Art in Your Pocket 4: Net Art and Abstraction for the Small Screen


"The Facets of Obama" created by Jonah Brucker­-Cohen using the Fracture application by James Alliban, 2011

The devices we carry with us can do much more than simply act as communication tools and entertainment appendages. They can also bring us into a growing world of artistic projects that could have never been imagined without their existence.

The recent boom in creative software for the iPhone and iPad now enables artists to remake existing web projects as iOS apps or use the physical world as a canvas for augmented reality, reimagining our physical surroundings through painting and rendering. In this article, the fourth one in a series that I've written over the past six years of reviews surveying art for the iPhone and iPad, I cover projects that both revive net art pieces that were once only possible on traditional computer systems or in browsers, as well as those that use the iPhone and iPad's sound and camera capabilities to their fullest.



Thicket:Classic (Hairy Circles mode), 2011, Interval Studios (aka Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard)

Beginning with abstraction and sound, two works examine methods of sound production through algorithmic composition. Thicket (2011) by Interval Studios (programmer and artist Joshue Ott and composer Morgan Packard) is an amalgam of abstract shapes and patterns that engage with touch-based interaction, visual stimulation, generative pattern creation, and mesmerizing sound transference. The original version of Thicket, or Thicket:Classic, feels like a musical masterpiece on the edge of a high precipice. As a user changes the orientation of their phone in four directions (up, down, right, left) the onscreen graphics shift to new modes.

Thicket 3.11 Video, Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard, Interval Studios.

My favorite mode in Thicket:Classic is "Hairy Circles," which features menacing yellow-orangish circles of tangled lines that correspond to each finger's touch and shift when dragged around, creating a machine-like beat that evokes an industrial assembly line. Ott explains, "Thicket uses a bunch of different algorithms—for both audio and visuals. The aesthetic came from repeated experimentation and rapid prototyping of modes. Sometimes we would start with the visuals, sometimes with the audio, but there was often a back and forth process of each of us adjusting our part until we both liked the results."


Dating Advice Needed


For the past few days, using a special algorithm we call "first come, first served," we at Rhizome HQ have been busily setting up blind dates (or trying to). This is not only because we want our community to have love and be happy; it's also a way to celebrate the launch of Lauren McCarthy's Rhizome-commissioned iOS app Crowdpilot

Crowdpilot lets you "crowdsource your social interactions" by audio-streaming them and soliciting advice from your friends, or from total strangers, online. You can download Crowdpilot for free on your iPhone, or you can listen to others' dates, and offer advice to them, by logging in to the project website.

Tonight, from 6:30pm-8:30pm EST, we'll be presenting Crowdpilot as Rhizome's third fullscreen frontpage exhibition (following Vince McKelvie and Molly Crabapple). Visitors to will have the opportunity to listen to, and advise on, any ongoing Crowdpilot sessions that are in progress at that time. We arranged two blind dates, but you can also join in as a dater: just run the app during that time, and it will show up on our front page.


Art In Your Pocket 3: Sensor Driven iPad and iPhone Art Apps


 PXL, Rainer Kohlberger, 2012

As the iPhone just celebrated its fifth year on the market, artists have already made a substantial dent in the commercially lucrative world of Apple’s AppStore. Despite this success, artists are still pushing forward to build apps that further integrate with the device’s sensors and location-based capabilities. Rather than working solely within the context of software art as I have covered in two previous articles on the subject for Rhizome, there is a focus now on artists who are interacting with the physical world by using the device’s internal sensors, location capabilities, constant Internet connectivity, and built-in cameras.


“Konfetti”, Stephan Maximillian Huber, 2012


Using the camera as a sensor, “Konfetti” by German based designer Stephan Maximillian Huber visualizes the image of its subject into countless dots. In effect, the camera image is translated into virtual confetti that follows any movement and creates an ever changing images based on which camera is selected. The dot’s movement is correlated to the detected flow captured by the camera and by repelling other dots, which also move as you touch and drag them. Huber explains over email how the app works as a reflection based art tool. “The app started as an iPad-only app, and on an iPad the app acts like a mirror, showing an abstract reflection of yourself. You'll get a clear image of yourself only when you concentrate on the process of the app, and don't move too fast. It's like contemplating about yourself and the image of yourself. And as your thoughts and emotions aren't static the image the app generates is dynamic and adapts to minimal movements and new ...



