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Loughborough University & Loughborough College of Art & Design Loughborough, England
Chair: Prof. E.A.Edmonds
The Exhibition will show the work of internationally recognised artists
who use computers in their art practice.
Four artists who used computers for the first time in the Artists-in Residence week in January 1996 will present the results of that work. They are Michael Kidner of London, Jean-Pierre Husquinet of Liège, Fré Ilgen of Eindhoven and Birgitte Weimer of Cologne.
Roy Ascott UK Stephen Bell UK Bettina Brendel USA Ernest Edmonds UK Jean-Pierre Husquinet Belgium Fré Ilgen Netherlands Michael Kidner UK Manfred Mohr USA Mike North UK Bernard Tagwerker Switzerland Joan Truckenbrod USA Roman Verotsko USA Birgitte Weimer Germany
Roy Ascott UK (Back)
e. Ark is a pilot project to create an electronic ark to take us into the coming millenium The world is about to be submerged by a second great flood. This time it will be a deluge of data. Computer and communication technologies are thought by some to be in the process of drowning out the cultures and values of the past. Nature may become swamped by artificial systems, even our sense of personal identity may be transformed and submerged in cyberspace. Others see the telematisation of the planet as an evolutionary step forward, bringing great benefits to the way we live, to health and education, to our consciousness and the ways we relate to each other. Either way, we can follow the precedent of building an Ark, this time in cyberspace, digitally retrieving and storing whatever artefacts, ideas, documents, movies, ways of life and so on which we treasure from the past and which we think should be carried forward into the future. Similarly, we shall want the Ark to carry seeds, codes, algorithms and implicate structures, which we shall plant when the deluge subsides, and which might grow into the visions we have for the 21st century.
As a project for 'Creativity and Cognition 96' at Loughborough University,
we have built a multi disciplinary team, drawn from a number of disciplines
at Loughborough University and at the Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the
Interactive Arts (CAiiA) University of Wales College, Newport. The team
will select, process and transmit images, movies, documents and hyperlinks
to be placed in the Ark on its webpages set in the caiiamind website http://caiiamind.nsad.gwent.ac.uk.
Technical details for transmission and storage etc will come from the Webmaster,
An interface to e.Ark will be set up at the C & C 96 expo. Project conceived
and directed by Roy Ascott:email@example.com. Web designer and Webmaster
Leo Barnard : firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Bell UK (Back)
The work in the exhibition (Images from Smallworld ) has been generated using a suite of programs called Smallworld. The programs were developed over a period of about ten years. Smallworld generates shapes that can be seen as a record of the interactions of automata - simulated creatures - as they move around in a multi-dimensional abstract space: chasing and moving away from each other; 'mating'; 'giving birth'; 'eating' etc.
Smallworld was designed to be explored and experimented in - I made it so that I could explore it - that is what I have been doing for the past few years. The images displayed show the result of my explorations and experiments. The images show amongst other things, 'trails' indicating where creatures have moved through the space. The shapes are generated by 'planting' creatures in the space and recording their movements. I have a fair amount of control over what the shapes generated by the trails will look like; by carefully designing the behaviours of the automata and releasing them into the space in particular locations I can generate 'types' of shape. It is rather like growing plants in a garden; I know roughly what shape will appear in a given place but I do not know exactly what shape it will be.
Smallworld was also designed to be 'interactive' - only experience by interacting with the Smallworld programs directly. The idea as that people would be able to explore the abstract space of Smallworld in a similar way to that in which we can explore the actual world we inhabit. I have exhibited it in that way, but five years or so ago I began to feel that an art 'exhibition' is an inappropriate place to experience Smallworld; it can take a long time to fully explore this programmed world and its 'inhabitants'. It might be more appropriate if Smallworld could be explored by being installed home computers and accessed via the Internet - preferably using immersive graphics display devices. So far, I have not had the resources to convert Smallworld to run on a home computer or over the Internet so for this exhibit static images will be displayed.
Art Technology and Science
I do not think that I have ever been convinced by the idea that artists should not be interested in technology and science. Nor, for that matter, that technologists should not be interested in science and art and that scientists should not be interested in art and technology. I seem to have always be interested in all three.
I remember first becoming aware of the relationship between psychology and art in junior school when a teacher made a comment regarding Leonardo da Vinci's ability to understand psychology before the subject had been invented. My mind was immediately opened to the idea that there might be more to art than just painting. My initial investigations of art and psychology tended to focus on the psychology of perception; optical illusions for example. The notion that The World might not be all that it seemed began to fascinate me. Events reported in the media supports and encouraged the notion.
