Algorithmic art you can touch

When I was in college I was told countless times to “Go talk to your professors during their office hours!” At the time I thought it was because I’d grasp the material better just by being in their office; like knowledge osmosis. Now I know it’s because students try harder when they know their professor knows their name (something to do with shame), and professors grade easier on students of which they can put a face to the name (something to do with lonely boredom); it’s a synergistic effect. Regardless of the Freudian psychosocial factors that allowed me to pass Calculus II, I really enjoyed all my time spent in both the waiting area and the office of that professor. Not because my understanding of derivatives improved, but because he’s a damn near savant when it comes to numbers; apparently that’s what it takes to be the Chair of the math department. He created some kind of technique (sorcery) involving binary that allows him to manipulate very large numbers by counting on his fingers. This is all to say that the man is comfortable with math; the cork boards in the waiting area displayed excerpts from books written by members of the department, and his were always the most interesting and the hardest to understand. I’d spend x minutes staring at a computer generated image captured by algorithms that go into the n’th dimension. Seriously, this guy constantly has books published concerning shapes only created by means of exploring dimensions beyond the three (or four) we exist in, and he’s considered sane. I only ever saw his creations expressed on paper because they’re very bendy and curvy entities that often loop in on themselves, so near impossible to bring to the physical world.

But that was like 8 years ago; in 2012 terms that’s about half a century. With the help of Shapeways, designers from Nervous System are meeting that challenge of substantiating algorithmic art to tangible form. Similar to what my professor does, Jessica Rosenkrantz and Jesse Louis-Rosenberg refrain from directly designing their pieces; instead they write programs framed around algorithms based on patterns found in nature and then they just let the program do its thing. Certain parameters can yield very intricate and organic structures. I think for that reason they’re especially aesthetically appealing to us organics, so these pieces make great jewelry and home decor.

Printing services like Shapeways bring new vigor to the algorithmic and abstract art world. Where only a few years ago artists had to leave their geometric renderings in the digital form or try expressing them on canvas, now they can send a CAD file to services like Shapeways or i.materialise and soon thereafter receive a physical model in a range of materials. I wonder if my professor has tried any of these services; maybe this is a good time to make an office hours call.

Source: Shapeways

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