Efficient Mondrian
November 6, 2009 1:09 PM   Subscribe

"Efficient Mondrian is a tongue-in-cheek art installation which generates HTML table compositions in the style of Piet Mondrian's Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red from the text of The Principles of Scientific Management by FW Taylor. It does this every two minutes, posting the results to twitter." [via mefi projects]
posted by brundlefly (18 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
twitter is the new madmen
posted by found missing at 1:15 PM on November 6, 2009

So sterile it makes my skin crawl, not unlike those fake Andy Warhols.
posted by debbie_ann at 1:15 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

i found it amusing. i don't think it's meant to be deep.

brundlefly, what did you think of the Fry-Laurie-French[-Atkinson] bit?
posted by lodurr at 1:23 PM on November 6, 2009

Haven't had a change to watch it yet, lodurr. Waiting till I get home tonight.
posted by brundlefly at 1:30 PM on November 6, 2009

Hey that was fun. Thanks!
posted by notyou at 1:47 PM on November 6, 2009

I used to run a Mondrian random picture generator on my Amiga.
posted by rfs at 1:51 PM on November 6, 2009

Holy crap, this is right out of one of David Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas columns.
posted by mkb at 1:55 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I love this, if it didn't take so much power I'd have a wall in my house devoted to projections of things like this, or a live feed of Hawaiin surf, or the African savanna....until the lions escape and eat me.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 2:05 PM on November 6, 2009

Doesn't seem particularly well suited to Twitter, but I love the basic idea.
posted by box at 2:08 PM on November 6, 2009

I'm actually something of a big fan of Mondrian's work and at least 75% of the time, I wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between one of his real paintings and a randomly generated series of lines and colour fields.

This keeps me up at nights.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:32 PM on November 6, 2009

Those aren't paintings (the originals that is). They're programs.
posted by GuyZero at 3:02 PM on November 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

By the way, Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management is fully available online, if you have the time (or the motion).
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:34 PM on November 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Joey Michaels, if you're interested in what makes Mondrian's compositional philosophy from this period in his career tick, it might help to think of one of his paintings (or one of his fake paintings above) in terms of its most basic elements, those being the vertical lines, the horizontal lines, and the rectangles, whether colored, black or white. Then you can really start to tell the difference when you consider how they all coincide to form a unified composition.

Take Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow (1930) as an example. A few things happen there with the basic elements that tend to happen pretty consistently in Mondrian's paintings from around this time. First, the big red square, in tandem with the fact that the line intersections don't fall on either of the two imaginary diagonals that run through the center of the piece, removes any meaningful sense of "center" as an organizing principle. It's also not just a simple case of having a clear center of the composition and displacing it, like you might do in a photograph to generate a sense of dynamic composition; if you wanted to think of the intersection in the lower left as the displaced center, you'd be foiled by the way that the square in the upper left (even though it's white, it's given prominence by the thicker line below it) and the lower right (yellow and uniquely thin) distract attention from the "center" by drawing it to themselves. This lets the composition be articulated entirely by the relationships of the paintings' elements instead of a hierarchy defined in terms of the canvas, which means that each of the elements has to have a unique function with respect to the others. Notice that every shape there has a very unique configuration of the limited parameters that Mondrian works with. Their individuality creates a tension between the whole and its parts that keeps the painting from ever feeling "solved." Finally the fact that the elements don't acknowledge the canvas' borders keeps them from being forced into a hierarchy defined by the borders and not by themselves, though the power of their individual identities dispells the notion that, because they don't acknowledge the borders, that they exist in a space that extends indefinitely beyond the borders, which would homogenize them and deflate the sense of compositional tension.

Now, look at any of the generated paintings. They just don't have that aspect of a perfect machine, because a lot of their parts are indistinguishable from each other and therefore functionless. It's an interesting project to me for that reason, though, because it offers a lot of inroads into thinking about the layered semiotics of these paintings and how people engage with the different layers. Sorry for the ramble, but I love the hell out of Mondrian and I think about his paintings a lot, so I relish the chance to talk about why I enjoy them.

(In the interest of full disclosure, a lot of the ideas above come from a paper by Gregory Schufreider called "Overpowering the Center: Three Compositions by Mondrian," though I used a different example than he does to keep from parroting it too terribly.)
posted by invitapriore at 5:39 PM on November 6, 2009 [7 favorites]

Hunh. There really is a difference between Mondrian's Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red and his Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:28 PM on November 6, 2009

My six year old could code that.
posted by pompomtom at 12:40 AM on November 8, 2009

Haven't had a change to watch it yet, lodurr. Waiting till I get home tonight.

Just curious. Dry conceptual humor & all.
posted by lodurr at 4:35 AM on November 8, 2009

invitapriore: That's all very nice, but what makes those pieces art and not just a design exercise? If it's both, then what elevates it above other exercises/art-works?
posted by lodurr at 4:40 AM on November 8, 2009

David Hofstadter. I'm imagining a guy in spectacles and red swim trunks running out to explain Turing Machines to a drowning child.
posted by DU at 7:17 AM on November 16, 2009

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