Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

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Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by glegrady » Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:12 pm

MAT594GL Techniques, History & Aesthetics of the Computational Photographic Image ... f594b.html

Please provide a response to any of the material covered in this week's two presentations by clicking on "Post Reply". Consider this to be a journal to be viewed by class members. The idea is to share thoughts, other information through links, anything that may be of interest to you and the topic at hand.

Report for this topic is due by November 3, 2020 but each of your submissions can be updated throughout the length of the course.
George Legrady

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Re: Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by wqiu » Sun Nov 01, 2020 10:30 pm

What's changed after the photography's transition from being analog to being digital?

The analog photography is a chemical process, whereas the digital photography is signal processing. Within signal processing, it can be divided again into two subcategories, the analog signal such as magnetic tape and TV, and the digital signal, which is 0/1 bits. In total, we have three ages of different "materials", the light-sensitive film, the analog signals and the digital signals. The explorations on the photography medium or material has some correspondences across the three ages.

1. For the chemical-based photography:

Photogram uses the characteristics of the light sensitivity of the film paper, so did many other experiments that requires no camera apparatus.
Allison Rossiter's Density works presents the temporal history of the outdated film papers.
Susan Rankaitis and Matthew Brandt experiment with different bad developer to create abstract interesting visual effects.
and so on...

2. For the analog-signal-based photography:

Woody Vasulka and Walead Beshty, experiments with the principle of TV/LED imaging. Woody Vasulka hacked into the TV's electric scanning signal and make the TV images something else. In Open Source, Walead Beshty broke the LED screen, so the screen displayed unexpected visual effects.
Alan Rath's installations presented the raw signal-to-image process, which I feel very interesting. The juxtaposition between the raw metal parts and the fine i.mage on the screen reminds the user to think about the imaging process.

3. For the digital-signal-based "photography":

Now the photos are presented as data bits, just as music and spreadsheet are. The analog-to-digital conversion made the Shannon's information theory so important, as well as the concept of entropy. Many artistic explorations involves the synthesis or conversion on those data bits.

A group of works explores the usage of noise, which consists of random data bits with high entropy.
Besides the early exploration of direct presentation of pure random noise, Casey Rea's work, Control Room, combine the randomness with human-designed patterns.
Legrady's Voice of Sisyphus juxtaposed the music with the photographs, and blurred the boundary between audio and visual signals, both of which are fundamentally data bits.
Ikeda exploited visual aesthetics of noise to present the complex DNA data. It is also a conversion on data bits, from DNA numerical data to visual images.

Another group of works explores the glitch, which is the inherent characteristics of digital bits. I have mentioned Stan Douglas's Corrupted Files work, which presents the interesting visual effects resulting from corrupted image files.

The concept of photography I mentioned above is deviated from its original meaning. It should be generalized as "making an image". In the three different ages, people have explored with different mediums to create the unique visual aesthetics.

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Re: Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by masood » Mon Nov 02, 2020 11:08 am


YouTube Interview (4 min):

This week the topic that drew me to do further research was the artist Tatsuo Miyajima of Japan, who uses LED lights as his medium, and was shown in the context of the concept of noise.

My first encounter with Miyajima's works was during a vacation to Naoshima Island in January of 2019. The island is located inside the Seto Inland Sea and a part of Kanagawa Prefecture. It is in the southern part of Japan. Previously an industrial island, the island rebranded itself as a site of contemporary art exhibitions since the 1980s with Benesse Corporation leading the project. The architect Tadao Ando has led the transformation of many sites on the island including the Chichu Art Museum ('Chichu' means underground in Japanese) and The Art House project, in which local houses are restored by local architects and turned into exhibition spaces.

It was a life-changing experience and I would recommend anyone to go and visit Naoshima.

