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.
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.
jammers_deck grabbed by cryptostacey
a_satellite_with_a_memory – owned by bkbollinger
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.
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.
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.