Art

Early Glitch & Neo-Suprematism

My earliest real collection of work had some pretty heavy thinking devoted to what I was calling “Neo-Suprematism” – which is a super pretentious concept, but I figured I could get away with it since I had such a ridiculous artist name. This was the theory I submitted in the gallery application to the Tippecanoe Arts Federation – take it with a grain of pop rocks.

“sgt_slaughtermelon” is an ironic avatar for a body of work that exists in an age when taking oneself seriously is the first sign of retrograde motion: the stagnancy of traditionalism. **** ********’s works of geometric abstraction combined with pixel sorted “glitch art” aesthetics is at once both an aspiration towards the highest of geometric abstraction in the spirit of the Russian avant-garde of Malevich and a willing admission of ignorance and irony. This is a collection of shapes and relationships meant to express the most basic and idealistic abstractions of Suprematism, only operating within a milieu of the mid-stage “dissolution” conceptualization of the limitations of both objective and non-objective expression, bearing in mind at once the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche (re: his critique of metaphysics in general) and the anonymous author of ‘The Cloud of Unknowing.” This is art meant to at once inspire the adoration of the Pythagorean mysticism of geometry and the declaration of all metaphysics as “human, all too human.” A body of work that appreciates the infinite worlds of chaos in place of Malevich’s empty infinity but maintains his glorification of the square of all finite human grasping of the infinite embodied in us. 

The work is self-described as Neo-Suprematism following some of the ideas of Malevich blended and recontextualized with the thought of Rosa Menkman, Michael Bettencourt, et al. The digital collages are sourced from original watercolors, crayon drawings, stains on countertops, NASA imagery – wherever interesting fodder for the algorithms can be found. The experiments are a combination of two modes of exploration: discovery and expression. The initial discovery is the source material warped through software using various methods and constants – the first time an image is sorted it is akin to looking at a new unmapped landscape. These novel arrangements are then pressed into the service of geometric abstraction; the geometry represents the objective and rational, mathematical, and the breaking and dissolution of that geometry is a metaphor for the limits of human epistemic endeavor. Malevich’s note that “planes reveal themselves” is always contradicted by the equally real limit of our ability to intuit them objectively. The role of thresholds between the rational and non-rational, pixel-selection, and chaos and order all play with the theme of the glory and failure of our attempt to understand the numinous. The titles of the pieces reflect fragmentary thoughts and references in the same way the works themselves suggest familiar abstract shapes and symbols but never quite cross over into an arrogant assertion.

What it means, in sum, is that I liked the idea of using glitches as a way to get away from the certainty that geometric compositions tacitly suggest. It’s a very postmodern sentiment to doubt what modernists were up to, and I thought glitch was a neat way to dip into the doubt that showed up in Malevich’s otherwise very weirdly confident geometric expressionism. I did a lot of the earliest work using butter.pics before I had a satisfying way of doing sorts in Processing on my own computer. One of the early ideas was that really, doing a “Nearest Neighbor” re-size in Photoshop preserved the pixels, so that I could do these huge gradients and pseudo-pixel art designs at massive resolutions. I still sometimes use that technique to have sharp edges, since resizing with bicubic methods creates ugly artifacts. You’ll notice that because of this theory there are *very* few non-broken pieces of geometry in these early compositions. There are lots of samples of gemstones and minerals worked into the designs – I’ve always considered it strange that people should find crystals beautiful. The most cynical part of me imagines that beauty is a biological thing, but why should there be any biological reason we find gemstones and crystal formations pretty? It speaks to the ethereal sense we have, I think.

The very first piece from this series was when I was learning how to make glitches for a seminar, and I stumbled across a weird sort of glitch in butter.pics method. The files that it generates are called unknown.png – which I also considered some kind of a sign or omen about “the unknown” and not just an error.

Current NFTs in the wild: only the original unknown.png – unlocked for the owner of the Proto-Slaughtermelon card.

Return to Code and Glitch

Eventually I managed to get Processing up and running again and explored Kim Asendorf’s ASDF program that you could use with a cp5 control panel in a version posted on github. I found that made it much more understandable, and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to reverse-engineer how they built the controls. For the next season, I spent a lot of time finding different freely available programs on github or openprocessing and figured out how they worked, how to add controls to them, and I built a few little sketches that were nothing more than free programs that now had controls, sliders, ways of using them without dipping into the code over and over to input/output and change the settings. I find that you can really make art much more easily this way – since you doesn’t try your patience experimenting with different settings. This includes some nPx sorters, some that sort horizontally or radially, some more advanced experimental sketches and just a few original programs (I’m still kind of a hack at programming). I genuinely feel this does *something* to set my work apart from other glitch artists. I’m not a brilliant coder like some of the real pioneers out there creating new actual glitches or generative systems or apps, but my work also looks a little different from what’s coming out of some of the (admittedly impressive) apps. Maybe that sounds elitist or pretentious, and it probably is a little bit, but it makes me feel better about my own glitch art to know that I at least tried to make it unique. I don’t use those effects all the time, but eventually I repackaged one of the better and more unique processing sketches and called it “Mother.”

This was the radial and directional sorter by Xavier Burrow. It was eventually packed as an unlockable into the Your Electronic Arms trading card. The “Mother” image is from another art project called Mystica.

One of the advantages to doing the art this way where I have more control over the code is resolution. Uploading art to most browser-based or app-based stuff has size limits. The GUI that came with the ASDF code has virtually no size limit – I still couldn’t figure out how they managed that, but I built in graphics buffers on some other programs and was able to apply effects whose only limit ended up being how many times the loop could run before the program thought it had crashed. I could make artwork at greater resolutions than 2160×2160, and the detail that comes through in the pixels is a treat to the trained eye – and produces better prints (I think).

Current NFT in the wild: none.

Fate / Mother / Akira Theme

During this stage one of the earliest transcendent themes came into formation. It’s centered around Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch, Akira, and Laurie Anderson’s “O, Superman” and “Big Science.” Not to spoil any of Bandersnatch – but one of the strangest secret endings/paths concerns the protagonist’s mother, and has “O, Superman” playing in the background. It’s very much about doom, death, and fate – not just of the individual but a larger apocalyptic outlook. In Bandersnatch that theme is tied together a little bit with an overall motif of fate, and an Akira poster on the wall in one of the pivotal scenes where the reality the show exists in is explained. The poster from AKIRA is the opening image of Neo-Tokyo exploding in a psychic meltdown. In “O, Superman” there’s this strange connection if you listen carefully where “mom” is tied to the hand of fate, the hand of power – “the hand that takes.” That hand is what exists once love is gone, once justice is gone, once force is gone – all that remains is the mystical hand – the electronic/electrochemical arms that feels like mom. You can see how this mirrors a society: love is the ideal way we treat eachother, but when that is gone we have recourse to justice, and when there seems to be no justice there is violence, and what happens when violence reaches its conclusion? What kind of a feeling is it to have this sense of doom and love it? To feel that fate is the invisible hand, that you want your mother’s arms to hold you even though it means death – even though it means embracing the psychic end of the world or at least your own little world. This has been a powerful theme – and I still come back to it sometimes and construct new pieces about the transcendent idea of mom, my own mother, doom, and just how cool AKIRA is. The music video for “O, Superman” is startlingly good for how old it is – and I recommend listening to that whole song all the way through several times and seeing what it brings up when you think about the end, and about your mother, and about the hand that takes.

Current NFT in the wild: none.

Cyberpunk

The cyberpunk theme came to fruition while I was working on Colin Budd’s github program to try to add different sorting methods and generative techniques and coding it all with a GUI and a graphics buffer. This is a theme I return to over and over, and the second major avatar for this project that came from Alexis Ziritt is an original cyberpunk artist character. There’s selections from the whole cyberpunk corpus, which I’ve always been a fan of – but which I really tried to get a handle on when creating a seminar video. The themes are dystopian, dealing with the concept that society may peak long before technology does. What I found really exciting, though, especially in the central figure of Gibson was that he dealt with so many other themes that people totally forgot about. He deals with AI and the singularity, with art and what art means in a world with computers, what religion has to do with technology, what it means to be a mind in a body and whether those are separable things that we can accomplish through tech. Lots of these themes come up again in Black Mirror, too – so this blends the cyberpunk themes in with the darker fate and reality themes. sgt_slaughtermelon became, for me, for a while, some kind of avatar of an artist who was creating the work: images that called to mind the Loa – godlike AI programs fragmented off of the Wintermute and Neuromancer primary programs. This dipped back into music, too, and synthwave and cyberpunk music has been undergoing its own renaissance with Bladerunner 2049, Ghost in the Shell, the outrageous development cycle of Cyberpunk 2077 that seems to be forever delayed at this point, but which has certainly generated a lot of incredible art.

Alexis Ziritt’s sgt_slaughtermelon illustration.

Technique-wise, the Colin Budd program started allowing me to create totally different images that no one else was making at the time (maybe they were – but not in the exact way that I was). I had also always been fixated on the cover of Burning Chrome. Adrian Cain is probably my favorite artist who does work like this now, but it was the repeated patterns on this cover image have never lost my attention. I wanted to try to reverse-engineer that, and instead I came up with something to make circuit looking textures and patterns that were at once both a real human touch and surprised me with the results. Several different major series resulted from experimenting with Budd code and mixing and matching it with other programs, listening to the wave of new cyberpunk music.

Current NFT in the wild: There’s a handful of designs already floating around the NFT space that are from this general flavor, but not specifically in the loa series, some dip into the “wrecking” technique I cover in the next section and then go backwards into older glitch techniques. There is no strictly linear separation of techniques, and I like it that way.

jammers_deck grabbed by cryptostacey

a_satellite_with_a_memory – owned by bkbollinger

Wintermute, Neuromancer, the Loa

The style of manipulation that creates circuit-looking textures I was calling “wrecking” – just since it wasn’t really sorting or moving in any deliberate ways but just wrecking an image until it looked like something else. That style got combined with a new sketch I put together that took some simple image scrambling scripts and made it much faster, with more options and capable of rendering at gigantic resolutions – I didn’t get too gutsy with that title, but that program spits out images that look a little bit like Rob Ness compositions. The first pieces I made with a proper “wrecked” texture were “the_spirit_of_neuromancer” and the series “scenes_from_a_fictional_chinatown_1-5.” The wrecked circuits were used extensively in various combinations with other Processing sketches to create varios “loa” – abstract representations of the AI voodoo gods of Gibson’s trilogy. My friend Dead Agent used a few of those designs for his album “SGT_SLTR_MLN” which featured my art. I asked Dead Agent to make some music for an art installation that would end up falling by the wayside amidst a move and pandemic – but the EP he put out from our collaboration was some really fun industrial/electro/coldwave type stuff – main image on his site is kid_afrika.

