Announcing the Internet Art Microgrants Finalists, and Guest Juror Kimmo Modig

The Internet Art Microgrants Juror

[Update: See which projects were awarded microgrants.]

Votes are tallied, and we're pleased to announce the 20 finalists voted on by you to compete for five $500 Internet Art Microgrants. Now, our guest juror, Helsinki-based artist Kimmo Modig, will choose the awardees from your selections.

We invited Kimmo to adjudicate this inaugural commissioning program for brower-based work because of his sensitivity to a wide range of artists' practices and his understanding that even when art seems really silly it still can be DEEP 4 U:

To think that art is just for lulz in a world full of unfathomable suffering and constant exploitation is hard and some might say, unethical. In order to avoid these issues, we've created these value systems, complex ever-changing hierarchies, which are ultimately ways of proving that art matters. When I work with institutions, I try to always work directly with individuals, so I know that there's someone who hopefully understands what I'm trying to do.

In keeping, we expect his selections to demonstrate breadth and creativity. For more on Kimmo's practice, see Jesse Darling's Artist Profile.

The 20 proposals Kimmo will be considering are:

A. Bill Miller, new Grid works

I propose to continue my work investigating browser-based image/text relationships with a new suite of web pages. Following my projects "Sentences on Conceptual Art in gridfont7" and "" I will explore how meaning is generated through language and image within the browser. This specific work will engage with a combination of CSS animations and Javascript that uses WebGL. It will engage typographic marks as 2D and 3D assets while engaging flat and dimensional browser-based environments. Although the desired outcome hasn't yet been determined, the work will likely parallel some of my previous work aesthetically while investigating my new interests in content.


MPAC - MEME POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE MPAC will act as a radical DIY think-tank that leverages art to empower citizens with new tools and platforms of expression under a collective pseudonym that allows for greater honesty through anonymity. Borrowing the language of modern politics as taken from the arena of social media, MPAC will make public a collection of crowd-sourced memes by artists about issues important to us. We will distribute the anonymous and easily sharable text/image/gif/expanded through a dedicated MPAC website headquarters. Political Action Committees are legally anonymous and often shady organizations that donate mega-resources to politicians who share specific idealogical beliefs. Alternatively, MPAC (a non-legal PAC entity), will generate resources of text/image/gif/expanded as creative tools to spread throughout MPAC participants online networks and the organizations and groups that they support.

Andrea CrespoNous

The Nous product site is a showcase for the speculative Nous platform. Nous is a comprehensive psychosocial monitoring service for mental health professionals. Nous allows doctors to monitor emotional and affective states of their clients via content analytics. Nous analyzes patient browsing habits, social media use, and content preferences for diagnostics. Nous not only provides doctors with detailed, clinically-valuable information but also aids in assessment of patient condition. The platform provides diagnostic data via a complete DSM-V database. The corporate website will act as an exposition of near-future biopolitical horizons, in which our data trails are put to clinical use. Site will be styled and fashioned with branding saturated with calming blues and clinical skies, drawing semblance between social media sites and techno-medical visuality. Nous features will be listed, explained, and illustrated. Nous is endless potential for the future of mental health assessment, the birth of a new clinic awaits.

Andrew LymanSingle Occupancy

Single Occupancy - a website, similar in function to an airplane lavatory, which may only be visited by a single person in the world at a given time. It will display a different image/message/secret to each visitor. Those who would tell don't know, and those who know aint telling. A way to personalize the overwhelming scale of the great wide internet - to find a place where you know explicitly that you are alone and to experience the enticement that denied access inflates.

Angela WashkoBANGED

Roosh V, self-proclaimed pick-up artist and author of "BANG: The Pickup Bible" as well as "Bang Ukraine", "Don't Bang Denmark" and "Day Bang" (among countless other books that clearly start with a bang), teaches insecure "beta" men to alpha up and get laid as quickly and often as possible. Distinguishing himself from other PUAs through his globetrotting sexcapades and his Red Pill philosophy (google it), Roosh earns a living publishing his "rabid wolf" methodology - but doesn't care to provide testimonials from the women he's banging! I intend to create a platform for the women who have been on the receiving end of Roosh's dick. BANGED will be a webpage of video interviews, yelp-style text reviews of Roosh's sexual performance + pick-up game, and images and bios from the women he refuses to acknowledge beyond the notch.

