Athanasius Kircher – Combinatorial Music, Augmented Face-Substitution & Projection Systems Illustrated in the 17th-Century

cassetta_mathematica_kircherCassetta Mathematica – Athanasius Kircher

Siegfried Zielinski’s chapter on Athanasius Kircher in respect to media archaeology in his book Deep Time of the Media would be hard to beat, exploring as it does the essential contributions Kircher made in the areas of combinatorial music, visual projection techniques and augmented reality among many others. Regardless of whether you subscribe to the now commonly held view that Kircher was a serial plagiarist who rarely credited his sources or not, there is no mistaking the incredible task of overseeing the illustrations alone created in his collected 16,000 pages of life time published works. It’s likely that Kircher’s genius was in the synthesis of knowledge on optics, acoustics and mathematics,which he collected from globe-trotting Jesuit priests, into a coherent classification system that lead to novel inventions and fantastical proposals – many of which are still being explored today.

Icon_Wheel_KircherIcon Wheel [ or Metaphor Machine] – Athanasius Kircher

spiral_shaped_amplification_system_kircherAmplification System – Athanasius Kircher

In Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae [1646] Kircher explores the nature of light, lenses, mirrors, sundials, astronomy and gives early descriptions of the camera obscura. One extremely interesting image in the light of recent well-known cam tracking face substitution work is the Icon Wheel, or Metaphor Machine as Robert Hooke called the invention. The mechanism was designed as an apparatus to metamorphosize faces in order to create an allegorical transformation of the observer. On entering a chamber the observer first sees the sun, then their own head, subsequently their transformation into a range of animals. Other illustrations reveal a range of projection techniques for images and text in darkened rooms using different systems of lenses and catotrophic lamps. In other sections elaborate illustrations outline optical effects with mirrors where kinetic models and marionettes are made to appear to come to life.

Organ_Musurgia_Universalis_kircherOrgan Musurgia Universalis – Athanasius Kircher

alphabetum_kricherAlphabetum – Athanasius Kircher

Kircher’s Musurgia Universalis [1650] explores sound, music and musical scales in relation to mathematical principles and astronomical readings [often derived from Pythagorean teachings] There are diagrams of water-powered automatic organs, systems for transmitting sound to remote places, eavesdropping devices using sound spiral conduits and examples of combinatorial compositional aids to create proto-generative music such as the arca musarithmica. Another combinatorial music composing device, the cassetta mathematica, [or organum mathematicum] uses rotating discs housed in a wooden box to generate compositions.

arca_musarithmica_box_for_rythmic_sequencing_of_notes_kircherArca Musarithmica – Athanasius Kircher

Realising the possibility of endlessly unique musical sequences using random combinations of elements, Kircher remarks on the arca musarithmica ‘Its is apparent from that which is put forward here the infinite number of possible combinations, which are given by the different ordering of the five columns. Assuredly there are so many that had an angel begun with the combinations at the dawning of the World, it would not be finished today’

Links to:

Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae – Athanasius Kircher
Musurgia Universalis – Athanasius Kircher

One Response to “Athanasius Kircher – Combinatorial Music, Augmented Face-Substitution & Projection Systems Illustrated in the 17th-Century”

  1. Bob Fludd writes:

    He was a bright spark alright…

Leave a Reply

Floraskin – Eilfried Huth & Günther Domenig

Floraskin - Huth & DomenigFloraskin – Huth & Domenig

Eilfried Huth’s and Günther Domenig’s biomorphic Floraskin, an unbuilt architectural project from 1971, apples botanical forms and eukaryotic cell structures as a blueprint for an organic modular building. Extending ideas explored in their well-known megastructural work Überbauung Ragnitz, which was intended to be adaptable according to daily spatial demand, the project consists of biokinetic vacuole’s leading to ‘proliferating’ cells arranged in radial patterns and connected by stem corridors. Floraskin was proposed as a living and mutating hotel for ‘alternative tourism’ to be located in the resort of Ifni in Morocco.

