Archives for the Month of May, 2011

Patabotany #3: Growth Assembly

Growth Assembly - Sasha Pohflepp and Daisy Ginsberg.
Growth Assembly – Sasha Pohflepp and Daisy Ginsberg.

Sasha Pohflepp and Daisy Ginsberg’s project ‘Growth Assembly’ is comprised of a set plant-machine illustrations together which form part of larger composite horticultural mechanism.

‘After the cost of energy had made global shipping of raw materials and packaged goods unimaginable, only the rich could afford traditional, mass-produced commodities.

Synthetic biology enabled us to harness our natural environment for the production of things. Coded into the DNA of a plant, product parts grow within the supporting system of the plant’s structure. When fully developed, they are stripped like a walnut from its shell or corn from its husk, ready for assembly.’

Growth Assembly, which was illustrated by Sion Ap Tomos is a pictorial investigation in synthetic biology and DNA manipulation. The illustrations have been created in a similar style to those found in traditional illustrated pharmacopoeia and botanical codices of the last few centuries. These botanical codices, particularly in the 19th century, were produced as an aid to cultivation and hybridization of plants. Creating plant hybrids can be considered an early form of non-invasive genetic engineering. In this sense Growth Assembly continues the lineage of study in plant manipulation and botanical engineering – albeit extending it into a domain of pataphysical science-fiction speculation.

Patabotany #2: Grow your own Worlds

groWorld-randomGarden-01 - Tale of Tales
groWorld-randomGarden-01 – Tale of Tales

Foam’s groWorld initiative, begun in 2007 and still in operation, is a many headed hydra exploring vegetal syncretism with workshops, conference discussions and art exhibitions – details of which can be found here. One particular groWorld interest is in the patafusion of permaculural idioms to the world of gaming. Much has been written about the need for liberation in video games from the ubiquitous and inane shootem-up scenario.

Dave Griffiths has been documenting the development of a set of patabotanical gameworlds at his site related to the groWorld initiative. His Plant Eyes game, developed with his own open prototyping engine Fluxus, allows the player to take on the role of a plant and roam through an organic environment utilising nutrients to grow into new plant forms.

Mandrake from A Pictorial History of Ancient Pharmacy (1902) - Peters, Hermann
Mandrake from A Pictorial History of Ancient Pharmacy (1902) – Peters, Hermann

Tale of Tales, a games development studio lab specialising in poetic gaming paradigms, have also contributed some patabotanical game prototypes. There are no ruined texture-mapped citadels pock-marked from the ricochets of bullets to found in this lush blue-tinged multi-player jungle.

Woman as a plant – plant as a man. Combining a bifurcating root formation that resembles the human form and containing a psychedelic concoction of tropane alkaloids, the Mandrake (‘Djinn’s eggs’ in Arabic) is an emblem of vegetable-human synthesis. Mandrake ‘generates alpha brain-wave activity, similar to that found in REM sleep, generating hypnotic landscapes of the internal gameworld.

Aljazar – Live coded robot music (Also by Dave Griffiths)

Patabotany #1: [At the Libarynth] The Forest is a College, Each Tree a University.

Pataplant Guild Sketch - Foam
Pataplant Guild Sketch – Foam

Adapting the absurdist metaphysical conjectures of Pataphysics (Alfred Jarry’s Science of imaginary solutions) to Botany creates a fantastic ecology of verdant pataphors. Metaflora, Phycological futurology and hypnogogic phyllotaxis perhaps? Libarynth invents and documents this new branch of speculative science and its related offshoots by ‘patafying’ the study of plants.

Triffids take note! Maja Kuzmanovic and Nik Gaffney’s Cursory Speculations on Human Plant Interaction ‘explores the nature of surfaces and processes required to facilitate reciprocal interaction between humans and plants’. Examined in the paper: the continued evolution of human-plant symbiotics – in their somatic and syntactic protocols. This includes shamanic enthogenic communication and Thalient strategies.

Visualists craving some pictorial cues will enjoy Foam’s Flickr stream of Patabotanical illustrations. Here you’ll find a collection of arbocultural surrealism – machine seeds and plant fusions. The Magnum Opus of this set is the extravagantly complex Pataforest, a kind of floating forest biohaven, apparently in complete self-contained harmony – a part-game design-plan for a topsoil Eden minutiae.

