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art and mathematics

updated tue 20 jan 04


George Koller on mon 19 jan 04

I think RULES are a bridge, a binder, maybe even the key....

I think Wolfram was saying this in "A New Kind of Science" -
he is a programmer you know. (I had a booth next to him once
at a early '80's comdex. My company did Statistical software,
his did Math software.) While I was reading I coded a couple=20
of his "machines". fun fun fun

Let me make the point upfront that mathematics may be a=20
chalkboard full of strange symbols and a frizzy hair'd prof
still to many of us.....BUT note that the below their dignity=20
chapter on boolean logic (True/False =3D On/OFF)with such=20
wonderful revelations as: (TRUE OR FALSE) =3D> TRUE
is the one telling your computer how to behave, and is responsible=20
for many of those "computer infested" LandRover SUV.

Discover the rules of a grain of sand and you are on=20
the way to simulating the greatest desert.

Use ANDS and ORS. =20
Use Ifs, Thens and Elses=20
Declare simple rules=20
Build sets of rules
until (over_and_over =3D=3D false );

Discover the rules of a molecule of water and you are on
the way to simulating the greatest ocean. get the idea

The power is in the repeating

Get down to the most basic units. =20
Discover the rules
The power is in the repeating

build one house you have a house
build many - you can have a city

follow one set of rules you have hobbitville
follow another sets of rules and you have NYC get the idea

The power is in the repeating

one cell lives you have a cell
many cells - you can have a plant || animal

follow one set of rules you have an ameba=20
follow another set of rules and you have a dinosaur get the idea

Oh yea, the power is in the repeating

one computer runs you have just a computer
many computers - you can have a network || a list server

follow one set of rules you have THAT kid playing a game=20
at the library while YOU wait with your serious stuff to do....

follow another set of rules and you have ClayArt (!!)

.... fun?, but I'm getting off my track.

Rules are everywere, they are powerful, and I have to believe that
they have something important to do with Art. What? It seems to me=20
we get real satisfaction, critical satisfaction, from being able to
"decode" the rules that were originally used to build something up. =20
(Explains why potters tastes evolve as their understanding evolves?)

By decode, I don't know a better term for it, I mean the ability to
visualize and know things about the pieces that make it up. The rules
that were followed to build the pieces that make up the whole. We
do this instinctively to understand weather, waves, the behavior of
an animal.... all these things. Whatever "Art" is - it has something =
to do
with using rules that we understand to create something that gives us
comfort, or information, or reward, or reverence. or makes us think=20
or helps us become aware of the rules behind something. =20

There is an ancient cave somewhere covered with hands made from
blowing something at the walls with the hand held on the wall to create
negative space. Ancient art. One ancient joker did his foot. Why=20
was this done, was it art, why was it art??? I dunno, but I think the
"rule" was cool.

Artists and Mathmaticians try to understand their particular sets of=20
rules. Engineers and craftsfolk follow rules. =20

I think about this alot, probably, because I am the designer/programmer
for a software package that translates images into machine instructions=20
that will eventually build that image on clay. I write/control the =
that get used as a sort of "supreme dabbler". It's my little world, it
runs by MY rules. Fun fun fun. =20

To translate digital image information into motion and tool control=20
commands I have designed a number of "tool simulators" which
are almost organic in nature. They behave something like urchins on
a glaze plate covered with algae. They feel where they can go, follow
a basic rule of not going over the edge, iteratively sensing / deciding
which way to go (where algae is best), leaving a mark where they=20
have been (remove the algae / toggle a bit). My point is that these are =

almost comically simple rules - but if they are followed systematically, =

at the right scale, and repeated millions of times thay can give all the =

information necessary to decompose then rebuild an almost arbitrarily
complex image.

Sorry, didn't mean to get heavy, but I did have to write something....

george koller
sturgeon bay, wi - door county
northport, mi - leelanau county

two great places separated by 100 miles of great lake.