mathematics as a basis for art

Last evening, during one of our coffee-shop meanderings, I started thinking about generating patterns from a string of numbers, and see if a more complex “artlike” graphic comes out of it. Granted “artlike” is subjective, in this case, I’m taking it to mean if more than 50% of the people who view it will think it was deliberately created by a human artist using pen/brush strokes.

There’s been a lot of work around pattern generation using cellular automata, and also sound/noise generation using string of numbers.. This is my attempt to mimic that process from the grounds up.

To generate these larger patterns, we can start with three basic grouping of things.. numbers, glyphs and the length or width of the finished graphic.

For the numbers, one could programmatically come up with a “number generator” that can spit out a list of numbers following some algorithm that’s replicable.. (like a fibonacci series, or pascals triangle or some fractal function)

For the glyphs, one would have to come up with a basic set of graphic representations for the numbers.
One simple way would be to re-represent the individual numbers by some other thing like “-” for 1, “|” for 2, etc. the problem with that is multiple digit numbers will end up producing larger numbers of glyphs that may affect the length/width of the end graphic.

One could take that further by creating a transformation function, that takes a number from the number_generator and tranforms it to a glyph of fixed width based on some algorithm.

Then one would have to have a lenth/width generator that spits out the length (in repetions, how many glyphs) and the width of the graphic. one could also just generate one dimension either the length or the width, and keep the other open, so you could keep adding glyphs row by row or column by column. The length width generator could also depend on different inputs, like the max number of numbers generated by the number generator (or say, the weather pattern currently like the ambient temperature of one’s location)

Some fun things to try would be what we see in the real world..
for number generators, we could use the human genome, gene sequences mapped to numeric representations.. one could try base 4 (ATGC) and convert it to base 10 etc..

For glyph transformers one could use image thumbnails, say, map flickr images to numbers,

One could do the same with music (or sound -depending on what you call music). instead of glyphs, one would have a note generator, and instead of length/width, one could have length and scale or something like that.. then one could truly listen to the sound of nature

Lots of stuff out there on the net on this, just search for “algorithmic art” or “alorithmic music” or something like that..
There were even two links about it in today’s boing boing:
mathematical art
pi as music


humans are just machines for propagating memes

Awesome. It’s not just me that have these crazy thoughts then..

At TED 2008, Susan Blackmore makes similar comments. My thinking has been that evolution and gene propagation itself is a meme, and humans, like other earth based living beings are vehicles for that propagation. She takes it a more information centric approach: “human beings are being overrun by memes that want to use us for their own advancement ” -from the wired interview.

The thinking here is that memes are nuggets of cohesive information that propagate themselves, using, in this case, human minds and human communication..

Viva the-great-complex-pyramid-of-heirarchical-organisms.

my friend, baburam

Dashain was here. Finally. I was excitedly packing my bags. I hated school by now. It happened every year. Return from a two months winter vacation to school. Stay there seven months. By the time seven months were up, I was itching to go home and eat with my bare hands, no utenils to deal with. Sleep late, no early morning drills. Yoohoo. The cycle went thus. Go home for a month for Dashain. Come back for a month and a half. Go home for winter vacations. Repeat. People returned home. We ended up returning to school.

Towing my hastily packed overweight bag, I piled into the bus that would take us to Martyr’s Memorial, the heart of the city. Our parents and guardians would be lined up there to take us home. The richer kids had their parents pick them up right at school. They got away from all this faster than we did, lucky bastards. We had our moments on the bus though. Singing memorized songs all the way along the 14km ride. They’d miss that later in life. We’d be singing memorized songs all through life and they’d be wondering how we remembered all those songs. It’s rote, I’d tell them later. You never rode the bus.

This Dashain, I’d be going to my mama-ghar. My mom grew up in a village several dozen kilometers north of Janakpur. There was no semblance of city life there. No electricity, no tap water, forget natural gas. No roads, just dusty tracks worn bare by oxcarts. I can’t believe there’s still no electricity there, to this day. There, I’d be treated like a prince by my mamas and maijus. I’d take gifts to my friends there, some of whom were amazed by the fact, in the cities, light came from glass covered things that you didn’t have to light up. You just flick a switch, I’d say. I would end up spending half an hour trying to describe what a switch was. I was eleven. I must’ve ended up describing it as some magical thing that only gods and magicians could figure out.

I would be meeting baburam. He was my age. We had become good friends over my successive visits to the village. He came from a family that owned a couple of acres of land and so could afford to send him to school in the next village for three four days a week. He still had to work, helping out his dad doing farming things that I still don’t understand or doing other house chores. Due to his having gone to school, and him being bright, he was thought of as a young man with a lot of promise. Other people, older people, came to him to have their letters read and written. He would happily oblige, patient that he was. Imagine that. Eleven years old and playing leader already. He indeed was a lad with a ton of promise. That was my friend baburam. My best friend.

I had already written a letter to him saying I would be there that year. I had been so enthusiastic while writing that letter that I had just ended up writing,

Dear Baburam,
I am going to be there in during Dashain this year. We can go
keshar-hunting at night in the next village.
I will see you soon.
Your loving friend,

Two sentences, properly formatted and spaced in an eight by eleven lined piece of paper with date, salutation, ending statement and everything. We were supposed to do it that way. We were supposed to scratch our mistakes, not erase them. In English too. We were only allowed to write letters in English, under the pretention that it would make us better writers and communicators some day. Baburam understood English though. He’d been to school.

… to be continued