“This kind of art [conceptual] is not theoretical or illustrative of theories; it is intuitive, it is involved with all types of mental processes… The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”
- Sol LeWitt, Art Forum, June 1967
My current body of work in the show “Curve Sets [Information Art]” originated from a desire to programmatically make images and an overall interest in how art intersects with technology. The programmatic approach offers several potential advantages over other forms of image-making. Images can be made to scale to any desired size. The process can be intuitive while not consuming materials during rework. And being information-based, all of the art can be stored in a small amount of physical space.
The custom software I wrote to generate the images reads a set of numeric inputs that I create for each image. The numbers define information needed to make the image including one or more Bézier curves, along with the starting position, thickness, and color for each curve, and the rate of change (or delta) for each number. The program reads the initial input and draws the specified line. Then it adds the delta values to the previous numbers, which in turn tell the program how much to move the line and how much to change its shape and color. Then given this new data, it draws another line. Now we have two lines. Repeat this hundreds of times, and the lines form a plane. All of the images spawn entirely from the initial set of numbers. This process is deterministic, meaning that a given set of inputs will always produce the same image.
The show’s title contains the term “information art”. By this I mean that the information behind the art is more important than the physical art object itself. (This parallels conceptual art, which holds that the idea behind the artwork is more important than its physical realization.) The prints of my images could burn in a fire, but I would be able to recreate them exactly if the information (the inputs) used to create the images was preserved. Note that “information” is broader than digital, or computer-based information. Write the inputs on a stone tablet, and that information can be used to make the image (but keeping it on the computer seems so much easier).
My technology career (I’m employed as a technology manager at a marketing agency) gives me further reasons to use programmatic image generation. In the process of creating the custom software used to make the images in Curve Sets, I’ve learned more about current-generation user interface frameworks. If I can create a symbiosis of my art and technology careers, then both can be nurtured at the same time.
In producing this body of work, I cite three artists as significant influences: Sol LeWitt, John Meada, and Robert Wood of Kent, Ohio. Sol LeWitt used humans to carry out his instructions on how to implement his art. My current work does something very similar – using a set of instructions to make art – but I hand my directions to a series of programs and machines to make images for me. And I’m like John Meada who made computer-based images – except that he worked before modern image-generation frameworks existed that make my job so much easier. If he could do what he did in the 80′s, surely what I’m doing is fairly easy by comparison. And at one point I offered to collaborate with Robert Wood to make custom software to assist him with his practice of digital image file manipulation. The idea of using custom software to make images lives in my work, even if I haven’t yet had the opportunity to work with him. Robert Wood’s success has demonstrated to me personally the viability of digital image creation as method of art creation.
These artistic influences combined with my personal desire to explore how art and technology relate to each other formed my impetus to produce “Curve Sets [Information Art]“. I hope this work further demonstrates the feasibility of the programmatic approach to art making.
May 27, 2009