In the late seventies and eighties, as art critics and educators wallowed in a murky backlash of a so called return to traditional v alues and skills, I began to use computer technology in my work. In 1977, I had introduced to a small enclave of artists at The Slade who used computers in their work and I realised what might be possible in the near future. The maths and science that had fascinated me at school had informed the paintings, sculptures, installations and performances that I had been doing at art college. I found that the ideas that I was exploring could be explored further using computer programming. That artists should be using computers was considered rather peculiar at the time, even though they had been doing so since the fifties. As late as 1984, when I was Artist in Residence at the Computing Laboratory of the University of Kent at Canterbury, educated people still seemed to think that 'computer art' was something new.
Things have changed somewhat now. 'Art' packages for home computers are commonplace. Computer graphics have been used to make a feature length movie. William Latham's organic 'computer sculptures' can be seen on the covers of magazines and fractal patterns are ubiquitous. The term multi-media; originally used to describe a type of experimental work in the sixties has been appropriated for a widely hyped new technology, yet I am moved to wonder how much things have really changed.
Smallworld II - The VRAPI
I am currently working on a new suite of programs which builds on my experiences with Smallworld. Its working title is the Virtual Reality Aesthetic Programming Interface (VRAPI). The idea is that in an interactive immersive computer graphics environment (sometimes called a Virtual Environment, or Virtual Reality), it would be possible to represent the computer programs that control that environment by graphic shapes in the environment. By manipulating, combining and growing abstract shapes like those seen in Smallworld - pulling a bit off here and sticking a bit in there, protecting some 'species' of shape and weeding out others - it would be possible to re-program the environment itself. As the 'programming interface' (i.e. shapes) would only be used for re-programming the environment and would not be applied to any other task - the programming would just done for the pleasure of it - I have called it an 'aesthetic' programming interface.
Bettina Brendel USA (Back)
In my work, I visualise the sub-atomic world of elementary particles photons and electrons, and how their interactions create patterns and symmetries. These are magnifications of processes that occur in nature, but are inaccessible to the human eye except through the use of powerful instruments. I see the artist as a participant in the creative discoveries and inventions of our century.
From Paintings 1970-1982
Over the years I have worked toward developing a symbolic language to express ideas that deal with the physics of light and energy. Imagine that we had a seventh sense that could penetrate matter, magnify its structure and reveal its secrets to us.
Imagine that this penetrating power could defy time and place, preserve what is perishable, predict what is still distant in the future, and then realise that we have this instrument with us every day: it is our mind which explores the unknown, which can enlarge and focus on hidden details in nature and enters into vibrations of energies from the past to the future.
The abstract world of particles and fields, symmetries and balances is available
to us through thought. This world is a world in motion and we, within our
individual limitations create an ever changing path of discovery to it.
Being witness to a contemporary vision we nevertheless find our own interpretations,
a visual metaphor that might also become meaningful to others.
Ernest Edmonds UK (Back)
At the centre of my current art practice is time based video work: video constructs. To begin with the emphasis was on delivery on screens. Video projection followed and other forms of realisation are now being developed. I had always been excited by the story of Calder's visit to Mondrian's studio in Paris, his desire for movement and the development of the mobile. In 1967 I looked forward to receiving my copy of the American magazine "Aspen, 5 + 6" which was to include text, records and film. The films included work by Hans Richter and Moholy-Nagy. The magazine arrived but the films had been dispatched separately for some reason to do with customs. Sadly, the films never arrived but the thought of them caused me to look more fully at time-based work and started my dream.
By the mid-1970s, I was producing static work where colours and shape characteristics co-existed in spaces determined by rules. Co-existence was being used in a number of ways but, in particular, could be seen as substituting for a full treatment of time. Amongst this work, were a number of pieces that used a simple grid of three by three squares with characteristics propagated from "seed" squares by row, column or diagonal according to the particular rule being employed. Many issues followed in terms of decision making. Thus, rules were employed about how things might co-exist and how decisions of this kind might be distributed across a given work. The first work that I showed in the video series was "Fragment" which was included in my exhibition Duality and Co-existence at Exhibiting Space, London, 1985. This work built upon the drawings and paintings of the mid 1970's and consisted of two rectangles that forms a cross. The idea, when considered statistically, was very simple. Each rectangle could be black or white independently and where they overlapped they could be combined to form a black or white area according to one of the four possible logical rules. The complexity of the work was in its time-based element and in this respect it certainly encouraged me in striving towards my earlier dream.
