20012.

0608 Eyeo Festival, Minneapolis

A movement in 3 parts
1.Shock And Awe
2.Algorithm Critique
3.New Aesthetics And its
Discontents
http://mariuswatz.com
http://twitter.com/mariuswatz

20012.0608 Eyeo Festival, Minneapolis

Note: Parts of this presentation has been edited since it was presented
at Eyeo. In particularly, the New Aesthetic section was largely ad-libbed
live, so I have added some slides to represent my oral rantings on the
subject.
This post-editing carries with it the temptation to make the presentation
look better than it actually was, which I will admit to succumbing to on
certain pages. I hope this breach of academic conduct will be forgiven
given that the intention is to clarify my thoughts on the topics discussed.
Besides, I’m not an academic.
Consider it a lesson in the infinitely rewritable and endlessly undoable
nature of digital writing (which in itself could be considered a New
Aesthetic phenomenom.)
Marius Watz,
New York, June 11, 2012

1. Shock and awe
Approx. 850 slides.
Duration: 4:23
Work: June 1994 - June 2012

Also known as:
The Loved And Lost Mix

Also known as:
“Evig eies kun det tapte” Mix
(That’s Ibsen to you.)

Shock & Awe - 853 slides, 4:23

2012.0213 mwatz.tumblr.com

2012.0213 mwatz.tumblr.com

2012.0213 mwatz.tumblr.com

2012.0213 mwatz.tumblr.com

Soundtrack credits
1.Organ Donors: Throw A Diva (DJ Isaac
Mix)
2.Skrillex: Scary Monsters And Nice
Sprites
3.Blutonium Boy: Make It Loud
Mix by: DJ Kutski
“Defender Against The Evil Forces Of Anything Less
Than 140 Beats Per Minute”

2.Algorithm critique
Also known as:
How to not make friends on the “creative
code” circuit.
(Thankfully, like reality TV stars, “I’m
not here to make friends.”)

2012.0213 mwatz.tumblr.com

Some disclaimers
1.I am not the Algorithm Thought Police.
2.I’m not telling anybody what to do or
how to do it.
3.I’m not even talking about you.
(Really, I’m not. Don’t be so vain.)

Christopher Wool, “And If...”

Our problematic friends
-

Circle packing
Reaction diffusion
Fractals (yes, all of them)
Strange attractors
Voronoi / Delaunay diagrams
Flocking / boids
Game of Life (+ other CA)
Polygon subdivision
Iso-surfaces aka blobs

Our problematic friends
All of these are awesome (and beautiful)
tools. But they are not neutral vessels.
Algorithms provide the means to produce
specific outcomes, typically through
generative logic or data processing. But
in the process they leave their distinct
footprints on the result.

The idea of “standards”
“Jazz standards are musical compositions
which are an important part of the
musical repertoire of jazz musicians, in
that they are widely known, performed,
and recorded by jazz musicians, and
widely known by listeners.”

The idea of “standards”
There is nothing wrong with standards,
in fact they verify the richness of a
cultural field.
However...
A preset is not the end point of creative
thought.

The temptation
Algorithms
and data as found
objects

Upon “discovering” an elegant algorithm
that
yields
compelling
visual
results
Untreated
and
unmodulated,
a standard
(say,
circle
or reactionalgorithm
is packing
just a found
form - a preset
diffusion)
there is a
strong
temptation
structure producing
preset
results.
to exploit it as-is, crank out a series
of images and call it a day.
Problem is, the kid down the block often has the same idea.

Algorithms and data as found
objects
Untreated and unmodulated, a standard
algorithm is just a found form - a preset
structure producing preset results.

Algorithms and data as found
objects
Similarly, many data sources have
striking intrinsic forms:
- Audio waveforms
- FFT time series (aka “landscapes”)
- Networks

Critical use of algorithms
Considering the use of such preset
forms must be a part of any critical
computational creativity.
Most importantly:
- Craftmanship (trite, I know)
- Originality
- Credible claim to authorship

“Unless you can make it *rock*,
stay away. (and if you don’t
think algorithms can rock, we
have nothing to talk about.)”
What I meant: Well, make it rock.
(It seems obvious, doesn’t it?)

“Yes, heavy use of standard
algorithms is bad for you.”
What I meant was: If you use standard
algorithms w/o modification, it’s the
algorithm talking.
If any CS student can walk into a lab and
reproduce your results in an hour, any
notion of claiming credible authorship is
questionable.

