29 May 2006

The art of Impart Art

This is what happens when art historians and computer scientists share a computer.

The image I posted yesterday is a graphic representation of the html code that runs the main page of my blog. My husband read about it on one of his techie-news sources, and the page was up on the browser when I got to the computer yesterday. The site linked to a page that contained similar representations of other sites, and a legend so that you know what the colors mean. It also included a link to a java applet that I ran to create the image of my site, and it can make one of your favorite page too. Here’s a link to try it out, and I recommend that you do. It is oddly beautiful to watch.

There are some web pages out there that generate orderly, systematic constellations, and the beauty of these impressed me in two ways. First, I know nothing about programming, but my husband has often complained about “messy” code; which is to say superfluous, inefficient, improper code that waddles toward its destination. This graphic exposes the structure of a site, and by displaying it in this way, even I can tell (roughly) how a site is doing what it is doing. And I like the symbolic representation—colors for kinds of data. It has translated html, which I simply don’t get, into something I do get—the image. Of all the other things art ought to do, this is among them. Taking something otherwise incomprehensible and bringing it within reach of a viewer or an audience is one of art’s least dispensable qualities.


d.g. said...

The fact that the image is procedurally generated, rather than pre-composed, makes it that much more worthy of being considered art.

The elegance of the underlying algorythms that arrange all of the nodes is probably lost on most viewers, but to this geek, that's where the real art is happening.

It's a bit like a hanging mobile sculpture. The artist sets up fundamental rules of balance that must work successfully not just for a single image, but for an infinite number of permutations. The resulting visual impression is always interesting, even though it is ultimately determined by inputs entirely outside the artist's control.

Dad said...

Hmmmmm. I think it produces the images randomly and in what ever manner it wants to. Is it really reproduced the same if it interacts with two sites that are the same? Bah, humbug, it must be Christmas and I am Scrooge. It does sound interesting though.

cris said...

Would you consider the art to be the final image produced or the code that generated the image? Or maybe the design of the site being analyzed?

Dad said...

It is really fun to watch and obviously has a pattern generated by determinations entered into the program that produces the images. I wonder how our impressions would change if the color selections for each portion were randomly chosen rather than being predetermined and the same for each website?

d.g. said...

Cris, I have a hard time with labelling it one way or the other. I have to see it as a complete package. To judge it only by the final image would be like trying to understand/appreciate a kaleidescope without ever shaking it. The mirrors, the paint chips, the light source, they all play a part in making it what it is.

Of course, you could use my same analogy to argue that the whole business isn't art at all, but just a clever toy!

Mary Ann said...

Wow, thanks everyone for your comments.

Welcome back to my blog, d.g., cris.

I think this code shows a component of art, but not necessarily art itself. Just like oils and canvas alone aren't a painting, and a painting isn't necessarily art, code or even applied code that does cool things isn't necessarily art.

Some art experiences are exactly that--experiential. They evolve in time, and that evolution is the art. But that is a different post.