Whilst a video construct is time-based it is, in every other respect, as
concrete a construction as any painting or drawing and as such has formed
an integral part of my art practice. The earlier static work is helping
to form the video constructs which, in their turn, are influencing the new
drawing and painting. The new directions are twofold. One is to create installations
in which video projectors provide the prime technical means. The other is
to develop time-based work that can hang on walls, just as a painting or
relief does. These are based upon flat screen technologies. Both directions
incorporate the two modes that I follow. In one, I generate a piece that
is intended to be watched for a given period of time, as a film is. In the
other, change is slow and the work develops during the day, much more akin
to a sculpture that changes as the sun moves around the sky casting different
Jean-Pierre Husquinet Belgium (Back)
When I received the invitation to participate during a whole week to a seminar having as a theme the artist and the computer, I was absolutely persuaded that the computer could have an answer to all the questions I had in mind: as those questions were perfectly rational and purely logical. I was rather disappointed when I saw that these things were not so simple as I imagined. The numerous sophisticated programs were useless to me as they could not answer the questions asked.
To build a net of ropes of different colours and precise lengths, we had to call to all the science and competence of an engineer, Rob Doyle, without whom, nothing would have been possible, as the program used was so complex that I was unable to use it even to draw a single line. A close collaboration between us was quickly established and so finished in a concrete results. Unluckily, interrupted by lack of time, the week was behind us. A week full of numerous discoveries and friendships, benevolent collaborations and mutual comprehension, which, to me, have allowed all of us to understand more about our respective disciplines and have created the need and envy to see each other again, in order to go even further.
Those contacts, full of the unknown, have revealed fruitful, and even though
all the questions have not yet found their answers, the future is full of
promises. Promises which must be now kept with discussions, reflection and
Fré Ilgen Netherlands (Back)
In my artwork in "real reality" the curved stainless steel strips contribute to the idea of a main movement. Obviously, the motion is furthermore realised by the differences in shape, thickness and seize of the geometrical elements. The often used spheres are three-dimensional focal points in space giving the impression to be a or the centre of all movement.
In relation to the workshop for "C&C II" I was interested in our understanding objects in real reality to be in our projective field, that can not be perceived objectively, but only in the process of interaction with ourselves - our virtual self. In this process the (unreal) illusion of movement in (real) colour-space seems essential. How then will it be to work in virtual (unreal) reality to study the same phenomenon using a (computer)simulation of actual (real) motion without a need to take gravity into account? I have imagined this kind of motion for some years now, but obviously could never realise it in real reality (the elements would all fall down, because of gravity).
As could be expected in one weeks time one can only test some first ideas. Especially as in general the communication between representatives from very different disciplines is not without problems - like in this case a computer-scientist (Prof. Roy Kalawsky) and an artist (me). I expected to have to struggle quite so much with both the equipment learning how to handle it and with communicating to Prof. Roy Kalawsky what I was looking for. My surprise and delight was great to discover that these were no obstacles whatsoever. There was some problem in getting the computer-programme operational for my idea, but that was a normal result from testing a new software-version. It was my impression in this week, that in every team of artist and computer-scientist there was a strong motivation to work together. The many informal plenary discussions seemed also quite useful.
I was introduced by Prof. Kalawsky to get used to perceive a "virtual environment" and do things in that environment by handling a joy-stick as interface. Although the visual quality of these virtual environments might still be considered to be poor in comparison to "real reality", not only the possibility to move through that space, perceiving a strong illusion of depth by the changing of the angle when one moves the head-set but especially the possibility to actual "handle" objects in the virtual environment with one's "virtual hand" (a stylised hand moving around in unison to the movements of the joy-stick) made one forget about the visual quality. The earlier mentioned notion "witness of the body" of Hume clearly is important in VR. I noticed how quickly I became absorbed in this "other world". From Roy's comment I learned that I relatively easy knew how to handle the head-set and joy-stick for exploring the virtual environment and manipulating objects. We discussed this aspect during this week several times. It seems very likely, that this is quick ability is a result from my experience of manual handling three dimensional objects everyday as artist.
