Sunday, January 17, 2010

Code and Art

Programming is simultaneously the problem with and the source of digital art's potential. With culture the abundance of digital solutions is directly related to the fact that coding is so intensely creative. Those who can love to code, so they flood the world with every conceivable image, animation, architecture, or other art form built with code. Programming is a thoroughly rewarding creative process. It's unstoppable because it's so completely satisfying to produce. It sustains innovation. The problem for digital artists is that though we can feel the emotion that goes into a song, painting, film, or novel, we can't empathize with the act of programming. Apparently devoid of emotion, the digital visual product is cold. The coded digital image, at home on the Internet, appears out of place in museums and galleries.

Another problem is with the attribution of the art to the artist. Writers, musicians, painters, directors, and architects don't have this problem. Digital art is more difficult. You never know how much credit to give to the hardware, the compiler, the application, the Internet, and the thousands of engineers that contributed to making it possible. Even if you program you're not apt to know quite how much credit to give the artist for an interesting image.

Coding is incomprehensible to those who don't, so a programmed image blocks potential empathy for the real creativity behind the image. Looking at a digital print, we're no more interested in the creativity of the coding than we are in the coding behind our browser app. We're satisfied if our browser works as well as other applications, and we'd be satisfied if a digital image could hold up against all other images, digital or otherwise. Again, even if you program you're not apt to credit an artist for their code.

A solution that has been tried is a programmatically arranged massive aggregate of unitized elements. Fractal art is an example. I’ve tried this approach, repeatedly, and I think it’s insufficient. I’ve also tried the creative use of math. This works no better than code with little or widely known math. I doubt there’s anything less appreciated in the Euclidean arts than Euclidean geometry.

The solution might be to animate. I’m confident that this works. Given the immediacy of motion, images come alive with potential for feeling and emotion. I’m concerned that it’s acceptable because it’s film, and not considered programming.

There may be a solution other than animation, but boy do I not know what it is, yet. Digital art can be cold, but coding is anything but. We should reject cold art, but it's an error to deny the process. New media is begging for a solution to this problem. Writers, musicians, cinematographers, and photographers are adapting to digital technology without appearing to abandon their art form. Visual artists alone are stuck with a preference for the hand made, and a prejudice against the machined. MP3s, 3D CG, and Giclée photo prints are acceptable uses of technology. The programmed digital print is not.

See "Human Bodies, Computer Music", by Bob Ostertag.

Onward through the fog. . .

Robert Motherwell on Math and Abstraction

Continuing a thread on quotes about math and art, I found these from Robert Motherwell:
"I have often quoted Alfred North Whitehead in what I think is one of the crucial statements on abstraction, that 'the higher the degree of abstraction, the lower the degree of complexity.' In that sense, mathematical formulae are (ironically) by nature of a lower degree of complexity than a painted surface with three lines, even if it's an Einsteinian equation."
"Advanced mathematicians say that when there are two mathematical solutions to the same problem that are equally valid, mathematicians will often reject one of the two solutions as less beautiful than the other. Even in something seemingly as cool and remote as mathematics, there is an element of the aesthetic involved."
Both of these quotes are from a lecture Motherwell gave on 2/7/1970, at St. Paul’s School, Concord, New Hampshire. I picked them up from The Writings of Robert Motherwell, edited by Dore Ashton with Joan Banach, 2007, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, p. 250 ; from the article, "On the Humanism of Abstraction, the Artist Speaks", 1970, Robert Motherwell at St. Paul's School, exhibition catalogue, and reprinted in Tracks: A Journal of Artist Writings, vol. 1, no. 1, 1974.

I purposely selected these quotes for their reference to math, but the article they come from is not much about math. The quotes are out of context, and I recommend reading the entire selection, if not the book. Nevertheless, I take exception to the idea that a math formula is less complex than a painted surface with three lines. Applied mathematics, being the language we use to describe natural concepts (as in e=mc2), is not necessarily abstract. The formulas of pure mathematics are often as not the language of a larger process or proof, so though abstract are still complex. Sometimes three lines are equally as complex &/or abstract as a formula, as in three lines making a right triangle and the formula, a2+b2=c2.

Here's a gratuitous design, Samurai.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Carol Yoon on taxonomy: "Reviving the Lost Art of Naming the World".

Carol Yoon on "Avatar" and the order among living things: "Luminous 3-D Jungle Is a Biologist's Dream".

Monday, January 11, 2010

Inching away from symmetry

This system I call "Extrinsic Vertices" is great for generating symmetry, but slightly more difficult to manage with asymmetry. This image began as a relatively complex tile patch, with seven tiles. I'm fairly certain the tile patch couldn't be extended to fill the plane, without some significant rearranging. The biomorphic look I'm going for is one with symmetry changing to asymmetry and back.

Bio Blaster

A mathematicians mind is not necessarily required to appreciate the aesthetics of math. Some math may be made accessible and aesthetically beautiful through geometry and graphics. Fractal art and domain coloring (the graphical representation of functions of a complex variable) come to mind.

I suspect or intuit that all math exists independently of my discovery. At most, I discover a mathematical concept that someone else described, and I use, extend, or elaborate it. There’s a bit of Euclid in every grid, but there’s also a lot of nature.

Number or geometry based biomorphism then brings representation full circle, from a posteriori math through some system to a representation of nature.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Extrinsic Vertices Lattice

The first image below is one more from my Extrinsic Vertices project. The Extrinsic Vertices diagrams are an effort to create biomorphism through geometry. Sometimes the lattice of vertices is more interesting than the tiling it's based on. This diagram is from a radially symmetrical tiling based on a pentagon, an isosceles triangle, a square, a rectangle, and an isosceles trapezoid. The triangle subdivides a pentagon, but not the pentagon of the tiling. The lattice may reflect the 54, 72, 90, and 108 degree angles of the tiles.

Here's another:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tessellations, Vertices, Lattices, and Fibrils

These diagrams are a development of the Extrinsic Vertices project, with an emphasis on radial symmetry and biomorphism. The Extrinsic Vertices diagrams are an effort to create biomorphism through geometry. Natural systems are often unitized and geometrical, so geometrical patterns can be an efficacious means of building biomorphism from simple curvilinear units.