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May 17, 2023 1:52 AM   Subscribe

Love these.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:29 AM on May 17

This needs to be a book I discover at the library complete with that library book smell.

Nice find!
posted by JoeXIII007 at 5:09 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]

For one semester in collage I took a Computer Art class (billed as "use computer to make art!") and it turned out to be learning programming to produce images like this. The next semester that instructor was gone and the Computer Art class was now "how to use photoshop". Quite a shift in tone and topic!
posted by jazon at 6:20 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Love this stuff so very much! Thank you.
posted by allium cepa at 6:45 AM on May 17

My dad was an engineer for GM in the 70's and 80's, and one of his jobs was installing and programming the giant car-building robot arms. One of the things he used to like to do was program them to draw pictures.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:46 AM on May 17 [6 favorites]

for me there's always been something magical about crafting a piece of software that produces a visual output. There's a chance for serendipity (what you wrote didn't do what you intended, but instead it did something more interesting). I also like how having a computer in the loop lets you play with repetition & randomization in a way that is much more laborious if you were trying to do the same activity manually.

otoh the artist who created this installation clearly had some issues to work through:
The robots were assigned “male” or “female” and would compete amongst their own gender, but could collaborate in male/female pairs. They could communicate using flashing lights and sounds - the male robots had onboard lights while the females had mirrors, and the males would seek out females out to have their light reflected back at themselves.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 6:49 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]

the males would seek out females out to have their light reflected back at themselves


Woolf reference? Unconscious? I love it either way.
posted by clew at 6:51 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

This is a very good collection of early computer art. It showed a few things I wasn't aware of before.

This comes a little later and is in German but the 1988 book Computer und Kunst is worth knowing about. Microcomputer oriented and an interesting window into what was going on in Berlin (DDR) in its era.
posted by Nelson at 6:53 AM on May 17

If you groove on plotter art.... that's pretty much all I do these days.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:35 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]

My first exposure to computer art was mainframe line-printer art, which seems to have some folklore around it. Programs were handed from person to person and usually in secret, since the administrators of these large expensive systems would get angry at the waste of processor time and paper. The creators of these pieces are long forgotten...maybe. But it was still magical to see one of these roll off a printer.

Examples: Snoopy, JFK. I also recall a Playboy centerfold artwork which I won't search for right now.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:39 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]

Oh yes, line printer art. I had a lot of fun with that in the... OMG, is it really *that* long ago?

(Yells at kids to get off his lawn)
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 9:20 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

I remember in the 80's, a friend of mine's dad had a computer, and he would have it build fractals for hours/days sometimes. Pretty cool stuff back then...
posted by Chuffy at 9:26 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

JoeZydeco, that was what I was expecting. It may say something about the current era that your Snoopy link is to a slightly expensive framed copy.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 9:56 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

Woah, nostalgia hit. My dad had a copy of that Snoopy print hung up in his office. It clearly inspired lots of people in 1978.

Metafilter's own Scruss even has a "Curse You Red Baron" calendar generator, if you want a modern update
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:48 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Ah, memories of making ASCII art on dumb printer terminals around 1980.
posted by doctornemo at 11:27 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]

This needs to be a book I discover at the library complete with that library book smell.

Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952-1982 is the catalogue of an exhibition currently on view in Los Angeles.
posted by paper scissors sock at 11:49 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]

Once I got my Atari 400 I learned how to do a density analysis of the font and programmed a converter that would turn all the ASCII art Playboy centrefolds back into greyscale graphics. Pretty dire.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:33 PM on May 17

By the way, I'd anyone could somehow find ASCII artist Joan G Stark's contact info, I'd be much obliged. I'd like to interview her about her work.
posted by AlSweigart at 12:41 PM on May 17

This is great. And I loved seeing this bit from Georg Nees, about whom I know very little despite his work "Schotter", featured in the article, being maybe one of the most famous bits of plotter art ever. And it references the other piece shown in the article, "Locken", which I had not seen before and is honestly more after my own heart:
He sometimes allowed coding errors to dictate outcomes, as in Kreisbogengewirre (Arc confusion), also known as Locken, of which he said, “The picture in it present form is due to a fairly serious programming error … It was designed to be less complex and it had to be ended manually because of the error.”
That has been one of my great joys in working on generative vector art stuff to create plotter drawings: that gap between intention and outcome, between my expectation and what's happening, for one reason or another. Sometimes that's me having a wrong assumption going in. Sometimes that's an implementation error in an otherwise sound concept. Sometimes it's even a mechanical issue during drawing rather than creating the blueprint: my pen is set to the wrong height and is drawing more or fewer lines than expected, or a hardware hiccup stops a plot partway through, or a pen is dying or failing mid-drawing, or I'm drawing with pencil and the lead breaks, or...

And there was a point very early in teaching myself to create vector drawings in python and pen drawings from those on my plotter where I found these errors frustrating or dispiriting, because I was trying to learn the basics and I wanted things to go correctly so that I could feel confident I had a grasp on the tools. But I fairly quickly got comfortable enough with the basics to realize that all these new vectors (heh) of error or surprise could be an intentional part of the toolset, and started sometimes allowing for them, or encouraging them, or overtly incorporating them directly, and that made my art more interesting to me and I think more interesting to look at. Interrupting a plot halfway through can create a more complicated result than letting it finish, especially if the drawing you're interrupting has a lot of the ordered, regular, symmetrical qualities it's easy for a machine-generated drawing to have.

I've been making myself work on cleaning up my plotter drawing code from the last couple years, and it's one of those things, like spring cleaning, where I will be happy to have done it but don't particularly enjoy doing it. I code because it lets art happen, not because I specifically enjoy the coding per se, and the work I'm doing right now is a kind of abstract maintenance job that really doesn't involve any of the art-making aspect at all.

And dipping into the link and this thread now and then the last couple days has been helpfully buoying, as a reminder of how much I like the kind of thing that code helps me get up to and why its worth making it easier for me to get back to when a creative idea strikes.
posted by cortex at 7:34 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

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