As the experiment we realised in this workshop is actually a result of a good co-operation between Roy, his assistant Simon and myself, I consider this to be a co-operative project. They took care of all technical implications and came up with useful suggestions on the concept. I decided on the artistic concept.
In contrast to the usual VR-approach in which a normal environment is simulated, we started with a "black space" - no floors, no walls, no ceiling. In this infinite blackness the essential characteristic of non-gravity was explored by projecting several simple geometrical shapes (a sphere, several different sizes of rectangular shapes). I manually handled these elements in VR. "By hand" I defined a relative complex rotation-movement of every shape around the sphere, which hangs as fixed point suspended in non-gravity. This sphere functions quite well as fixed point of reference in the described infinite black space. The rotating elements, which approach the "visitor" of this environment, become bigger as they approach and smaller when they move away from you. I could even experiment with different rotation-speeds. The movement of these few forms make an extreme strong impression of depth and enough sense of orientation. Even although there is no obvious above or under, back or front, I found that my standing firmly on real ground while being in this virtual cosmos was enough not to loose my equilibrium. The result was intoxicating. I finally could see the movement I imagined for years!
It will not bring me to stop working in real reality, but I undoubtedly
expect this experience to have an effect on my perception and, therefore,
on my own works. I do not understand VR-technology to replace the necessity
for normal (art)objects, but am excited about VR as a very useful extension
of my artistic research. For that matter, why should we only bother to try
to improve the visualisation technology to better simulate a normal environment
than for instance photographic quality when we always have accepted for
instance an impressionist painting to be quite good enough? It was my impression
that the week was of interest to the scientists in seeing how a three-dimensional
working artist could explore VR helping them to understand in what direction
VR-technology can be improved or can be further useful.
Michael Kidner UK (Back)
After studying Penrose's Pentagonal tiling of the plain I felt the need for a much clearer understanding of cellular automata, in particular of Boolean nets, because they appear to evolve order spontaneously from a random distribution of elements and Penrose's tilings did not do this.
What I found
At the opening session I was introduced to Dr Helmut Bez, a mathematician from the Department of Computer Studies, who volunteered on top a busy schedule to help enlighten me. Since he was not immediately familiar with Boolean nets, his first step was to produce a comprehensive list of relevant publications from the library. While he was engaged on his regular duties, I was able to go to the library and find a useful introductory article which, with Helmut's help, I was able to translate into a form which I could understand, my understanding of mathematics being abysmal. I was impressed by the extremely efficient service offered by the library and its staff. Using the local library back home would have taken me anywhere from three weeks to six months to collect the information that Helmut was able to offer immediately and, on top of that, I would have needed his help to make sense of it. I rather think as time goes by I shall need more of Helmut's help and he has very generously offered to do what he can.
Since I was concerned that this project might be too theoretical for a five day workshop, I had also brought with me a more practical problem - a cardboard model of a cube described by three oblique planes intersecting at the centre. The problem was to decided whether the three planes could, in fact, be enclosed within a cube - it was an optical problem. After a while, Helmut had reduced the model to a set of figures and, although these were a bit opaque to my imagination, he was able to persuade me that the three planes did not, in fact, describe a cube. He then introduced me to the Industrial Design department in search of the software that could resolve such problems graphically, but sadly no such programme was available.
Nevertheless, there was a lot more that the week at Loughborough had to offer. Professor Edmonds with considerable imagination had assigned each of the other visitors, like myself, a volunteer mentor to assist them with their projects and the progress we were making towards resolving them. These meetings were extremely important in that they brought together in a meaningful context not only the four of us but also the different departments in the University from which our mentors were drawn. These departments can become fatally isolated in a place the size of Loughborough.
Another point of interest was a brief showing of parallel computing although none of us had come up with a project that required it, because our imagination is constrained by the tools which give it expression. Likewise, we experience the strange world of virtual reality where the subject is stationary while the space moves around him. Much food for thought.
Perhaps above all the workshop brought two worlds together which are, in my experience, sadly, even disastrously isolated and where the spoken language itself begins to raise barrier. In this respect I was delighted to find students from the neighbouring Art college attending the open seminar which concluded the week. I did feel some sympathy on this occasion for the art student who wanted to see some evidence, as well as to hear what we had been doing. Only one of us was able to satisfy his request, but we have all taken away a lot of homework, some of which should be realised before the conference takes place in April. Evidence I fervently hope of the on-going nature of this workshop.
