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CODE AND THE ARTS


INTRODUCTION Beginning in the 1940s, code was developed to assist with work in the fields of science and engineering. Seymour Papert, a pioneer in researching computers and creativity, explains the situation at the time: The world was at war. Complex calculations had to be done under time pressures not normally felt by mathematicians: numerical calculations related to the design and use of weapons; logical manipulations to break ever more complex codes before information became old news... It’s unlikely that they gave even a passing throughout to making computers user-friendly to people with softer styles than theirs. The decisions made about computers and programming languages since that time have, along with other factors, hindered the synthesis of software and the arts. It’s an unfortunate fact that many languages used within the arts were not originally designed for those areas. The software desires of designers, architects, and artists are often different from those of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. The technical skill required to create visual form with the most dominant languages, such as C++ and Java, often takes years to acquire. An alternative way of considering code is revealed through the work of artists who in the 1950’s and 1960’s began to experiment with software and themes related to software such as dematerialization and system aesthetics. These explorations were first presented to the general public in the exhibition Cybernetic Serendipity, held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1968; as well as in the shows Software_ Information Technology: Its new meaning for Art, held at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1970; and Information, held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1970. The curator of the Software Exhibit, Jack Burnham, described the works on view as “art that is transactional in that they deal with underlying structures of communication and energy exchange,” Among the works on view, Hans Haacke’s ambitions Visitor’s Profiles sought to reveal the elite social status of the museums patrons as a form of critique of the art world. using a computer interface, it tabulated personal information solicited from visitors. Les Levin exhibited Systems Burn-off X residual software, a collection of photographs discussed within the context of software. Levin claimed that images are hardware, and that information about the images is software. He wrote the provacative statment, “All activities which have no connection with object or material mass are the result of software.” Similar to Levin’s piece, many of the works featured in the information exhibition at MoMA were characterized as “Conceptual Art.”


Casey Reas, Form + Code ( Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 ),21


MISSION STATEMENT The mission of the Institute For Figuring is to contribute to the public understanding of scientific and mathematical themes through innovative programming that includes exhibitions, lectures, workshops, and participatory, community based projects. The IFF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Located in the Chinatown district of Los Angeles, the IFF’s venue functions both as an exhibition space and as a “play tank” for developing new methods of creative engagement with topics ranging from geometry and topology, to physics, computation, and biological form. Founded in 2003, theiff has developed exhibits and programs for museums, galleries, colleges, and community groups around the world. We have worked with: the Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh), The Hayward (London), the Science Gallery (Dublin), the New Children’s Museum (San Diego), Art Center College of Design (Pasadena), the Museum of Jurassic Technology (Los Angeles), and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The Institute’s Crochet Coral Reef is now one of the largest science + art projects in the world. At the core of the IFF’s work is the concept of material play. We believe that ideas usually presented in abstract terms can often be embodied in physical activities that engage audiences via kindergarten-like practices. Through activities such as cutting and folding paper, we affirm that the hands and eyes can serve as guides to developing the human mind. By inviting our audience to literally play with ideas, the IFF offers a new, hands-on approach to public science education that is at once intellectually rigorous, pedagogically rich, and aesthetically aware.


STRUCTURAL GRIDS By working in a very strict fashion, the institute for figuring has reverted back to it’s origins in form. Using oldschool methods in a technological world the new identity system for the institute is both dynamic, changing and ever present. By creating a grid and a strict system to follow A letter form structure was created off that grid. This led to a strong foundation able to build upon itself.


The Commodore 64, also known as the C64, C-64, C= 64,[n 1] or occasionally CBM 64 or VIC-64,[5] is an 8-bit home computer introduced in Januar y 1982 by Commodore International. It is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-selling single computer model of all time,[6] with independent estimates placing the number sold between 10 and 17 million units. [7] Volume production started in early 1982, with machines being released on to the market in August at a price of US $595 (roughly equivalent to $1,500 in 2015).[8][9] Preceded by the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore PET, the C64 takes its name from its 64 kilobytes (65,536 bytes) of RAM, and has technologically superior sound and graphical specifications when compared to some earlier systems such as the Apple II and Atari 800, with multi-color sprites and a more advanced sound processor.


NUMERICAL TRANSFORM When an image or object is represented in digital form, it must first be descibred in numberical terms. This description allows for countless new types of transformations. While geometric and transformations ( discussed above )sic require that objects be described using coordinates, image-based transformations are descirbed using the numerical terms of pixel values. We can apply mathematical formulas to the values of each pixel, such as color, brightness, and transparency. This process weakens the connection between the obejct being acted upon and the transformed version of it. for instance, scaling will only make an image smaller or larger, but applying a mathematical funciton to the pixel values may create something that looks little to nothing like the original. For example, in 1966, computer engineers Kenneth C. Knowlton and Leon Harmon exploited this feature of digital images to create a Mural, an image of a woman composed entirely of engineering symbols each section of the image was analyzed for it’s relative darkness and then replaced with a symbol having an equivalent tone A similar technique is often seen in so-called ASCII transformations in which pixels are replaced with alphanumeric chracters to form an image. Among the most useful mathematical transformations are image filters. By looking just at the numerical values of pixels, filters can perform a surprising number of useful operations, such as blurring, sharpening, edge finding, and color conversions, to name just a few. Two common families of filters are called high-pass and low-pass filters. Low pass filters dampen abrupt changes in value so as to produce a smoother, blurred image, and they are often used to reduce noise in digital images. High-pass filters do just the opposite; they preserve values with sharp transitions and are useful for sharpening features in images and enhancing the edges of elements. In “On Growth and Form, first published in 1917, mathematical biologist D’arcy Wentworth Thompson described a way to apply mathematical formulas to study the development of form in living creatures. This science, which he termed morphology, used a numerical description of form ( similar to the one discusssed in this chapter ) as a foundation. In Thompson’s words:


By describing form in mathematical terms, Thompson was able, through the use of transformations, to find continuity in the evolution of species. His work, however, took a slightly different approach. Rather than consider the transformation as acting upon the form, he characterized it in terms of the coordinate system in whic hthe form was described. For example, consider an image printed on a piece of rubber; by poking and stretching the rubber sheet, endless variations of the original image can be produced, but the connections between each of them remain obvious. Thompson would manipulate and transform images by plotting them on new coordinate systems. These included scaled and shceared grids, systems based on logarithms, and polar planes. Thompson was able to describe (in mathematical detail) changes in the shapes of bones from one species to the next, and even make a preductions about intermediate species in evolutionary history.

The mathematical definition of a ‘form’ has a quality of percision which was quite lacking in our earlier stage of mere description... We discover homologies or identities which were not obvious before, and which our descriptions obscure rather than revealed.

Casey Reas, Form + Code ( Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 ),21


Soto directed the Escuela de Artes Plasticas in Maracaibo from 1947 to 1950, when he left for Paris and began associating with Yaacov Agam, Jean Tinguely, Victor Vasarely, and other artists connected with the Salon des Realités Nouvelles and the Galerie Denise René. Soto’s breakthrough works of the 1950s and 1960s were “geometric abstract paintings, using a limited and carefully selected array of flat colors.”[4] Caroni, for example, is a minimalist arrangement of static geometric forms in unmodulated silver, blue, and black inks on white paper.[5] Soto created the so-called Penetrables, interactive sculptures which consist of square arrays of thin, dangling tubes through which observers can walk. Soto made over 25 Penetrables in his career.[6] It has been said of Soto’s art that it is inseparable from the viewer; it can only stand completed in the illusion perceived by the mind as a result of observing the piece.


Riley’s mature style, developed during the 1960s, was influenced by a number of sources.[10][clarification needed] Cataract 3, 1967, PVA on canvas It was during this time that Riley began to paint the black and white works for which she is best known. They present a great variety of geometric forms that produce sensations of movement or colour. In the early 1960s, her works were said to induce sensation in viewers as varied as seasick and sky diving. From 1961 to 1964 she worked with the contrast of black and white, occasionally introducing tonal scales of grey. Works in this style comprised her first 1962 solo show at Musgrave’s Gallery One, as well as numerous subsequent shows. For example, in Fall, a single perpendiculars curve is repeated to create a field of varying optical frequencies.[11] Visually, these works relate to many concerns of the period: a perceived need for audience participation (this relates them to the Happenings, for which the period is famous), challenges to the notion of the mind-body duality which led Aldous Huxley to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs[citation needed]; concerns with a tension between a scientific future which might be very beneficial or might lead to a nuclear war; and fears about the loss of genuine individual experience in a Brave New World.[12] Her paintings have, since 1961, been executed by assistants from her own endlessly edited studies.[4]


TRANSCODING One direct consequence of describing information numerically is transcoding or the conversion of one type of digital information into another, for instance, converting a file from a JPEG to a PNG format. Transcoding can also be used to create completely new forms by interfering with how the computer handles a set of data. For example, it can allow the bits of an audio file to be read by a program that normally operates on the bits representing an image. Transcoding uses the file data as raw material for computation. A good example is a simple substitution cipher, where each letter is replaced with a number corresponding to its position in the alphabet. This cipher turns the name Ben into the numbers 2,5, and 14. Once the conversion is made, the numbers can be used in a variety of ways to create new values. These values can, in turn, be used to create new images or artworks. For example, the number can be added together to get 21, which, in turn, can be used to set the red value of a pixel in an image. (But since the word “at” also has a value of 21, this will only create a very loose connection between the original word and the color of the pixel.) because the letters have been converted to the numbers, they can be transformed in atypical ways. Rafael Lozano Hemmers 2003 installation Amodal Suspension transforms text messages into light beams, from spotlights projected into the sky above the yamaguchi center for Arts Media (YCAM) in Japan. the transformation scheme used by Lozano-Hemmer produced a particularly striking display. The laetter contained in each text message were analyzed based on the frequency ith which they appeared. The frequency values were used to control the intensity of the spotlight: the letter A would push the light to full brightness, while Z would appear as a dim glow. In this way, our deveryday language is transformed into something akin to the flashes of fireflies. The continuity provided by the numerical representation of information is exploited ot its fullest in the programming environment Max. Inspired by the patch ocables of analog synthesizers, a Max program is composed of input and output patches that controlsthe flow of data. when used with Jitter ( a program extension that addes video features), Max can connect the frames of a video to a sound generatior, run them through a filter, and creconnect the results back to a video generator. In the same way that the flow of electricity can be used to power any electronic device, the flow of binary data can be applied to any number of Max’s software patches. Transformation provides a way to expres continuity between forms, data, and ideas. When a work utilizes techniques of transforamtions, it retains a connection between its original and transformed versions, and such radical transformations can reveal entirely new relationships.


Casey Reas, Form + Code ( Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 ),21


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