20110628 Marius Watz - Thoughts on Code and Form - Eyeo Festival

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A brief survey of the state of computational aesthetics from early pioneers to the recent boom in creatives working with code. From infoporn to data sculpture and generative landscape painting, what new ideas are coming out of this new movement?(Postscript: Yes, I know there's a grammatical error on the first slide. It should say "slew Olaf the Holy"...)


I was considering telling you about how Im descended from Thor the Dog (rir Hundr), who slay Olaf the Holy (lfr Haraldsson) at the Battle of Stiklestad.But...2011.0628 Eyeo Festival, Minneapolis (, jas? Snakker de norsk der borte, da kanskje?) Random Thoughts on Code and Form.A brief survey of computational aesthetics. Marius Watz | www.mariuswatz.com |www.generatorx.no|workshop.evolutionzone.com | twitter.com/mariuswatzHi, my name is Marius and I make images and objects through code.I have no formal education - not in art, not in design, not in programming.But I have been programming since I was 11 years old. Code makes sense to me.Im not a scientist, researcher or designer Im an artist.My job is to imagine interesting things and put them out in the world.Topics for today: - Code as Material- Software Abstraction- Digital Fabrication and Parametric Modeling- Data Sculpture- Etc.First, lets consider the unbearable lightness of digital media.The only inherent quality of digital information is electricity. High / low voltage levels denote binary states, which in turn encode information.Digital data invariably represents some other type of information.Its most essential quality is plasticity, the ability to assume any confguration on demand. Thus it is a truly universal medium, but consequentially lacks a materiality of its own.But software processes do have material qualities.Algorithms are chosen for their behaviors. Parameters are optimized to produce a range of desirable outcomes, interfaces for their suitability to the task at hand.Software consists of:- Code (computational logic, algorithms)- Event loop (control structures)- Data structures (storage and mapping)- Inputs and outputs (arbitrary)So the materiality of software is actually process + logic: - Procedural- Parametric- Data-driven- Performative- InteractiveAll aspects of software are defned through code. When software interfaces mimic the physical world it is only because we want them to. Computational creativity has the potential to be truly alien.Generator.xGenerator.x exhibition, Stavanger 2005Martin Wattenberg: The Shape of SongGenerator.x exhibition, Stavanger 2005Casey Reas: Process 8 (Software 2)Generator.x- The Concert Tour- Live Cinema - Software as instrumentRediscovery of history - Software art pioneers going back to 1960/70s:- Harold Cohen, Charles Csuri, Manfred Mohr, Vera Molnar, Frieder Nake, Georg Nees, Roman Verostko etc. (This is not even close to a representative list...)Signifcance: A deeper background to the practice of formal abstractionthrough code.Also: Allows examination of contrasting cultural contexts of the movements of 1960-70s and 1995-2005.1960-70s: Modernism, Cold War, techno-optimism, social upheaval1995-2005: End of Cold War, Post- (& post-Post) Modernism, Deconstructivism, complexity theory, quantum physicsProposal: Software AbstractionArt practice dealing with visual / spatial abstraction through code and computational processes. Investigates computation as a formal medium, borrowing from Abstract Art, Op Art, Neo-Minimalism etc.Despite its obvious link to technology, Software Abstraction is not *about* technology. Its real focus is exploring system logic and generative form processes.Conceptually, it investigates the potential of computational thought.Unlike most media art, Soft-Ab does not reject object-based practice, and may even result in physical works with no technical components.Sample Soft-Ab topics:- Kinetic behaviors- Procedural mark-making (drawing)- Articulation of spatial structure- Software as instrument- Improvised performative systemsParametric ModelingThank you for listening!Marius Watz is:marius@mariuswatz.comhttp://mariuswatz.comhttp://twitter.com/mariuswatzhttp://twitter.com/generatorxhttp://generatorx.no http://unlekker.nethttp:// workshop.evolutionzone.com/http:// fickr.com/photos/watz/