Is it, I wonder, that artists are too free and scientists too constrained
to ramble in the world of philosophic enquiry? If so, this workshop was
pioneering in practical terms, as a move towards closing the gap. Indeed,
it was the practical nature of the workshop that made it, in my opinion,
such a resounding success. Pious words, although often heard, amount to
very little without the kind of practical application we experienced in
Manfred Mohr USA (Back)
In my artistic development I did not have the typical constructivist background. I was an action painter and jazz musician. Through a development of consciousness, I detached myself from spontaneous expressions and turned myself to a more constructivist and, a therefore, geometric expression (1964).
Beyond this, my art developed into an algorithmic art in which inventing rules (algorithms) is the starting point and basis of my research. These "compositional rules" are not necessarily based on already imaginable forms, but on abstract and systematic processes. My rules are parametric rules, which means that at certain points in the process, conditions have to be set for which, in some cases, random choices can be employed.
In my work, similar to a journey, only the starting point and a theoretical destination is known. What happens during the journey is often unexpected and surprising. Even though my work process is rational and systematic, as well as controlled by visual criteria at all times, it is always open to surprises. With such parametric rules, the actual image is created as the result of a process.
Since 1973, in my research, I have been concentrating on fracturing the symmetry of a cube, without questioning the structure of the cube as a 'system'. This disturbance or disintegration of symmetry is the basic generator of new constructions and relationships. What I am interested in are the two-dimensional signs (ê resulting from the projection of the lines of a cube. I describe them as unstable signs because they evoke visual unrest.
My art is not a mathematical art, but an expression of my artistic experiences. I invent rules which reflect my thinking and feelings. These algorithms can become very complex, that is to say, complicated and difficult to survey. In order to master this problem, the use of a computer is necessary in my work. Only in this way is it possible to overlay as many rules as necessary without losing control. It is inevitable that the results - that is, my images - are not readable at first glance. The information is deeply buried and a certain participation is demanded from the spectator, a readiness to interrogate this material.
In principal, all my work can be verified and rationally understood. This
does not mean that there is no room for associations and imagination. On
the contrary, the rational part of my work is limited basically to its'
production. What one experiences, understands, learns, dreams... or interprets
because of the presence of the art work rests solely in the mind of the
spectator. An art work is only a starting point, a principle of order, an
artist's statement, intended to provoke the spectator to continue his investigations.
Mike North UK (Back)
The works in this exhibition are representative of several series made since I started using computers in 1987. My earlier work, mainly in the form of paintings, drawings and prints, was based upon the exploration of two-dimensional spatial ambiguity and contradiction. This work was informed by 'perceptually reversing' and 'impossible figures' in part derived from Gestalt psychological research and works of the American Abstract Illusionist painters of the late 1960's and early 1970's. I made several series of works before 1987 but only one,the Diamond Series ,was further developed through the use of computing. The following Triangulation, Perceptual Inversion, Dutch Rose, Broken Circle and Variations on an Untitled Silkscreen of 1971 series of works were developed extensively using computer software from previously drawn and printed images. The more recent Planet Series however, was initially created just with the use of computer software.
Most of the works are concerned with the reconciliation of abstractness with illusion. Depicted shapes often employ variants of linear perspective in combination with articulated surface in order to create a new type of complex illusionism. The most important aspect of these illusions is that they must be mutually contradictory in order to be successful. These perverse perspectives are founded on disunity, on a complex, tightly structured denial of pictorial logic in the sense that it never wholly abandons the assertion of the picture plane arrived at by modernist or rejective painting, but distorts and reconstructs the plane outside the conventions of depth simulation.
The computer allows me to combine photographs and drawings with processes that would have been unlikely using traditional media. The ease, flexibility and speed of the computer has created many more possibilities and enabled me to explore aspects of visual language and two-dimensional space I would not otherwise have considered. This is especially true in the areas of 'electronic collage and montage', in that the computer now enables a much more flexible approach than has previously been available. Computers are capable of releasing new creative energies by removing the limitations imposed by traditional fine art media, allowing for a more open, self-confident, adventurous and less precious approach to image creation. Richness of colour and flexibility of creation are unmatched by other media, new methods of mark making are available together with the production of forms never seen before, either in nature or in museums, the possibility to create unimaginable things. Above all the computer has become a kind of symbiotic partner in the creation of my images.