Ben GrosserMusic Obfuscator

At the behest of corporate copyright holders, media sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo have implemented listening algorithms designed to identify uploaded music. However, these "Content ID" systems are designed to presume all use is illegal use; every match is automatically flagged, muted, and/or removed. The Music Obfuscator will enable users to hide music from Content ID. Each audio track submitted to the Obfuscator will be altered using a variety of signal processing techniques. The degree of alteration will be adjustable in order to accommodate changes in detection systems over time. How drastic will the changes need to be to evade detection? What kind of an aural world can exist on the edges of computational listening? The Music Obfuscator will help us understand the answers to these questions. The system will be web-based, allowing easy drag-and-drop of audio files, and—with permission—will archive obfuscated results for others to browse. 

Christophe BarbeauInternet's White Cube

Internet's White Cube The White Cube is an important structure in contemporary art. It is hard to deny the efficiency of this kind of context for presenting art. The White Cube is also an excellent adjuvant in our cognitive process of recognizing what we call Art. Even the institutional critique needs the Withe Cube as a symbol for the demonization of the institution. But what is the counterpart of the White Cube in the Internet ? Or in other words, what are the most common ways of entering into relation with art on the World Wide Web ? What are the specific strategies of artists creating internet-based artwork ? How is internet shaping what we are calling ART ? With my project, Internet's White Cube, I'm hoping to work on a structure for encountering Internet-based Art Work. No documentation of exhibition. The real deal on the Internet !

Deanna & JackWell, Actually: a journal of vernacular criticism!

Well, Actually: a journal of vernacular criticism! PDF based quarterly open to criticism as it exists in the field, nuance welcomed but not required! Available online for download. H/t to Brian Droitcour Edited by Deanna Havas & Jack Kahn

Emilie GervaisFlying Toasters

I'm gonna make a website to fall asleep on & to, a website that says sweet dreams with flying toasters.

Eva and Franco MattesBucket Salute

We will commission ten new performances called "Bucket Salute": you must be in the water, with a bucket on your head, a can in your hand, saluting. The performances will be part of our ongoing project BEFNOED: By Everyone, For No One, Every Day. The actions are carried out by anonymous workers we hire through crowdsourcing services, so we do not know who they are, where they are, or even their motivations. The resulting videos will be dispersed on social networks you may never have heard of, in Cambodia, Russia, China, South Africa… Links to new videos will be posted daily at

Faith HollandPorn Interventions

Porn Interventions is a series of site-specific videos made for RedTube. The works invoke pornographic tropes but defy porn viewers' expectations. The videos are uploaded to RedTube using the site's own vernacular clickbait, with tags such as "solo girl," "BBW," "amateur," etc. I plan to produce a series for RedTube that explores the idea of technoeroticism. For example, several pieces will portray female anatomy grafted onto hardware. In an homage to Deep Throat, in which a woman's clitoris is displaced into her throat, I will "discover" that my audio jack has a clitoris and then fuck it with a microphone. I will also "masturbate" my webcam, treating it as a clit that comes to orgasm, but the image onscreen will be an abstraction produced by my fingers blocking the camera. Instead of the free flow of sexualized bodies, porn surfers are confronted with something critical, strange, and not very sexy.

Lena NW and Julia KunbergerViral

"Viral" is a game that parodies celebrity status games (i.e. Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (app), The Urbz (PS2)) but focuses on the concept of becoming an Internet celebrity via social media. "Viral" hybridizes different types of gameplays: a quest/adventure, photography interface, dress-up, dating simulation, and personality quiz. The player can achieve 5 different levels of fame: gutterslut, troll, meme, "yumblr" famous, and viral. Through customizable performance identities, users have control over the "production" of their medias. For example, a user can choose to post a trendy chain video (i.e. cinnamon challenge), shock video, vlog, fake suicide video, etc. Each decision determines whether celebrity status points are increased or deducted. To boost status points, the user may also go on dates via the app "Cinder," post photos on "instacam", and upload videos to "glutube." "Viral" comments on status, performance, identity, and the narcissistic underpinnings of online personas.

Martha Hipley, untitled Twitter hack

Some asshole is squatting on which is really maddening since I own and have Someone is also squatting on I have tried to contact both account owners politely so I can just buy the usernames, but whoever made them probably doesn't even have access to them anymore. It is super goofy that Twitter and Tumblr won't just free up dead accounts so I can have unified personal branding. I would use the Rhizome grant to hire someone to hack both accounts so I can delete them and have those usernames for myself. I would also do my best to document this as obnoxiously as possible so that I can likely get in trouble with both Twitter and Tumblr.

