Wednesday, May 17, 2006

6. The Miyadaiku

This dates back from 1998 but it stays with me and seems ever more relevant...

Powerful and inspired computer art requires a melding of the aesthetic and engineering sensibilities in the same person:

The South Face of the Mountain
Viewpoint by John Maeda July/August 1998

In Japan, a miyadaiku (a carpenter trained in the ancient art of Japanese temple carpentry) attains special status from the Emperor if the temple he builds stands for more than a thousand years. "Such temples,'...said one of the miyadaiku, the late Tsunekazu Nishioka, "stand not because of the magnificence of their design, but because the miyadaiku goes to the mountain, and selects trees from the south face of the mountain to be used for the south face of the temple, trees from the west face of the mountain for the west face of the temple, and so on for the other two sides." Because the building materials are carefully selected in order to respect the laws of nature, the temple can coexist in harmony with nature. Both the extrinsic and intrinsic qualities of the temple radiate its overall strength and beauty.

Whether we accept the specifics of the miyadaiku's explanation or not, the metaphor of harmony between the materials and the work of art is a powerful one. Indeed, although this story might seem quaint and old-fashioned, we can use it to explain the situation in the most high-tech of contemporary fields: computer art.

Among the best proponents of this is John Maeda, Golan Levin and Joshua Davis of fame. Joshua's work encompasses 'iterative' graphics which are generated by code routines. Some of his work is about the disappearance of the author/artist (hence he was impressed with Jackson Pollock's action painting even though he initially hated the aesthetic). In some of Joshua's work, the designer is invisible and the quirks and accidental successes of the code shine through.

"...the mathematical sciences particularly exhibit order, symmetry and limitation and these are the greatest forms of the beautiful". Aristotle

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