A&HA 5128: Periodic Update #2


Agnes Martin – After a conversation about procedural art and my generative coding experiments with my course instructor (Hi Erin!), she mentioned Martin’s work. It’s new to me and I’m really excited about it! She was an abstract painter with a keen knack for grids and procedural, repetitious forms that I think would be perfect to explore in my own visual programing experiments.

“Summer” (1964): Synthesizing both Abstract Expressionism and minimalism. Courtesy Patricia L Lewy Gidwitz


The bulk of my time in studio this week was devoted to experimenting with generative art in Processing. Coding pieces that conform to the WOVNS platform constraints of resolution and color. This single piece I’m sharing below is one execution of a script that randomly assigns colored squares and prescribes exact bottom and right border patterns. I’m inspired to research more geometric artists and weaving patterns.

An untitled generative textile run.


I have decided to pursue a project exploring the intersection of pixels as threads, or screen resolutions “re-represented” with threads-per-inch. I will use Processing code as art material to create generative art pieces conforming to some specifications of the WOVNS platform. This way my selected generative art works can be fabricated as textile and fabric art.

My research and explorations need to go in two directions. One one hand, I must learn the technical specifications of the WOVNS platform, and on the other, I want to explore art and artists that will inspire me.

Technical Explorations

My technical research consists of exploring a set of generative art examples on from WOVNS. They have a number of tutorials available for users to choose from, and the Processing section describes a free set of Processing scripts that one can tinker with to see how it all works.

Next I watched a Video Tutorial for Processing and WOVNS computational textiles platform with artist and professor David Mellis. It was a nice beginner tutorial demonstrating how to make your own generative art code under the constraints of WOVNS particular pixel resolution and color palettes.


Since I am interested in making generative and procedural art for textile production I have been digging into the work of some exciting artists that intersect these themes in their own work.

Sol LeWitt: The American conceptual artist was unknown to me until this Summer, but that only proves my naive art background. I’ve since become very excited about discovering his work, especially his wall drawings, patterns, and rule-based art works. I would love to read more of his instructions for drawings and about the specific nature of his procedural art and it’s potential intersection with code as art material.

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #356 BB Isometric figure within which are 3" (7.5 cm) wide black lines in three directions. (Cube without a cube), 2003
Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing #356 BB Isometric figure within which are 3" (7.5 cm) wide black lines in three directions. (Cube without a cube), 2003.

datamoshing: In an effort to explore how fabrics could mimic screens, I’m reading about an art trend of a few years ago called datamoshing. This technique blends compressed digital videos or photos together, removing keyframes from a file so the pixels smear and digital artifacts are enhanced. Another form of glitch art. I found interesting article about Russian photographer Polina Eframova, who recently shared a similar set of datamoshed photos, captured manually, rather than executably with code, by running digital video through an older PC that was not fully compatible with her camera software.

Phillip David Stearns: The artist behind Glitch Textiles and a throw blanket I found for sale on Adafruit’s website, Dark Code Throw. His goal seems to be fabricating woven-looking patterns that are produced in his artwork into physical, tangible weaves. This seems similar to what I might pursue for a final project – code generated fabric arts.

Phillip David Sterns. "Dark Code Throw"

A&HA 5128: Research, Explorations, Materials, Tools

Currently my project areas of interest center around the transformation of pixels into physical matter. I’m kicking around the term “re-representation” of pixels, since pixels are often a digital representation of natural matter, they might then be considered as reconstituted or “re-represented” if we made a pixel form again out of natural matter. It all sounds strange, but I’m feeling engaged all the same.

What are some areas that I can research related to my project ideas?

I’m currently scouring the Web for 3D build projects that are communicative as one way to explore this idea of physical pixels. So far I am really enjoying Chris Fenton’s “Pixel Weaver” which is an “entirely mechanical, punch-card driven, bit-mapped display”.

There are two main components to the machine – 1) a 32-hook Jacquard-style punch card reader (suitable for mounting over a small loom or any other device in need of mechanical control), and a 6×5 pixel, black and white display.
 Fenton, Chris. “The PixelWeaver.” Chrisfenton.com, www.chrisfenton.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/pw_hi.jpg.

In his documentation, Chris cites inspirations from a LEGO builder using the handle Ancient James who has also built a flip dot display with a LEGO “punch card” reader for input. The build is pretty excellent and was featured on Hackaday.

All those punch card references got me thinking about jacquard looms. I wondered what it would take to build my own mechanical loom. Some searching led me to an interesting artist named Pamela Liou, who is a Project Resident at Eyebeam and is currently researching the design of a DIY jacquard loom. She calls the project Doti, and it is still in development, but I am eagerly awaiting project updates.

Doti Loom: First Look from Ms. Pamela on Vimeo.

What are some concrete things that I can explore during work time in our next class?

I think that I will likely attempt a rebuild of the single pixel mechanism from Ancient James’ LEGO flip dot display. I would be fun to reverse engineer the mechanism.

I will also explore the WOVNS computational textiles platform. They offer short-run access to jaquard looms under specific resolution and color constraints. Thinking about looms, textiles and fabric arts makes me want to explore the tool, which I came across this Summer when delving into resources shared by the Processing Foundation. It could be interesting to explore their tutorials for using Processing to generate textile patterns, which they could fabricate for a fee.

What materials do I need now?