Current pieces in the wild: None.

Databending & Audacity Aliens of Arecibo

When I was teaching about glitch art, for the sake of organization we talked about 4 different categories. Data moshing or manipulation – just screwing with the data directly. That’s more or less where most of the effects I use fit in: they are just different methods of screwing with the data – sometimes in unintended ways, but just manipulating the data. Data bending is a form of misalignment – it means encoding or decoding or even processing with the wrong kind of software or algorithm. There’s Circuit Bending or hardware failure – which is hard to capture in the wild, but you can now buy or engineer sort of custom analog gear that can simulate or create this kind of effect. In a way this is what a lot of CRT artists are doing with light painting and forcing analog artifacts. There’s also plain old Misregistration which is just corrupted files. That can be interesting, but it’s obviously unpredictable.

After I had gotten a handle on generating imagery with Processing and raw materials and it started to get a little predictable what would result, I wanted to be surprised again. I tried my hand for a while at something I used to teach that fit under the umbrella of Data Bending – using Audacity and audio algorithms on images in their raw data form. The results were unstable, often boring, and underwhelming – but when I managed to churn out a few interesting things I had this thought: it’s like working with aliens. It’s like working with something alien, at any rate – because it doesn’t do what a person would do if you were working with them.

It’s not exactly like AI though, because it really has no idea what it’s doing when it misapplies the audio filters. Interesting side-note, because of the Chinese Room thought experiment on AI, this is the entire reason I don’t really consider GAN art to be AI art. The thought experiment in a nutshell – if a person who did not speak Mandarin were confined to a room, and fed tiles of Mandarin characters through a mail slot and could only get food through the slot if they rearranged the tiles correctly, they could be making good sentences in Mandarin but never know it – because they were just trying to get food. No matter how complicated the Mandarin tile arrangements became, that person can’t read it – they just rearrange symbols until they are told they are successful. So GAN “art” can be pretty or cool, but it’s not really art anymore than the person in the Chinese Room could write literature. This ties back again to my earlier discussion of Gibson – in Mona Lisa Overdrive and Count Zero (spoilers) he deals with the phenomenon of an AI that is an actual artist. Meaning, it’s not just returning information, but understands and is somehow manufacturing semantically significant artwork. I think a lot of people don’t grasp that this is a major leap – this is the revolutionary thing about that AI, that it somehow escaped the Chinese Room dilemma.

So there is a series of which only a few have been posted here and there exploring alien intelligences. The best myth about alien intelligence I’ve come across is the crop circles message encoded in binary that reads:

Beware the bearers of FALSE gifts and their BROKEN PROMISES.

Much PAIN but still time.

BELIEVE. There is GOOD out there.

We oppose DECEPTION.

Conduit CLOSING,

The closest thing I’ve found that sounds like this kind of chaotic AI that somehow stumbles into something aesthetically good also happens to be this black midi track called Arecibo. You can hardly watch and listen to that and not feel that an alien intelligence or an artificial intelligence can turn around at some point some kind of art that isn’t just surprising, but transcendent.

Current pieces in the wild: none.

Current NFT in the wild: none.

Encode Soul / Save Soul For Web (Legacy)

In the process of working on the Colin Budd program and a few others – there was one effect that eluded me. I have no idea what other artists are using to accomplish it, other artists like zouassi – but it’s like a pixel sort only it draws straight lines that fade into black at certain thresholds. At least, that’s what I think it’s doing. Since that’s what I thought it was doing – I managed after weeks to eventually get a version of that effect working. It’s terribly inefficient, takes a ton of processing power and prone to breaking and not working at all – but it works. The version I wrote only really works on smaller selections of pixels, and so when I had to pick and choose the parts of an image that I thought really summed up the identity of that image, it reminded me of constructs. Constructs are another William Gibson idea that moved seamlessly into Black Mirror. It is the attempt to read a person into code and store that person as a program. Not exactly that person, but a simulacrum. In Gibson it’s kind of a horror that turns into a dream, and in Black Mirror it’s kind of a dream that turns into a horror. If you don’t know what I mean by that, well, it’s a question of what it would be like to be a program that has none of the natural growth or personality or experience being that person. The Dixie Flatline construct asks Case to destroy him in Neuromancer, but by the end of The Sprawl (spoilers) it’s kind of the climax that Count Zero can become code forever. In Black Mirror, they go back and forth: in San Juniper it’s a good thing – to live forever as code exploring virtual worlds, but in White Christmas or basically any other Black Mirror episode with constructs it’s a terrifying endless torture of an existence that has none of the natural shut-offs that nature provides with death. There is a main series of encode_soul_mk_i-v and a later series called save_soul_for_web(legacy) – which is a joke about saving souls and saving for web (the legacy function in the Adobe suite). There may be more from this series in the future, but for now I felt like I really explored the effect in these two series.

Current pieces in the wild:

save_soul_for_web_legacy_01 was sold on Rarible to anon

Legendary Synthetic Artist: Lazlo Lissitsky

One of the major problems with my so-called “neo-suprematism” theory and the glitch textures was that really really complicated compositions get lost in the texture or get lost in the broken geometry. You can only do so much with the basics, and once you get beyond it they turn into mush when there’s not enough contrast or clear lines and shapes – but you can’t go back, because you’ve declared clarity arrogance. Not only that, but I had always been impressed by Ellen Lupton’s statement that one of the characteristics of modern design is that it uses computers to produce unexpected results. How could I solve the problem of complex compositions and create surprising designs? In mid-2019 I discovered a little program by Mykola Leonovych that was meant to simulate one of my earlier idols, Malevich. I had also been fascinated by the Bauhaus movement and later Swiss Modern design – but these did not fit neatly into the sgt_slaughtermelon canon of ideas and techniques. So instead of trying to bend slaughtermelon pieces to fit this desire, I created a synthetic artist – a program I called Lazlo Lissitsky. A combination of Lazlo Maholy-Nagy and El Lissitzsky. I studied their designs and their contemporaries and added a GUI to Leonovych’s program and started stacking case loop after case loop mixed with RNG mixed with new palette matrices and in general just really pushed the limit of what I’m capable of in terms of computer science. The result has been an evolving program that generates the kind of designs that El and Laszlo made, sometimes with their own palettes, and sometimes patterns a bit more like Swiss Modern designers – but all of it in a modernist milieu that I had declared too arrogant for sgt_slaughtermelon to be a part of (so now he wasn’t). This project gets revised and expanded and refined every few months – and the archives of his designs are one of the footholds that first got me into crypto art.

The first few pieces of Lazlo Lissitsky to make their way onto the market were animated GIFs of month-long archives. I considered it too expensive and risky to mint modernist generative art and hope people agreed with me on its value. Eventually, lazy-minting was created and the risk seemed worth the potential, and the present form of static pieces 1500×1500 with long titles was born.

As the project went on, the naming conventions became more elaborate. I had a game I used to play with a good friend that involved picking books in bookstores at random and guessing the copyright year of the book based on the cover design. It was a game about intuiting design trends based on decades, cultural shifts in palettes and typography. The names were also kind of an in-joke about how pedestrian swiss modern design became, how much these modernist expressionist geometric compositions had been kind of domesticated in the service of trivialities like handbooks on pancake varieties, microhistories – but still sometimes being used for little cherished poetry paperbacks and such. The lore has always been that this fictional Lazlo Lissitsky character made all the designs that you see for various book covers, pamphlets, album covers, etc – and these are the print examples of a relatively long career circa 1918-1999. The absurd names and long titles and even irrelevant details like publishers, editions etc. are all either oblique references to pop culture or literature or what-have-you or just funny things I thought sounded just barely real. It’s also kind of a lament over that entire genre of art turning into decor for other subjects, I hope that sadness comes through just a little.

In the final stages of the project, the complexity was getting out of hand and I couldn’t troubleshoot bugs very easily. A friend I knew from middleschool sort of ran into me and offered to help me refactor and expand the program in several ways. At this point – it’s a monstrosity of a program that does all kinds of things that between us we understand only most of the time. The complexity also means that curating is very time-intensive, there are not rails put on Lazlo Lissitsky to make sure it produces lovely things according to concepts we deliver to it, it’s a bit of human orchestrated generative chaos that has just enough structure and emergent patterns built into it to surprise the viewer with the occasional moment of zen.

Sorted Wrecks

Once I had really developed the “wrecking” method, it freed me from one categorical rule I had had before. Prior to mastering wrecking, I didn’t like the idea of using any images that had recognizable figures or buildings or really anything that would take away from pure abstraction. I like abstract expressionism, not impressionism or making slightly abstract renderings of things. This is the influence of Malevich in me. Once I could essentially turn any image into totally abstract wrecked textures, I ran with some experiments using paintings by Raphael, Winterhalter, Brueghel, and others. I kept their colors but otherwise tried to turn their work into totally unrecognizable patterns of glitch. Usually I still ran an ASDF sort on them once they were done to simulate some depth or just because I liked how it looked. Semantically, this also added a layer – because it’s very much a statement on how the influence of the past gets destroyed and melted down and if we see it at all, we are only really seeing the flavors of the past. Does a normal public school education still teach us to love Raphael? Should it? If it doesn’t, does it make his work any less seminal? So there were a few series in the “fragments” theme, some with the proper name “fragments_of_a_” and some that just fit the style.

Another major series and theme that followed on this was reviving the aphophatic (i.e. the idea of the unknown, the negative approach to purer knowledge) motif and isolation therapy. I made a few short series of works that explored darkness and these fragments to explore the idea of the unknown and what it meant to have flashes of inspiration that nevertheless only point in the direction of a more true darkness. There are folders and archives of work named after Ps. Dionysius, or the infinity and isolation therapy jokes (which I loved) from I Heart Huckabees – in general, with a few exceptions, the approach to wrecked textures mixed with geometry branched into two major series dealing with the unknown and with history, and I suppose also space and cosmic themes.

