Computational Arts

Session 2: How to go deeper, A billion dollar budget and hero selection with Jayson and Julianne

We started by reviewing John Cleese on creativity:

Then went through the homework from the last tutorial:

  1. Describe how to go deeper in your chosen area of practise. Beyond the surface. How can you make new human contact in your area?
  2. Make a paper-based mockup of your project if you had $1 Billion in funding.
  3. A person who is alive now who could be your hero/heroine within your chosen area of practise.

Jayson started by describing some of the discussions he’d had with the other associate lecturer on the MFA course, Helen Pritchard, around computing research in the UK:

I referenced Stephen Wolfram and his work on cellular automata, especially in relation to Andy Adamatzky’s work – but also his determination to publish A New Kind of Science himself – using the proceeds from Mathematica to allow him to do that to his specifications.

I also referenced Einstein’s quote, after discussing Rule 30:

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.

Or another way:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

We discussed the idea of taking a simple thing and then (to paraphrase Ruairi Glynn):

Repeat until beautiful

Which we agreed was unsatisfactory. Finally we discussed the magical Wyvern Bindery as an example of a business using a craft that gets deeper the further you go.

Jayson stated that he thought Deep Learning was interesting, as well as light based computing (on a macro rather than photonic scale). I challenged him to use light based computing to explain Deep Learning techniques visually and interactively. I repeated the challenge was to take a complex idea and make engaging without making it banal – to go down the rabbit hole and bring up a golden egg – i.e. not to stay in the hole!

Julianne stated her area of interest was Holography, and particularly its history. We discussed how commonly Pepper’s Ghost was inaccurately described as a hologram.

She went on to reference two artists:

Even though they weren’t strictly holograms, Julianne spoke about a feeling:

…like a strange intelligence…

When she observed either artists work. I spoke about the potential of computational art is to make feedback loops rather than the observer pattern of other practises. Computational art can be different politically to the capitalist tendency to subsume and devour any new forms of expression and incorporate them into its money making, novelty seeking regime. That resistance is possible via computational work.

I referenced Mark Rothko’s taking back of his commission for the Four Seasons hotel and gifting the some of the work to the Tate Modern in the UK – but specifying the light level for the work’s exhibition. I referenced the light levels to encourage Jayson and Julianne to think about the light levels and level of explanation that they provide for their exhibition at the end of the MFA course – sometimes a dark space can be a feature rather than a bug, but how do they deal with it in the most effective way?

Jayson said that if he had a billion dollar budget for his work, he’d make an orbiting system of lasers – I responded with a why? What function would this make, artistic or otherwise. I referenced using lasers as air pollution meters (or making cheaper alternatives) and also the Greenwich Meridian laser installation.


Julianne spoke about making an improved heart rate monitor, and scaling it’s use to more than 100,000 people. I suggested using a mesh network to make that possible, as more conventional networking would quickly be overcome by that many people in proximity. Julianne also discussed making some large scale suspended Pepper’s Ghost illusions – we reviewed Madonna’s performance from 2006 and noted the smart placement of an artificial crowd of actors to obscure the lower part of the screen and ensure that the real audience didn’t get too close.

I then went on to reference non-contact methods of measuring pulse, especially the work at MIT:

Including sound recovery:

Julianne and Jayson both selected people to be their hero/heroine within your chosen area of practise:


We continued by reviewing Durrell Bishop’s design for an answering machine from the previous session, and concluded by watching Every Frame a Painting‘s documentaries on Chuck Jones and Jackie Chan:

I concluded by issuing the following tasks:

  • Find an egg and present it at lunchtime.
  • What is the human contact with the egg, what’s the use of it?
  • Why would someone care? Why do you care as author?

In the new year:

  • Interview your hero!