Thursday, August 16

Giving up control with generative art

In 1896, William Morris, founder of the arts and crafts movement, drew his last design, a subtle wallpaper pattern called Compton. Over 100 years later, a machine called Hektor spraypaints it on the wall of a gallery in Amsterdam. Like the original, the execution isn't perfect - the automated spraycan wobbles on it's strings and the paint bleeds, introducing an element of chance and performance that the software that created it has tried to negate.

Engineered by Uli Franke, the mechanism plays back a drawing from Adobe Illustrator using Jürg Lehni's Scriptographer plugin. Scriptographer attempts to break the stranglehold of closed, limited tools like Adobe's by creating both a software library and website that allow scripts to be posted, improved, and shared. What's more interesting is that the tools shift the creation paradigm. Instead of drawing, erasing, and redrawing, the artist now tweaks variables like "rotate", and "randomness". They also allow aesthetics which can't be achieved manually: fractal letters condense infinitely small, organic trees grow upward, letters extrude based on colour values.

Giving up control, and using words to control aesthetics is at the heart of Google Synth, created by Paul Andrew at "Based on an algorithm by Micheal Ashikmin in his paper Synthesizing Natural Textures it attempts to recreate the "target" image using the textures present in the "input" image. Some aspects can be controlled by the user, but it mostly does its own thing." Users click Random while the software cycles through a list of words, then click Generate when they're reached the word they want. Want to see what "inarticulate + merriment" looks like?

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