SalmonMatte Studios and Me

The previous explorations in “wrecking” opened up new avenues for collaboration, too. A lot of work was put together from working with people in a collective called The Convergence. What had changed on a fundamental level was my willingness to take something that was a finished product that someone else had made, and use techniques that were transformative enough that I felt it was a new thing I was making and not just a spin off of their work. This is when one of my collaborations, the work with Salmon Matte Studios was done. I took an acrylic pour image they sent me called “Iris” and wrecked it, masked it in geometry, sorted and added a border – and renamed it “technological_iris_1-4” because now it looked more like circuitry than acrylics. In a lot of ways this was the boom and success of my instagram account. It had grown slowly before then, but after “technological_iris” it started seeing reaches in the thousands. I believe a part of what made the series such a success was that I finally had enough confidence in an original technique that I dispensed with pixel sorting for that series (besides the border). It was something that no one else was doing, and SalmonMatte’s color choices and textures lent themselves so well to the re-purposing process that our collaborations have become a staple of my output. The second series I made with SalmonMatte ended up being the major project with The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, and since then I’ve sold a few here and there as NFTs. I don’t intend to stop making those as long as the results are delightful and my collaborator enjoys making them too.

There’s also a few smaller series of this same style that I did with other sources – usually of my own crafting. I like them for different reasons, but I will maintain forever (probably) that SalmonMatte has that magic something when it comes to their color choices.

Maps and Fantasies

SalmonMatte’s talent at picking just the right palette was part of an inspiration to experiment a lot more with gradient mapping. I had used it in the past for photo restoration, but being able to get a gradient map just right was the key to inventing your own compelling pieces. In my early work I really liked the idea of trying to find the colors in the wild – gemstones, landscapes, paint – but now I was finally committing to dispensing with authentic colors and embracing expressionistic color. Adobe has a handful of gradient maps built in, and I used those a couple times, but overall I wanted to have my own palettes and moods that weren’t manufactured by someone else. This became one of the things that unifies series around a theme, even thought the content within the series might change a lot. Using particular maps that are named after series, such as the “legba” map or the “sunlight_water” map – I started saving huge collections of gradient maps that would be the earmark of a particular series that is otherwise just a collage of my own glitch work and found textures. In a sense, I think just making a really good gradient map is an artform in itself. I think artists like maalavidaa and dorianlegret have mastered this technique. This also was one of the last leaps to take towards collages I felt good about – if I could remap the colors then I didn’t feel strange about using pictures I’d taken of rocks or papers or clouds or puddles or whatever I’d found and making something that felt like art rather than just photography. There’s a growing number of “official” maps too – like the later Lisa Frank Prime gradient map, or the Jareddd Scott maps, or any one of my favorite mapped series like “the_current_cultural_fantasy_is_pretty_dark” or “chelsea.” Once in a while I’ll add a new piece to these series if I find something that works really well with some of those maps on it.

One of my favorite examples is this series I called “the_current_cultural_fantasy_is_pretty_dark” which was made when Joker came out. I wrote a short blurb about the movie – but I wanted to find a palette that wasn’t taken from the movie but *felt* how the movie felt. Some kind of strange combination of dark and off-kilter with exhilarating. So I found a map I liked for a JOKER image that I posted crops of with each piece, and developed a bunch of collages that used the map to unify them.

Datamoshing & First Steps

Another of the glitch seminar topics was datamoshing. It means manipulating the data – but I always felt that was misleading because a lot of “datamoshing” techniques are really just controlled corruption and misregistration rather than manipulating directly. You delete keyframes in the AVI data to ruin video carefully, and I finally broke down and got the plugin for After Effects that makes it relatively simple (although even then it has some significant bugs). You’re dealing with corrupted files that have been re-encoded, essentially, and there’s even phone apps that do this now – so it’s feeling more domesticated all the time. I have a few experiments – notably the Tokyo Rose video I started working on, but I have some experiments using motion and video to create artifacts and moshed textures. I called my first experiments with that “every_first_step_you_take_will_eventually_make_you_cringe_” because I’d been embarrassed by earlier things I’d done in the past, and I was trying something new again. I still love this series, but I only occasionally return to experimenting with mosh textures because it’s not exactly an effect that I came up with – so while it looks great I think (and my most critically well-appraised piece from my first exhibit) I like to experiment with my own textures more often.

img_brush & Vaguely Remembered Vacations

There was an effect I had been chasing for a long time that was native to MS Paint and Solitaire or glitched Windows UI – this kind of drag repeat pattern. I’d seen 8glitchorbit use it to great effect (I’m not sure if they’re using an app or what) – but it’s as simple as an image that doesn’t get refreshed as it’s dragged around. That sounds super easy until your goal is to code it – and if you’re an utter amateur like myself, it took a while and several false starts to get something working. I spent a lot of hours tinkering with Processing trying to get something that did what I wanted.

MS Paint dragging

When I finally got something that worked, I’m pretty sure I shared the demo screen capture of working-title “img_brush” with half my friends (most of whom were confused why I was so excited). The earliest experiments with this effect were split between trying glitch techniques with the result, and something closer to Fragments series. This collection of experiments is called “vaguely_remembered_vacations” – because I tried the effect with so many scenes and objects that would have previously been outside the scope of what I considered acceptable source material. Some fo those sources were seasides, or pottery, or landscapes or whatever that would have just been too recognizable to fit into an expressionistic mindset. The final results became a series of 4, three of which I considered really good and worthwhile. Looking at them still makes me feel like I’m trying to conjure places I visited as a kid but don’t really recall with any clarity – the colors and patterns are hard to wrestle into an actual place, but feel like things I’ve seen before. This series was hosted on makersplace.

Acidwave, Rift Patterns Lisa Frank Prime

After my collaboration with SalmonMatte Studios had been licensed by The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, I had one thing that I think is essential to new artists: confidence. This was success – having some art on an album cover of a fairly major band. This was an affirmation that I had made something really well. Once I had the confidence that my sensibilities were not just in a bubble, I wanted to experiment again – and doing compositions that were wilder and more free came naturally from that – a lot of the earliest experiments being created while I acquainted myself with the Crumpets discography and returned to weirder sounds like Tobacco and Dan Deacon. That also meant breaking some rules I’d held for a long time – no random strokes, no patterns created deliberately (and not with glitches or code), I had avoided any irregular geometry (no custom pen-drawn shapes) the list goes on, they weren’t “real” rules obviously, just implicit rules in the work that suddenly evaporated.

I did a lot of initial experiments in contrasting organic or mineral textures with black and white generated ones – I called them “Rift Patterns” – but basically just experiments with After Effects and shape repeaters. I tried making some artwork with checker patterns like I’ve seen in “acidwave” and kind of post-vaporwave or late vaporwave style art – acidwinzip is probably one of my favorite artists in that space. The fastest way I could think of to make super high-res checkers was After Effects, and so I did – but then why not start rotating the squares or scaling them or changing their position to make more complex patterns?

Thus a new style was born – and the crazy chaotic colors twigged my friend ethereal_zephyr to comment that it was like a Lisa Frank design in monochrome. Now that I had an avatar character that was closer to full-on fantasy, it was only a short leap to have a Lisa Frank character that was a riff on the Superman Prime theme from DC comics. That is – an alternate universe version that was more of an anti-hero (interesting fact: the real Lisa Frank is pretty reclusive and impossible to find pictures of). The general lore of the thing is that sgt_slaughtermelon studied under Lisa Frank Prime at her atelier school in this universe and learned these techniques from her (which, in reality, were the result of commercial success). So I took the idea and ran with it, and then created several gradient maps that mirrored Lisa Frank designs pretty closely, and the results were spectacular. “LFP” became a trading card – but more than anything it just became my own internal byword for wild designs with irregular geometry, strokes, spatial suggestions, and complex OP ART style patterns. I was combining them in mind-bending ways, and sometimes using the official LFP gradient map, sometimes dropping other ones in. It’s still something I consider a living series – although I don’t always use the standard title “the_#th_lesson_lisa_frank_prime_taught_me.” There’s also a trading card floating around that unlocks a link to “the official Lisa Frank Prime gradient map.” I hope that’s fun for someone.

Departures and Rule-Breaking

As always, what happens once you figure out how to make something new that you like is that you start to create rules in your head about how to make that thing. I do anyways. So after LFP had seen some success – meaning I liked what I was making with it an awful lot, I decided to try breaking some of the LFP rules. New palettes, patterns that were in color and not just monochrome, experimenting with comps that weren’t as free-flowing, weren’t necessarily tied together by strokes, and didn’t insist on going out of frame. There are a lot of these that have never been seen by anyone, but they’re all generally blocked under “departures” or cross-pollinated LFP designs. It was right around when I was accumulating enough departures to make a proper series out of it that I was introduced into cryptoart and everything went off the rails and back on new rails.

Departures are really how I categorize anything that doesn’t follow naturally from my work in glitch art and isn’t generative or simple collage.

$BASED Fun & Cryptoart

I owe my entire involvement in the crypto-art scene to the introduction by Mr. Bones from the $BASED art collective and my friend jrdsctt’s help. In short, Bones dragged me into minting my first piece on Rarible.com by just telling me I should, that he was starting a collective, and here’s a little ETH to pay for my first token mint. All the vocabulary from this section will be confusing to outsiders – but essentially you can mark files and art on the blockchain and trade/sell ownership of these marked files (Non-Fungible-Tokens). It’s been a booming space for artists to join the cryptocurrency world and a chance for crypto to generate something of cultural value. My very first toe-dip into this pool, sponsored by Bones, was bought immediately. It was a departure from the LFP series of which I minted 10 tokens, and Blue Kirby owns them all last time I checked.

Concerning $BASED and the art collective – it’s a little more slippery to understand than just crypto art. I may be speaking out of turn (but then again, BASED is a permissionless environment) but BASED isn’t just an elastic supply currency or a sort of crowd-sourced VC alternative for de-fi: but it asks one central question that most crypto projects aren’t asking. BASED is a way to address the problem that all these cryptocurrencies and small market cap tokens have: you can’t generate culture around get-rich-quick schemes (ruggable or not). If all everyone talks about is number, and whether number go up – cryptocurrency is just one more ponzi scheme or mid-level marketing or even just an honest but very boring business arranged around currency alternatives and mechanisms. BASED experiments and tries to make money – but ultimately the goal is to create a cultural project. This is why the art collective and the aesthetics of BASED is so significant. You can’t simply tell people “go make art so that we have a thing” because top-down cultural movements don’t work. They’re garbage. BASED deliberately tries not to tell people how to be BASED or what it means to be BASED or what to do to contribute because the community itself has to be goal-setting and creative. This is where you get some of their best and most enduring memes – “if you know you know” and “if it’s based, do it.” Note: the anons from Rope use some of these same types of slogans – they’re about “vibing” and “trusting the plan” – it’s a similar concept, they just have less aesthetic skin in the game so far (which is what makes their collaboration with BASED falling through such a tragedy). Outsiders see what’s going on and kind of want to co-opt it a bit, and so they’ll try to figure out something cool that they can use for their project, but really – BASED is kind of just cool for the sake of being cool. Incidentally, my sentiments I had been working on here were shared almost exactly by the host of the FTX podcast.

