LIA (Print All Over Me)
Follow the link at he bottom of this post and you will be lead to an online shopping experience different from likely any other. Here you can buy clothes, but all are blank white: a t-shirt, a scarf, a bomber jacket, a dress, and a tote bag. You will find, though, that they do not stay blank for long. You may have found online retailers that will print onto a shirt a design of your clothing. This one is different. This one allows you to create a design dynamically, one that it entirely unique and literally never before seen. Click the clothing and a spiraling design like digital silk will begin to flow across the canvas, following your mouse. Click again and the design will start over, this time at a new location. Pressing the numbers 1-8 will change the color from black to red across the color spectrum to purple. Pressing 0 and 9 will adjust the scale. Dynamically you will be creating your own unique, intuitive design that is yours to buy, have printed, and wear.
Print All Over Me is a platform for LIA's generative work. The site on which the work is posted is typically used as an online clothing retailer that allows users to upload their own images to be printed on various blank articles of clothing. However, LIA's work differs as her design, LIA, along with Pixelweaver by Sosolimited, as it supports an algorithmic, dynamic design thanks to the software Processing. The Processing Foundation supports the page and 30% of proceeds go to supporting it. This allows for every piece to be completely unique and created by the user's motion before their eyes. It takes a platform that typically has users pick and choose from images that appeal to them and turns it into something that is much more personal and engaging.
"We want to give all kinds of artists a way to create pieces that we can enjoy in the physical world and a way to make money. So we thought how great would it be to give users a new way to interact with the work, make new pieces and also give artists and programmers a new way to design." Finkelstein, Meredith. (2015). You can Now Code Your Own Clothes With Processing.
LIA has been using Processing in her works for years as a platform for visual design allowing for form that is both digitally generated yet organically beautiful and unpredictable. LIA, in this case, coded the software that would allow for the procedural generation of design and then had it translated to p5.js to have it apply to the clothes themselves.
LIA's works follow a theme of interactivity in controlling a digital yet organic form. Digital media in its most basic form is inherently rigid. It is based in binary, a string of 1s and 0s, yeses and nos, ons and offs. It is most often designed to be as efficient as possible with no pre-programmed capacity to understand organic movement and thought, just a string of commands. That is where the art of creating art digitally comes in. The code must be instructed and structured in such a way that it draws to the screen in a manner that simulates organic form. Even in this case where it does not mimic anything in particular, we as humans can understand its movement, predict what it will do next, and be aesthetically moved by its form.
To further represent this theme is another of LIA's works, "Rain." It too was interactive, but in a museum setting. The work was comprised of a screen controlled by numerous dials that would feed in values to the software code in order to mimic rain falling onto a streaking down a window. From the time that the work was open and interactive, LIA took 5 of the various screen captures and made them into physical prints. The visual output experienced a lot of changes while on display from being thick and dark to light and thin and different variations in between. Capturing shots captured the variety of the outputs and possibly the feel of different types of rain instead of a time-lapse which would likely feel unnatural from the nature of rain.
"The idea for the work "Rain" came from the observation of patterns emerging from the random forms created when rain falls onto a window. As with LIA’s other works, „Rain“ begins by finding patterns from randomness/chaos in the natural environment, and then explores, extends, changes and abstracts these patterns via software to create a continuously changing visual output." LIAWorks. (2012). Rain.
Though the algorithms involved in the creation of both LIA and Rain are generative with no two shirts or captures being the same, LIA maintains control over the style. In both cases the designs are mechanical yet organic. They utilize symmetry and repetition as well as accents of slightly muted color. That is, even when the pieces are being interacted with, the work is still LIA's as it is designed to follow her patterns, aesthetic, and style. Not only that, but they are also tailored to fit the medium on which they will be printed. LIA uses broad, symmetrical spirals and waves as the prints will be on a wide, if oddly shaped, canvas. Meanwhile, Rain is meant to mimic rain and therefore appears to be flowing downward in straight parallel lines. It will mimic her stylized rain no matter what users do to alter it.
However, the setting for these two works differ greatly. Rain is a museum installation with its dials turned my few people (comparatively) with the prints hand selected and sold for a high price. LIA, however, is open to use by anyone with access to the internet and can be purchased for much less. Does this make the art less valuable overall? While it may seem that way, it could be thought of more as a supply and demand situation. LIA is highly available in indefinite numbers while Rain was sold in a n edition of 5. Scarcity increases value of almost everything, especially things as collectible as art. But there is a lot to be said for where art is shown. Jennifer Chan is one such artist who parodies the sterility of modern museum art (more on her here). People like her belive that nothing is inherently more deep, important, or valuable just because it sits atop a white pedestal. Just because LIA is widely available and affordable does not mean it is a less valuable or meaningful work. It just has a different audience and goal. In this case, it is collaboration and creation (given that some of the purpose it to raise funds for teaching Processing).
One who is familiar with it might associate the forms and patterns of Print All Over Me with that of the program Weavesilk or just Silk, an interactive site created by Yuri Vishnevsky. Both have a silky, cloth-like quality to them that evokes organic form that users are drawn to for its dancing patterns. Vishnevsky did not first think of Silk as an art program (that is, in the traditional sense such as Photoshop of SAI) but as an experience that people could "loose themselves in." It is very enthralling designed with the intent of fascinating yet soothing.
What really unites these pieces is how they draw the human eye and enrapture the human brain. They draw in their veiwers with the qualities we find beautiful in nature: the movement of a dance, the rippling of water, the morphing of shape and hue of clouds at sunset. Code was not created to be beautiful in this sense and even programmable, artificial intelligence is not yet at a point that it can recognize visual, aesthetic beauty. Digital art like this, generative, input based, and self creating, defies these limitations to create something creative, beautiful, and new.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of CO.Design