Peter and Alice visit Santa


Santa’s Bunker

Peter and Alice were still a long way off, but stopped to take another look through the telescope.

“I can see it!’ said Peter, “It has to be Santa’s home. But it looks strange.”

“Here, let me see” said Alice. “That’s barbed wire. It’s all over the place. He’s practically living in a fortress.”

“I guess it’s true, then” said Peter, “He really has changed. It’s Santa against the whole world. He’s lost all hope in humanity.”

“He hasn’t lost hope in anything –he’s gone ape-crazy! Get the radio out of your backpack and let’s call in the airstrike before one of his elves picks us off with a sniper rifle.”

“Can’t we at least try to talk to him? He’ll remember us from all those letters we sent him. Maybe all this is just for defense –to protect himself.”

“Sure, let’s talk to him. I suggest we start by ringing his doorbell with a cruise missile.”

-excerpted from: Santa’s Nuclear Gamble, (The All-New Christmas Fireside Companion, 2007)

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Spider Writing

Block-waving is all about lines. If there’s no lines, then you just end up with a pile of block-waved mush.

I was looking through an old book on my computer. It was a series of scanned, tiff images. I noticed the fine lines in the black and white engravings and instantly opened it up in ShowFoto and block-waved it. As is often the case in exploratory oil exploration or prospecting for gold, the results were disappointing; all it made was a whole lot of (uninteresting) tangled threads.

But I don’t expect these things to work out the first time, so I tried another black and white engraving. This one wasn’t a full page illustration, so it had some text included in the tiff image, above and below it. I didn’t bother to crop the image out and just went ahead and block-waved the whole page, illustration and text.

The full-page tiff images are quite large and I had to scroll down to look at the illustration. I did it so quickly in fact, that I didn’t pay any attention to the part that was just text. Again, the image was just a mess of smudgy bubbles and chopped up bits. But the caption just below it caught my eye:

Weird. Who would ever have thought of applying graphics filters to text? Not even me. But the block-waved text was more interesting than the image; like some sort of bizzare alien hieroglyphics. The words had turned into pictures.

This is what I find makes digital art, and fractal art as well, so interesting: the algorithms often have surprising, creative results and there’s always something new turning up just when you think you’ve seen it all.


“they’ve got a grand piano and they play it loud behind the Diamond Door…”

Some clothing manufacturers in Asia incorporate Western writing, like English words, into the designs on their clothing because it looks nice and gives a foreign look to it. To a Westerner, however, these “decorative” words and phrases can be easily read. To the foreigner, these “foreign” decorations often appear as meaningless, senseless strings of words, chosen, it would seem, for their graphical appearance and nice looking shapes without any regard for what they actually say.

Which make you wonder. What would those Chinese characters used as design elements on Western clothing actually say when read by someone who speaks Chinese? In the West, as in the East, foreign alphabets are used as stylish, graphical emblems completely removed from their usual function of communication.


Already, this new alphabet is evolving

In that sense Spider Writings are abstract art in its purest sense: they represent or stand for nothing, except themselves. In this particular case, abstract writing. Words that are an exact picture of what they describe –which is themselves, actually.


Looks evil, doesn’t it?

The pictographs of our time
made by a computer, naturally
on the walls of digital caves
in the time of the 21st century savage
the Digicene Period

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Columbus

(from the journal of Columbus)

Whereas, Most Christian, High, Excellent, and Powerful Princes, King and Queen of Spain and of the Islands of the Sea…

…this present year 1492, after your Highnesses had terminated the war with the Moors reigning in Europe…

…having been brought to an end in the great city of Granada…

…I saw the royal banners of your Highnesses planted by force of arms upon the towers of the Alhambra…

…the Moorish king come out at the gate of the city and kiss the hands of your Highnesses…

…So after having expelled the Jews from your dominions… ordered me to proceed… to the said regions of India…

…and for that purpose
granted me great favors
and ennobled me
that thenceforth I might call myself Don
and be
High Admiral of the Sea
perpetual Viceroy and Governor
in all the islands and continents which I might discover
and acquire…
…and that this dignity should be inherited by my eldest son
and thus descend
from degree to degree
forever…

…Hereupon I left the city of Granada, on Saturday, the twelfth day of May, 1492, and proceeded to Palos, a seaport…

(from the journal of Columbus)

All the great stories start in Spain.
All of them sad, and all of them true.

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Meet the New Masters


Large Bank with Tree

Just as some people admire the traditional artform of painting because of the skill and effort that goes into making it, I’ve come to realize that I have the same sort of admiration for machine-made art. Furthermore, just as many people will quickly associate artistic merit with almost any subject done in oil paint –the traditional, hard to do, artform– I am also accommodating of work done by machines when it doesn’t seem to have obvious artistic merit, because of the admirable and noble process that made it. I find that “dead” computerized process particularly fascinating and, in turn, gives advanced standing to its results and associate a special “aura” of value to it. In short, I show favoritism when considering the merits of algorithmic art over other artforms; I like it because it was made by a machine.

Although algorithms can be very complicated and creative (fractals, for instance), it’s natural, I think, for anyone to be amazed when the process of just clicking on effects (filters), produces anything of interest. Not so with the talented, dedicated human artist who uses a paint brush; for them we should have a much higher standard because they are free to think and choose and correct, on the fly, rather than blindly carrying out instructions which, by definition, is what algorithms are. We expect human thought and careful reflection to be the more successful strategy and, correspondingly, purely algorithmic, mechanical artwork has to overcome some resistance to it and thereby be twice as impressive to achieve equal standing.