Not to bring up Nietzsche again, but this is kind of how the Gay Science works – value creation is meant to be fun and creative – the concept only got perverted in readings of The Will to Power (collated by his fascist sister) and abused and projected back onto the Gay Science in ways I think it shouldn’t have. I don’t even think this has to mean totally subjective value, but it definitely means something completely new in a space like de-fi and crypto where what’s good and beautiful and true and exciting and worthwhile is all up for grabs because everything feels so open and free.

So I have made a few pieces inspired by the $BASED community and how their currencies work (plural: there’s $based, $moonbased, and now $rural). I have some memes floating around I made for them too (which is actually more lucrative than the artwork so far) – but I’m more proud of the artwork that came from their carefully cultivated mood. These were also an important precursor to Sega_Sibyl because doing $based designs meant adopting their aesthetic from based.money that had colors I hadn’t used, shapes I considered a little too silly before, and patterns that I never would have considered had I not been trying to make something that fit that world.

based_always_goes_up” which is a misquote of Bones’ mantra “based only goes up.” If you read the above you know what it means, I suppose.

Coping Algorithms & The Chillbois

I was having a rough go of things for a while, so I tried just returning to some of what brought me pleasure in the earliest work. Letting the algorithms do their thing and taking it as it comes. I tried some new Processing sketches off github that (thankfully) pretty well worked out of the box. I changed a few things like save format and saving size and so on, but volfegan has some amazing sketches that generate really interesting textures I haven’t seen all over yet. So I experimented a little here and there with just letting the thing run and maybe throwing it into a circle and letting that be that. I wasn’t interested in arrogance or humility or any of the epistemological stuff – this was just letting a program make something chill. So I called them chill. Chillbois. “chill” has since become kind of my own byword for throwing any of volfegan’s scripts into the mix when making a new piece. I experimented a little with making animated versions, but the investment of time didn’t get returned, and I honestly prefer static work in most cases.

Prophecies of the Sega Sibyl

After getting onto Twitter once I discovered it’s where literally everyone in crypto hangs out – I found out it was like starting over again in terms of social capital. That’s okay, because early days can be fun. Some of my projects with the $based community generated inquiries from other defi projects that wanted cool meme-able graphics. A lot of these projects wanted to offer their token as payment, but honestly that’s kind of a losing game in terms of time investment – at least so far it is. I had a frog ask me about creating some 90’s themed graphics for their project, and I thought to myself: “well, I’ve been avoiding the 90s nostalgia so far – why not?” For someone who was alive through it to see what was hot in the 90’s become stale and flat and boring, and to see people saying things are “great” that were hideous when they were popular is a strange experience. Also, some of the recent graphics movements and trends have been sort of ironic: as in, “I don’t really like this obviously but here’s a look.” I’ve always struggled with irony like that because even if something is silly I want to be all-in on it being something I actually like. So my mission was this: try to find a look that absolutely recalls the 90s, but doesn’t do so in an ironic way.

I did a lot of research and combed through archives of Neo-Memphis style, but I wanted to make stuff a little less stilted than I think that style allows. Some of my favorite artists working in this kind of are would be warakami_vaporwave and Eric Weidner and Mariah Birsak and even graphicwave80 (although these styles dip in and out of 80s/90s and aren’t as strict). To jump start the project I came up with a lore piece, imagining for myself a console that sgt_slaughtermelon would have salvaged from the dimension where he studied under Lisa Frank Prime and went to college with Jareddd Scott – the Sega Sibyl.

I actually undertook making an image of the console as a project where I created huge hi-res versions of textures that I could play with later just to put them in a little piece of the console image. In other words, I allowed the console’s manifestation to also be the creative driving force behind developing the textures and patterns and vocabulary of a new style. I’m still developing the style – it’s a really new feeling for me to be making things like this, and I couldn’t have even started if I hadn’t made the $based_world_beckons designs first or the PSYOPS shirt with Cameron Lee. Those two experiences gave me the freedom and confidence to make a series that is incredibly heavy on design and almost dispenses with any sort of glitch technique at all, and is only really collage work in the sense that I’m using similar collage techniques with my own generated 90’s inspired textures. The project that started the whole endeavor asked for more and more generic “a e s t h e t i c” things, and while I don’t mind that stuff at all, I had really gotten pretty far down the rabbit hole of meta-modern 90s designs. Incidentally, this series led to one of my first sales on KnownOrigin to David Moore himself. It was a pretty decent success considering they’ve all sold so far. It eventually lead to a generative project called autoRAD.

Jareddd Scott

One artist I admire and spend a lot of time annoying online is Jarid Scott, or jrdsctt. In my opinion he’s one of the artists who has done the most with the ASDF pixel sorting script and turned it into something like the equivalent of brush strokes in digital format – that is, he’s really fine-tuned how to use that tool to the point that paying attention to each individual sort he uses and how he masks them into his compositions is rewarding.

Because we’ve spent some virtual time online talking, I realized that he looks a bit like one of my old roommates, and it spawned a joke where I deliberately mis-spelled his name Jareddd and attributed the mis-spelling to fictional other dimensional counterpart: sgt_slaughtermelon’s roommate at Paleo-Memphis University (see Sega Sibyl for the explanation of why I wouldn’t want to work in the Neo-Memphis style) where they studied under Lisa Frank Prime. I realize this is getting pretty far afield at this point, but I think that’s a part of the fun of virtual worlds and creating your own lore – just how far can you take it?

We had had a few collaborations in the past, but I felt they were underwhelming because I was too protective of my own style and didn’t experiment enough. So we shared some work, and I developed some Jareddd Scott official gradient maps to pack with a trading card, and then jumped into his work with those maps and re-composed them with new shapes and strokes to highlight the vibrant color explorations. Those collaborations are on Makersplace right now, and are using their new system that automatically divides proceeds from artwork where collaborators agree upon a percentage they each earn. I’m hoping that the Jareddd “Triple D” Scott project will set a template for experimenting with other people again in new ways – and I’ve already done so once with KatetheCursed in a piece on Known Origin that uses her CRT light-painting sources in a similar way – even thought that one fits more neatly into my glitch collection since it maintains pure abstraction.

i_take_criticism_really_well_but_i_sulk_later with KatetheCursed

Mature Glitch

Now that there’s a pretty considerable body of techniques of making glitches, combining Processing generated glitch textures, my own wrecks, regular collage, sometimes mapped sometimes not – I’ve taken to calling works that fit into this late category “mature glitches” because they pick and choose and sample any number of techniques I developed over the last 4 or 5 years. Sometimes a whole series is a “mature glitch” series, but it will be grouped under the gradient map used for it. Mixing and matching different techniques still surprises me and shows the potential of being an endless permutation of compositions, colors, and textures. Each new major series and movement and experiment will usually funnel some new thing into this category. I generally consider the beginning of my “mature” glitch style to come between developing “wrecked” textures and img_brush materials. That doesn’t mean they all incorporate those, but they theoretically could.

Cyborg Warhol

This is one project that came about that wouldn’t have existed as it is had I not been in cryptoart. Generally speaking, I prefer static mediums. I do a lot of video and motion graphics work that is, well, work. I also struggle with the utility of artwork that moves – because I like to imagine my art being printed and adorning walls or clothing or as stickers on well-worn notebooks. I feel that video work has such limited use by comparison, but it’s all the rage in cryptoart. I suppose anytime you have a medium where there’s such potential for novel expressions: an NFT itself can’t really be printed (although the artwork in it can) – and so it lends itself to having more of an objet d’art sort of final product (thanks DFW for teaching me that term).

So the first real motion design-piece (which still generates neat stills, I think) was an attempt to make a style based on the Andy Warhol Amiga designs. After coding Lazlo, I knew it could be done – and done by me with much less modding of other people’s code than I usually do. So I sat down when I finally had the nerve to do so, and started writing a script to generate patterns like the ones you see in this early GraphiCraft V27 image. This also, you’ll notice, draws on an Andy Warhol style in his print work: thresholds. Andy used thresholds for his screen prints – and it’s a coincidence that using thresholds in imaging software yields similar results. So when I jumped into trying to create the series, I knew I wanted patterns that were surprising combined with thresholds, and all of it in a very bright and vibrant and non-mapped sort of way. That is, no palettes that I chose – only colors that the Processing sketch called “cyborg_warhol” generated.

Can you imagine if Warhol hadn’t been shot or in frail health, and if he had really lived well-into the digital art world? I like to imagine that in the world where Jareddd and LFP exist, there’s a version of Warhol that adopted transhumanism as an ideal, and used a sketch like mine to allow him to screen print with living video textures like the ones in the cyborg_warhol_factory_print series. I was doing the whole thing as kind of a lark (the way any good project starts) and my friend Tom “Lucky Charm” Okina and ethereal_zephyr sat in the stream while I worked out the first render from this series. They helped me decide how much to sell for etc. – and that same day one of my favorite CRT artists, Sarah Zucker, bought the first factory_print. I was thrilled, and I want to carry the series on. It’s still in its infancy as a developed style, and each piece takes a long time to make compared to some of my other techniques. I may get an artists rendering of cyborg_warhol one day and then use that as a trading card, or just use this GIF here that I love, and pack the program into the trading card.

I did another series based on the concept of cyborg_warhol as art cards for Paras.id – a cross-reference with an interesting part of Warhol’s career from when he was working with Basquiat. Basquiat did what he does, and Warhol did stencil paints of corporate logos. It always seemed like a strange total appropriation to me – almost a return to form to his Brillo boxes, but this time just huge logos that he made into art.

