The Art of Creative Coding

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Pro­gram­ming plays a huge role in the world that sur­rounds us, and though its uses are often purely func­tional, there is a grow­ing com­mu­nity of artists who use the lan­guage of code as their medium. Their work includes every­thing from com­puter gen­er­ated art to elab­o­rate inter­ac­tive instal­la­tions, all with the goal of expand­ing our sense of what is pos­si­ble with dig­i­tal tools.

To sim­plify the cod­ing process, sev­eral plat­forms and libraries have been assem­bled to allow coders to cut through the nitty-gritty of pro­gram­ming and focus on the cre­ative aspects of the project. These plat­forms all share a strong open source phi­los­o­phy that encour­ages growth and exper­i­men­ta­tion, cre­at­ing a rich com­mu­nity of artists that share their strate­gies and work with unprece­dented openness.


Sigur Rós – Brennisteinn

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From the upcom­ing Sigur Rós album Kveikur, released world­wide June 17/18 on XL Record­ings, here’s a look at their lat­est visual show­cas­ing some dark psy­che­delic imagery to fit­tingly par­al­lel their lat­est audio “Brennisteinn.”

Those want­ing to see them live, Sigur Rós will launch their North Amer­i­can tour on March 24 at Madi­son Square Gar­den March. Pre-orders for the project is avail­able here, while the video directed by Andrew Huang.


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Chris Burden, How Can You Get On TV

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In the 1970s, Chris Bur­den pro­duced a land­mark series of late-night tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials that blurred the worlds of enter­tain­ment, adver­tis­ing and con­cep­tual art. Appear­ing as idio­syn­cratic inter­rup­tions to the station’s reg­u­lar pro­gram­ming, Burden’s some­times shock­ing, some­times dryly humor­ous adver­tise­ments reveal how eas­ily noto­ri­ety and stature can be bought, manip­u­lated, and sub­verted through pop­u­lar media.

Writes Bur­den: “Dur­ing the early sev­en­ties I con­ceived a way to break the omnipo­tent stran­gle­hold of the air­waves that broad­cast tele­vi­sion had. The solu­tion was to sim­ply pur­chase com­mer­cial adver­tis­ing time and have the sta­tions play my tapes along with their other commercials.”

In this video, Bur­den shares the moti­va­tions and logis­ti­cal com­pli­ca­tions behind his four his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant ads: Through the Night Softly (1973), Poem for L.A. (1975), Chris Bur­den Promo (1976), Full Finan­cial Dis­clo­sure (1977).

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Dirty Girls: 1996 Teen Riot Grrrls YouTube Sensation

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In high school, Michael Lucid was an artsy, friendly kid who floated around from one cam­pus clique to the next. “I was more approach­able and kids felt com­fort­able talk­ing to me,” he says of his time at Santa Monica’s Cross­roads School, where he grad­u­ated in 1996.

Because Lucid was like­able and trust­wor­thy, his teenage peers granted him the kind of insider access into their lives that most film­mak­ers only dream about cap­tur­ing on film. Film­mak­ers like Larry Clark (Kids, Was­sup Rock­ers), Cather­ine Hard­wicke (Lords of Dog­town, Thir­teen) and Pene­lope Spheeris (Decline of West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion, Sub­ur­bia) all launched their careers by mak­ing films that depicted the harsh real­i­ties of Amer­i­can teenagers’ lives, but Lucid had an advan­tage over all of these film­mak­ers: he was him­self a high schooler when he shot his gritty, painfully inti­mate doc­u­men­tary Dirty Girls, which has now become an instant cult sen­sa­tion ever since it was uploaded to Youtube this month.

It was ini­tially shot by a 17-year-old dur­ing the course of just two school days. Maybe you’ve seen the still frame of two messy-haired young girls being inter­viewed in a high school audi­to­rium — an image that’s become ubiq­ui­tous after hav­ing been reblogged thou­sands of times by fans on Tumblr.