Links to more information on Naoshima Island:,_Kagawa


Miyajima's work Sea of Time '98 is within Kadoya, a home that is a part of The Art House Project. It was created in 1998 and comprises of a traditional Japanese home with a large pool of water on the interior. The interior is entirely dark and, aside from light from outside and a small lamp, almost entirely illuminated by LED numbers placed in a seemingly random manner throughout the pool. The numbers flash random numbers.

The Art House Project:

The works in The Art House project involved community participation and in Miyajima's work, this is no different. He asked 125 participants of the project to manually set the rate at which the counters go from 1 to 9. In this way, each of the numbers feels different and unique, permanently representing the humanity of the person who set the timer.

The artist's website description of Sea of Time '98:

I love this poetic gesture, and this is indicative of Miyajima's approach in a lot of his work. It is inherently participatory and ego-less. Indeed he takes much of his inspiration from Buddhism. Within Buddhism, Buddha does not represent a deity or even, necessarily, a specific person. The symbol of Buddha represents the true potential of all living things.

Miyajima reflects on his practice by stating three guiding principles:
  • Keep Changing
  • Connect with Everything
  • Continue Forever
Three concepts that are the ethic and goal behind all of his artworks and I find it refreshing that such simple concepts result in diverse works with a touching connection to humanity in spite of its technological medium. This inspires me to keep in touch with my own guiding ethics and principles.

His use of numbers stems from his idea of Buddhism. He believes that by choosing something as neutral as numbers, his works allow viewers to realize their own artistic potential through viewing his works. Because of this, viewing his works is a generative experience and one that acknowledges, relies upon, and encourages the viewer to be the artist as well.

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Re: Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by chadress » Mon Nov 02, 2020 3:48 pm

Screen Shot 2020-11-02 at 7.48.40 AM.png
Ryoji Ikeda’s, data-verse 1, 11 MAY > 24, 2019


Ryoji Ikeda’s “data-verse 1, 11 MAY > 24” was originally projected for the 2019 Venice Biennale at a scale of 12m x 6m, roughly the height of a two-story building. Watching it on a small computer screen, during my covid-induced quarantine, I’m distinctly aware that I’m experiencing only a fraction of the work’s intensity. I’d liken this experiential shortcoming to buying a gift-shop souvenir of the Eiffel Tower, and expecting the view from it’s top to be the same as the original. Or perhaps it’s more like watching Lawrence of Arabia on the seat-back screen of an airplane, which I admit I have done. The point is, when you’ve experienced something at an immersive level, there’s a difference between being a part of something v. just looking at something. The title “data-verse…” must be considered a reference to a larger “universe” and we can only imagine Ikeda wants you to be a part of his world-building.

But what world are we experiencing here? The shifting patterns of unidentifiable objects alternate between grids and byte-sized ephemera which morph from something geometric, then to something more organic, and then onto something geographic. The scale is either planetary, or perhaps microscopic. The audio seems to call us from the cold isolation of a deep space satellite, or is it coming from some obscure medical device? The sound-scape is synchronized, like a heartbeat, to the changing visuals. The cumulative effect is this: Whatever we are seeing is somehow alive, and very, very busy.

A part of a larger trilogy, Ikeda describes this series as an “audiovisual symphonic suite”, a mathematical and aesthetic composition whose score is composed initially of massive scientific data sets which are “processed, transcribed, converted, transformed, de/re/meta-constructed and orchestrated to visualize and sonify the different dimensions that co-exist in our world between the visible and the invisible.” Busy, indeed. It’s cumulative computational labor is one of aesthetic and sonic data visualizations, a modern manifestation of Kant’s ”mathematical sublime”.

Other artists shown during this week’s lectures are also guided by the de-construction and re-construction of pixel-based data. George Legrady’s “Two Street Scenes”, employs software custom written by Legrady which “randomly eats away at the image”. Produced in 1989, three years before the first text message was sent, and a full ten years before the invention of the BlackBerry cellphone, Legrady’s work must be considered at the forefront of machine-based and computational aesthetics.