Keeping with my mandate of total abstraction, I took logos that don’t really have real world object references and made cards of the cyborg_warhol patterns as those logos. Some are still for sale on Paras, I believe. Even though they’re simple, just “brand_riffs,” seeing just how much the output of that sketch can make something mundane and corporate into something interesting was fun. Most everything I have on Paras is there because it was fun to make, less because I consider it the highest of art/

Jesse Cathode

An awful lot of my good ideas actually come from projects that ask for things I haven’t done before. I had an artist (I’ll talk more about this in Projects once that’s done) ask for some of my 90’s revival sega_sibyl type design work – only the references were a lot more neon and lightplay than my series had been. I figured “why not?” and just ran with trying some new things. I never did any glow in my early work because I came from a design background where every lazy designer and their brother just added a photoshop layerstyle to something to make it glow for a client, and it was awful. To be fair – glow effects have come a long way since then – but it’s a bit like eating way too much of something and throwing up, even once it’s good again you just can’t do it. It’s probably been long enough, and the exploration of 80’s retro for bitbasel.miami that I made kind of whetted my appetite for doing some glowing designs again.

To that end – I created an alternate character (not the musician, but reminiscent of them) named Jesse Cathode. Bruce Sterling has a fun story called “Mozart in Mirrorshades” where Mozart ends up a timetraveler and has to broker deals with the managers of time portals. Jesse Cathode is a bit like that – someone from the distant future that travels back to the 90s nightclub scene and pays to stay on the wrong side of the time portal (to the mysterious “time authority”) by paying them with black market designs and artifacts. The first small series of explorations I made are just called jesse_cathode_artifact – and I’m trying an experimental game where I offer them as bounties for finding collectors for other series. Is that wise? I don’t know – but it’s fun. I hacked together a fun reference image from comic books and game art and stuff to just function as my personal headcanon version of the character.

If you recognize any of the assets here, be proud – feels like DND character illustration.

Once this series had matured, the jesse_cathode_blackmarket_designs developed their own kind of system. It was like the Lisa Frank Prime series in that they were open compositions – but now the shapes weren’t just wild but had rounded edges and were meant to conjure night clubs and neon lights. Makes sense, right? Jesse Cathode lives in a nightclub, and the designs should look like they were inspired by that. I’ve also found it interesting that there’s no real words or styles defined for art in that world: there’s no movements of nightclub lights – although there are a lot of neon light artists working now it seems to me that most of them are making thought pieces that have interesting phrases more than strictly abstract art.

jesse_cathode_blackmarket_design_08

Scarlet Dream Sequence

The scarlet_dream sequence is a collection I started when I wanted to do much more palette restricted designs using some of the intuitive composition style I developed with Jesse Cathode and sega_sibyl. When I was around college age, there was a streak of design in the music I like that used red and black and white. The White Stripes are an obvious influence, but also Interpol and The Strokes delved into the palette – and these bands were really shaping my emotional life at the time. Particularly poignant for me was the strange lines from Interpol, all three colors – all very abstract:

White Goddess, red Goddess
Black temptress of the sea, you treat me right
Black Goddess, red Goddess
White temptress of the sea, you treat me right

So as I had this palette in my head, I used to imagine that I could only dream in those colors. I don’t know why exactly, but it became something of an obsession. Some of the doodles from classes that I scanned still exist. I took to calling them triptychs, doing three at a time, choosing random letters and numbers (the 45 was a reference to the random track Brimful of Asha that stuck with me for some reason).

In one of my classes we were meant to learn to use Flash (back when it was Macromedia Flash) and make an animation. I kept the palette and made a strange looping animation with menus called Triptogram. The unnamed character falls through a manhole and falls forever through different patterns set to music until you click the black hole and they fall back out of the sun to the street, walk towards the hole again. Since flash doesn’t really work very well anymore, and this may be my only chance to share this odd project – here’s some stills from it.

So took some of the ink and spatter experiments from that era that I had scanned at 1500 DPI as TIFF files (thank goodness for archival foresight) and used them to make some new designs. It’s meant to be kind of a tribute to my past self, and an exploration of an idea that was very intimate and inter-laced with a still-maturing personality. So far there are two completed cycles.

Brother Melon

After the dream sequences, I wanted to explore other interests I had – but in an only semi-personal way. I find that usually my best technique explorations accompany theme explorations and personal introspection. That is – I started on the concept of Brother Melon – some kind of monk character that was also technically savvy – and the method began to present itself as I followed the themes. The themes of the Brother Melon phase of my actual life mixed with fantasy weighs heavily on the interplay of light and dark – of glowing luminescent concepts shrouded in darkness, inaccessible. I spent a lot of the last decade reading philosophy, theology, mysticism and wisdom literature. In sum: I’m not strictly a skeptic about what we can know, but I certainly don’t think it’s orderly or presents itself in common-sense ways. At the same time, rationalism and empiricism have their own kind of internal consistency – and so having orderly blocky textures isn’t just a sort of reference to technology, but it’s also an analogy for how some kinds of knowledge work.

I explored some new textures using a Processing script I found called vector drift – and I combined that with my own image-brushed patterns, taking those and making them stark black and white textures after the fact. Why? Because the theme for these is the darkness with bone-white pixels sticking out from it, black unknowable things with light and color erupting from it. Strokes of vibrant color weaving through the much more difficult black and white of actual knowledge. To make the black and white for the central shapes, I didn’t want to use old textures, so I found some ink and some paper, used some kind of wet drawing techniques to get acceptably whispy designs that I could make glow. This is the whole mood: glowing whispy light, contained and wrapped in black. The main series then became meditations on thoughts I found beautiful. Leaves from notebooks.

The technique of making the backgrounds was so satisfying though, I experimented a little more with drawing out some lines, making some bare bits of structure to connect pixels and patterns – and those became the symbols of the little fleeting bits of wisdom, questions, thoughts, the sorts of things relegated to the margins of my books – of books in museums in the margins. The references in there are oblique q.v. (quo vadis) and (cf. confer) bits to refer the viewer to the texts that I was musing on while constructing the pixel arrangements.

The avatar is just a photoshop of Bonaventure (who is the third leaf quote) combined with some other Franciscan painting and Freddie Mercury’s sunglasses from an oil painting of him. I like the feeling of combining them into a character that is only semi-serious, since this subject matter is actually closer to my heart than most of my work.

Moniac Mod Archives

As Lazlo Lissitsky picked up on Opensea, I randomly came in touch with a childhood friend that goes by Tartaria Archivist now and does data engineering. We started to collaborate on refactoring and making revisions to Lazlo and brainstorming about other projects we could try. He volunteered to help me sort out some bugs and quality-of-life changes with the Lazlo code in exchange for a small cut of the sales, but we both wanted something that would feel more like a real collaboration. Eventually we came up with something we could both contribute equally on – making “Mod” designs that look reasonably authentic to the period. Over the course of doing art I’ve tried to sort of dip a toe into all sorts of kind of modern art styles and movements. Mod is really more of a fad that defies strict definition, but basically the simple circle logo and the concept of bold simple designs lead eventually to entire trends of modifications of Swiss Modern in the 60’s- late 80’s. I think it’s interesting that Swiss Modern, at least in my mind, hits kind of a wall where the more wavy and flowing designs that came later don’t quite fit into the earlier paradigm. Mod is a nice kind of transitional concept going from Swiss Modern into whatever came next, but even more interesting was the historical moment it fit into.

I make no secret of my love of The Invisibles – and basically any theme that gets touched on in Grant Morrison’s magnum opus is a theme I like to conjure when I can – and King Mob had an alter ego of the spy Gideon Stargrave somewhere in there that bridged the Mod and Psychedelic scenes. I liked the idea of a spy and some intrigue being involved. I’ve also always been fascinated by the alternative history speculations about what could have happened if analog computers had become a real phenomenon. Soviets had built some analog hydraulic computers, and there was an economics computer that also functioned using water called the Moniac that was designed right around the same couple of decades that fit the Mod scene. It’s huge reach, but if you don’t think about it too much – you can imagine one of these analogue computers being used to somehow start doing encryption instead of economics – spycraft – and then in turn having a soviet spy make their way into that world trying to crack the computer with the excuse of using it to make mod designs.

Moniac Mod (basically just a hack of Invisibles imagery)

In sum: it explains why there would be generative art that was dated to that time period. It was done with a hijacked analog computer. This was also a part of the programming challenge – I knew that Processing can do neat stuff kind of like Photoshop layers with images and blending modes, and Tartaria Archivist worked with me to add a huge library of paper and paint textures that position as a part of the algorithm and make finished-looking pieces instead of being taken into post the way I would if I just wanted to fake them being old. This also fits the narrative where we can imagine that they are archives, numbered also via the program, and that MI6 caught this spy and archived all these prints – a kind of fictional source of origin.

As the program goes on we’ve been working hard on finding code that makes Mod-appropriate designs via algorithm. It’s easy to make things that look too complex for the style, and easy to make things that are so simple they feel worthless – it’s finding that perfect zen-like in-between that is difficult. A lot of what went into this was figured out by Tartaria Archivist using complex math that I couldn’t have figured out on my own – but both of us came up with line patterns and methods in such a way that it doesn’t feel like either one of us was “Robin” in this work – I like to call it “The Double Batman Triumph.” We put this project on Hic Et Nunc because it felt like the right moment in the space to experiment there, and simple designs for cheap don’t work very well when gas is high. Gas has been lower recently, but now that the series is established on the Tezos chain we’re both reluctant to experiment with minting any elsewhere.

Mackazona Roadside Prints

I’ve always been fascinated by the weird transient nature of some of the truckstops and roadside attractions I’ve seen in the American southwest. There could be mass produced snack foods that you can find anywhere in the country, but there could also be locally made crafts from jellies to rare crystals to authentic Native American artwork. There’s an interesting kind of phenomenon in culture right now where twitter bots like @SpaceLiminalBot are feeding into this realization that we have a huge number of little places that exist that we’ve defined as being kind of “between” spaces we intend to be. Lots of spaces where it’s hard to imagine actually living there or doing anything in particular there, but nonetheless they’re there and we can be there – and it’s worth asking what exactly we’re doing if we linger too long.

The connection I wanted to make was between these kind of liminal spaces as a concept and designating entire roadside places, truck stops, really expanding the concept until there was – in my mind – an entire state comprised of a liminal space: “Mackazona.” It reminded me in a way of William S. Burroughs using places like Interzone and Annexia as sort of symbolic locations – representing any number of actual places around the world in how they work and feel. The actual lore for the series is that you can only get to Mackazona by almost dozing off while driving, and when you’re thinking clearly again you pull of at a roadside stop that seems mostly empty. Someone is selling these prints in a little shack near the road, but you don’t exactly remember purchasing it, but here it is when you start driving again. Kind of a dreamy acquisition from a place that you can’t quite find when you try to research it again later.