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Lucid’s short doc­u­men­tary starts out with the fol­low­ing text: “In Spring of 1996, my senior year of high school, I doc­u­mented a group of 8th grade girls who were noto­ri­ous for their crass behav­ior and allegedly bad hygiene.…” The eighth grade girls he’s refer­ring to are the film’s epony­mous dirty girls, a clique of fem­i­nist riot grrrls led by sis­ters Amber and Harper, who became cam­pus leg­ends when they put on a punk rock show at the school’s beginning-of-year “alley party” and smeared lip­stick all over their faces. Lucid remem­bers the per­for­mance being provoca­tive and angry, so much so that it sparked an ongo­ing flurry of gos­sip — and the coin­ing of the term “dirty girls” — that con­tin­ued through­out the school year of ’96.

That Dirty Girls is Lucid’s biggest Inter­net suc­cess is ironic, con­sid­er­ing his day job writ­ing, per­form­ing and upload­ing web videos for World of Won­der, the pro­duc­tion com­pany behind shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and fea­tures like The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Party Mon­ster. And, in an oddly fit­ting twist of fate, he’s returned to inter­view­ing and report­ing — but through his drag per­sona, Dami­ana Gar­cia, whom he refers to as “an intre­pid lady reporter,” appear­ing in World of Won­der videos online.


Beetlejuice Minecraft Roller Coaster

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This is a video of the Bee­tle Juice roller coaster Youtube user nuropsych1 built in Minecraft cre­ative mode on an X-Box, inspired by the 1988 com­edy hor­ror film Beetlejuice.

The five minute long Beetle­juice — A Minecraft Roller Coaster video takes the viewer on a ride full of twists, turns and unex­pected drops through key scenes and char­ac­ters from the Tim Bur­ton movie. There’s Beetleguese of course plus Lydia, Adam, Bar­bara and Otho. Even the sand­worms of Sat­urn make an appear­ance through a cre­ative use of putting blocks in motion and perspective.

The Minecraft roller coaster ride was built “off and on” for two months in the cre­ative mode of the Xbox 360 game by Rivergrl21 and Nuropsych1.


Christo’s Big Air Package

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Big Air Pack­age is Christo’s lat­est instal­la­tion, designed and com­pleted entirely after his wife, Jeanne-Claude passed in 2009. It is the largest of the Pack­age projects and con­sid­ered the largest indoor sculp­ture in ever cre­ated with a total vol­ume of 177,000 cubic meters (6,250,000 cubic feet) and a total weight of 5,300 kilo­grams (11,700 pounds).

The white inflated sculp­ture occu­pies almost the entire gas tank, which is one of the largest tank of its kind in the world as well. The Gas­om­e­ter Ober­hausen was orig­i­nally built in the late 1920′s to store the blast fur­nace gas, but has been decom­mis­sioned and used as a large-scale exhi­bi­tion space since 1994.

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Christo, who is con­sid­ered to be an envi­ron­men­tal artist and draws atten­tion to the land, nature and man-made objects through his instal­la­tions, is now draw­ing atten­tion to this his­toric indus­trial arti­fact. Like the gas that at one time filled the space, Big Air Pack­age occu­pies the area, but this time with light and air. Vis­i­tors to the exhibit enter through an air lock and can enjoy the peace and rel­a­tive silence inside the space. Two air fans cre­ate a con­stant pres­sure of 27 pas­cal (0.27 mil­libar) to keep the sculp­ture inflated.

Big Air Pack­age opened to the pub­lic on March 16th and will be open through Decem­ber of 2013. It is unclear at this time what will be done with the thou­sands of square meters of fab­ric at the end of the instal­la­tion. Christo’s work is often recy­cled at the end and we can only hope this fab­ric has a higher pur­pose then as well.


AirBurr, Autonomous Flying Robot

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Robots capa­ble of flight in cramped and clut­tered envi­ron­ments have many advan­tages over their ground-based coun­ter­parts, but most cur­rent sys­tems suf­fer from the same fun­da­men­tal prob­lem: any con­tact with obsta­cles has cat­a­strophic, mission-ending results. What if instead of avoid­ing col­li­sions, a fly­ing robot can become robust to them, and even take advan­tage of con­tact with its environment?