Martine SymsLessons

"Lessons" are an ongoing series of 30-sec videos that I refer to as "commercials." Watch here: Each spot advertises a lesson I've learned from the tradition. Inspired by Fred Moten's writings on the musical break, the videos apply his ideas to the commercial break. The lessons resist the dominant logics of the cut, the figure, the voiceover, the frame. My goal is to create 180 videos in total. I'd like to present them as a continuous stream of full-screen videos at The videos will play in random order in an endless loop—an improvised edit, if you will. I will use the $500 micogrant to offset the costs of development and hosting.

Melanie Clemmons, preservation support

The pace of technology's rapid fire progression causes a premature shift away from older versions of software/hardware. These pioneering technologies still haven’t been exhausted and hold merit in further exploration. The Media Archaeology Lab (MAL) in Boulder, CO claims similar logic, as their mission is to collect obsolete yet functional hardware and software. This past summer Zak Loyd and I have had the pleasure of working as artists in residence at the MAL. We giddily explored various computers/programs, realizing we weren't done with this technology before the newer forms became available. In an effort to document our work and to create a net art video-installation, we would greatly appreciate funding from the microgrant committee. We believe the internet is the right venue for our installation because we want to encourage the international community to revisit their older technologies with a creative and playful mindset. Thank you, Melanie Clemmons


I aim to make a suite of static and animated screen works entitled CAVE EXITS. The series explores visual forms and psychological metaphors of the labyrinth, particularly highlighting the effects of using recursive feedback systems in the production of an image such as this: Rendered all in black and white, this series takes inspiration from a variety of sources including imaginary prisons of Giovanni Piranesi, Bridget Riley's early Op art paintings, and the framework of early computer graphics which necessitated a minimalist pixel-based approach towards their design.  CAVE EXITS will launch as its own labyrinth in 2015 through an expanding website to be navigated hyperlink by hyperlink.

Robyn BontempoEvery Ad on the Internet

In 1985, the UK House of Lords recommended that all public advertising be banned, with reference to “the manipulation of the human psyche within a functioning democracy." Every possible attempt will be made to collect and embed every-single-ad that has ever been, or will be placed on the Internet. The resulting immense single-page site will function as a constantly growing and endless design museum with millions of entries. Visually, you could think of something like "Million Dollar Homepage," except this frontier keeps growing, and most importantly, this one is for the people. The ads will be monetized: either per-click or per-view. The site is a gallery, a protest against visual pollution, and a monetized redistribution network against the concept of advertising itself. Hundreds of thousands of people will be employed to click through this universe, and the surplus profit will be distributed equally amongst all, handsomely-compensated, users.

Scott GelberFoundations

"Foundations" is a project that pays tribute to early internet GIFs. I will solicit from artists and personally create updated versions of pixel GIFs from the early internet to be recreated with the latest digital tools. The project will show appreciation for early internet art pioneers and introduce & hopefully instill appreciation in generations that did not experience these works in their original context. I have created one of these already and if given this grant I would create a new site to showcase and share the original & recreated works

Silvio LorussoKickended

"Kickended" is a website that randomly displays Kickstarter's $0.00-funded campaigns. Kickended is the place where unsuccessful campaigns with no backers can live a second life which is free from the pressure of money collection and has the purity of abstract ideas.

Sterling CrispinPlein Air 002

This work is a web-based continuation of Plein Air 001, a project I completed in 2012, and these works are both sketches for a more active and alive algorithmic landscape I'd like to create. In this work I'm reimagining the ongoing contemporary expansion into cyberspace in the context of the colonization and expansion into the American West, and its depiction by the Hudson River School of painters, as well as the sublime as addressed by Romanticism. The land was a vast rugged territory waiting to be colonized.This raw expansiveness and infinite nature of reality in relation to the human body colors this sublime experience with terror and awe. In many ways cyberspace has already been colonized. Large multinational corporate entities have won, constructing vast architectures of information and light. Yet unlike the American West the frontier and wilderness of cyberspace is infinite, and itself expands with every boundary crossing.


Artist Profile: Andrea Crespo

The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.

Andrea Crespo, Liquidation (2014).

Your work explores the ambiguities of the cyborg's promise—how it can reinforce patriarchal gender systems as well as liberating us from them. Can you talk about that specifically in relation to Eden, where "lust" appears as an apparatus, a series of luxury hi-tech prosthetics, rather than as a possible relation between bodies?