I haven’t explored using some of the secondary color palettes of southwestern art before now, and even though I’ve done lots of animation in my life, I hadn’t done a ton of it as art still. The idea of compositions that are moving and kind of changing constantly reflects the transitory nature of Mackazona – it’s not a place your eyes are meant to rest. I added some paper and wrinkle textures to kind of make it feel like an odd combination of being real and animated – obviously you can’t have a sheet of paper (yet!) that animates like that. I’ve found it kind of freeing so far to just jump into arranging geometry with only a vague idea of what I want it to be – but developing rules and tropes as I work the series out, and then letting it come to life afterwards by animating the compositions.

I also took a little time to experiment with a new marketing technique: minting cheap as free postcards from these designs to give away on Hic Et Nunc while the art piece proper was for sale on Known Origin. I like the idea of promo freebies, and some people did pick them up and some of the first Mackazona piece sold (probably not because of those). Mostly I just like the idea of people who don’t have money to throw around still being able to have fun and retweet and have something they can “hold” that makes them feel a part of it.

Matic Daemons

In my first foray into Polygon – it was early days and hard to find a platform that minted on that chain. I came across Niftykit while chatting with people in the Opensea support discord, and one of their admin pitched them to me. I minted my own collection token there and used it as a chance to experiment with some datamoshing stuff that I hadn’t been able to afford to use on my personal Adobe license before now. Essentially – the concept was to use simple 3D shapes as moving particle fields while moshing (read: breaking the mp4 encoding to create streaks) – creating a kind of kinetic painting method. I used the motion paths and mosh frequency to create shapes, and colorized them into these kind of intense neon arcade images. What’s going on here aesthetically? I can’t claim high ideals for this one – it’s just a cool concept that takes a note from long-exposure photography using lightstreaks and translates that idea to moshing movement.

I was still looking around trying to find places to do stuff on Polygon, and I struck up a friendship with robek while asking about these platforms. Robek is a pretty cool person, and they were interested in the stuff I had been experimenting with on Niftykit. The series has stayed there for now. The “daemon” reference is an interesting thing about the history of the idea of “demons.” In greek culture (hence the archaic spelling of “daemon”) they were more of an in-between creature that went back and forth in communication with a spirit realm – not really evil creatures per se. Socrates supposedly listened to one – and I kind of took that concept of an ethereal creature and asked what it would look like (once again referring back to Gibson) if there were a different kind of emergent daemon for programs and arcade machines. I also recalled having “daemon” processes on my PC as a kid that helped do background things, so it didn’t seem like such a stretch.

Programs & Code Neo-Cyberpunk

After the Matic Daemons series, I was spending a lot of time working on an artblocks program. I mean a lot of time. I learned a lot building Lazlo Lissitsky, but I was still having to reference basic commands, figure out rendering issues, sort out the logic for how to do this effect or that pattern – tons of time pouring over code that didn’t really give me the gratification that just zoning out and making art did. Musing on these things led me to create a couple of different series on Hic Et Nunc and a new platform I’ve been experimenting with called screensaver.world (finally something I loved on Polygon!). I was playing around with doing more fun and simple code things, like this “chaos” script I wrote to just generate funny looking line-art wireframe type patterns. I shared that with some friends on discord and they loved it – so I kind of just ran with that and made some satisfying neon cyberpunk-but-not-so-edgy type designs (I’ll call it Neo-Cyberpunk to sound smart). There’s no lore behind these, they’re just kind of things I made while neck deep in programming that I titled with thoughts about what it’s like to live amongst programs for a while and wonder about your relationship to them.

These pieces exist on Hic et Nunc and ScreensaverWorld respectively. They may continue at some date when I’m once again overwhelmed by learning how to be a programmer.

Energy Splashes & Laser Show Last Will and Testament of Myron Starets

I was collaborating with a couple of different artists I met through discord or twitter who both had a lot more clout than me, Latent Dream and Mueo Art. Working with their art, two small bits of lore made themselves up in my mind: an arcade machine possessed by “Zeus” (recalling the Matic Daemons) and gates to the underworld like they supposedly have in New Orleans voodoo. I had a dream one night in the midst of working with Latent Dream where I had to rescue a kid from these kind of gates underground in Chicago. So I wondered and searched about different gates to the underworld people believed in or shared superstitions about, and then combined that concept with some of the flavor of Santeria (just to make it distinct from flat-out copying the voodoo concepts). Santeria is a “syncretic” religion that, in my estimation, plays some of the same kinds of games that gnostics and hermeticism plays with symbolism and combining identities. That is, in Santeria you have to appease the Orisha – and combining the idea of the seven gates and the Orisha meant just kind of riffing on that idea. Alan Moore’s Promethea was really interesting to me when I was younger, and so an artistic flight of fancy on occult themes didn’t seem as dark and moody as some people like to make it. So two collaborations were created – “zeus_sentient_arcade” and “first_gate_of_chicago_oya” fit kind of a new theme that had a lot more drawn splashes and energy coming out of them.

This kind of glowing energy look had been a constant since Jesse Cathode, and adding the crackling energy made me want to experiment with more uses of it. While still head-down coding for artblocks, I built another little simple script just called “zap” – and used the wild lines and angular shapes it generated to start a new series called “laser_show_last_will_and_testament_of_myron_starets.” This has its own whole lore – an employee of a planetarium secretly crafted binders full of CDs of his last will and testament in the form of laser shows. He disappears and the staff discovers the binders, and this art is what it’s like to watch them (not literally the shows). This series marked a more traditional return to Known Origin stuff, having taken a break from that since the Brother Melon series. “Starets” is a Russian concept of a spiritual leader that is non-clergy, and I liked the idea of the surname of Myron (may he rest in peace) hinting that maybe Myron knew something we don’t – that maybe his series is meant to unlock something.

autoRAD

Working on the aforementioned sega_sibyl series took a considerable amount of time, but riffing on memphis and neo-memphis design styles can be formulaic. For example – one thing I was never crazy about with neo-memphis was how there was something like a canon of shapes and colors you could use and have it qualify as that style. There’s a lot of room within that frame, but it made me think that it had parameters that were set by the community – and parameters fit programs better than people. So with sega_sibyl I tried to take those parameters and push them and bend them a little while figuring out just practically speaking how to make some of the shapes on demand or in patterns or whatever.

I was in touch with the artblocks team a very long time ago. Checking my discord, I was in there in November of 2020 chatting with people about generative art. Not a lot mind you, I had my own thing going already – and the more I learned about how artblocks worked, the more I was aware of the fact that my major generative project thus far (Lazlo Lissitsky) couldn’t work there. Lazlo was designed without reference to token hashes or seeded randoms (just using a seeded random instead of hash value feels like cheating to me still). Lazlo was also pretty un-railed by design, so a lot of the outputs were too chaotic or too empty and the curation process was built into the expression of what that was meant to be – not to mention the era-appropriate titles/dates and in-jokes and alliteration and such that ended up becoming a part of what made Lazlo so fun. None of that fits artblocks and I didn’t want it to and I didn’t want artblocks to change either – it was just two different kinds of projects under one genre umbrella.

Eventually artblocks built their application system, started scheduling releases (I was only vaguely aware of all this). I was mostly enthused about Jeff Davis, an artist who designed one of my favorite artblocks projects, created a social currency for ABST (which I loved the idea of, obviously) and then not only promoted artblocks artists but actually collected work from non-artblocks projects (like Lazlo!!) to share and promote. It’s just the kind of leadership I like to see, and he seems like such a genuine and supportive person that when he messaged me saying that my application had come up I jumped. I kind of forgot I’d filled it out when I checked in and saw that they had a system. So I needed to build something.

I still have a job though, of course. So it was lunch breaks and after hours and lots of posting to a smaller discord group about how difficult it was. I essentially started a new program every time I wanted a particular memphis/neo-memphis style effect and worked until that program could generate the effect somewhat randomly but accurately and be positioned different places – then grafted that code onto the main body and worked with hash values to make it deterministically possible. I was ready to finally get the code live when I found out that trying processing.js on artblocks (or any browser, really) worked okay if you used only the very basic functions that haven’t become obsolete – but if you use anything more advanced you have to convert to p5js. So my code was thousands of lines and in the wrong language when I asked my friend and collaborator on Lazlo and Moniac Mod – Tartaria Archivist – to help me sort it out. He did, but it was another couple of months and then some before every single function worked correctly, deterministically, and scaled to whatever viewer size the live view demanded. I only needed to mint a handful on rinkeby, but I kept coming back to it over and over just to see what it would make. I think that’s a good sign.

Some of the test renders from rinkeby (note: not cherrypicked, so one that needed re-rendering to IPFS wasn’t loaded yet)

What does autoRAD mean, though? Well I liked the idea of playing on autoCAD – computer aided design. This is the joke, though – when we say computer aided design we just mean that you make schematics for a building or a machine or a product – we don’t usually assume it means computer aided graphic design or art. I had friends teaching in colleges who had told me that in their opinion, graphic design for simple things like banner ads and basic website stuff would all be done by AI within a decade. They could even show me machine learning diagrams that proved their point after a few days. I found that a little intimidating as someone who had made a significant portion of their life’s earnings doing graphic design of one form or another. So another aspect of the program is imagining that autoRAD is what corporate executives will buy in the future when they need something cool – no more hiring designers, they license a copy of autoRAD, the sure-fire software for creating really rad designs. I feel like that concept walks the line between being cynical and joyful, because while it’s cynical to imagine creative endeavor is so formulaic that we really ought to let computers do it – it’s very hopeful to design a program that brings you a little happy shock every time it creates an instance because you wouldn’t have made it *just* like that yourself, but it feels like you *could have* and it’s good. It’s something like being happy that we can mass produce candy – not because it means that handcrafted candy isn’t good and maybe even better, but because the ability to share it with more people and consistently make something that brings us happiness is its own kind of little creation and it’s own kind of little celebration.

years_of_your_childhood & idea_on_floppy

3D things are still strange to me.

I grew up during the transition from 2D gaming to 3D gaming (well, in terms of major productions – it seemed to me that N64 crossed a threshold). 3D was amazing, but at the same time – the level of detail that 2D had come to expect – especially from pixel artists – it aged better, it had more refined artistry because the tools had just existed longer. A good example is Ocarina of Time (which felt amazing at the time – and holds up better than some) and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night which were released only about a year apart.