“instantly knowable and
infinitely masterable” (Golan

Levin)

Unlike a pencil or a piano, an algorithm
is rarely (if ever) instantly knowable or
infinitely masterable.
More commonly it is a terra incognita,
the features of which must be discovered
through experimentation.

algorithms are syntax & Language
“Speaking” through algorithms, your
thought patterns and modes of expression
are shaped by their syntax.
I dare you: Try speaking German without being influenced by the
structure of the language.

Fallacy: use of pseudo-random
code structures implies a loss of
authorship
Despite the tenacious claims of certain
artists, use of aleatory algorithms does
not result in an authorless work.
Randomness is just another material
property.

On the other hand: Co-discovering
with machines does happen. a lot.
A typical scenario:
1. Articulate generative gesture
2. Explore the obvious and non-obvious
potential of said gesture
3. Modulate parameters to find optimal
parameters, introducing principles of
chance to produce interesting accidents

multiplicity isn’t complexity.
“Multiplicity is the uber-motif of current
digital generative art - especially the
scene around Processing. Look through the
Flickr Processing pool and try to find
an image that isn’t some kind of swarm,
cloud, cluster, bunch, array or aggregate
[..]”
Mitchell Whitelaw, “More is More: Multiplicity and Generative Art”

The experience of making a
series of awesome yet ultimately
problematic images.
In which I walk through the creation of
a series that I ultimately don’t trust.
Also, examples of “co-discovery with
machines”.

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Color effects produced by
manual Photoshop trickery

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Color effects produced by
manual Photoshop trickery

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Color effects produced by
manual Photoshop trickery

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Color effects produced by
manual Photoshop trickery

Color effects produced in
code by OpenGL shaders

Color effects produced in
code by OpenGL shaders

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Hatch shader applied

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Hatch shader applied

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Hatch shader applied

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Mission achieved: Geometry
and color all code-based.

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Mission achieved: Geometry
and color all code-based.

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Mission achieved: Geometry
and color all code-based.

Deformed Modelbuilder mesh
sketches, June 2012

Mission achieved: Geometry
and color all code-based.

Problem:
I don’t trust these images or my own
impulse in creating them. I will likely
never publish them as artworks.
I ask myself:
1.Are these images just sexy pixels?
2.Will I still like them in a year?
3.Do 3D rendered stills have a place in my
practice?
4.Is it just the algorithm talking?
5.Are shaders just Photoshop filters?

Co-discovering with
machines
I now have a Makerbot Replicator 3D
printer on my desk, pushing me that much
further into the future.
Problem: Big prints were showing splits.
Resulting serendipity: Lattice structures
optimized to avoid solid mass.

Probability Lattice (2012)

Parametric objects intended for
lo-fi 3D printing (Makerbot)

Probability Lattice (2012)

Parametric objects intended for
lo-fi 3D printing (Makerbot)

Probability Lattice (2012)

Parametric objects intended for
lo-fi 3D printing (Makerbot)

Probability Lattice (2012)

Parametric objects intended for
lo-fi 3D printing (Makerbot)

3.the New aesthetic and
its discontents
Also known as:
Making friends with eruptions of the
digital into the physical.

Context
Tumblr maintained May 2011- May 2012 by
James Bridle et.al.
At its core, NA is an ethnographic
experiment documenting (often accidental)
byproducts and consequences of digital
technology, specifically effects of
technology on physical / social / economic
/ political / personal space.
Bridle: “[..] I’ve been collecting images and things that seem to approach
a new aesthetic of the future [..] Consider this a mood-board for unknown
products.”
[added post-eyeo]

Context #2
March 2012: NA panel at SXSW, Austin

(feat. Bridle, Aaron Cope, Joanne McNeil, Kevin Slavin & Ben Terrett.)

Bruce Sterling posts a provocative
response on his Wired blog, The Creators
Project publishes a series of responses
to Sterling, other writers and bloggers
chime in with an astonishing range of
interpretations of just what NA might
mean.
Consequence: NA becomes a meme/fad, loved and hated equally. It also becomes
a handy soapbox for public grandstanding, giving rise to a multitude of
highly subjective and often contradictory interpretations. Much hilarity
ensues.
[added post-eyeo]

Context #3
My own view: Bridle etc. are correct in
identifying symptoms of a shift in how we
experience a reality that increasingly
presents itself as a messy layer cake
of physical and virtual space, where .
The claim that these constitute a “New
Aesthetic” is more credible
Btw: Many of these phenomena were predicted by 1990’s cybertheory but
sounded ridiculous at the time due to a discourse tainted by intense
hyperbole. NA requires no such exaggerated fiction or hard sell, as
the objects and processes it deals with are frighteningly real, having
surreptitiously come into existence without most of us even noticing.