I wouldn't oppose the apparatus to a possible relation between bodies. I would say that it mediates, complicates, and likely crystallizes relations in a particular way. Pornography in general is just the technological mediation of normative desire, whether it's through dildonics or other viewing apparatuses. All these means are very much capable of re-inscribing everything in very traditional ways. But they are not irredeemable. It's not like the multiplication of desire through technological means is always conformist. It may subvert itself along the way.

A lot of the proliferation of desire just happens through subtle de-territorializing forces. Alien-signal super-stimuli replace normative desire. Things can happen through chance encounters with things that are outside what you are supposed to desire. The validation of sexuality through capitalism and markets of course can end up reifying gender—but market niches need to expand, and trends change. The spread of queer politics and all forms of identity politics attests to these kind of forces. If anything, I think that identity politics are still too tied to certain narratives, even though they're fissuring and multiplying. Even within for example the trans community there are so many different types of trans, even within LGBT in general there are so many variations and so many people that deviate from the mainstream conception of that. Hence you have the development of new identities like otherkin, theriantrope, transabled, multiple system, furry, asexual, etc. These communities draw from LGBT identity politics, and often their membership (by self-labeling) overlaps.

There are things that come into people's lives and disrupt their pre-existing patriarchal desires. Vague generalized sexual/gender/identity alterities (and/or disorders) are a side effect of infospheric eroticism.

ΑΩ (2014). Playstation 3 game disc case, images, lottery ticket, quote by Elliot Rodger (UC Santa Barbara). From the series Complex Cases.

In your work Complex Cases, you invoke spectacular masculine violence, displaying quotes from the Columbine killers, Adam Lanza, Elliot Rodger et al on modified video game cases—but the cases are empty. It's as if, going beyond the liberal critique of video games, the hyperviolence of the game is actually hard to distinguish from the ubiquitous hyperviolence of race, gender, work, money. Could you say more about this work, and the use of the school shooter manifestos?

In the cases, I investigate various threads that appear and often reappear in the trajectories that lead to spectacular male violence. The quotes on the cases vary: some of them come from forum posts because that's all they left behind. Adam Lanza only left behind traces of data on the internet, there are no real letters or manifestos.

Aquilegia (2014). Playstation 3 game disc case, images, 100mg Fluoxetine, plastic wrap, acrylic paint, quote by Eric Harris (Columbine). From the series Complex Cases.

Complex Cases is a pun, because all we have are these trajectories that seem to point towards certain narratives in common between the school shooters, common sentiments, and even exposure to certain cultural trends and means that lead up to their violence. I don't think there's any way we could ever really describe with nuance what happened, but I'm really just trying to expose different threads that appear and reappear. A lot of these seem to be narratives that reinforce themselves, especially as the school shooter phenomena becomes naturalized, to the point where you see them imitating each other. For example, Adam Lanza would make charts; he had a spreadsheet of all the school shooters with ranks by deaths, and injuries, as well as what kind of weapons they used.

I'm really interested in hyperstitious narratives that reinforce themselves in reality through belief. A hyperstitious narrative is one in which the narrative immanentizes itself, for example how sci fi provides the inspiration for people in STEMs to produce products. It's this feedback relation. That's also how psychoses build, it's just reaffirmation, coincidence, intensification, to the point where a lot of these school shooters believe that they're on a special path and that there is a theology behind the doom that they are going to bring upon people. There's this positionality of the subject as the victim of some kind of cosmic tragedy that needs to be avenged through retaliation. It's clichéd revolutionary, in the Fight Club conception of just "fuck shit up," so not actually revolutionary but very heavily politicized.


Dialing from the series Sis (2014).

In Sis—a psychiatric mood chart augmented with hand-drawn hentai characters—and in the first-person account Wilderness Therapy, you refer to the diagnostic categories of mental illness, especially as they are used on young people, and specifically on you. Do you see a relation between this and other forms of identification, for example gender, or the avatar?

All of the above are prescriptive as much as they are descriptive. They situate one within discourse. Mental pathology and gender define boundaries for behavior. Sometimes it's comforting, like knowing one's place within a particular cosmology. Though these prescriptions might present themselves as a way of knowing oneself better, they often end up regulating behavior, or actualizing themselves through bodies that come in contact with them. They congeal, yet they are unable to totalize everything into themselves. 

The avatar can exist more fluidly than the gendered body and allows escape from some, not all, of the body's ontological entrapments. The avatar functions similarly for those who may actually be suffering from mental illness. For example, someone who struggles with face-to-face communication might find remedy in expressing themselves through avatars in online worlds. It is for this reason that many—those on the autism spectrum for example—find vehicles for expressivity through fictional characters.

