Archive for the ‘visual’ Category

The New Demosceneoid GIF-scene

November 6, 2014

GIF is not something I feel like having an opinion about. I’ve always liked things like ulan-bator’s oldschool gaming oddities and Max Capacity’s VHS petscii etc. They are obviously putting a lot of effort into making good GIFs. Filesize, loopwise, colourwise. Enso also does nice works in the gif-format. The one below is one of my favourites by him, and you should check his exhibition at


There’s lots of GIFs that connect with the art world. Lately I’ve seen quite a few people doing complex geometrical gif-loops that connect more to the demoscene than the arts. Polyrhythmic clever visual trickeries that loop seamlessly into eternity. This interests me, because it seems to be inbetween mathematical geekery and design. Which is where the demoscene is sometimes too. When it’s not engulfed in mega-polygonal overloads of hi-res slime.

Things like this don’t really fit well anywhere, but they can still get very popular.

These loop artists use Processing and After Effects and powerful computers, I guess. But then they cram it all into the GIF-format. Often also in Tumblr’s version of gif (small filesize, low amount of frames, and various difficulties of getting Tumblr to accept your gif). Unsurprisingly, some of these artists are nowadays using Ello, which allows larger images and doesn’t rename the files you upload (which, for file-saving people like me, is strangely satisfying).

Anyway. Still feels demoscene-ish to me. So let’s hit the gifs. This is a quick and sloppy selection, but hey – atleast it’s something!


echophon tumblr_ne8ss6BWx11six59bo1_400

Big Blue Boo):

big-blue-boo plus-2mb

biblueboo righ turn wrong impression

polish bigblueboo


dvdp tumblr_muxwirLCHL1qzt4vjo1_500

dvdp tumblr_mr4xol2NLu1qzt4vjo1_500

Bees and Bombs:

beesandbombs tumblr_ncmow7lcxd1s5f7v4o1_500

bees and bombs tumblr_nbsxm5hj0m1r2geqjo1_500

bees and bombs tumblr_nbedp4xnVK1s5f7v4o1_500

bees and bombs tumblr_nazgbu78eg1r2geqjo1_500

bees and bombs tumblr_n9rhj6An4I1r2geqjo1_500

bees and bombs tumblr_n9fr4rwYFb1r2geqjo1_500

I’ll leave you with one final thought: ?

Teletext Art – An Overview

August 16, 2013

If you describe teletext as obsolete, you couldn’t be more wrong. It is one of the most popular media in Scandinavia. Here in Sweden for example, teletext is still the #1 public service medium, and commercial channels still sell plenty of advertising for it. Despite public service serving people with decent content on tv and www, most of us can not stay away from teletext. It remains the #1 public service medium in Sweden, and in 2011 it was also the most popular app for the iPad, and the third most popular iPhone-app. Stick it to the hi-res man!

And you’re thinking: omg wtf lol why? I’m not sure. But it’s not due to a lack of fast internet. The access to high speed broadband internet is high around here, which indicates that “internet” is not a competitor to teletext. Teletext was not replaced by www, because the hi-res spam freedom of the web is no match for the editorial no-bullshit-no-advertising tranquility of teletext. Atleast not for the time being.


Now when that’s clear, let’s turn to teletext art. If context is what defines art, then teletext art is a quite recent thing. Early examples include works by Maki Ueda (Dutch TV, 2000), Jodi’s noisy Teletext (Dutch TV and www, 2002) and the xxxellent Teletext Babez by Dragan Espenschied (Dutch TV, 2001). Microtel (Dutch TV, 2006) was a group exhibition that involved plenty of people from the community. Page 444 by MOMS (Icelandic TV 2007) is also worth mentioning here, although the YouTube-clip has been removed since I found it in 2008.

We should also note Dan Farrimond’s The Pixel Is Power (2008), the first (?) teletext video clip I Will Glam (Spanish TV, 2009), The Sound of Ebay by Ubermorgen (www, 2008), För Text-TV i Tiden by Fredrik Olsson & Otto von Busch (Swedish TV, 2010) and fok_it by Joonas Rinta-Kanto (Finnish TV 2012). UPDATE: Also check out the conceptual Social Teletext Network (2013).