My Broken iPhone


Doug Aitken (Victoria Miro) at Art Basel Miami (via)

The day I moved to Brooklyn was the day my iPhone screen first shattered. I struggled to get my keys out of my purse while a group of students were waiting at the door for a friend to buzz them in. Unlocking the door in a confused jetlagged state, I held it open for each of them while juggling several bags with the other hand. After the last student entered the building, I stopped the door with my foot while attempting to redistribute the weight of my belongings. My iPhone slid out of my back pocket and on to the concrete. 

The resulting spiderweb of a crack had no impact on the iPhone's haptic sensitivity. It looked ruined but worked just as well. Eventually, I got used to reading without much eye strain. There were even some benefits. Everyone knew which phone was mine at dinner parties with iPhones strewn on various counters and end tables. I never worried about dropping it again as the screen wasn’t going to get any worse. And I didn’t worry much about it getting stolen, either.

My broken iPhone also resulted in random conversations with strangers. In queues for restaurant bathrooms, on public transportation and park benches, I was asked again and again what happened, and why didn’t I just take care of it? ...



Sir Sampleton by SOFTOFT TECHECH


Artist Paul Slocum's new software company SOFTOFT TECHECH just launched a new app for the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Named Sir Sampleton, the app mimics the functionality of the cultish Casio SK-1, allowing the user to sample sounds through a microphone, which can then be played on the keyboard. You can modify the vibrato, note trail length and sample time of the recordings, and the app has a small rhythm bank. Short demo video above, you can download the app here.


asdfbmp (2010) - Kim Asendorf





Created by Kim Asendorf, asdfbmp is a pixel art generator app for iPhone and iPod Touch. It creates a pixel structure by using a spatial partition algorithm resulting in fields populated by pixel patterns.

You can choose from 16 bitmap patterns and 32 colours. You can adjust the minimal field size, the probability of a new division and the proportion between horizontal and vertical division.

In the draw mode you decide which field is going to be divided. The auto mode divides until there is no more field left.

Additionally there is a mode menu where you can choose extra blending modes such as pattern, fill, outline, empty, random.



Brion Gysin Dream Machine App



The New Museum's "Brion Gysin: Dream Machine" show is now closed, but a Dream Machine app produced in conjunction with the exhibition, which replicates the flicker effect of Gysin's renown kinetic light sculpture, lives on. Download it here for free.


Kunst Bauen (2010) - Rob Seward


Kunst Bauen is an interactive artwork inspired by 80s video games and the Bauhaus. It lets you conjure pulsating, futuristic patterns with just your fingertips. You can stroke the screen to create smooth, swirling shapes, or tap it to make geometric patterns.

[Note: For more artworks on this platform, be sure to check Jonah Brucker-Cohen's series on iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad art "Art In Your Pocket" on Rhizome, the first installment can be found here and the second here.]


Art in Your Pocket 2


In the summer of 2009, I wrote an article here at Rhizome about the burgeoning activities of media artists creating new works or updating versions of their older interactive screen-based projects for Apple's iPhone and iTouch mobile devices. As the article made its way throughout the blogosphere, comments surfaced ranging from criticism of the "closed world of Apple's App Store and iPhone devices" to a championing of the availability of inexpensive multi-touch technology now available to artists who had been waiting for a platform that could adequately display and allow for the type of interaction their projects demanded. A year after the article came out, the draw of these devices and their potentially expansive audience has become even more irresistible to artists enough so that several more "apps" have surfaced. The following article catalogs several new iPhone works which have emerged over the past year, works that are pioneering the next generation of portable media art.