Mainstream gender categories and identity categories are still very much about aligning yourself to a prepackaged narrative of how your brain works, or how your desire works, or what you like, or what you are like.

Your work looks at technology in a way that seems aesthetically aligned with what used to be called post-internet art, but is different in that it seems guided by emotional or political concerns rather than form alone.

I think the assumption that post-internet experiences, so to speak, must be perceived through a detached lens is kind of an error because these experiences really do influence people and are formative. They involve intense emotions and not just images on screens. There's very much a material base, we can't forget our bodies and their materiality and responses to codes on the internet: codes of all kinds, image codes, representational, sexual, pornographic, biopolitical. I think of net art and their various experiments with hyperlinking and hypertext. That's what leads to conspiratorial or very horizontal associative thought process, where narrativizations can come together through various sources and reinforce each other. These stories become captivating enough to the point that people's lives are structured and mandated by them, whether the stories are diagnostic categories, or political theologies, or stuff like that.


Dialing from Sis (2014).

Your work features manga images of unreal or hyperreal bodies, for example in the Holistic Cures series where you combine psychiatric and alternative medication with hentai characters. But here they're hand-drawn and kind of de-eroticized. What's your interest in these kind of images of bodies?

I feel in a sense like I liberate them from this context of just being imaginary entities that are to be masturbated to or to be fetishized in one way or another. As much as these representations are used for those means, you also see people identifying with them or using them as avatars, whether that has an erotic component or not. These beings do take on lives of their own. Inori Aizawa, the Internet Explorer girl, embodies the browser and is from a Microsoft viral campaign, but people produce fan art about her. I think it's fascinating that these fictional bodies have so much potential for identification and eroticization, or even total animism, where people really ascribe living qualities to those things and end up becoming or mimicking them. The images became the substrate for my dissociative tendencies; I produced other selves.

That's where my interest in otaku culture really comes from, or in nerd culture in general: The relationships between/within bodies, of embodiment, where all these interchangeable ever-changing images dictate the body. They're recombinant. Mostly they're imbricated in these profit-making contexts, but I'm really interested in how people will take these characters and make them their own. Sometimes these narratives really start to penetrate their personal lives and their appearances, and these characters take on lives on their own, through affinity or whatever.

Images of bodies become recombinant, as do bodies themselves, and everything is becoming fragmented and up for grabs. I'm kind of nihilistic so I can't say it's totally liberatory. I feel like it's also network forces and economic forces undoing things and restructuring things, maybe these are more emergent processes that may interact with other political struggles but there may be darker forces at play as well.


From Holistic Cures (2014).



New York

How/when did you begin working creatively with technology?
I began making drawings in MS Paint around the age of 4.

Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I'm currently working towards my BFA in "Digital Art" at Pratt Institute. 

What do you do for a living or what occupations have you held previously?
I am primarily a student, and currently hold a job on campus. I also do tech support on weekends for a software/media business.

Tabularium: An exhibition with the foresight to plan its own funeral

"Tabularium," a group exhibition curated by Alana Kushnir, runs through September 13 at Slopes in Melbourne, Australia.

"Tabularium" exhibition view. Left to right: Alana Kushnir, Tabularium Archive (2014–), Rachel de Joode, Hanging Marble (2014), Katja Novitskova, Shapeshifter X (2013) and Shapeshifter V (2013), Jon Rafman, Annals of Time Lost (2013). Photograph: Christo Crocker.

Slopes is temporary gallery, set to be demolished.

 a little conceited
 becomes an introduction to post-internet, for doz dat slept
 utilitarian dissonance as the work revolved around a library
 library had the most presence
 and was the title of the show, and by the curator

 referencing ancient + classed knowledge management, the heaviest work in the show
 is a credibility box
 ultimately it set out to look at a moment in time
 maybe in contrast to the fluidity of the internet

Alana Kushnir, Tabularium Archive, (2014–), publications with an online ethos that are unavailable in digital form. Photograph: Christo Crocker. 

A website can go up and down whenever, non-committal, a book is published and then exists—becomes an object—lasts—is static—refusal of the internet's nature

 lock away a painting to keep it safe
 lock away a website to kill it

the information is a sculpture, so you don't have to touch it, you don't have to read it 

it signifies knowledge

 jon rafman signifies knowledge

Left to right: Eloïse Bonneviot, My Forensic Steps 2, (2014), digital print on silk. Heman Chong and Anthony Marcellini, Twenty Plots for Things To Come, (2013–present), online film, unknown duration. Ry David Bradley, Flowers for Ukraine (2014), ink transfer print on suede. Photograph: Christo Crocker.