I am particularly interested in the relationship between computer related imagery and printmaking. There are many connections not only in the ability of both media to naturally produce variations on a theme, (a significant factor for myself having previously worked with closely related series), but also in the relatively indirect ways images are made. Electronic data for printmaking purposes has, by one means or another, to be printed out, and this alone makes the connection for printmakers (and photographers) with new computer printing technologies . An increasing number of printmaking exhibitions now actively encourage digitally assisted prints.
With extended global connectivity via the recent explosion of the Internet, new technologies are now challenging traditional definitions of art practice precipitating a redefinition of the interactive relationship between artists, museums and the public. We are on the threshold of the Cyberage and it is certain that computing will play a vital role in the response of artists and designers to the challenges ahead.
Bernard Tagwerker Switzerland (Back)
Joan Truckenbrod USA (Back)
This artwork builds a sociotecture, an alternative architecture of familial systems. The viewer is entangled in the sticky matrix of families, alternative family structures and the lack of social, economic, and political support for raising children today in America.. Each of us is costumed by societal expectations. This artwork is obsessed with the inadequacies, inequities and cultural dysfunction of these social costumes.
In this piece, I am excavating the site of your personal memories of growing up. These photos of kids, and family activities engage the memoryscape of each participant. To delve deeper into the issues in the scrapbook, press one of the red fingerprints in the book and a corresponding dialogue is triggered on the "TB". The sequences of images on the screen confront the inadequacies and inequities in constructing families, and raising children in America today. These experiences are mirrored, and reverberate through each of you. The paradox of the symphony of the past, with the dissonance of polymorphous family forms of the present, remaps the complacency of today.
This interactive installation uses pressure sensitive switches under strategic
photos, newspaper articles and collages in a scrapbook, to trigger corresponding
"movies" displayed on a monitor disguised as an old television set. The
old TV is part of the nostalgic room setting. The movies were created on
a Macintosh computer using Macromedia Director software. They include sound
sequences, quicktime movies, animations and photos.
Roman Verotsko USA (Back)
My studio work follows vigorous experimental procedures requiring several work stations, one for research and development, and others for executing my art. Over the past decade I have been developing drawing instructions which are coded procedures that tell a computer how to drive a "multi-pen plotter". Such plotters are mechanical machines that physically draw lines with ink pens selected from an array of pen stalls. Couple to a computers and following the artist's instructions these plotters 'grow' the work of art. Like faithful companions they work for seemingly endless hours executing those instructions with an amazing precision. Thousands of lines are drawn yielding forms that could not be visualised without computing power. Optional routines include selected use of brushes adapted to the plotters drawing arm. Recent works include gold leaf crafting with algorithmic scripts and illuminations bearing the aura of mediaeval manuscripts. These works provide a window on unseen processes shaping mind and matter. By doing to they become icons illuminating the mysterious nature of earth and cosmos.
STUDIO PROCEDURE NOTES:
I have been a practising artist for over 40 years. My earlier work was especially inspired by Kandinsky and Mondrian who pioneered 'unseen' worlds of form. With the advent of computers my search led me to experiment with composing instructions (software) for generating arrays of 'unseen forms' that are inaccessible via conventional methods. With my software 'form generators', I expanded my explorations of 'unseen' forms seeking to give them an aesthetic presence.
Here the term 'form generator' refers to a set of computing instructions describing how a form is to be initiated, developed and improvised. The creation and control of these instructions provides an awesome means for an artist to visualise form-growing concepts. Such routines provide access to an infinity of visual worlds never before seen by the human eye. It is noteworthy that such procedures hold much in common with processes associated with crystallisation and genetics.
My works are executed with a multipen plotter couple to a PC driven by my software. The plotter, 'choosing' from an array of pens loaded with inks mixed in the studio, draws each individual line. Most works require thousands of lines and frequent pen changes which are software controlled. AN optional 'brush' routine allows the occasional substitution of a brush for a pen. All brush strokes are plotted using Chinese brushes adapted to the machine's drawing arm. One recent series of 'illuminated' digital scripts is reminiscent of mediaeval manuscripts. Many of these works are enhanced with a touch of gold or silver leaf applied by hand. However, the design elements illuminate with gold are always code generated and machine plotted.
Content and Meaning
Over the years the software has evolved by stages yielding a series of works for each stage - Pathway, Gaia, Scarab, Apocalypse and Ezekiel. Each of these series has a distinctive formal qualities associated with its 'form generators'. One of the works are made with intentional representations in mind. Titles are arbitrary and often derived from evocative qualities associated with the work.
