conjures digital structuralist abstractions from databases, Spam-noise, blogs and musical compositions. His Spam Architecture set results in crisply rendered architectural cutouts that are the transformational replies to sets of Spam emails. The structure of each of these futurist abodes is defined by the patterns and rhythms of keywords analysed in Junk email – ultimately translated into ‘three-dimensional modelling gestures’.

The visual music of ‘Extrusions in C Major’ finds a space teeming with notes (segments), entangled in a cubist construct but somehow conveying the essential rhythms, modulations and counterpoints of Mozart’s Trio C-Major for Piano, Violin and Cello. ‘The structures develop segment by segment, each segment representing a note of a particular instrument from the composition. Each notes’ characteristic – velocity, value and duration is translated into the segments weight, length and rotation.

Elsewhere on Alex’s site you’ll find visualisations of spyware code, computer code viruses and worms modelled in the form of their biological counterparts as well as his VJ tool, Brecht. Brecht uses database queries and Java instructions to trigger live visuals from material that is stored in a MySQL database. Logs of server transactions and syntax errors are incorporated into the live visualisation process.

Colour Organs – A tiny history.

Colour Organs
Alexander Wallace Rimington’s Colour Organ

With a 6-foot square frame above a standard harpsichord and 60 small windows of different coloured glass illuminated in correspondence to sound, Louis Betrand Castel’s Ocular Harpsichord must have caused quite a stir in ‘enlightened’ society as long ago as the 1740’s. The French Jesuit monk’s invention was initiated by his interest in Newton’s theory of optics resulting in a musical instrument that advocated a direct relationship between light and sound. When a key was struck a length of cord attached to a pulley lifted a specific curtain so that one of the many stained glass panes received light from a set of candles. The coloured light would be projected into the darkened recital room. The composer Telemann was so enthralled by Castel’s achievement that he composed pieces specifically for the Ocular Harpsichord. Like Messer Jobs and Gates and their personal computers, Castel dreamed of a day when every household would have one of his machines for family and social amusement and planned a factory for mass production. Sadly no working version of this contraption survived the inventor himself. For a detailed paper on Castel’s work, look no further than Maarten Franssen’s excellent write-up available in PDF format.

More than a 100 years later, non-musician and non-inventor Bainbridge Bishop published his wonderfully titled ‘A Souvenir of the Colour Organ, with some suggestions in regard to the soul of the rainbow and the harmony of light’. Published online at Fred Collopy’s RhythmicLight – it is a pamphlet outlining his theories of colour-sound relationships based on the study of rainbows and prisms. With these theories it gave descriptions of various machines similar to Castel’s harpsichord but with shutters instead of curtains. Bishop spent over 5 years refining his machines. The final product incorporated a projection screen on which the colours were diffused and reflected in accordance to the music being played. The organs could be played with light or music alone, realising a whole new, and at the same time forgotten, dimension to the game of ‘Name that tune’. It must have been considerably risky using candles as a light source in these machines and this is backed up by the fact that all of Bishop’s machines were eventually destroyed by fire!

Around 1885 the painter Alexander Wallace Rimington built a Colour Organ in his home, it was over 10ft high according historical notes and looked like a standard church organ. Coloured keys were arranged above a conventional keyboard, connected to a lens-and-filters system, allowing colours to be played. Various pedals changed the quality of light, allowing dissolve-like effects. Rimington went on to published ‘Colour Music: The Art of Mobile Colour’ in which he argued that the standard repertoire might be performed in colour. He subsequently expressed a wish that musicians would begin to write dual scores, one for colour and one for music. Check out A New Art: Colour-Music, a paper read by Rimington in London in 1895 and published online at Joost Rekveld’s excellent Light matters blog.

These machines were, arguably, the origins of mechanised visual music, a paradigm that is taken for granted in this age with the host of sound visualising modules incorporated in your favourite MP3 player. One of the more fascinating aspects of these inventions was how to encode sound into colour, what kinds of correspondence-scales were used and what the encoding was based upon? Whether it be leaning to something scientifically rigorous, as in Newton’s Optics, or a mapping that is purely aesthetically driven. While computation artists fiddle with their FTT Spreads and Arrays and try to make visual sense of the numbers, these questions are still pertinent today. It’s notable that each of the colour-music charts/systems used by the above mentioned inventors have many correspondences between themselves. Why is it that similar notes are often chosen to be represented by the same colour across different systems? Is there a collective synaesthetic cross-wiring system that can be mapped over and through the human’s perception of visual music?