Anthony Marcellini and Heman Chong's Twenty Plots for Things to Come pre-emptively eulogises knowledge. From a counter position to Tabularium, the website/video recycles and displays images from science and technology museums, playing them in random sequence until the original image links die.

I feel like I am walking around inside an install shot. The works are beautiful; they are also cool, light, tech, premium, and optimized for the screen.

Ry David Bradley, Flowers for Ukraine (2014), ink transfer print on suede. Photograph: Christo Crocker.

You don't need to remember anything because Wikipedia exists, Ry David Bradley knows this. Wikipedia won't remember the 10 hours that David Bradley's delicate tulip was the picture for Ukraine.

You don't need to remember what Amalia Ulman said,
You don't need to know what Simon Denny's show looked like.
You just need to remember Amalia Ulman and Simon Denny.

Perhaps Tabularium resists the liquidity of user-edited personal branding, preferring static forms of accountability: books reserved for contextual irreverence and future hubris.

Katja Novitskova, Shapeshifter X, 2013 (left) and Shapeshifter V, 2013 (right), broken silicon wafers, epoxy clay, nail polish, appropriated acrylic case, appropriated wooden capital. Photograph: Christo Crocker.

Katja Novitskova retroactively constructs an aura around unknown information. Shapeshifters takes broken silicon wafers and turns them into tools/weapons. Exhibited inside display cases on wooden capitals, they become museological cyber antiquities: semiconductor material manufactured to transmit information becoming information itself. Like maintaining web 2.0 currency or taking up space as a survival tactic, Novitskova builds her own myth. Displayed next to Rafman's Annals of Time Lost, both artists' works present a mythology of pointing signifiers. Rather than point at anything in particular, the works suggest a dissonance between historicizing information/materials/artefacts before vs after the internet.


Eloïse Bonneviot, My Forensic Steps 2, 2014, digital print on silk. Photograph: Christo Crocker.

You read a review in the form of a poem, and it ended: Tabularium refers to a building from ancient Rome, made to store the legal documents of the fallen civilization. Tabularium's an exhibition with the foresight to plan its own funeral. Curator Alana Kushnir has put together a show that compellingly, if incohesively...





[During the editing process, I asked Hamishi  and Aurelia to clarify the line "books reserved for contextual irreverence and future hubris." They wrote, "Offline forms of accountability = finality, print. Once the documentation has been taken and the show is over, an artist can recontextualise it to fit the current moment through editing and coding. Tabularium purposefully resists this. Finality has become hubris, finality has become contextual irreverence simply because of the impossibility of non-conflicting opinion when everyone is a blogger." —Ed.]

Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Computational Sculpture Before 3D Printing

The latest in an ongoing series of themed collections of creative projects assembled by Prosthetic Knowledge. This edition brings together works dealing with early computational sculpture, looking at objects designed and fabricated with the computer. Add your suggested additions in the comments below.

 Isa Genzken holding one of her Hyperbolos in her studio in Düsseldorf, 1982. 

As with all fields of the arts, the role of computing in the field of sculpture and form-fabrication is rapidly growing. 3D printing is the most obvious example, with its now familiar method of taking a 3D design file and producing a physical object to match, line upon line from the supporting surface upwards. Also, with the assistance of programmable electronics, installations of arranged matter can be maneuvered into various forms and performances, receptive to local stimuli or external data, all of which is connected to an out-of-range laptop orchestrating the spectacle. 

For this submission, though, the aim is to explore some of the earliest examples of computing and sculpture, by artists who were in a position to explore the potential in an at-the-time esoteric field. These artists glimpsed the possibilities and problems that emerge when the object becomes a digital entity, long before the rise of 3d printing.

Zdeněk Sýkora

Work by Zdeněk Sýkora from the retrospective exhibition "Barva a Prostor" ("Color and Space"), Muzeum umění Olomouc, 2010.

Structure Sinusoidal, 1965

Topological Structures, 1969

Pioneering Czech artist Zdeněk Sýkora was apparently the first artist in his country to utilize a computer (in 1966) in his works, from painting to sculpture. Via Monoskop:

In 1964, Sykora collaborated with mathematician Jaroslav Blazek to create visual computer-aided structures which used algorithms to find different combinations of abstract elements within predefined parameters. The result echoed the aesthetics of Op Art, yet his methods were his own. Then around 1973 he abandoned structural work and began to make paintings characterized by clusters of interwoven lines. These lines - everything from their hue, length, thickness, curve, direction—were determined by a computer program that mixed equal parts randomness and precise mathematics.