Floraskin - Huth & DomenigFloraskin – Huth & Domenig

Floraskin - Huth & DomenigFloraskin – Huth & Domenig

Floraskin - Huth & DomenigFloraskin – Huth & Domenig

Floraskin - Huth & DomenigFloraskin – Huth & Domenig

Floraskin - Huth & DomenigFloraskin – Huth & Domenig

Floraskin - Huth & DomenigFloraskin – Huth & Domenig

Floraskin - Huth & DomenigFloraskin – Huth & Domenig

Related Posts:
René Binet – Esquisses Décoratives & the Protozoic Façade of Porte Monumentale
Patabotany #3: Growth Assembly
Patabotany #2: Grow your own Worlds
Patabotany #1: At the Libarynth

Leave a Reply

Spatiologies – Vittorio Giorgini

Giorgini_Walking_WalkingTall_1981-83Walking Tall – Vittorio Giorgini [1980-81]

Vittorio Giorginis early architectural works allude to the topological features of continuous surfaces like the Möbius strip or the paradoxical, and non-orientable, Klein bottle. His signature compound curvature buildings such as the Casa Saldarini in Italy and the Liberty Center in New York State (unfinished and latter demolished) expose a long-lasting obsession with organic thin-shell manifolds. His book Spatiology: The Morphology of the Natural Sciences in Architecture and Design is an early work on biologically inspired architecture. It contains numerous sketches outlining the use of geometric procedures to generate manifolds and minimal surfaces as solutions to architectural problems.

Giorgini_Walking_WalkingTall_1981-83Walking Tall – Vittorio Giorgini [1980-81]

Giorgini_Walking_WalkingTall_1981-83Walking Tall – Vittorio Giorgini [1980-81]

Giorgini_Walking_WalkingTall_1981-83Walking Tall – Vittorio Giorgini [1980-81]

Giorgini_Walking_WalkingTall_1981-83Walking Tall – Vittorio Giorgini [1980-81]

Giorgini_Walking_WalkingTall_1981-83Walking Tall – Vittorio Giorgini [1980-81]

Giorgini_Walking_WalkingTall_1981-83Walking Tall – Vittorio Giorgini [1980-81]

In a later body of work he explores the use of lattice beams, spatial meshes and tensostructures, sometimes combining both asymmetric and symmetrical modules – good examples are his Walking Tall and Module Octet projects. Walking Tall was a skyscraper designed for New York in 1982-1983. The building, which was intended to rise to a height of more than 250 meters, employs asymmetric tetrahedral elements and is structurally reminiscent of utopian blueprints of the Soviet constructivist architectures of the 1920′s. Giorgini kept long-lasting friendships with the artists Jean Arp and Roberto Matta. The former artist may have left his biomorphic influences on Giorgini’s early topological architectures, while the latter artist’s dynamic three-dimension ‘inscape’ spaces may well be connected to Giorgini’s later angular works

Giorgini_spatiologyPlate from Spatiology: The Morphology of the Natural Sciences in Architecture and Design – Vittorio Giorgini

Giorgini_spatiologyPlate from Spatiology: The Morphology of the Natural Sciences in Architecture and Design – Vittorio Giorgini

Giorgini_spatiologyPlate from Spatiology: The Morphology of the Natural Sciences in Architecture and Design – Vittorio Giorgini

Vitorio_Giorgini_Module_Octet_1991Module Octet – Vittorio Giorgini [1991]

Vitorio-Giorgini_Module_Octet_1991Module Octet – Vittorio Giorgini [1991]

Vitorio-Giorgini_RiverCrane_1993_2River Crane – Vittorio Giorgini [1993]

Related Posts:

Drop City – Colonizing consciousness with abodes of Truncated Icosorhombic Dodecahedra

René Binet – Esquisses Décoratives & the Protozoic Façade of Porte Monumentale

Yuri Avvakumov – Agitarch Structures: Reconfiguring Utopia

The Architectural Fantasies of Iakov Chernikhov

The Constructivist Cosmologies of Richard Lippold

One Response to “Spatiologies – Vittorio Giorgini”

  1. Marco Del Francia writes:

    excellent site and congratulations to remember the work of Vittorio Giorgini

Leave a Reply

Quantum Objects – Frederik de Wilde

Quantum Foam – Frederik de WildeQuantum Foam – Frederik de Wilde

Frederik de Wilde renders intangible, inaudible and invisible phenomena into sculptural forms and polished 3-dimensional data visualisations. Data derived from quantum processes, complex systems, aspects of psychophysics, nanotechnological and biological systems provide base materials for the works and allow Frederik to ask ‘how do we connect the blind spots, respectively, between art and science?