At this stage I feel that my potential materials are pretty straightforward: LEGO technic parts if I choose to explore a display, and/or Processing code if I plan to explore patternmaking on the WOVNS platform.

What tools do I need now?

My tools are one in the same as my materials at this stage: LEGOs and/or the Processing code editor.

A&HA 5128: Generating Ideas

Our task this week was to begin brainstorming ideas for our final project in Studio in Creative Technologies. Documenting the process here.

IMG_7058My final brainstorm mindmap on 6” x 36” piece of balsa wood.

We began with a visual organizer titled “What goes into making an art piece?” with 7 columns designed to help us stratify the components of a new project into categories. It’s a great little machine for quickly identifying your interests and abilities before even having to think about the big idea behind a new piece of work. I was able to jot down potential materials, technologies, concepts, inspirations, and platforms before making my mindmap, which has a more narrow focus.

IMG_7062What goes into making an art piece?

After studying what I had written down more thoughtfully, I found that I was most interested in bits as a concept for my final project. I grabbed a scrap piece of balsa in the Thingspace studio and put “bits” at the center. I spread out from there with a few directions that bits could be explored from. One idea is to investigate how bits are used to represent natural objects (or “real stuff”) and then again how natural objects like paint, clay, post-its, etc are now often used to re-represent bit-forms. How has this trend evolved? Was it instant? Are there any other examples of this phenomenon of cyclical re-representation with other mediums?

Mindmap as tryptic. Click to zoom.

A second potential area of exploration is to investigate the tradeoffs of digital conveniences. Bits and their associated technologies give many new affordances and luxuries not yet fully evaluated by consumers for their potential health/safety detriment or waste creation. In the same way that food science and plastic packaging maximized food’s shelf life and expanded caloric volume prevent spoiling, they have also contributed to increased landfill packaging waste and human health problems such as obesity and adult-onset diabetes. What are consequences of having so many identifying bits out there about us?

A third area of exploration are bits and color. I’m very interested in color theory right now. Both additive and subtractive. It’s very intriguing to me how people seem to often appreciate good color pairings “when they see them”, yet only gifted and well-trained artists and designers have the ability to skillfully create such beautiful color pairs regularly. Like me, most of us can recognize it and feel it, but not easily make it. I wonder how the additive (RGB) color relationships are expressed by mathematicians and computer models, and how bits represent colors. How easily do computers generate color pairings that humans appreciate, and how can the mathematical expression of that relationship help us all better understand color?

AH&A 5128: Rules & Assignments

Sister Cortia Kent’s famous “10 Rules” are as motivating as they are well known in the world of studio educators.


I am most taken with rule seven, “The only rule is work” for it’s assertiveness

It’s terse prose and large typeface insist upon itself. I’m bigger than you! I matter most here in the middle of a list full of meaning. It’s also disruptive and a little counter to the rest of the list and then also itself by putting the word “only” into play. How could this rule be the actual and “only” rule after we’ve come along reading this far? Exactly because the most audacious and illogical feature of great work is often it’s own blind determination to summon itself into existence.

In response to John Baldesarri’s list of assignments from “Draw It with Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Assignment,” I have assembled a list of New Media Art prompts.


My own New Media Prompts:

  • Collect all the unidentifiable wires, cords, and cables in your home and bind them as a sculptural piece.
  • Guess and write down a list of potential email passwords for historical figures of note that died pre-Internet.
  • Print and display (or post) a continuous 3-day section of your browser history without any context.
  • Take photos of people taking selfies (or using phone cameras on themselves in anyway).
  • Paint still life portraits of your power strips and connected plugs.
  • Make 1000 recursive copies of a photocopier’s own quality guide, guarantee, or warranty.
  • Record the sound of 10 common ringtones sounding semi-simultaneously. Make that your ringtone.
  • Register 5 new email accounts. Post them publicly on 5 different web domain platforms in hypertext. Wait one year for web crawler bots to pick them up for spam. Print out the email inboxes as a book of correspondence letters.

2016 3D Design & Fabrication Challenge Complete

Our school year has ended and so has this year’s 3D Design & Fab Challenge at The School. I’m always revising the parts and processes of this unit each year, and (hopefully) improving it on each revision. That said, I think that this year’s crew of 5th graders have performed outstanding feats of design. Each group went through 2 – 4 design revisions, and while I would budget even more time for revisions next year, I was really happy with their work. We ended the unit with a pop-up gallery of all the student work and samples of their design documents, interviews, drawings and early prototypes. Some final products were 3D printed, few were hand-made from craft materials, and a few others were hybrids of the two. Parents and teachers came to experience the work and it was great to see the students talking about their process and their products with adults!

Unsurprisingly, we have authentic, student-designed solutions to these authentic problems that teachers posed to us many months ago. Enjoy the photos and captions below of all the student designs:

While I personally would love to share these 3D files on a hosted platform like Thingiverse or YouMagine right away, I should talk to those students first. My fifth graders are certainly under 13-years old, which means that they can’t yet have accounts on these sites based on privacy concerns, but more importantly I never got their permission to share their work for them. 🙂

One of my concerns about this project was that I never truly touched on issues of IP, CC licensing, or the Open Source movement with the students. A new goal for me next year is to bring these issues to them, and to encourage them to find a way to share their designs with the world via these Open Source platforms. For now, we’ll all have to enjoy these photos until a future share date!