suggests various ways of screaming, while Christian You don’t know what
Wolff’s “Stones” encourages players to “draw sounds
out of stones” and ends with the request: “Do not you’ll get, and sometimes
break anything.” Text-based instructions for making drawings or you’ll get nothing much,
music are cool, but what about instructions for but giving up a little
making instructions? Larry Polansky’s Four Voice Canon #13 (“DIY Canon”) is just that, a kind of control can be a powerful
second-order music-making system. From Polansky’s description: creative technique.
The four-voice canons are a set of pieces I have
been working on since around 1976. #13 (“DIY
Canon”) is intended as a general template for
making new four-voice canons: a kind of meta-canon. This “score” (#13) describes the ideas
behind the previous canons (permutation lists,
mensuration canons, heterophony), and suggests
ideas for future ones. It is a how-to manual, a
technical description, and an invitational “
cookbook” for performers and composers to make
their own pieces.
Photography by Suzanne Sarraf © 2004 National Gallery of Art, Washington (top), and Kate Hartman (bottom)
Sometimes, rather than defining a new algorithm
and using it to generate materials, artists work with
data or artifacts that are the result of some pre-existing process. Rachel Beth Egenhoefer recorded
the moves in a game of Chutes and Ladders and
then used bubble gum, lollipops, and string to turn
the game play into sculpture. I once saw a very beautiful, and seemingly abstract, geometric sculpture/
painting by Candy Jernigan: a board covered with
small, colorful plastic caps arranged in clumps with
a grid in the center. On closer inspection I discovered the caps were from crack vials that Jernigan
had found during walks in her neighborhood. The
grid was a map of the surrounding blocks, and the
caps were placed on the board according to where
they were found.
Often the goal isn’t to make a thing at all, but to
have an experience or create an interesting situation. At “psychogeography” events like the recent
Conflux Festival in Brooklyn, N. Y., participants often
use games or systems to explore unfamiliar parts
of a city or find new ways of appreciating familiar
ones. Mary Flanagan introduced Mapscotch, a
combination of hopscotch and mapmaking used to
explore social issues in public spaces. And Christian
Croft and Kate Hartman introduced the Energy
Harvesting Dérive, a pair of Heelys roller sneakers
with a wheel-driven generator and two light-up
arrows that generate random turning instructions.
Sneakers for getting lost!
Being creative is hard work, and it’s easy to fall
into a routine or rely too much on ideas and techniques that you’re comfortable with. If you feel
yourself coasting, why not dream up a game or
system of some sort and give yourself over to it?
You might end up someplace unexpected and
marvelous. Or horrible, but in that case it’s not my
fault. Why can’t you just draw pretty pictures like
a normal person?
Assistant executing Sol Le Witt’s Wall Drawing #65 (top),
on a wall in the National Gallery of Art’s concourse galleries. In Energy Harvesting Dérive (bottom), all electronic
components are housed in the tongue of the sneaker.
The arrows on the toe light up to direct you where to go.
Douglas Irving Repetto is an artist and teacher involved in a
number of art/community groups including Dorkbot, ArtBots,
Organizm, and Music-dsp.