Rage, Love, Hope, and Despair

Rage, Love, Hope, and Despair

  Charles Sandison is a generative artist renowned for his projection pieces that illuminate structures using words controlled by computer code. In Rage, Love, Hope, and Despair, Sandison makes use of an entire room to generate an interaction between the words listed in the title. He categorizes groups of related words by coloring them in accordance with their connotation. On par with common perception, words related to rage are colored red, those for love in pink, and so on. What is most striking in this piece is not the representation of each individual word, but the interactions between these different categories. Sandison has coded this work so that interactions take place which aren't expected, but meaningful in the concepts they evoke. One example of this is how 'hate' follows 'love' throughout the space. Two definitionally opposite words are linked in a way that makes the viewer consider the underlying relationship between them.

Michael O'Sullivan writes on Sandison's poetic style:

Like the so-called concrete poetry that inspired him -- in which the form of printed language echoes its content -- Sandison's art takes the old saying "Actions speak louder than words" very much to heart.
"Rage, Love, Hope, and Despair" takes the pen, in other words, and turns it into a sword.(O'Sullivan, M. (2011, August 2). Stating two cases, With or Without Words)


Sandison uses computer programs as his mode of poetic delivery. His processes facilitate interactions such as 'desire' brushing against 'lust' and turning into 'rage', or multiple pink colored 'love' words encircling and eliminating 'rage'. Such interactions not only present a visually intriguing piece of generative art, but a space of meaningful interconnectivity. This piece is projected to give more life to the words, moving them around the tangible exhibition space opposed to a constrained screen display. In this space Sandison effectively communicates the complexity and unexpected bonds between certain emotions. Within the passion of love hate can take root, and from despair can come hope and happiness. These poetic statements are embedded within Sandison's code and masterfully displayed in Rage, Love, Hope, and Despair.

Compared to other works by Sandison, this piece was done on a scale in which you had to be very close to the projection to pick out patterns taking place. In another piece, titled Good and Evil the performance plays out on a much grander scale in which the viewer must take a step back to observe the statement of the work. Here only two words are projected as competing masses. The two sides sit at a stalemate with one another as small groups of 'good' and 'evil' clusters venture into each others territory and get swallowed by the masses of red or white.

Photo courtesy of   Wall Street International.

Photo courtesy of  Wall Street International.

 The limitation of words in the spectrum makes the viewer step back to look at a broader interaction between two sides. While Sandison zooms out the scope of events in this project, he remains consistent in his ability to generate unexpected yet meaningful patterns within the work. Masses of lightly colored 'good' interact with 'evil' with varying success, getting swallowed up on some fronts and advancing in others. Simultaneously, some red will materialize out of the seas of white, and vice versa. While one would expect good to ultimately swallow the evil, the two simply change form throughout the space as they grapple for position. Sandison's tendency to defy traditional word relationships, and explore their deeper unexpected meaning, is evident in both works.

Another artist who delves into hidden patterns is Ben Fry, who, instead of programming in the relationships between his elements, utilizes data to give the viewer an alternative perception. In his project Distellamap(Pac-Man), Fry explores game code and generates a visualization that draws lines whenever a 'go to' command is executed and draws orange blocks to the screen based on bytes of data found in the cartridge.

Image provided by  Ben Fry

Image provided by Ben Fry

This project was devised by Fry to celebrate the elegant nature of a program. While he creates patterns by means of parsing through code and data, he is tied to Sandison in his ability to fix a unique and engaging lens on a topic. While Sandison visualizes spoken language to change our perception of meaning, Fry manipulates our human to computer communication channels to generate an equally impressive display of relationships.

Rage, Hope, Love, and Despair Showings:

-Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC

-Galería Max Estrella, Madrid, Spain

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