return to "return to a square"

15 Apr 2020 - canberra, australia

Using Open Frameworks, I recreated the 1968 work “Return to a Square” by the Japanese computer art collective Computer Technique Group (CTG).

Their 1966 manifesto is particularly striking:

CTG is an active think tank that takes advantage of well developed electronic computer systems and makes them serve the needs of human beings. We, the post-war generation, have been exploring our place in machine society for all our born days. Living without machines is attractive in its own way in our dreadful age but it is regressive evolution back towards apes, and is different from the creative evolution we are aiming for. We will tame the computer’s appealing transcendental charm and restrain it from serving established power. This stance is the way to solve complicated problems in the machine society. We do not praise machine civilization, nor do we criticise it. By a strategic collaboration with artists, scientists and other creative people from a wide variety of backgrounds, we will deliberate carefully the relationships between human beings and machines, and how we should live in the computer age.

Re-reading their manifesto, I’m drawn to the notion of “taming” the computer’s “trancendental charm”. Of all the powers that people profess computational equiptment to have, seldom is “charm” one of them. On the other hand, charm is cornerstone to computation in other ways–namely, ideas. Be it computational thinking, singularity, AI (writ large) – the ideas that persist in the computational discourse often carry an edge of subtle or overt charm. Is it not this unfulfilled potential that charms? Or perhaps it is the stories already told of the intelligent machine and its omnipotent inventor? That this potential of building a science-fiction world could be tamed with computer art facinates me. It’s to noone’s surprise that one can create new images, new artifacts, new narratives, new models, etc. to challenge established power.