Meet the Air­Burr, an autonomous fly­ing robot specif­i­cally designed for mis­sions in dif­fi­cult, con­fined envi­ron­ments under total dark­ness. Air­burr is inspired b the sim­ple nav­i­ga­tion strat­egy that insects use to fol­low – It fol­lows a path and if it col­lides, it has an excel­lent abil­ity to recover.

In this video the Air­Burr nav­i­gates a cor­ri­dor and a nar­row door­way towards a light source using the sig­nals from 4 sim­ple pho­to­di­odes. This strat­egy is par­tic­u­larly adapted to fol­low­ing faint sig­nals in unstruc­tured, clut­tered envi­ron­ments, such as gas leaks in col­lapsed indus­trial plants. The Air­Burr is then pro­grammed to explore a small room using a ran­dom direc­tion algo­rithm sim­i­lar to the one used by most robotic vac­uum clean­ers. This explo­ration strat­egy is use­ful in sit­u­a­tions where other sen­sors can­not be used. It is demon­strated through a flight in a com­pletely dark room where vision-based nav­i­ga­tion isn’t pos­si­ble, and can also be used in smoke-filled envi­ron­ments where laser scan­ners have trou­ble func­tion­ing correctly.


Ken Russell’s Dance of the Seven Veils

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Ken Russell’s long-suppressed Omnibus film Dance of the Seven Veils (1970), a “comic strip” biog­ra­phy of “Also Sprach Zarathus­tra” com­poser Richard Strauss, has turned up on YouTube in six parts.

If Song of Sum­mer reached for the sub­lime, Dance of the Seven Veils, aims straight for the ridicu­lous — and ridicule was Ken Russell’s inten­tion, as the programme’s sub­ti­tle ‘A comic strip in 7 episodes on the life of Richard Strauss 1864–1949′ makes clear. Com­fort­ably his most extreme tele­vi­sion film, its broad­cast was pre­ceded by a warn­ing about its vio­lent con­tent, though it still caused wide­spread outrage.

Russell’s com­poser biopics were usu­ally labours of love. This was the oppo­site: he regarded Strauss’s music as “bom­bas­tic, sham and hol­low”, and despised the com­poser for claim­ing to be apo­lit­i­cal while cosy­ing up to the Nazi regime. The film depicts Strauss in a vari­ety of grotesquely car­i­ca­tured sit­u­a­tions: attacked by nuns after adopt­ing Nietzsche’s phi­los­o­phy, he fights duels with jeal­ous hus­bands, lit­er­ally bat­ters his crit­ics into sub­mis­sion with his music and glo­ri­fies the women in his life and fantasies.

Later, his asso­ci­a­tion with Hitler leads to a graphically-depicted will­ing­ness to turn a blind eye to Nazi excesses, respond­ing to SS thugs carv­ing a Star of David in an elderly Jew­ish man’s chest by urg­ing his orches­tra to play louder, drown­ing out the screams. Unex­pect­edly, Strauss is cred­ited as co-writer, which was Russell’s way of indi­cat­ing that every word he uttered on screen was sourced directly from real-life statements.

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This faded copy with bleary sound was smug­gled on VHS from the BBC archives and illic­itly uploaded online as an AVI, because the Strauss estate took excep­tion to Russell’s comic strip, which deals, among other things, with the composer’s rela­tion­ship with the Nazi party in the 30s. When Rus­sell looked back on his career in a 1990s TV doc­u­men­tary, the only way he could even show a clip from this film is by chang­ing the music.

Here, before it dis­ap­pears, is a link to Part 1 that should also pro­vide you with links to the other five parts. The print is time­coded and has turned mostly pink, but mind you, it was shown in B&W dur­ing its only BBC broad­cast. Don’t let these minor annoy­ances deter you.