If it were a matter of marks, then a machine’s C+ ought to be “corrected” to a rank equivalent to an artist’s A. Carried to it’s logical conclusion, artists would then have to work very hard to get their work noticed above that of a machine. Since machines can be very prolific in their output, it’s conceivable that when algorithmic art is given it’s proper, advanced standing, that human, home-cooked art will rarely be given much attention, at all –beyond the museum, that is, and special, nostalgic “tribute” events, specialty websites or obscure webrings.

But don’t fear, you humans! There’ll be plenty of honorable mentions given out so you won’t feel like losers when compared to the machines who soar high in the stratosphere of art, plucking gold from the heavens. Machines might be cold and insensitive, but they’re not stupid. Even a scratch-and-win coupon or promotional contest will say, “Sorry, try again”.

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Fresh-made Rothko

These days, you could find yourself travelling half-way around the world in a few hours. And in the world of art: a couple clicks and you could find yourself in the Louvre. That’s the reality of our tiny, modern world: technology takes our little feet and straps jet engines on them.

Unfortunately, there are no licensing requirements for these turbine-powered, photoshop filters. The accidents will continue. He’s my latest attempt to land safely in the Louvre.

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Stone of Mystery!

Look at it. Stare into it.

Learn it’s mysteries –if you dare!

Stop! Stop!
Your mind is in its icy grip!
Run, you fool!
The Stone of Mystery will DESTROY YOU!!!
Your puny brain can not survive its thunderous torrent of KNOWLEDGE!!!
(sung to the tune of, “Here Comes Santa Claus”)

Could this be the innocent precursor of… The Stone of Mystery?

I started with an old record cover I found at mentomusic.com; India Inked it, double resized it and wheeled it into the ever promising, and soon to be famous, block wave filter from digiKam’s showFoto. Then I cropped out a piece of it that looked great at the time, but which I have since deleted. This was then distorted several ways to produce something that looked like a Mayan temple painted pink and sitting in a snowstorm, which I then deliberately saved as a black and white, two-color file, for some reason.

Upon noticing the fine, intricate lines it had just then acquired, I returned to the block wave filter (the roulette wheel of filters). It was double resized again and finally, shackled to the table, sent back up and reanimated with the filter set on high (77 instead of 25).

Voila. The tricks of Clickery made plain. It looks easy, so easy, until you learn the torturous route I travelled to make it.

But, I am a hero, and thus, it is my lot to wrestle with the heroic. And now, unable to endure the comfortable ease of victory and it’s resulting decadent rewards, I struggle onwards, always onwards, to reveal…

Son of… Stone of Mystery!

Smaller.
Shallower.
Cheaper to produce.
But, featuring previously unreleased scenes, that didn’t make the final cut, the first time, because the movie going public were not ready for them.
Has a much better soundtrack, too.


-with thanks to Universal Pictures Inc., 1957

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Click-ism: a Manifesto

I’ve been reading a book about various “-isms” in the art world. Eagerly wanting to follow in the footsteps of those great, outspoken artists of the past and to contribute something new and personal to the exciting pursuit of labels and the ever teetering tower of human achievements, I propose… Clickism.

First rule is: Mouse clicks only.

Second rule is: Start with any kind of image you like, but when you get finished the result should bear no resemblance to the original and in fact, can only be connected to it, with some doubt and lingering uncertainty, by careful DNA testing.

Third rule is: One level of undo, only. Clickism is forward thinking and reflects the relentless progress of technology which refuses to admit mistakes but rather sees them as a challenge and attempts to correct them with more clicking.

Fourth rule is: Stay lazy. Sure you can open your image up in a graphics program and start masking and layering and all that sort of artist stuff, but “painting” is not clicking. Better yet, use software that won’t allow you to use advanced graphical techniques, with the sole, and very important exception of….

Fifth rule is: Photoshop Filters. Freakier the better. It doesn’t matter if they don’t add anything of value to the image –yet, it just makes for more excitement, and the challenge I mentioned in the Third rule, of trying to make something awesome out of something apparently hopeless and growing increasingly dark and shapeless.


the horror, the horror …of Clickism

Sixth rule is: If you can remember where you came from, then you haven’t gone far enough. Apply several crazy filter effects just to get warmed up, and then let ‘er rip! Pretend you’re being stalked or followed by a crazy man or some insane wild animal infected with rabies or a strange new disease introduced by aliens crash landing their spaceship in a remote and forested region and you’ve got to lose them by choosing a series of completely unpredictable and incoherent choices. If the crazy man or the animal catches up, let them help out. Always have a clear idea of where you’re going and don’t go there.

Seventh rule is: More filters. That which does not crash your program will make you stronger. Don’t ask “why?”, instead ask, “what if?”. Look for ones that are “helpful” to the team not necessarily “useful” on their own. Distortions or anything that makes simple but random shapes are always useful, eventually. You never know what will be the final filter that turns something progressively awful into the Mona Lisa of Clickism.

Eighth rule is: The rules are never finished. Ask yourself, “What could I do that I haven’t done?” “What am I not thinking of?”. When you think you’ve reached the end and can’t make anything that even looks half good, then you’re just tired. Get some rest or do something else. Pretty soon you’ll be back and ready to set sail like Sindbad on a new voyage filled with more of the surprises and mysteries of Clickism.

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