Aesthetics Art Computing Free Culture Reviews

Two New Reviews at Furtherfield

I have two new reviews up at Furtherfield.

FLOSS Manuals

“Neurotic” – a performance at ICA by Fiddian Warman featuring three robots and a number of Punk bands.

Aesthetics Art Computing Generative Art

AARON and Phosphenes

Dr. Malotki’s latest focus is on designs called phosphenes, which are
as fundamental to art as time is to language. He said the same 15
abstract geometric constants appear globally in art created as early as
300,000 years ago. They are grids, zigzags and patterns of dots. They
are the first objects drawn by children; we doodle them when we talk on
the phone.

These are the same kind of rock drawings that inspired Harold Cohen in the 1970s with AARON. And if you look at AARON’s drawings from the late 1970s you’ll see precisely these phosphenic forms (among others) being created by the program. Cohen called AARON’s repertoire of the time “cognitive primitives”. Malotki’s work seems to bear this out.

Art Computing Projects


art_generators has been renamed “frame”. It works as a noun and a slightly pretentious verb. I’ve registered a Rubyforge project and switched the build system to Hoe.

Just a bit more testing then it will be time for a release.

Art Computing Free Culture Generative Art Projects Satire

Surgical Strike Free Software

“Surgical Strike” was a 1996 art computing project concerned with the social history of art computing. “Surgical Strike Free Software” is a 2008 reimplementation of the original project.

Computing has trickled down from military applications through corporations to universities and finally into art practice. This history is present in the language and social assumptions of computing. This culture sits uncomfortably with the culture of art, or at least it should. Surgical Strike depicts these contradictions in the form of ironized computer art in order to make them explicit.

The source materials for Surgical Strike were military jargon, the art of William Latham (due to its status as paradigmatic “computer art” at the time), 3D models of stealth aeroplanes, 1990s computer software logos, and verbal descriptions of awkward facts from the history of commercial computing. The swirly structures of stealth bombers replaced the innocent spheres and cylinders of Latham’s computational Darwinism with more significant forms. The texturing of these forms with commercial trademarks rather than procedural textures was another level of indexicality. These were then sandwiched between texts describing things the computer industry would rather forget in the background and the source code for the depicted form asserting its primacy and interfering with the unreflective consumption of the image in the foreground.

The composition of the images produced with the original system was probably based, unconsciously, on Art & Language’s “Hostages” series. The idea of an indexical computer programming language came, again unconsciously, from PJH Halls at KIAD. The project came to me fully formed as I walked to the CEA at Middlesex University early on the morning that I desperately needed to have a project to start.

Surgical Strike proper is a toy programming language for creating patterns of textured 3D objects. The keywords of the language are intended to sound militaristic. Although Surgical Strike can use any 3D models or textures, it is intended to use models of military artefacts and images of software logos. The language features iteration but not branching or even variables so it is not Turing complete.

The original version of Surgical Strike was written in C++ using Apple’s QuickDraw 3D for Power Macintosh on Mac OS 7.x . The parser was hand-written and compiled programs were executed using a bytecode format inspired by the public documentation of Display PostScript. Given the unmaintainability of this code and possible rights issues the current version has been written from scratch.

Surgical Strike is not anti-militaristic except to the extent that it works with the assumptions of the cultures it is targeted at. Those cultures were idealistic mid-1990s art computing and mid-1990s art criticism ignorant of the content of art computing. The title is a piece of military jargon that served to illustrate the gap between depiction and reality. But the gap that it indicated was in the target cultures, not (neccessarily) between the ideals and reality of militarism.

Art Computing Free Culture Generative Art Howto

Running Your Own OpenSim Sim

I’ve found it surprisingly easy to get started running OpenSim. Here are some good guides to going beyond just starting a sim.

A good collection of resources.

How to get your own OpenSim hosting for 15USD a month.

How to use OpenSim with MySQL.

Art Computing Generative Art Projects

Like That

“Like That” turned into a code generation project but I think this was more trouble than it was worth. Beware the seduction of time-saving code that doesn’t save time. I took the “make a large number of exhibitable works” part and missed out the “quickly” part. And I ended up having to exercise editorial control, and Processing isn’t the right environment for it, and it didn’t make doing the hard things any easier, and so I got discouraged.

So I’m going to roll back “Like That” to the hand-written works, re-make some of the more interesting generated works, and try to push on into the areas I wanted to go but that the code generator made difficult to do.

Now I just need to rescue that work and put it back on the restored web site…