If patabotanical art has a precursor, maybe we need look no further than our friend Paul Klee – consider for example Botanical Theatre or Apparatus for the Magnetic Treatment of Plants. We should also not forget the arborescent algebraic notation of The Voynich Manuscript.

Note: ‘The Forest is a College, Each Tree a University’ is a line from the lyrics of Coil’s ‘Queens of the Circulating Library’


Trajectories in the Blog Galaxy #2: Cryptoforestry, Bio-Inspired Computation & Rendering the 20th Century

The Square - Stanley Tigerman and G.L. Crabtree
The Square – Stanley Tigerman and G.L. Crabtree


RNDRD, ‘Rendering the 20th Century’, contains a compilation of scans taken from out-of-print architectural journals, otherwise impossible to get hold of, and defining key movements in the evolution of architectural practice. Rather than concentrate on finished projects, the specialisation here is in drawings, collages, and dioramas. The most spectacular images are those of the futuristic and experimental utopianism of the 60s and 70s.

‘RNDRD loves awkward models, the sketchiness of early computer graphics and even building types and strategies, now hackneyed, that once appeared as innovative solutions. Buildings are expensive, but paper is cheap. The most interesting project may not be the one that was built. RNDRD wants to give these unseen works and forgotten trends a presence on the internet’

RNDRD is complied by Josh Conrad and Lauren Hamer


Wilfried Hou Je Bek has been entertaining us with a diverse landscape of wild-style essays for as long as blogs have existed. Socialfiction fans will have learned of bacteriopoetics, gargoyle automatons, algorithmic psychogeography and the philosophy of crystalpunk to name a few. Last year Socialfiction evaporated into the digital aether (Although you can still find some of it archived here). Good news however appearance of his more recent project(ion) and its accompanying blog – Cryptoforest. Cryptoforestry extends the vectors of psychogeography into the realms of of feral, in-limbo, incognito, precognitive and unappreciated forests in the urban environment.


Chemoton is Vitorino Ramos research notebook containing thoughts about ‘artificial life, bio-inspired computation, complex sciences, their applications and technologies. This is one corner of browser-space where thoughts on the work of John Cage and Paul Klee collide with short essays on the social intelligence of bacteria and fluid dynamics of ant colonies.

Tom Beddard – Geometric Organica

Surface Detail - Tom Beddard
Surface Detail – Tom Beddard

Tom Beddard [Sublue] has been featured on these pages before – in a post on Structure Synth, in a Selected Tweets, and at least two Flicker Fruits collections: #17 and #34. It’s time to devote a complete post to his work concentrating on recent projects.

Tom develops his own ‘home-brew’ raytracing shader software to generate highly complex fractal topologies, tessellated surfaces, and three-dimensional objects. Surface Detail is a good example of the capabilities of his software. Combined with a monochromatic palette it generates fractal aesthetics distinct from any you’ve seen before. A rotating planetoid structure, mutates through a steadily transitioning surface of subdivisioned self-similar cells. The effect is morphogenetic, biological and botanical – compare his work to this SEM picture of Gephyrocapsa oceanica for example. Flickr stills of Surface Detail can be found here. Geometric Organica, a precursor to Surface Detail, similarly deals with organic networks of fractal forms, which appear as machine-crafted seeds and fruits.

The most recent update to this sequence of works is the realisation of a WebGL application that can run in any current browser supporting Mozilla’s powerful WebGL library (Google Chrome & Firefox 4 Beta). The intense Sci-fi like scenographs generated by Fractal Lab hint at the kinds of landscapes perhaps envisioned by Terrence Mckenna and John C Lilly while musing on solid state intelligence and ultra complex machine planet ecologies.

aDiatomea – Sonically Superformed Micro-organisms
Year of the Radiolarian

Selected Tweets #12: Mar-May 2011

The Fabelphonetikum Schematic [Detail] - Moritz Ellerich
The Fabelphonetikum Schematic [Detail] – Moritz Ellerich

Recent selected tweets from my Twitter stream: @MrPrudence

VagueTerrain #19 Schematic as Score: Uses and Abuses of the (In)Deterministic Possibilities of Sound Technology.

Rorschach Audio: Ghost Voices and Perceptual Creativity [PDF] – Joe Banks on Electronic Voice Phenomena & Psychoacoustics.