Quantum-Object-#1_Frederik_de_WildeQuantum Object #1 – Frederik de Wilde

In works such as Quantum Object, Quantum Foam and SoN01R, sculptural order and geometric exactitude provides counterpoint and playful contradiction to the preconceived idea of noise, randomness and entropy. While society streamlines to greater technological order, where perceived accuracy is prized and the errors of randomness are to be avoided, actual true randomness has become a precious commodity. Ironically no computational device can generate true random numbers – we have to rely on natural phenomena such as atmospheric data or stochastic radioactive particle decay for their generation.

Coalface004_Frederik_de_WildeCoalface – Frederik de Wilde

Coalface004_Frederik_de_WildeCoalface – Frederik de Wilde

Coalface001_Frederik_de_WildeCoalface – Frederik de Wilde

Eschewing the purely aesthetic, Frederik’s works raise questions regarding the dissemination of art works in the scientific continuum, they explore the artistic and scientific contract and its related social and political implications. Conjectural solutions to social problems and political questions are embedded in his artistic output. A good example of the latter concern is M1NE#1, a sculpture made by direct laser sintering of microscopic titanium particles which visualises sensitive data of seven coal mines in Belgium.

Fade-2-Infinity_-n1_Frederik_de_WildeFade 2 Infinity – Frederik de Wilde

M1ne-IIII_Frederik_de_WildeM1ne IIII – Frederik de Wilde

A recent interview at We Make Money Not Art is the perfect port of introduction to Frederik’s works and ideas. It contains interesting historical anecdotes and references to quantum material innovations alongside dystopian predictions – proving that the ideas of Richard Feynman are as equally crucial to Frederik’s works as references, as are Malevich’s paintings.

Related Posts:
A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates [and other psuedo-random thoughts]
Robert Horvitz – Quantum Symmetries
Owen Schuh – Calculation and Iteration Drawings

Leave a Reply

The Writing of Stones – Roger Caillois

AgateAgate – Smithsonian Institution

Surrealist and Sociologist Roger Caillois was known for his writings on biomimicry, especially within the insect world, pareidolia and lithic scrying. His latter interest provided us with The Writing of Stones, a book in which he unravels the ‘unfathomable graphic madness’ etched onto the rocks contained within the ‘archives of geology’. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a species of rock – in each he channels ever increasingly dense, extravagant, and at times morbid tales from the authorless inscriptions each stone contains.

‘An Agate may shadow forth a tree, a forest, a whole landscape….clouds, lightning, a great sea full of fleeing galleys….Such objects may resemble a mountain or a cave – they reduce space and condense time’

orbits_jasper ‘Orbits’ Jasper – from the Writing of Stones

‘The Japsers of Oregon are unrivalled for the complexity of their carved designs [...] Universe of scrolls, branches, pleura [...] sand rhythmically modulated by wind’. On the Idaho Japsers (one he names ‘Orbit’) he says ‘they proclaim the circuits of planets or electrons around their invisible centres or nuclei [...] The are like the rings of armillary sphere, with their zodiacs and ecliptics and equinoctial zones – bracelets for cosmographers or nuclear physicists’ Long before the invention chaos theory and fractal mathematics he realises that ‘they reflect the phantom revolutions which, alike on a vast and microscopic scale, unflaggingly repeat the same pattern’

oregonJasper_01Oregon Jasper

Of the Septaria he remarks that ‘occasionally they open out into ravines lined with little crystals and that ‘they form patterns which explode; showers of many sided cells, sprays of dodecahedra, cobwebs spun in the void containing no lurking spider’. Intoxicated further by these glyphs he finds ‘floating phantoms, demons with eyes on stalks, a Sabbath of spirals or Bacilli’ and later on ‘elemental columns of chromosomes, protozoa and centipedes.

