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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

"I have nothing to say, and I am saying it"

John Cage, a leading figure of the post-war avant-garde, was an American composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, and printmaker. He was a pioneer of chance music, electronic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments. Cage is known best for his piece 4'33":


John Cage is considered to be one of the most influential American composers of the twentieth century which leads us to our next class project.

Chance Project

Make a piece of art using chance system that you design. This could be as simple as tossing a coin or picking numbers from a hat to determine colour of shape. You can work in any medium you wish - drawing, painting, watercolor, photography, performance, digital or analog. The challenge is to design a system that leads to the creation of a piece of art without any input from your own personal choices making all decisions along the way through your designed chance operating system.

Using a free program called Scratch that I had previously downloaded from a class I took a couple years ago at SFSU called Rethinking Digital Media, I designed a code in order to make a kaleidoscope-like drawing machine. Once the start button is clicked, the colored dots, known as sprites, move in different directions. Using the left and right arrow keys, one is able to control the movement of the sprites which eventually creates an interesting design. 





Using the random integer generator, I had the system generate thirty random numbers between one and five (which would represent the number of seconds that each arrow key is held down).

After the numbers were created, I alternated using first the right arrow key, then left, then right, etc. for the amount of seconds that the generator had given me. I programed the down arrow key to signal the the drawing machine to stop once I had finished alternating right and left between all thirty numbers. Here is my final product:


I then tried the process again and here are my results for the second time:




I enjoyed coming up with the coding script for this drawing machine (which was really the only "hard" work that was put into the project.) Then it was time to sit back, relax, and let the generator tell me what to do.


Click the image below if you would like to see the process being recorded.


If I were to do this project again/differently, I would add more random factors into it's compilation. For example, I would have had random colors chosen and would have used a coin to determine which arrow key that I would start out with. If done again, I would have liked to experiment with the randomness of the sprite size as well.

A practical use for this drawing machine in today's world would probably be to record the process and turn it into some sort of screensaver. The machine would come up with random designs each time, just like some of the more popular screensavers out today.

For the class project, we were required to have a partner implement our own chance design. You can see my partner, Michael Nardo's, finished product by clicking here.

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