I also grew up during a time when Toy Story was still what I thought of when I thought about 3D, and so when I went to college to do graphics it simply had no appeal for me. I didn’t want to make that kind of thing, and moreover – there was an awful lot of technical knowledge that went into it that I just found boring. Lots of the graduates who came out of that program if they got a job at all it was as some kind of technical specialist doing a certain kind of lighting or designing custom shaders for one scene of one movie or working on textures and bump maps or something for bigger production houses. That’s a kind of artistry, I admit, but it just wasn’t for me – it felt more like digital stagecraft. Making 3D models is it’s own kind of skill too – like sculpting, really, and programs like Zbrush barely existed and 3D modeling seemed really difficult and dull for people like myself who weren’t fascinated by 3D Max or some kind of relatively cheap software as adolescents.

At the same time, living through that transitional state meant that I had seen a lot of baked 3D animation in old computer games. Notice – the pixel art has a distinctly 3D feel to it, and the 3D is still often dithered and pre-rendered due to system limitations. It meant those two worlds of 3D and 2D pixel art were still blended and moving between eachother.

It’s a strange place to be – and I hadn’t really thought about it very much until I saw some Fornax Void work on Hic Et Nunc. When I first saw it I thought to myself that it was just one of a million examples of people using some old free or crappy models and throwing some stock colors on them and clicking render – but the more I explored Fornax Void’s gallery, his renditions of nostalgic scenes and ideas of that transitional period: say, 1996-2003 – he made real artistry out of it. His gallery even included a secret game area that was like an old adventure game. I was blown away. He even included some legacy palette indexes on his website so you could make artwork that was using the palettes of old systems, dithering to match their limited colors. I started experimenting right away with doing designs that matched old systems – ones I never owned – combining one systems palette with another for different shapes in one composition, trying out lines and shapes and textures. These were the colors and patterns and familiar objects of about a decade of my life. I spent a lot of it looking at computer screens, I realized. I remembered my grandfather’s basement where he (an exceptionally tech-savvy person considering his age) had built a home PC and bought some cheap games for us to play. That meant we got to play the strange demos, old and obscure games, and occasionally the lost gem. I thought about just how much time we dumped into that screen as kids – and now that my grandfather is gone – do I wish I’d spent more time talking with him? Sitting with him instead of playing some dithered mess of a CG strategy game?

Honestly – I’m not sure. I think my grandfather would’ve been just as baffled about what to talk about or do as we were – and he got a gas out of us enjoying his computer. Still, though – it’s hard not to imagine that there was something more constructive we could have done. The graphics and moods of that decade are burned into my brain now, though, so going back makes me giddy – and creating something new that looks like it was from that era evokes that same feeling. It was really the introduction of dithering on 3D work and 2D designs that made it feel like that moment that I wanted. It also let me capture the sentiments I wanted – I really do probably have a few files on floppies in my dad’s old boxes of computer junk. I really did spend a lot of my childhood looking at dithered patterns on screens. It feels authentic and mournful at the same time that I’m making work that should feel light and playful – and that’s exactly where I like to reside. I started the idea_on_floppy series on token.gallery that robek turned me on to, and it felt like an obscure and new enough place to try doing something in 3D for the first time. The first couple were just okay, I think, and they live there – and when I tried using that style to make something more static while still being 3D, I think I hit the sweet spot. Don’t get me wrong either – these are not sophisticated 3D compositions with good lighting and excellent geometry – they’re crude. It’s a design choice at the same time that it’s just a plain limitation – I never really got over my distaste for sophisticated 3D stuff.

The last piece so far from the idea_on_floppy series is a collaboration with letsglitchit aka Dawnia Darkstone – the notorious glitch artist who sent me circuitbent camera images and helped break some encoding to make this piece that conjures the idea of a corrupt floppy (again, a real thing I recall).

Ephemera

I always thought it was interesting that Warhol saved 600 boxes of random receipts and paper and junk of his. It really is a statement of the artist as art, or maybe celebrity-as-an-artform that prompts you to save random stuff like that for posterity. When I was nearing the end of my graphics education, I considered going on to do graduate studies in graphics and I put together a portfolio that reflected my taste at the time: print artifacts, stamp artifacts, old-world graphics put together and mixed with print tests and color samplers and stuff. I dug through the old folders to find some of the scans and just pictures of it, it really wasn’t as good as I remembered.

The point though, was that I had always wanted to make something kind of grunge, kind of using these artifacts to make a statement. At the time I didn’t know what that was. As I got older, I had to spend more and more time dealing with adult life type things – and one pattern presented itself for subject matter: the mail. I hate the mail. I don’t hate getting letters from people, obviously, but dealing with bills and notices and even mail I’m obliged to send produces an awful lot of anxiety. Being under-employed for a very long time has meant that significant bills – things like hospital emergencies or car repairs or home repair – things outside the scope of my budget have always been such a nightmare that opening those bills is painful by itself. When you can open a bill but can’t pay it – what’s the point? Worse – you may even forget about it and not realize you haven’t dealt with it. Leaving it unopened at least confirms I haven’t dealt with that thing. It’s not a very adult way of dealing with problems, though. So I found that I had uttered the phrase “oh god, the mail” often when looking at that pile. Not only that, but the reality is that most of those bills and relationships determine a lot of how my life is going to go – and it’s not so different from how people think about God – some people anyways – that God directs your life and you serve and worship and so on, and that’s what we modern people end up doing with the mail. So it’s kind of a double entendre. I finally capitalized on that style with my (I think) better design skills and made some compositions on the theme using even some of the hi-res scans I had in those folders (not unlike the Scarlet Dreams series in that respect). They’ve done well, and I’ve enjoyed finding new materials and scouring my hard drives for old ones and combining them to celebrate the beauty of dull mail artifacts while also the horror of what mail means for the underemployed.

This series came about around the same time that I was experimenting with a new series of collaborations with jrdsctt on Foundation around yet another pseudonym “Dr. Jaredos Scottsley” – which was a cryptic reference inserted into a Lazlo Lissitsky title. We took the name and the title of that book and made Dr. Jaredos Scotssley out to be an eccentric academic losing his mind, studying the various rabbitholes of existentialist philosophy pre-20th century and noodling on what kinds of designs represent his students experience finding his scattered desk after his disappearance. It also gave me a chance to experiment with black and white designs, which I have more or less avoided until now with the possible exception of some of the black mirror / mother / akira pieces. Jarid sent me some experimental sorting stuff, some threshold experiments and greyscale work – and I repurposed them with some of the techniques from my small quiet “books_on_existentialism” series (not much to say about that). We were both pretty happy with the results.

I also put together a small series of simple pieces of vault_excerpts for Hic Et Nunc – literally stuff from my files remastered and put together to make pleasing circles and mapped items and combined it with little scribbles and ideas and references to influences or projects. Finding success with these print artifact inspired pieces has been really fun – and a lot of people have told me they liked this stuff. It’s funny, too, because it’s some of the least technically difficult or glitched or code-using stuff I’ve made, and so it really does feel like an indulgence on my part that I’m glad other people enjoy.

These different series all kind of lumped under one theme or one technique was also a test: the mail series is on KnownOrigin.io, Dr. Jaredos resides on Foundation.app, and the vault_excerpts live on Hic Et Nunc. So I was trying to do different things in one sort of vaguely united theme/style and adopting them to what’s appropriate for each platform. I think it’s worked out pretty well so far.

needs

After the success of autoRAD – it became a decently real question to ask myself: “well, what do I really need?” Sometimes questions like that get pushed to the back of your mind, because dwelling too much on what you need or want means you don’t have pressing things that present themselves as your real needs in the meantime. You know what I mean – Maslow’s hierarchy or something. I think we’ve kind of forgotten that the hierarchy of needs was meant to illustrate something: that the higher-order needs are still needs, not that they’re irrelevant compared to more basic needs like food and water and shelter. We get caught up (and justifiably so) in remembering that not everyone has the base layers attended to – and we start to consider the upper levels something like “first world problems.” The thing is – once I have some shelter and food and water, and I do have those things, if I don’t move to higher order needs I just end up rearranging these bottom layers in more or less pleasing arrangements and wonder why it feels empty. 

I haven’t really been making art this whole time for some other reason than that I needed to make the art. There’s probably a nice edgy Bukowski quote about that somewhere. So after autoRAD I kept at it. After doing less glitch art for a while, I returned to experimenting with that again and hiding some early glitch work in opensea collections and stuff like that – just kind of comforting to go back and remember what went by so fast at the time. When I found a new look that I really wanted to pursue – it was a look that came about when exploring how ASDF (the classic Kim Asendorf pixel sorting script) creates gradients on accident sometimes rather than just dripping pixels. Maybe gradients are the intention? I don’t know – but if you set the parameters right and choose your images and colors carefully and don’t mind using some scaling tricks to make things unreasonably huge – you can use ASDF just to make gradients. You can use ASDF to explore. 

“Surely, though – you can just make gradients? Isn’t that kind of a roundabout way to get a simple gradient?” This is the thing I often need: I need a collaborator via machine or found object or algorithm to surprise me – to surprise me in exploration when I know I didn’t just make the thing myself. 

I was always fascinated that in The Republic (which I believe is mean to be a meditation on statecraft AND how we govern ourselves) Plato’s Socrates begins by saying that it’s only when we go beyond necessity that we find destruction. The longing for luxuries, giving into feverish unsatisfiable desires – this is where war, pain, and suffering ultimately comes from. So maybe it’s a good thing to figure out what it is that you actually need, to cast an eye forwards and try to avoid that destruction. When you start to strip away all the things you don’t really need, or maybe you have some of the basic things you want – at some point you have to ask “what do I really need?” I was thinking on this subject and making compositions around concepts of what I need: a place to be, just left alone, and something transcendent. Those are needs in the most true and basic sense. Uncluttered by all the detail of getting from A to B, the reality of dealing with cleaning and eating and all the paperwork it takes to exist – not those things. 

These are what I need, I think – at the very core of it. A place, some time, and something to pursue into infinity.