As the book goes on, the inspection and introspection shift from empirical references to more outlandish ones, his isomorphisms eventually dissolve discretion and to gravitate towards the morbid. Uncensored geopoetic beautific reveries are gradually displaced by grotesque fantasies – petrified mutilations and putrefactions. Caillios invites to us dwell on ‘muscles laid open in their cavities of bone….lopped off breasts…gnarled phalluses…frogs crucified by galvanic currents…eruptions of boils or buboes on an infected skin…intestinal worms glistening with the biles and juices digesting them…rotting shell-less molluscs…gobs of spit and knuckle bones softened by acid’. We enter a ‘a mauve and lunatic life, proliferating without law or limit, feverishly breeding goiters; a ravenous, shifting universe in which details are so clear it is almost endless’

Septaria_R_WarinSeptaria – R.Warin

In one section Caillois identifies Cubist structures reflected in one particular stone and shows that its our contact with the works of Braque and Picasso that forces us to see these patterns accordingly. So the lithic pareidoliac must rely on her database of memories to make sense of these patterns and forms.

‘To be moved by the patterns one needs to know already the secret it unveils or recalls, one needs to have learned from scientific works of the thousands of patterns which this one brings together, and without which it would remain what it is really is – chance curves providentially assembled by another chance and randomly colored by metallic deposits’

Ocean-JasperOcean Jasper – Marco Campos Venuti

Caillois’s own database was one defined in pre-digitised World. A re-reading of those very same stones today might bring to light new kinds stories riddled with algorithmic organisms or species born of New Aesthetic, where Boids trace trajectories defined by the chaotic parabolas of a Lorenz Attractor and Cellular Automata riot into ever shifting and unpredictable grid patterns.

Previously at Dataisnature:

The Wave – Earth Waveform Oscillations
Spreading Time Chromatographically – The Painted Hills of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Prehistoric Messages of the Widmanstätten Cursive
The White Sinter Terraces of Roto-Màhànà & the Wai-o-Tapu Champagne Pool
Banded Agates, Sonic Hydrodynamics & the BZ Reaction

Leave a Reply

Primal Generative: Form Constants & Entoptic Geometry

Subjective_visual_phenomena_-Johann_PurkinjeSubjective Visual Phenomena – Johann Purkinje [From Beiträge zur Kenntniss des Sehens in subjectiver Hinsicht, 1819]

The most primal generative visual experiences may be ones created by the visual cortex alone, or ones involving the visual cortex in close collaboration with entheogenic triggers or external psycho-visual simulate, such as stroboscopic lighting. Precursory research material includes Johann Purkinje’s investigations into subjective visual phenomena in Experiments on the Physiology of the Senses and Heinrich Klüver’s later extrapolation of the four groups of entoptic visual phenomena he called Form Constants. The four groups, lattices, cobwebs, tunnels, and spirals, where annotated by Klüver while studying the effects of mescaline.

A recent paper by Tom Froese and others explores the role of Turing instabilities in the generation of spatio-temporal patterns in the disinhibited visual system and its relationship to the prevalence of certain geometric patterns.

‘One of the originally proposed mechanisms for geometric hallucinations is that of a neural Turing mechanism, embodied in the Wilson–Cowan equations [1973] [..] For example, action potential propagation along a neuron’s axon can be directly described by reaction–diffusion equations, and reaction–diffusion equations are analogical to the Wilson–Cowan neural network equations (H. R. Wilson, 1999, pp. 267–268). We can think of the reaction component as the interactions between neuronal cells, and of the diffusion component as the spread of neural activity through local synaptic connections. Similarly, the local structure of neural interconnectivity dictates the type of emergent phenomena that can be produced. Neural network models of geometric hallucinations have gradually incorporated these empirical insights from neural anatomy and physiology, including the spatial arrangement of different neuronal cell types.’

FormConstantsHeinrich Klüver’s Form Constants

The paper goes on to say:

‘A striking feature that differentiates geometric hallucinations from other visual experiences is that they are generated intrinsically when the subject has been decoupled from its environment. The patterns form irrespective of our lifetime learned memories. Indeed, they could be considered internally directed perceptual experiences, since if the proposed models hold true, they are directly formed from the actual biological structure of the visual system. We are said to have a strange subjective experience of looking into oneself, where the patterns we see directly expose the underlying operation of our brains.’