Finished works are visual analogues of their generators somewhat like geological strata are visual analogues of forces from which they were formed. From this point of view the art works are visual manifestations of the dynamic procedures by which they grew. The works may be viewed as visual celebrations of the information processing procedures embedded in today's culture.
The finished works invite us to savour both the beauty and the mystery of
the coded procedures - not so much for their stark logic as for the grace
and poetry they yield. The procedures provide a window on unseen processes
shaping mind and matter. By doing so they become icons illuminating the
mysterious nature of Earth and Cosmos.
Birgitte Weimer Germany (Back)
The Artists-in-Residence in Loughborough was my first experience in working with a computer in my artwork. My field of research for the seminar concerned the graphic part of my artwork and had rather an analytic than creative character. In this case, I am talking about a series of 6 woodcuts which consist of 12 identically sized, rectangular printing blocks. Each print is divided into two fields, containing black and white shapes arranged in various ways to form different geometric structures. There is a constant unit of measurement underlying all these geometric structures which is a black or white square. A horizontal strip of red connects the two fields while partially covering their structures. The pairs of elements can be arranged in a total of 132 (12 by 11) possible permutations: each of the prints is, therefore, part of a meticulously planned, autonomous system.
My question to the computer now was which amount of possible permutations I have within this sign system underlying the above described unit of measurement. I expected the computer to count for me how many possibilities I have and show them to me. As a further step I wanted to select a certain number of images. My idea was to understand in which way I select those images: I wanted to find out whether there was any kind of regularity or if any kind of rules emerged out of this doing by chance.
At first, I had to find out that the computer needed very precise information about my concern. I had to define my sign system more strictly than I had done before. I tried to draw one of my signs with Foto shop, but it did not seem to be the right program for such a geometric kind of drawing. I was surprised that it did not even have simple grids which could have been useful for any kind of graphic lay-out as what this program is normally used for. The knitwear design program had those grids in which I could construct my black or white squares by a simple 'click'. It could not do what I wanted originally but I could at least construct my images quite quickly.
At the beginning I started to subdivide my signs - one on each side into 22 squares which could be either black or white. That was a perfect definition of each picture, but it led to data basis which altogether 44 numbers - much too long to be written on the screen and covering the pictures. Also it took a much longer time to write the data basis than to create a picture. After a day and a half I found this kind of working process very boring, because the creative work was nearly replaced by the process of defining what I had done in the data basis. Also I had thought that the computer could do this registration work for me. So I started to find more simple definitions for my images. These were not as exact as the long ones but they could at least order the signs into groups with specific characteristics. The most important for me was the fact that using these shorter definitions I was able to work more spontaneously. In the end, I "knitted" sixty new signs within my fictitious sign system. But as a visual artist I was not content with what I saw on the screen. I wanted to see them printed on paper.
As a short resume of using a computer for the first time in my artwork I found it as interesting to see what a computer cannot do as what it can do. My very first insight was that a computer is a set of tools. As you cannot use a hammer to screw something tight you cannot use any program for your artistic ideas. But this also means on the other hand that the tool can influence your creativity. For example, if you use a commercial program like Foto shop and you want to use grids which you cannot find on the software this would perhaps change your idea and in the end your creative results. But as you can use different software's, creating one piece this might only be a question of how far you have advanced in working with computers. So as a beginner the tool might influence your creative production whereas later on you learn to master the tool. This might also lead to the conclusion that working with computer for students should happen under educational supervision. One danger in using computers as long as you are not very sure of your creative intention is that you are just applying what you find in your software and do not really create something new. The other danger is to be overwhelmed by all the techniques which the software offers. This happens when you do not have aesthetic criteria which help you to select the appropriate techniques.
As a beginner in using computers but as a practising artist for fifteen
years I tend to believe that it would take me some years to develop the
work with computers until I have reached the same state of mastering the
medium than in my artwork. Concerning the graphic part of my artwork I could
imagine to create images by the help of a computer not only quicker than
by hand but also with different results caused by a different way of developing
those fictitious sign systems. But as it comes to the sculptural part of
my artwork the possibilities of using a computer concerning my artistic
approach are restricted, because I work with the different qualities of
plastic materials which form the shape of a piece. This has to be explored
by experimenting with the materials themselves. I personally believe that
sculpture is an elementary sensual and tactile experience , but should not
try to replace the elementary physical experience, which is fundamental
for every human perception.
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