After the Screen: Array Aesthetics and Transmateriality – Mitchell Whitelaw [Teemingvoid].

Incredible Machine. Elucidating film on early computer graphics systems including BEFLIX that could have only been made in the 70s [AT&T Archives].

Starringthecomputer is dedicated to the use of computers in film and television. Handily compiled in an A-Z of computers.

Unitxt/Univrs – Alva Noto, [visuals by Wuestenarchitekten] introduces a fresh take on ‘interface-sonification’.

Hoxtron – Daniel Brown. A work in progress 3d landscape sound analyser.

Kinetic artworks by Taizo Matsumura. High speed movement creates ‘persistance of vision’ surfaces.

Triangulations posts on the kinetic light sculptures of Julio Cesar Gonzalez.

Large scale spirographic shapes & symmetry drawings by Tony Orrico.

Ephemeral architectures/fragmented geometric installations – Clemens Behr.

Jean Tinguely’s Art Machines. Photos from his exhibit in Paris in 1959 by LIFE magazine photographer Loomis Dean.

Vector Figures – Mandelbrut .Vectrex scan-line oscilloscopia.

Sewing Machines Orchestra – Martin Messier. Orchestra of acoustic noises produced by 1940′s sewing machines.

Large scale optical and perceptual projection installations by Peter Kogler.

Otomata, a generative sequencer using cellular automata logic which evolves sequences of music – Batuhan Bozkurt.

Circles Dancing in a Rhomb – Edmund Harriss. Discontinuity lines produced by rotations of a torus as a piecewise isometry.

A Sunday Afternoon Watching Symmetry Break [Pointillist thoughts at 'Kali & the Kaleidoscope: An Artificial Cosmology'] – Rohit Gupta.

Marble Machines. Modular contraptions for steel bearing animatronics at The Tinkering Studio blog.

Chance and Order. Martin Isaac on on the aleatory process behind Kenneth Martins ‘random’ geometric paintings.

Pitch to Rhythm : Rhythm to Pitch – Andrew Lucia’s visualisations of the tones & rhythms of music by Stockhausen.

Composing Perceptual Geographies – Maryanne Amacher revealing thoughts on spatial sound composition.

520 Millions ago was a ‘a wild period’ with Lobopodians [Walking Cactuses], Opabinias & the dreamlike Hallucigenia.

Intelligence as an Emergent Behavior or, The Songs of Eden – Daniel Hillis [Of Connection Machine Fame].

The Poetics of Data – Jeff Thompson re-contextualizes data sets as poetry.

Aristides Garcia – Hexagrama [Metatronic Clockwork Sequencing]

Hexagrama - Arístides García
Hexagrama – Aristides Garcia

Aristides Garcia’s Hexagrama is a visual music study, made with VVVV, based on the interactions and movements of ‘clockwork’ geometric forms. Music sequencers usually rely on a standardised left to right reading of a timeline for the recording and triggering of audio. Hexagrama breaks the mould of this traditional linearity. Using a circular schematic of chronology allows the ‘hands’ to trigger percussive sounds while the subdivsioned shapes cue other synthesized waveforms in steadily increasing complexity. All sounds are triggered by information sent from VVVV to a VST instrument.

Score for Metastasis - XenakisScore for Metastasis – Iannis Xenakis

Not surprisingly Aristides has used non-standard music notation scores from the 50s and 60s as pointers to his process – citing the notations of Xenakis as a key reference. Other inspiration comes from sacred and esoteric geometry, notably the Metatron Cube, as well as Islamic tessellation patterns.

For more works by Aristides head over to his website, where you find documentation on VJ performance projects, Installation projections and other works made with the video synthesis tool-kit, VVVV.

A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates [and other psuedo-random thoughts]

Pages from 'A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates' - RAND
Pages from ‘A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates’ – RAND

‘The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance ‘ – Robert R. Coveyou.

Random number spotters will enjoy ‘A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates’, published by RAND in 1955. The book contains 600 pages of random digits neatly aligned in tables. The tables were designed to be used in mathematical and scientific experiments particularly in the area of cryptography. The book was reissued in 2001 and is available at Amazon, where it has generated some amusing readers reviews:

‘Such a terrific reference work! But with so many terrific random digits, it’s a shame they didn’t sort them, to make it easier to find the one you’re looking for.’