Screen Shot 2020-11-02 at 7.50.01 AM.png
George Legrady, Two Street Scenes, 1989

At this point, I’ll wrap up quickly so as not to overwhelm the posting-scroll. From here I will progress to Joseph Nechvatal's work exploring the intersections of technological and biological viruses, as another example of deconstructive algorithmic-based artworks. And I would follow with Legrady’s “Voice of Sysiphus”(2011) - an example of computational aesthetics which first deconstructs, then reconstructs, through both sound and visuals, a single black and white photograph.

Screen Shot 2020-11-02 at 7.49.24 AM.png
Joseph Nechvatal, Viral Venture, 2013

At some point in this class I may add some thoughts on the idea of DNA as both biological and digital substratum. Ikeda is using actual DNA data to inform his visual symphonies, and both Nechvatal’s and LeGrady’s work often involves creating unique computer “viruses” for the purpose of degrading pixel-based data. Is there such a thing as digital DNA? The comparison may seem disjointed at first simply because pixels are not made of flesh and vice-versa. However it was a bit of a surprise to discover that scientists still do not agree if biological viruses are actually living things, and herein the comparison with their digital counterparts may hold merit. Thoughts welcome.

LINKS: ... syphus.pdf ... er-viruses
Last edited by chadress on Tue Nov 03, 2020 7:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by ehrenzeller » Mon Nov 02, 2020 4:56 pm

There’s no question femto-photography captured my attention this week. Next to seeing through walls, the ability to effectively capture images around corners has a wide array of practical applications ranging from predictive safety features in self-driving cars, to less intrusive endoscopy and safer search and rescue missions. That said, I was pretty shocked at how little I could find on the internet regarding femto-photography, with the majority of media coverage ending in about 2017.

Armed with what little information I could find, I wondered if this technology has already been replaced by an even faster camera and light source, if it was bought out by future commercial integrations (Tesla, GI manufacturers, the military, etc.) or had the hype just fizzled out and research progressed in another direction.

The underwhelming array of media coverage led me to the Stanford Computational Imaging Lab (, specifically the work of David Lindell ( who’s Ted Talk ( on femto-photography and demonstration of its videography applications was not only engaging and eye opening, it was the only piece of major media coverage of femto-photography according to Google News.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I was also very impressed by the work of Antoine Delach played in class (Ghost Cell). This led me to uncover some of his other work, namely Chemical Bouillon, where chemical processes are recorded in aqueous solutions, resulting in beautiful fractal geometries, serving as a living testimony how fractals “elicit favorable physiological responses and are thus preferred by human observers” according to “Computational and Experimental Approaches to Visual Aesthetics” by Brachmann and Redies (2017). I could watch this video forever!

<iframe title="vimeo-player" src="" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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Re: Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by k_parker » Mon Nov 02, 2020 8:17 pm

For this week I was interested in breaking down what I would consider as reliable information within the drastic scope for the complex methods of recording space/time/dimension to seemingly simple salt/chocolate prints.

I was reminded of the artist Jorge Otero-Pailos- specifically his project The Ethics of Dust. This isn’t really photography (though I am not so sure), but I was reminded of the process of recording material and what could constitute a “real” or maybe “honest” representation of space. I am always butting heads with photography as it has the audacity to be so flat, and now, extremely alterable. Then there is this project- using dust as the record keeper. Conceptually, this is complicated more when considering dust inside buildings where people heavily populate is composed of a large percentage of dead skin cells. Dust as a forensic verification of existance/ocupation.
You may have to excuse some existential rambling on- myself and a couple of us are reading Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (1938) for Prof. Gardner’s Plague Aesthetics this quarter. While reading the novel I am posed with the question of what could be proof of past existence- surely not digital photographs, however, things like cyanotypes, photgrams, and maybe “Mourning Wall” Ellen Carey (2000). I would also, as the master of my own post, place noise, glitch, and computer generated artworks into this category. Notably, the latter few examples are more documentations of process and not as good used as evidence of some kind of representable space. However, I am allowing them into my mental characterization because they certainly represent a time: with computer generated artwork, a time that is (I assume) algorithmically accountable, and with noise, proof of undergoing process.