And of course, the International Teletext Art Festival is right now doing its second year, running in a number of European countries. I was asked to contribute, so I presented my Remote Control Music Studio. This year it seems to receive more attention than before, and will be featured at the prestigous Ars Electronica art festival.

sorry, I know it's annoying

The last few years Raquel Meyers has been doing plenty of teletext work, and I’ve been lucky enough to make music and stuff for it. We used teletext for live VJing at Transmediale earlier this year (Mind the Volcano) and at Bonniers Konsthall we exhibited Datagården – a teletext graveyeard, remote controlled by the visitors. In Datagården there was also a DIYobituary, with a video-camera/teletext feedback loop, as shown below.

These things ran on standard TVs, since it used the teletext inserter vbit by Peter Kwan. At the time this was the only affordable option for custom teletext, but now there are even cheaper solutions for Raspberry Pi (with less features, though).



If we turn away from the art world and consider teletext art in terms of craft and techne, teletext art is much older. Ever since the early years in the late 1970s people have been trying to master the craft of teletext. And it’s no simple task. Teletext only uses text characters (with semigraphic characters for the pixel-style) and 8 colours.

You can use control characters to change colour and size, aswell as add effects such as blink. But these control characters are shown as blanks, so changing a colour means that you have to insert an empty character. This is why there are usually thick black outlines in teletext graphics* and it’s also why horizontal compositions are so common. Below is a piece by LIA for the ITAF 2013 exhibition:


Almost all teletext graphics have been lost. It is not easy to archive for researchers since it exists somewhere “outside” the screen. For the TV-companies it would be easy to save the teletext pages, but I would be surprised if they ever did.

But hey – you might have a teletext archive at home! If you have a VHS-tape with a movie recorded from a TV-channel with teletext, you can play the tape and browse teletext as it appeared when the movie was aired. If you’re lucky, anyway. If you are one of those rare SVHS-people, chances are much higher.

Even so, there are still plenty of good teletext works online. We collect many of them at Go there and check it out (NSFW and meanwhile you should check these two teletext animation series:

Hands Up!  by Intelfax. A mindblowing effort! An animation series to teach sign language. It was done on a BBC computer (which had built-in support for teletext) using the Movie Maker software. Although it might seem absurd to do this in text-mode instead of using pixel graphics, this was likely a good option for long animations, considering the amount of memory available. Btw: teletext graphics was also (sort of) supported by the ABC80 computer, aiit.

Bill Geers painstakingly animated biblical stories in teletext are equally impressive to Hands Up and afaik made with similar tools.

If you want to dig more into the world of teletext, you should also check out its sibbling protocols: the interactive videotex used both teletext and more complex protocols like antiope (used by Minitel) where you could change the font, and telidon that also featured vector graphics. Check out John Fekner’s Toxic Waste From A to Z below. Finally, there’s telesoftware and the bizarre browse-the-internet-over-your-phone-in-public-on-a-specific-teletext-page thing  3text maffian (in Swedish).

* Pro tip: circumvent the blank control characters by clever uses of background/foreground colours and “inverted” characters.

After the Trackers: John Cage Bukkake

July 30, 2012

Trackers have remediated plenty of Western ideas of music. Typical time signatures (4/4) and tonality (12-TET) are the most obvious. Less apparent is the distinct separation between instruments and notation; sound and code. Most trackers force the users to make strictly defined instruments which sound basically the same every time it’s triggered. As such, trackers are essentially the opposite to modular synthesis, where anything can modulate anything (ideally).

Perhaps that’s why trackers never seem to go mainstream. They are too deterministic and controlling. Too manual. The contemporary way is to have fun with stuff you can’t understand: nothing is a mistake á la Cage. It’s okay too be lazy, 2 cool 4 skool. So trackers like Renoise are going that way too, and seems to be getting pretty bloated in the process.

In a similar way, some of the most talked-about chipmusic tools are not trackers. New physical interfaces like Gatari and C64 keytar are obvious examples, but sometimes software also gets some attention. Nanoloop, of course, can be seen as a precursor to the now popular grid interfaces. Viznut’s Ibniz is more of a mathematics tool, but it got a lot of attention earlier this year. It’s been designed to make text-based generative works with a tiny filesize (sometimes called ?bytebeat). Since Ibniz works with both visuals and sounds, it also blurs the boundaries between visual interface and content, like little-scale also demonstrated a few days ago.

For me it seems clear that visuals and music will melt together in new forms of interfaces in the future. Let’s look at two experiments that can give some pointers for the future of low-tekk composing: Gijs Gieskes’ TVCV-sequencer and Chantal Goret’s mouse-controlled Crazy Box!