‘The book is a promising reference concept, but the execution is somewhat sloppy….The bulk of each page seems random enough. However at the lower left and lower right of alternate pages, the number is found to increment directly.’

‘For a supposedly serious reference work the omission of an index is a major impediment. I hope this will be corrected in the next edition.’

‘If you like this book, I highly recommend that you read it in the original binary. As with most translations, conversion from binary to decimal frequently causes a loss of information’

More reviews of RAND’s encyclopedia of random digits can be viewed here.

In 2006 Nathan Kennedy wrote to RAND asking if he could freely distribute these million random digits believing that they contained no creative content and therefore should not be subject to copyright restrictions. RAND responded negatively, and perhaps preposterously affirmed that the million random digits were subject to copyright laws! Nathan’s answer was to publish his own ‘A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates’ online.

As all programmers will know, computer generated random numbers are at best pseudo-random as they are generated in a predictable (deterministic) fashion using a mathematical formula. Patterns will eventually show up in large sequences of random numbers. offers true random numbers generated from data derived from sampling atmospheric noise. Random that is, if you don’t subscribe to the idea that the Universe is in itself one endless ongoing parallel computation and therefore deterministic in principle.

Christian Bök – The Xenotext Experiment [Encoded Protein Poetics & Literary Genetics]

Protein 13 - The sculptural embodiment of  The Xenotext
Protein 13 – The sculptural embodiment of The Xenotext

Christian Bök’s Xenotext Experiment attempts to encode a short poem [constrained by biochemical necessity] into a sequence of DNA so that it can be implanted into a bacterium – the Deinococcus radiodurans. It’s a literal [no pun intended] attempt to bring prose to life, and to release it into a biological ecosystem. Furthermore Christian’s encoding process attempts to create a reaction from the bacteria – the manufacture of a benign protein. This, in essence, allows the bacterium to ‘write’ a new version of the poem in response to the implant. If this sounds like science-fiction, or more like something out of William S Burroughs stranger fictions, its by no means a coincidence. The Xenotext, as explained by Christian, is an attempt to bring to life Burroughs’ famous maxim that ‘language is a virus’.

Recent reports of the possible wireless communication between bacteria poses some intriguing futurist speculations. We can imagine a wireless network of ‘bacterial devices’ collaborating on encoded literature through dense nanoscopic parallel computations – the biological equivalent of a Connection Machine. The future of poetry? Envision a Petri-dish of ‘bacterial computers’ programming self-generating, and evolving, combinatorial Oulipo verse encoded via DNAML [DNA markup-language].

New Scientist recently interview Christian Bök on the Xenotext – it can be found here.

Casey Reas – Process, Transformation, Growth

Network B - Casey Reas
Network B – Casey Reas

Casey Reas, one of the initiators of Processing (along with Ben Fry), and a key mover in the field of process art shouldn’t really need any introduction for anyone involved in the generative art scene. Recently he has updated his website with new project documentation – proving a perfect opportunity for Dataisnature to post on his work.

Casey’s speciality is in utilising algorithms to create naturalistic and organic forms that often mimic those found in the plant kingdom. Most recently he had been utilising network algorithms to cultivate growth systems. In works such as Network B, a.k.a. Process 4 and Network A, a.k.a. Process 4, we are invited to consider the growth process in itself as it slowly unfolds.

Other works include gestural figures and painterly marks that remind us of the ‘all-over’ paintings of abstract expressionism, think of the calligraphic works of Mark Tobey, for example.

Network A - Casey Reas
Network A – Casey Reas

In the ‘Process’ series of works the prescriptive directions for each piece is made transparent to the viewer of the work. The instructions are written as a kind of recipe in plain text to be included with each piece. Process 17 contains the following human readable instructions:

‘A rectangular surface filled with instances of Element 5, each with a different size and gray value. Draw a transparent circle at the midpoint of each Element. Increase a circle’s size and opacity while its Element is touching another Element and decrease while it is not.’

Such a simple and strict instruction when applied through the use of computer code to generate the forms yields surprising results that appear to exist in the blurry boundaries between determinism and randomness.

These instructional methods directly echo’s the work of an earlier generation of artists who have used similar paradigms to create artworks in a rule based manner. Sol Lewitt and Kenneth Martin are good examples, the latter made good use of aleatory strategies in his recipes for making art.