These are explorations of geometric compositions with glitched textures being used mostly for their colors and for their gradients rather than for texture. I needed the colors, mostly. The idea is that by scaling and reducing what are actually very complex glitch patterns – mostly using ASDF by Kim Asendorf – these are taking the very most basic elements of it and making them the focus. Taking the very most basic elements of life, and trying to focus on those.

a_place_to_be

The colors and gradients in this piece use a palette I’ve called “fantasy.” It makes me think of breaking out of confining spaces, makes me think of the dream of simply “being” as a reasonable explanation for why we’re here. The brightness of these colors is offset by the lack of neon-contrast, meaning the need here is for the ASDF to provide structure in patterns as well.

One of the things I’ve decided that I absolutely need is a place to be. Obviously I don’t just mean a physical space: you can be in a cubicle or at a register or even in your own living room and you are there existing not to be but to do some kind of work, or function as a certain kind of presence. That is – even though a cubicle is a place to be – when I’m there I am not myself but I am working in the role that I’m paid to do, doing some *thing*. All corporate hand-waving insisting they are trying to treat us as human beings seems to me to mostly just be an elaborate way of making us more productive at that thing by *feeling* like we are being treated as something other than a living breathing tool. 

I always liked the way that Virginia Woolf explained the necessity of a place to be for creative work: “…webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.” I need some space where I am meant simply to exist – to be – and if work comes it comes. I think it’s telling that we have so many men and women creating at home their little “man caves” or “woman caves” (as I’ve heard lately) who simply don’t include their home mentally as a place to be. I think a part of that is the influence of social pressure (not to say social media) to have your home be a presentation to the world and a hosting space rather a place meant for you to exist. 

a_place_to_be_2

You may notice one little detail in this one – one of the glitch textures actually crosses over into being a structural element. In my early work I did a lot of this, feeling that I needed the kind of destruction that glitch could provide to tear down my certainty. Geometry is a kind of certainty – and sometimes when we present (for example) just a circle, it feels like we’ve neglected that this circle is just an approximation using some rounding, that our idea of it – even if it were perfect – couldn’t be matched by any real-world object composed of atoms and molecules. I needed the ASDF imperfections and pixels in this to relieve me of the responsibility of showing you shapes that I could pretend were real, or that I understood as they really are.

It’s interesting that when we consider the most basic of needs – and here I’m thinking about our “place to be” that we find we need – what do we need that place to be like? The indulgent little places we feel we can really be ourselves in now are for – what? – showcasing collections and large televisions? We are encouraged to imagine ourselves as larger-than-life consumers, as a giant audience member in an impossibly cushy chair, that in the place where we are most ourselves we are consuming the most gourmet delicacies, the most indulgent and copious snacks, the strongest and most rarified drinks, and maybe invite a friend to wallow with us. Does that sound awfully judgmental? I’m like that too, maybe – but there’s also the place we are in our workshop, in our studio, our sun room with plants we’ve grown or the garden we’ve nurtured – we have strong vibrant places that we feel we exist, too. When we don’t have any of those things, I think we start to depersonalize, we lose our embodied presence, instead floating from work to home to bed skittering across glass surfaces and networks and feeds like gnats that don’t even know what to do with a bright screen once they’ve lit on it. I think – at least for myself – I need a place to be. A place to just be.

just_left_alone

I couldn’t resist keeping a couple of the pixelsort patterns from ASDF in this piece. All the same, what I needed and kept was mostly the gradients, the colors. In a certain sense – it’s much harder to be an artist when you have total and complete freedom. To make whatever you want is freeing, but at the same time it’s a great leveler: everything seems equally brilliant or stupid and all mashes together into one undifferentiated “but why that?” mass. I needed the ASDF algorithm here to give me some things I could and could not use. I especially like using it on images that I would absolutely refuse to use if they were recognizable, and so it forces me to use the unrecognizable, the zoomed-to-the-point-of-primitives, the bare colors and distance between them. That kind of structure forces the artist to take what they have and the need to arrange them aesthetically presents itself.

Sometimes I think we all find that our work, our life in general is just taken up by other people. I don’t think you have to be an “introvert” to need a moment to yourself just to function sometimes. You have to build networks of trust to have this. Maybe your work will leave you alone if they trust you value what you’re doing for them, that you do that thing because you respect both their schedule and yours. Moving away from in-person office life means this value is being explored again in earnest for the first time in a while. By that same token I think all of us, to one degree or another, need at least a little time to be left to our own devices: to work at our own pace on whatever project we feel needs attention. For most of my life this has been difficult precisely because there’s an assumption that during working hours you are working on the *thing* you do for work, or that when you’re home you have to arrange to have that time to yourself. It’s my own fault that I find it hard to negotiate self-care – because the truth of the matter is that negotiated self-care makes me conscious of the arrangement and then less free to be alone, as if you’re only truly alone when no one is aware that you’re alone. Is that a neurotic feeling? Probably, but that doesn’t make it less of a need.

just_left_alone_2

Is the square in this piece needed? It seems overly formal, and yet – as a part of the whole series it needed to be something other than another composition that ultimately rested on a triangle. Squares represent human places and things and tools, and so the need was to fill and escape this square, or maybe just to fill it with something meaningful. What I needed was a reason to contrast certain colors with others, and to have some kind of focal point to dissolve into – and ASDF provided that. This is one of the more textured pieces from the series too – and I think that the plainness of the framing square is offset by the complexity of the circle. Again, what it came down to was thinking “what do I need” while making the art, and thinking.

I have always loved May Sarton’s “Journal of a Solitude” – and loneliness and being alone is the running theme. She says, “when it comes to the important things one is always alone … the way in which one handles this absolute aloneness is the way in which one grows up, is the great psychic journey of everyman.” This thought by itself has shaped my thought in a lot of ways. So much of what we talk about today is in terms of community and our communal values – and I think it’s very much almost a given that these should be foremost in our practical life – but we are not a community when we are by ourselves. We do not simply take the community consensus when we think about why we are here, or why we do any particular thing. Sometimes we do things for the sake of community, but to totally abstract myself into being a member of a community and nothing more will make all the experiences that happen to *me* and the choices that *I* have to make and the suffering or joy that *I* go through seem unreal, and if anything I want my life to feel more real than real rather than less. Sometimes I think I need to experience things alone. I need to do that in order to grow up.

something_transcendent

What people may not appreciate who haven’t explored glitch art very much is how thrilling it can be when you’re mid-process. The early stages is learning tools, finding raw material maybe, doing some code or soldering or something – brainstorming a new technique maybe. The middle stage is when you’ve found something new – you’ve discovered landscapes of pixels that no one has seen before – you’ve processed something that cranked out a warped stage that no one has walked on, no one has shared. The colors and the waves and pixels can be overwhelming, and you know that right in this moment at least no other eyes have ever seen what is on your screen right now. ASDF as an algorithm is interesting because while it gets more predictable the more you use it – it still surprises you when you input a certain color combination or a certain shape or noise complexity or something. Maybe that comes with barely grasping the inner workings of it (other sorting algorithms seem easier to get a handle on) – but it’s almost like emergent patterns that you try to seek out rather than plan. So what was provided that was needed here is, – for example – the staggered wave pattern on the circle. You can kind of predict how to drag values far enough into the red that it will produce totally bent waves, or how to keep the values safe enough it produces drifted pixels, but finding something like that where it almost feels like old-world marbling still feels surprising to me. 

The need for something transcendent is probably one of the more controversial needs I think I have, that maybe other people share. Tolstoy pointed out in his later life that he was surprised learned people believe we can do away with transcendent ideas, that historically people had not lived that way in any place or time. I’m phrasing it this way on purpose too – “something transcendent” – since I believe that people everywhere may or may not believe in any particular purpose or overarching reality or transcendental like beauty or goodness, but that they cannot live as if those things don’t exist. I think people who find themselves in a vacuum will take whatever value sounds best (maybe freedom, or brotherhood, or equality) and make those into ideas that function essentially the same as religion did for people that came before them.

When I use “something transcendent” here, it’s a double reference to the artwork and to my actual needs. The artwork often needs the astonishing revelation of some new digital creation that I didn’t plan. Myself: I need to have some overarching transcendent purpose or value or reality, because living otherwise seems fit for animals (in the insulting sense, not in the literal “of course we are also animals and animals have rights” sense), but not for whatever human beings are. So what is that worthy thing? What is transcendent that seems worthwhile? That part might be beyond me, but I’m aware of the need.

something_transcendent_2

The working title for this color palette has always been “metaphor.” I think if you were to ask “what is this art a metaphor for” the obvious answer is “hell if I know.” Expressionism in the sense of art that expresses an aesthetic idea rather than referencing some real world thing or even a concrete idea that you could otherwise put to words has always been interesting to me. It means that the art – if it has any deliberateness to it – is trying to express something that can’t be transmuted into any other medium and still mean what it’s meant to mean. The pixellated rifts in the rectangle aren’t meant to represent a mountain. The soft blue in the circle isn’t a sky. The orange and lavender washing into indigo and black inside the triangle isn’t a volcano or something, it’s a movement of pink to orange to purple to express the feeling of moving through those colors while balanced against three other lines and circles and patterns moving in different directions at the same time. I know it’s unfair to be annoyed when people look at something expressionistic and say “I see a camel here” or “looks like a bush just there” – but it’s an exercise in missing the point when you do that. Similarly, people who make “abstract” art and by that they just mean sort of abstract-ish representations of other things, it’s a different genre.

The last need, that transcendent thing – why? I can give one other reason why this is a need. It has no end. Every need that can be simply satisfied ends up meaning that you play a shell game for the rest of your life rearranging and shuffling the food or shelter or money you need and never ever lifting the shell to find anything beneath it. A need that has no tangible object, but that is something more like what Artistotle called a “final cause” is what I want. That kind of cause has been abused a lot historically, and it’s made fun of a lot in popular smart-people circles now. Those people believe there is no final cause that draws the world forth towards beauty or purpose or order – final causes are a superstition that mankind came up with before we understood the first causes, the things that move and build and grow or fall apart on their own to no other purpose and can be reduced back to their essential elements. Maybe I really am just a sum of those other simpler chemical causes, but the state I find myself in – when I’m free and exist in a place and have a moment to myself – I need some final cause, some luminous idea, some gratifying purpose or movement, I need some other thing – something transcendent. 

Maybe I just need, in fact, to take myself less seriously. Maybe I need to come up with a silly name to make artwork under so that all these other needs seem less pretentious and less self-obsessed and puts me in a less exposed place in the world. Maybe I need a name like sgt_slaughtermelon, and I can lump my other needs under that first one.