Here is a video (in Czech) featuring a tour of a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in Olomouc, Czech Republic. Whilst there is a focus on the artist's paintings you can clearly see some of the computer-designed sculptures around. Zdeněk Sýkora's website; original post from PK.

Robert Mallary — Quad Series (1969)

Quad II, 1968. 711⁄2 x 11 in. TRAN2 computer sculpture in laminated veneer.

Quad IV (1970). Laminated slabs of computer-determined marble. 

American artist Robert Mallary developed a computer program that could be used to design three dimensional forms by stacking two dimensional shapes, a process not so dissimilar from some 3D-printing approaches today.

The following text is taken from an interview with Mallery in the book Artist and Computer:

How/why did you become involved with the computer in producing art?

...I turned to the computer in 1967 on learning for the first time about its ability to generate and transform images. Almost immediately I realized that my earlier idea of multi-planar image synthesis could be used to describe three-dimensional forms within the computer by slicing and stacking them as two-dimensional shapes—something like a contour map. The result was my computer sculpture program TRAN2, the first version of which was written in 1968 for the IBM 1130 system at Amherst College.

Below is an extract from "Computer Sculpture: Six Levels of Cybernetics", a piece written by the artist for Artforum in May 1979.

TRAN2, the computer sculpture program which has occupied me and my student associates for the last eighteen months or so, is still at the crawling stage in terms of programming and hardware sophistication, but even at that it has opened up several possibilities for sculpture which were not available in the past. It can also be said in its favor that it embodies, even if only in skeletal form, the essential requirements of an authentic computer sculpture program. It provides several modes of data input; it gives the computer a full, three-dimensional description of the material it must work with; it provides ways to process, modify and reshape the form description input material; and it provides several kinds of graphic output usable for evaluating the computer’s productions and for physically constructing an actual sculpture if the drawings are sufficiently promising.

If a computer is to make sculpture, it must be given either a comprehensive numerical description of the basic material it is to work with, or the means to generate this material for itself. In fact, our TRAN2 program does both, using contour “slicing” as the basic method of form description and form generation. In effect, the form is sliced—much as an apple or a chunk of baloney might be sliced—into a series of thin cross sections of equal thickness which can then be graphed, digitized and encoded on computer punch cards. It is also essential that each of the slices has an axis point to position it relative to all the other slices on the vertical axis. It is by means of this “stacking” of two-dimensional data that the program converts standard computer graphic capabilities to the requirements of three-dimensional form description.

TRAN2 uses between forty-eight and a hundred contours. This is not enough for a smooth, continuous definition of the form (i.e., without a visible demarcation, or “step,” between one contour and the next), but it is a practical minimum considering the limited capacity of the Amherst College IBM 1130 computer for which TRAN2 is programmed.

Seek — Nicholas Negroponte with the Architecture Machine Group , MIT (1969-1970)

Seek is an installation by artist Nicholas Negroponte in collaboration with the Marchitecture Machine Group, originally debuting at the "Software" exhibition (1970) at the Jewish Museum in New York. The installation consists of several gerbils inhabiting an enclosed space filled with blocks that are arranged and rearranged by a robotic arm. As the computer manipulates the environment, in a sense, the piecee becomes a sort of Minecraft for rodents.

The project was described in the catalogue for "Software" as follows:

Seek is a sensing / affecting device controlled by a small general purpose computer. In contrast to an input/output-peripheral, Seek is a mechanism that senses the physical environment, affects that environment, and in turn, attempts to handle local unexpected events within the environment. Seek deals with toy blocks which it can stack, align and sort. At the same time, these blocks form the built environment for a small colony of gerbils which live within Seek's three-dimensional world.

Unbeknownst to Seek, the little animals are bumping into blocks, disrupting constructions, and toppling towers. The result is a substantial mismatch between the three-dimensional reality and the computed remembrances which reside in the memory of Seek 's computer. Seek's role is to deal with these inconsistencies. In the process, Seek exhibits inklings of a responsive behavior inasmuch as the actions of the gerbils are not predictable and the reactions of Seek purposefully correct or amplify gerbil-provoked dislocations.

A PDF of the Software catalogue can be found here. Other photographs can be found here. Original post from PK.