The hyper-chromatic geologies found in the generative work of John Mccabe, who uses Turing instability equations, certainly hints at psychedelic topologies that can be created by these kinds of mathematical exchanges. Its a tidy thesis to suggest that visual representations, of this kind, are isomorphic to the processes involved. When Tim Leary compared psychedelics, in a sense, to the microscope, perhaps it was not entirely metaphorical. If these models are correct the psychotropic vision is a snapshot of the visual cortex looking at itself and looking at its own neural processes – mimicking recursive loops, and algorithms, in order to plot and sketch form constants on its own display.

In The Signs of All Times: Entoptic Phenomena in Upper Palaeolithic Art Lewis-Williams and Dowson explore evidence of motifs and compositions derived from entoptic phenomena in prehistoric art. The earliest humans may have ascribed enough relevance to entoptic visualisations to begin the journey into pictorial representation and subsequently writing.

Further Readings:

Turing instabilities in biology, culture and consciousness on the enactive origins of symbolic material culture – Tom Froese

Purkinje’s Vision: The Dawning of Neuroscience – Nicholas J. Wade and Josef Brožek [PDF]

Mechanisms of Hallucinations – Heinrich Klüver

What Geometric Visual Hallucinations Tell us About the Visual Cortex – Paul Bressloff and Jack Cowan

Aesthetics Beyond the Phenomenal: Tony Conrad’s THE FLICKER

Previously at Dataisnature:

Kyuha Shim – Spherical Form Constants & Syllabic Constructs

Form Constants – Wendy Collin Sorin

The Generative Song & Sound Pattern Matrixes of the Shipibo Indians

Mind Expanders – Haus-Rucker-Co

One Response to “Primal Generative: Form Constants & Entoptic Geometry”

  1. runeB writes:

    thanks, this was great reading!

Leave a Reply

Descriptive Illustrated Catalogue of the Sixty-Eight Competitive Designs for the Great Tower for London – Fred. C. Lynde [1890]

great tower for London

While many of the entries to a completion to design a new tower for London, in 1890, appear as poor copies of the Eiffel Tower, other proposals transcend the architectural traditions and clichés of the time. Futurist monoliths and space-conquering rockets wait alongside Babelesque towers and medieval obelisks preparing for lift-off. The catalogue documents a structure with ‘a captive parachute to hold four persons’, a tower with a spiral railway climbing its exterior, a 1/12-scale model of the ‘Great Pyramid of Giza envisioned as a colony of aerial vegetarians, who would grow their own food in hanging gardens’. The fusion of styles generate anachronistic hybrids which look both forwards and backwards in time, many will be recognisable to those who have pondered the cities described by Calvino or Lovecraft.

great tower for London

great tower for London

great tower for London

great tower for London

great tower for London

great tower for London

great tower for London

great tower for London

Yuri Avvakumov – Agitarch Structures: Reconfiguring Utopia
The Spatio-Lumino-Chronodynamic Towers & Sculptures of Nicolas Schöffer

Leave a Reply

Dataisnature – Facebook Stream [Readings]

The Time Machine - Lawrence LekScore for Music for Electric Metronome – Ichiyanagi Toshi. From An Anthology of Chance Operations edited by La Monte Young, Jackson Mac Law [1961]

The Dataisnature Facebook stream includes related supplementary material not included at this blog alongside links to new Dataisnature posts. There are regularly updated references to online documents, journals and papers in PDF format and links to items covering earth processes, cartography, musical notation and early geometry manuscripts, among many others.

Here is a selection of a few of the reading materials collected at the Facebook stream so far, all by way of the excellent, and essential, Monoskop Log:

The Writing of Stones – Roger Caillois [PDF]. Classic work on lithic scrying & stone pareidolia.

Purkinje’s Vision: The Dawning of Neuroscience – Nicholas J. Wade and Josef Brožek [PDF]. Explores the work of Johann Purkinje’s and his studies of visual perception [Pressure Figures, Galvanic Light Phenomena, Ganzfeld Effects, Light Halos, Afterimages, Visual Persistence and Entoptic Phenomena]

Notations, edited and compiled by John Cage [PDF]. This well-known book is made up of a large collection of graphical scores with text by 269 composers presented in alphabetical order.

An Anthology of Chance Operations edited by La Monte Young, Jackson Mac Law [PDF]. Explores chance operations, indeterminacy improvisation and includes diagrams and scores.