The Jantar Mantar & The Algomantra

Jantar Mantar
/Sumrat Yantra, Jantar Mantar – Jaipur, India

I’d be surprised if Giorgio de Chirico , and the other Metaphysical landscapers had not seen or been influenced by the huge celestial instruments of the surreal Jantar Mantar. This stone observatory was built by the astronomer-king, Jai Singh II at his then new capital of Jaipur, in Rajastan between 1727 & 1733. The collection of monolithic instruments sets up a tantalising metaphysical landscape as If you were to walk straight into one of De Chirco‘s mytho-mathamatical dreamscapes. Arcs of stone, twisting facades and giant gnomons create light-play and shadow formations – asking the observer to find interesting perspectives of geometric absolutism.

Of course each ‘sculpture’ has a specific purpose aside from the muse of abstracted geometry, each Yantra (Instrument) is devised to provide specific celestial readings, from the calculation of Hindu lunar calendar to defining the positions of stars and even predicting the intensity of monsoons. A total of 18 instruments utilise the sun so that shadows are output as variables on curves and linear marked surfaces with measurement scales. The Sumrat Yantra is considered to be the largest sundial in the world with is 90ft high gnomon centrepiece. Jai Singh, who devised many of the objects himself, believed that the greater the size the more perfect the accuracy of these objects.

de chirico
Place Metaphysique Italienne, – Giorgio de Chirico

Jai Singh was a scholar with a life long interest in mathematics and astronomy and it appears he was conversant with contemporary European astronomy through his contacts with the Portuguese in Goa. Aside from Jaipur he built observatories in Delhi, Ujjain, Mathura and Benares.

This Maharaja appears to be one of the more interesting and stranger ruler figures in history; his helio-centric observatory is a palace to the sun and way of proving his devotions and connection to the heavens, and ultimately his power. In many respects there seems to be certain similarities to another Sun worshipping ruler, the heretical Egyptian pharaoh, Ahkenaten.

While in Jaipur I met up with Jantar Mantar obsessive, algorithmic psychogeographer and Vedic Crystalpunk, Rohit Gupta, who showed me the wonderful Cosmic Architecture of India by Andreas Vowahsen. It turns out that Ro wears many hats – check out his psychogegraphic Cellphabet project, as well as the wonderfully sequential and schematic ‘Doppler Effect’ comic he produced with Gabriel Greenberg.

Algomantra, as a trigger phrase, makes me think of the Indian grammarian, Pingala, who discovered the sequence attributed to Fibonacci in the grammar of ancient Sanskrit mantras. Pingala called the sequence Matrameru, which translates poetically into The Mountain of Cadence. Its not so surprising that this recursive sequence of numbers provides the pattern of petal arrangement in plants known as phyllotaxis aside from the patterns of syntax in mantras – nature is data after all!

Ro nicely pointed out, ‘data’ also means God in certain Indian dialects.

There have been quite a few papers written about the Jantar Mantar worth checking out, heres links to a couple:

Jantar Mantar: Architecture, Astronomy, and Solar Kingship in Princely India – MacDougall, Bonnie 1996

Architecture in the Service of Science – Barry Perlus

Barry Perlus’s site also contains some VR Models of the observatory.

Maschine zur Projektion eines Blumenmusters – Tina Tonagel

Maschine zur Projektion eines Blumenmusters

Tina Tonagel’s ‘Maschine zur Projektion eines Blumenmusters’ is a mechanical looping creator-destroyer machine system. Utilising modified overhead projectors, emergent floral patterns are printed onto a transparent screen, which then journey to their own annihilation. Just moments after their arrival they are erased at a second mechanical junction by a drop of water combined with a sweep of a brush. The textural aesthetic reminds of us the hand-painted animations by Norman Mclaren. The difference here being that ‘Maschine zur Projektion eines Blumenmusters’ creates an infinite cinematic projection dialogue, which could go on looping forever.

Flickr Fruits #15 – Liquid projections

Flickr Fruits #15
Blobs – Deaxismundi

Here follows some Flickr sets that exploit the aesthetic of liquid immiscibility both real and virtual:

Crashingslowly insinuates the musicality of immiscibility with his Jazz series, ‘Composition in G’ utilises time-based exposures to offer up a range of liquid galaxy formations.

Infostuka preliminates a generative project with some liquid sketches containing interplay between water, oil, ink, soy sauce and detergent. Microscopic biological cellular forms arise out of these quarter-edible interactions.

Deaxismundi virtualises the process with his blobs set, using emitters in VVVV, to exact some luminescent mercurial molten metals – computational alchemy in action.

Alh84001’s images tagged with ‘diffusion’ are constructed using ‘two rhodamines (red + yellow), a coumarin derivative (blue), and good old green fluorescein’. The resulting bifurcations and flow schematics were produced by taking macros of these ‘fluorescent dyes diffusing into solvent under UV illumination.