José Luis Alexanco — MOUVNT Series (1969-1973)

Escultura MOUVNT, 1972.

Escultura MOUVNT, 1972.

Escultura MOUVNT, 1972.

Spanish artist José Luis Alexanco created a series of works by using a computer program that manipulated the contours of the human figure. From the website of the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid:

José Luis Alexanco’s work was already involved in the application of computer processes to human figure representation when he joined the first year of the Seminar on the Automatic Generation of Plastic Forms (1968-1973) at the Computer Centre of the Complutense University of Madrid. Of all those taking part in the seminar, Alexanco was the only artist able to do his own programming. The MOUVNT sculptures are a demonstration of his artistic investigation into computer-generated shapes and forms. To create them, the computer began with basic shapes taken from the synthesis of the human figure, and then applied transformations created by turning, expanding, transposing and interpolating and combining the shapes. Finally, the MOUVNT sculptures materialised as resin-coated laminates, through a process of feeding the computer information about the contours of the forms and transformations, meaning Alexanco could create around three hundred different sculptures from a single method. The Museo Reina Sofía keeps seven sculptures from the series, and the MOUVNT computer programme (1969-1973) that was used to generate them.

A program code itself—the algorithm that generated Alexanco's three-dimensional forms from human shapes, also part of the Reina Sofía collection—has become an artistic artifact:


Below is a computer generated plotter sketch for several sculptures, found in the August 1977 edition of Computer Graphics and Art (more on that here).

Here is a video showcasing many works by the artist; more works can be found at the Museo Reina Sofía website here.

Ron Resch, Vegreville Pysanka (1973)

This Ukrainian-style rotating Easter egg made by Ron Resch in 1973 was the first public sculpture designed with 3D design software. From "The World Largest Easter Egg and What Came Out of It" by Jim Blinn published in 1988 in IEE Computer Graphics and Animations:

The problem was how to build an ellipsoid, but an actual replica of a chicken egg on a grand scale… Fortunately, Resch had already been creating and experimenting with the modular tiling of general surfaces in 3D with a view toward architectural applications… Resch chose to build the egg out of flat aluminum plates. The question then was how to design a pattern of triangles that could be fabricated and connected together to achieve the egg's shape, decorative pattern, and structure, while still preserving his constraint of modular tiling…The program of Resch and Christiansen just specified some variable for the folding, and it simulated whatever surface resulted from the rigid polygon mesh.

The result was the first physical structure designed with computer-aided geometric modeling software. 

Original post from PK.

Isa Genzken's Ellipsoids and Hyperbolos

Grün-orange-graues Hyperbolo "El Salvador," 1980.

Now featured as part of a major touring retrospective opening soon at the Dallas Museum of Art, Isa Genzken's early work included a series of wooden sculptures produced with the aid of the computer. Her 1976 wooden sculpture (Ellipse No. 1) was shown alongside a computer plotter drawing in which two curved lines were drawn in a spear shape.

Computerzeichnung (Computer Drawing) (1976). Dot-matrix printout on continuous paper, 14 3⁄4 × 172 7/16" (lost).

From there, she went on to make two series of wooden sculptures—Ellipsoids, which have contact with the floor only at one point in the middle, and Hyperbolos, which touch the floor only on their ends—that were constructed from templates designed on a computer. This was done with the collaboration of a physics student, Ralph Krotz, and cabinet maker Hermann Hertel. From the catalogue for "Isa Genzken: Retrospective":

A letter dated October 4, 1979, in which Genzken again explained that she wanted to "call on" her engineer friend's "arts of calculation" in order to create mathematically correct sculptures, provides a glimpse into the production process that followed the technical drawing. On the computer printout, which represented the sculpture at actual scale, for example, Krotz entered longitudinal and cross-sectional dimensions every ten centimeters. Genzken then trans- formed these into small wooden molds that corresponded to negative forms of the sculpture segments, which, in combination, illustrated the curve. In Hermann Hertel, the cabinetmaker at the Düsseldorf Academy, Genzken found the crucial third person, a woodworking specialist who could help her to realize her sculptures (fig. 13). He would first glue up a rough wooden shape in the maximum dimensions of the desired form and then remove what was necessary, constantly checking against Genzken’s negative templates. Once the final shape was achieved, it was painted in different colors and textures in an equally complex process in which Genzken again collaborated with a specialist.

For more about "Isa Genzken: Retrospective," see this conversation by Hannah Black and Tyler Coburn for Rhizome. You can purchase Isa Genzken: Retrospective here.