Leave a Reply

Lawrence Lek – The Time Machine

The Time Machine - Lawrence LekThe Time Machine – Lawrence Lek

Shortened fragment of an item originally written for Neural Magazine [Issue 46]

In 1893 the French symbolist and proto-science fiction writer Alfred Jarry proposed the term Pataphysics in his novel Dr Faustroll to describe a kind of speculative scientific enquiry, beyond metaphysics, enhanced by a surrealist predilection for absurdity. In 1899 Jarry published an article ‘How to Construct a Time Machine’ in which he describes, and provides detailed specifications, for the construction of such a machine made from Quartz ribbons, copper and ebony gyrostats, electric motors and magnets.

The Time Machine - Lawrence LekThe Time Machine – Lawrence Lek

Lawrence Lek, a speculative sculptor based in London, has created a kinetic device based on Jarry’s descriptions with freely moving gyroscopic parts in accordance with Jarry’s recipe. Video documentation of the piece overlays footage of the machine in motion with detailed blueprints of the sculpture itself. A narration describes both the construction of the device and instructions for its use for the purpose of moving backwards and forwards through time. Filmed, and post-produced, in strong contrasting black and white with aged-film blurring, accented with dramatic shadows, Lek has created a fictitious simulation of scientific documentation. The shadow play, compositional techniques, use of montage is reminiscent of the films that László Moholy-Nagy made of his Light Space Modulator in the early 1930’s. The strobing choreography of machine parts and dynamic light-play creates a mesmerising perceptual effect, transfixing temporality, in order to slow, or indeed, speed up time.

Previously at Dataisnature:
The Spatio-Lumino-Chronodynamic Towers & Sculptures of Nicolas Schöffer
Light Space Modulator – László Moholy-Nagy
Patabotany #1: [At the Libarynth]

Alfred Jarry texts:
The Exploits and Opinions of Dr Faustroll [PDF]
How to Construct a Time Machine [PDF]

Leave a Reply

Selected Tweets #20: Voxel Accretions, Logic Crystals & the Algorithmic Origins of Life

Nerve_Cells_CajalNerve Cells – Ramón y Cajal at Wunderkammer

Selected tweets from my Twitter stream: MrPrudence

RockGrowth RG5 & RockGrowth RG8 – Arik Levy. Polished mirror crystal sculptures.

Hagströmerbibliotekets Wunderkammer library of Medico-Historical illustrations. Botanical, Anatomical & Biological woodcuts, lithographs & prints.

Fluid simulation with pseudo Turing reaction diffusion [WebGL] – Felix Woitzel.

Accretor – Driessens & Verstappen. Accretion of small cubical voxels to generate 3D printed sculptures.

Game Of Life Extrusions – Paul Slocum. Baroque Lego-like constructions generated from Cellular Automata algorithms.

Taking Measures Across the American Landscape – James Corner & Alex Mclean. Map drawings & aerial schematics.

Creating Civilizations – Robert Strati. Architectural/mathematical/notational schematic fictions.

taking-measures-across-the-american-landscape-by-james-corner-and-alex-mcleanTaking Measures Across the American Landscape – James Corner & Alex Mclean


The Algorithmic Origins of Life – Walker & Davies [PDF]. On transitional DNA info systems as catalyst to emergence of life.

Fractal Cities: Geometry of Form/Function – Batty & Longley [PDF]. Urban self-similar morphologies.

Ars Combinatoria – Janet Zwelig. Mystical Systems, Procedural Art and the Computer.

Crystal Clear: Christine Wertheim interviews Shea Zellweger on logic alphabets & the crystallography of logic.

Ten Questions Concerning Generative Computer Art – Jon McCormack, Oliver Bown, Alan Dorin, Jonathan McCabe, Gordon Monro & Mitchell Whitelaw [PDF]. What’s it like to be a computer that makes art?

RockGrowth_RG5_Arik_LevyRockGrowth RG5 – Arik Levy

Minimal Surfaces as Self Organizing Systems – Vlad Tenu [PDF] Particle surfaces & tensegrity structures.

The Stone As A Witness Of Time – Rohip Gupta. ‘The etched memory of every single diurnal rotation of the planet’

Anthology of Chance Operations (1963) [PDF]. Chance operations, indeterminacy improvisation, diagrams and scores.

Leave a Reply

« Previous Page  Next Page »