As someone with no business breaking down computer generated artwork- I am going to give it a go. I have been listening to the François Chollet interviews (linked by Masood for the first post) and I would conclude that computer generated artwork is more of a documentation of a completed program than an “original” creative production. In my opinion, a program or neural network that a system is working through (even if it is set to mimic something randomized like the Markov Chain for noise) is reliable information. The reliable information is the process itself. I’ll pass along an artist, Pierre Huyghe, that was passed to some of us by Prof. Beckman a few weeks ago. ... -of-ideal/ The artificial intelligence’s creativity in this work is traceable and in that way essentially retraceable or un-traceable.
I suppose to wrap up my thoughts of reliable information, in order for me to mentally characterize something as reliable it has to be removed from untraceable creative intervention. Mechanical processes of recording are not inherently creative so, for me, are evidence of a reliable system, chemical process, or temporal certainty. Dust is reliable because it proves human presence without creative intervention (generally). Computer generated art proves human design, systematic processes, temporal and physical moving parts. The randomization of noise proves the process of recording itself. I would generalize again and include painting as reliable because it is documentation of where/ what the artist’s hand was when creating the work.

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Re: Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by yichenli » Tue Nov 03, 2020 12:46 pm

Two perpendicular red lines appear to be scanning a grid repeatedly subdivided into smaller, equal-sized modules (see image below), this precise and "functional" appearing frame from Ryoji Ikeda's data.tronresembles a graph and perhaps evokes a machine that accurately plots or observes something that is then graphed onto this frame. But *what* is one reading when looking at this image still? This implied functionality and information overload is my topic for this week.
(This is very rambling-like and I will only talk about Eames's Sample Lesson in class for clarity and saving time.)
Representing "the economy"
. Chad framed Ikeda's work as embodiment of Kant's mathematical sublime. Due to the sheer scale and impressiveness of the installation, the visitor can be overwhelmed. This overwhelm in data.tron came from both the content (flickering field of signs and stripes), as well as the format -- it was presented at 4 times the frame rate of typical film.
. Also using Ikeda's work as an example of "technical sublime", Nick Srnicek gave a two-part model of representing a complex concept such as "the economy" -- the combination of aesthetics of the sublime, which emerges from "the effective use of mathematical and technological tools to extend cognition beyond the sensible parameters of the human" but that "render complex systems in a way which encompasses them but with a negligible reduction of information" (e.g. Ikeda), and aesthetics of the interface, which "modulates the relationship between the technological representation of the complex economic object and the human cognitive system" (Srnicek 2012). It's refreshing to see Ikeda's work being framed as something useful -- Srnicek believed that art (by doing those two parts) could help one represent the object "economy", which then allows one to come up with alternatives to neoliberalism.

Precedent: George Nelson, Charles Eames, and Alexander Girard, Sample Lesson (1952)
. Appropriate for its subject, "communications", the Sample Lesson by modernist architect Charles Eames was described by a journalist in 1952 as "information overload", an ubiquitous phrase today. The designers wanted the viewer to see "connections" among the fast moving footages on a motion picture projection and multiple panels of lecture slides, as well as to evoke an emotional response (Colomina, "The Design of Information Overload"). Made in the immediate post-war years and after the publication of Shannon's thesis (a diagram of which was included in the film), the format of the delivering knowledge resembles situation rooms or control rooms used in a military context. If the situation room screens are functional, one is supposed to be able to observe and understand the contents on the screen, which is an impossible task in artworks that are visually similar to the situation room, such as Eames's Sample Lesson as well as Ikeda's installation.
. George Nelson, Charles Eames, and Alexander Girard, Sample Lesson , 1952.
. Looking at the 3k version of data.tron (see image below), one could recognize multiple "graphs" within the projection, yet the size of the long strip as well as our limited field of vision and attention span makes the graphs unreadable.

