Ten Words About Morphogenetic Images: A Discreet Pathway Between Science, Art, and Architecture

Ten Words About Morphogenetic Images: A Discreet Pathway Between Science, Art, and Architecture

Alessandro Luigini (Free University of Bozen, Italy) and Starlight Vattano (Free University of Bozen, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3993-3.ch007

Abstract

This chapter describes how the repertoire of images derived from morphogenetic shaping processes is widely studied in every scientific and humanistic field. These are from the pioneering experiences of cinematic, programmed and generative arts of the 1960s and 1970s, the utopian digital space spells in the ‘90s, the morphogenetic architectural projects in the early 2000s, to the latest experiences. It is possible to look at these currents with a critical look detached from the time distance that has developed. Many denominations indicate processes and experiences in different fields but result from a common intellectual matrix. This is used to generate shapes, figures, spaces or images from automated information processes that do not delineate as deterministic figuration from the artist. Although, as interaction between the artist and computational thinking has declined in the most disparate ways. This chapter, through an apparently discontinuous pathway, reconstructs a theoretical structure on which the contemporary production of morphogenetic artifacts is based.
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Intorduction

L’armonia del mondo si manifesta nella forma e nel numero, e il cuore e l’anima e tutta la poesia della filosofia naturale si incarnano nel concetto della bellezza matematica. Tale è la perfezione della bellezza matematica che ciò che più è aggraziato e regolare, insieme è più utile e perfetto (Thompson, 2006, p. 350).

Overture

The repertoire of images derived from morphogenetic shaping processes is widely studied in every scientific and humanistic field: from the pioneering experiences of cinematic, programmed and generative arts of the 1960s and 1970s, which, as we shall see are deeply rooted in history, the utopian digital spatialities in the ‘90s, the morphogenetic architectural projects of the early 2000s, to the latest experiences, it is possible to look at these currents with a partly and adequately detached critical look, given the time that has since passed. Kinetic art, programmed art, generative art, de-formating architecture, and other denominations1 are used to indicate processes and experiences in different fields but resulting from a common intellectual matrix: to generate shapes, figures, spaces or images from automated information processes that do not delineate as deterministic figuration by the artist but as interaction between the artist and a computational thinking declined in the most disparate ways.

The fascination that these images and these projects have been able and are still able to arouse is tied mainly to the never-ending connection between science (not just computer science but also mathematics, geometry, physics, etc.), art and architecture that few other experiences in history have been able to represent.

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Algorisms

The interdependence between the multiple modes of form generation and computing is evident, especially if we observe the phenomenon at the heart of our discussion from our contemporary viewpoint. But by looking deeper into the aspects many of the art experiences we have briefly introduced have in common, not all of them operating within digital environments, the first evidence is the persistence of the algorithm concept.

Known since the 9th century, the term is attributed to the Arab mathematician Muḥammad ibn Mūsa who, originating from the Khwarizm region in Central Asia, was known as al-Khuwārizmī; hence Algorismus, Algorism, Algorithm2. The Algorithm was originally a numerical calculation scheme, a succession and indefinite repetition of explicit calculations used to achieve a result. The Euclidean algorithm is a clear example3. But the abstraction of numerical calculation could lead to an illusory underestimation of the effect of this concept back in time and in geographically distant places, back to when Greek and then Roman amphorae and furnishings and later mosaic floors presented decorations which were nothing other than “a succession and indefinite repetition of explicit calculations used to achieve a result”. The result was the complete geometric pattern.

Figure 1.

Mosaic Floor with Head of Medusa, about 115 - 150 A.D., The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles USA.

The most flourishing period of these figurative sets was the period of Islamic expansion, as demonstrated by examples throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

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