[added post-eyeo]

2012.0506 new-aesthetic.tumblr.com
James Bridle

new-aesthetic.tumblr.com
James Bridle

2012.0504 new-aesthetic.tumblr.com
James Bridle

2012.0504 new-aesthetic.tumblr.com
James Bridle

2012.0406 Creators Project response
Edited by Julia Kaganskiy

In response to Bruce Sterling, texts by
Greg Borenstein, Kyle Chayka, James George,
Kyle McDonald, Jonathan Minard, Marius Watz

Immaterials: The Ghost In The Field (2009)
Timo Arnall, Jack Schulze, Einar Sneve - Touch (AHO)

Spatial visualization of RFID radio field

Immaterials: The Ghost In The Field (2009)
Timo Arnall, Jack Schulze, Einar Sneve - Touch (AHO)

Spatial visualization of RFID radio field

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi
Timo Arnall, jørn Knutsen, Einar Sneve - Touch (AHO)

Light painting WiFi field

Aram Bartholl: Map

(2006)

Aram Bartholl: Map

(2006)

Aram Bartholl: Dust

(2011)

Aram Bartholl: 1H (2008)

Aram Bartholl: 1H (2008)

Aram Bartholl: 1H (2008)

Aram Bartholl: Dust

(2011)

Aram Bartholl: Dust

(2011)

“Clouds”, documentary by Jonathan Minard,
James George (shot w/ Kinect+SLR, 2012)

“Clouds”, documentary by Jonathan Minard,
James George (shot w/ Kinect+SLR, 2012)

First, let’s address the hatred
for the term “The New Aesthetic”
For 15 minutes or so NA was a flashpoint
for technoculture debate, with important
cameos from art/tech theorists as well as
art world luminaries (who on the whole
hated the whole thing...)
The love/hatred expressed for the NA meme
complex would suggest that it somehow
challenges the status quo, making people
uncomfortable in the process. How can that
be a bad thing?
[Edited post-eyeo]

the hatred for the term “The New
Aesthetic”
Most of the hatred seems to stem from a
widespread misperception slash kneejerk
reaction that “new” implies “better”,
“more significant” or “a replacement for
all other forms of aesthetics”.
Which makes no sense.

BUT...
There is no doubt that the artifacts
identified as New Aesthetic (by Bridle &
others) exist.
Computer glitches, AR markers, invisible
wireless+radio fields, social media
artifacts and interactions (tweets, pokes,
checkins, adds) impact our lives every day
in a myriad of oh-so-real ways.
Some of which are less than awesome, by the way. Noone knows what the
fallout of drone warfare and state-sponsored cyberwar will be, but it’s
unlikely to be a pretty picture.

[Edited post-eyeo]

More importantly...
Pretty much everybody at this conference
live, breathe and make their living from
creating New Aesthetic artifacts every
day.
And typically we don’t give it even a
moment’s thought.

So why go on about The New
Aesthetic?
Because we are the (often enthusiastic)
creators of New Aesthetic artifacts, and
as such we need to take responsibility for
them.
We might not be designing killer drones or
missile guidance systems, but we are all
part of the technocrat elite.

[added post-eyeo]

New Aesthetic and politics
A more valid complaint: NA is a
continuation of the technocrat hegemony of
middle-class white guys. This is hard to
refute.
There is every reason to apply gender/
race/class critique to NA. Despite the
cute images of glitch and retro game art,
the implications of NA artifacts must be
recognized as deeply political.
Sadly: I’m a technocrat white guy and likely to stay that way.

[added post-eyeo]

NA and the (white) male gaze...
A curious claim related to a feminist
reading of NA: Surveillance and computer
vision allows men to experience feminine
objectification through a technological
version of “the male gaze”.
I rather tend to doubt this, as most men don’t feel violated by CCTV.
There is undoubtedly a need for a feminist critique of NA, but this is too
simplistic.

[Edited post-eyeo]

imperfect children need love too
Clearly the NA meme as it stands is far
from perfect. Bastard child of a thousand
authors, it is full of contradictions and
theoretical cul-de-sacs.
But it does provide a useful flashpoint
for much-needed discussion of the strange
ways in which technology infects our lives
and cultural/social/political space.
Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s also
irresponsible.
[added post-eyeo]

Thank you for your time.
Marius Watz is:
http://mariuswatz.com
http://twitter.com/mariuswatz
http://mwatz.tumblr.com
http://generatorx.no
http://workshop.evolutionzone.com
http://flickr.com/photos/watz
New York, June 2012