To wrap up, what I learnt is that:
- The format of "information overload" as well as using a supposedly readable interface or graph in an unreadable speed or scale could find its historical precedent in early Cold War works such as Sample Lesson (Charles and Ray Eames later made other similar works such as Glimpses of the USA and Think).
- - This format, as described by both Eames and later Ikeda, are intended to evoke an emotional response.
- - This emotional response to information overload perhaps tells us that the situations that are monitored in situation rooms (which may have inspired the Eameses) may be in fact uncontrollable and overwhelming. In a way, art of information overload can be seen as counter-examples to the clarity and control in data visualization dashboards (e.g. covid spread maps, etc.).
- - Through presentation of information on disparate panels, Eames also intended to have the viewer see connections. I understand this "connection" as the viewer's sorting through noise to arrive at information.
- Combining the intention to have the user see "connection" as well as Srnicek's idea to expand one's cognitive mapping with mathematical and computational tools, and the idea of conspiracy theory as "poor person's cognitive mapping"(Jameson) or an legitimate form of cognitive mapping (Fran Mason), one could possibly try to understand art about conspiracy through the lens of signal and noise, and to compare them to works by Ikeda and the Eameses.

Beatriz Colomina. "The Design of Information Overload." Accessed 3 Nov. 2020, ... fcbf1c976e.
Nick Srnicek. "Navigating Neoliberalism: Political Aesthetics In the Age of Crisis" (2012), ... _Aesth.pdf

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Re: Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by zhangweidilydia » Wed Nov 04, 2020 9:13 pm

I am extremely interested in this week's topic. It's always a great experience to review our Prof. Legrady's early work using noise (very pioneer! and it's very surprising to know George use perlin noise algorithms just a few years after the birth of it). Also I am very enjoy seeing George showing works by two of my favourite Japanese new media artists: RYOICHI KUROKAWA and Ryoji Ikeda! Especially Ryoji Ikeda's work is breathtaking everytime I watch it. It makes me to think about data based art in a aesthetic point of view. How we visualize data as a audio visual experience, and how we make an powerful image using information.

I agree with previous posts by our fellows in class, I think the work by Ryoji is a mathematical sublime. Instead of the traditional visualization works - which tries to deliver information that represent meanings, Ryoji's work is more about a pure aesthetic experience, an exploration of time and space, and a dive into immersive data world. I think the sound difinitely helps to build up the immersion. It's also about notation and pure abstraction using primitive shapes. I found lots of Japanese artists' works balances complexity with simplicity. It of courses with many layers of information, but at the same time, every single elements in the visual entity is very well organized under mathematical calculations.

I personally very into this aesthetic. Both artists : Ryoichi and Ryoji, give up the materiality of elements. The way they use shapes are very neat and direct, those are just primitive shapes we know since we were a kid. However those shapes are beginning to create a rythm through unusual arrangements and repetitions .

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Re: Report 3: Material-based, Software-based Explorations

Post by merttoka » Wed Dec 16, 2020 2:10 am

This week, I was mostly drawn to the use of noise in art. Like George and many others mentioned throughout the course, Ryoji Ikeda's aesthetics on the organization of data by modulating the order and chaos is amazing to me. He is a genius in composing his pieces.

One particular topic we covered in the lecture was Shannon's Mathematical Theory of Communication. Through statistical models, it treats noise not only as a mysterious element but something that can be tamed for communication systems. This is possible by his definition of entropy, which measures the information content (or surprise) in a given message. His findings not only provided a fundamental infrastructure to modern engineering/science but also has greater implications for the Arts. It almost presents a mathematical framework to think about the control of parameter spaces in generative systems. I am interested in exploring this further with my studies at MAT.

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