Towards a Genre Materiality

May 6, 2012

This is a somewhat theoretical post meant to underpin future posts about something I call genre materiality atm. The point is to describe how screens have gone from passive transporters to active participants. Their qualities play an important role in media literacy and human taste. Screens are a good example of genre materiality, since they are still considered to be quite neutral whereas most other media are under the scrutiny of constructivism. It’s not as obvious as e.g sound storage media, or computers.

The screen used to be a syringe. Before the age of TV, academics thought that media consumers were injected with the message of the sender. Humans were seen as passive receivers, and the screens were like passive relays.

Fast-forwarding to the 1980’s, most things in the world was described as social constructions. Technology was considered to be shaped by culture and controlled by humans. Afaik, this perspective was applied much to screens (although the McLuhanites probably wrote something?). Even in the height of postmodern SCOT, screens were somehow able to be left out of the constructivism. And they still are. Screens are just, you know, showing what we feed them with. They don’t really affect the content.

But if you’ve ever been involved with printing, you know that screens are manipulative little bastards. People tend to blame the printers, but screens are calibrated differently and therefore the printers seem to print it wrong. There are professional calibrators out there, who come to calibrate your screen-printer-lifestyle. Then it’s smooth sailing from there.

Moving on to here and now, screen qualities have become crucial parts not only for hipster literacy and nerd aesthetics, but for pop culture at large. We interpret images differently due to the artefacts of the screen. It doesn’t take long for us to understand how old something is (supposed to look). We can feel a difference between CRT-screens and plasma screens. Right? Obviously, it’s easier to see the difference with production and storage technologies (VHS-camcorder versus 16mm film), but it’s there with screens too.

For example – modern TVs have a mode that doubles the framerate. It makes for a good sales pitch, since you can show soccer games to old men and demonstrate how smooth and clear the game is. But if you watch a movie in this enhanced mode, it totally destroys the atmosphere of the movie (atleast until you get used to it). The cheap interpolation algorithms used to create the new frames can make any movie look like a cheap camcorder class reunion party. I suppose that there are good aspects of it too, like the ability to make faster pans and tilts without revealing the framerate. After all, cinema has a pretty low frame rate, which likely has affected the genre of film.

So the screen becomes an active participant in the experience. Just like media consumers have gone from being (considered as) passive to active, so has the media themselves.

Some screen qualities can also be important for genres. In some cases, you can’t even use modern screens. If you create media-specific visuals and/or use machines that have an odd output signal (like a PAL C64 running in 50.125 Hz) you are likely to run into problems with modern screens or beamers, as I’ve written about before. More importantly though – you lose the qualities of the screen. Ian Bogost talks about e.g texture, noise and color bleed as important parts of the experience. This results in a very different experience from watching it in, for example, laser. Still, it is not all clear which is the most accurate representation: clear non-emulated pixels on a modern screen, or CRT-mangled images on a TV.

Even music could, with some effort, be connected to the screen. For platforms where the whole system is connected to the framerate of the screen, you would get a different tempo and tone with PAL and NTSC respectively. The music is tied to the raster beam of the CRT screen.

I will return to this in the future, and make something out of it. For now I have to go to a farm, and I’m also working on two texts that’ll hopefully be published later this year. Cowabunga, chipsters!


We call them VJs

November 13, 2011

…but it’s not really fair. It’s a misleding term since VJs usually create their own material (unlike a DJ). I think it was Jean Poole who first pointed that out to me, many years ago. Anyway. I started writing this post as a reply to “Which European VJs are there?” but then I digressed, and then it turned into this. Feel free to complain!

I’ve written before about the popularity of glitch in the chipscene. In Europe Gijs Gieskes (nl), RealMyop (fr) and Kissdub (fr) are some of the foremost 8-bit glitcherz, although people like Karl Klomp (nl) and Rosa Menkman (nl) also work with low bits every now and then. In USA there’s e.g. Notendo and No Carrier who work with glitching the NES – in hard and soft ways.

For a VJ, it seems pretty common to be stuck in a corner somewhere playing for something that you don’t even know what it is. But there are a number of closer cooperations between musicians and visualists. Distortled Box (es) work in the glitch field. Meneo (es) have/had Entter (es) on the visuals. ZX Spectrum Orchestra (uk) did some über-fresh audiovisual sets straight from the machine. 8GB (ar) did both music and visuals for his performances.

Just like with music, the 8-bit visual tools are quite poor when it comes to interaction, afaik. If demo coders weren’t so obsessed with non-interactive things the situation would be different, of course. Imagine if there were more things like VBLANK’s VJ on a chip, or Atari Video Music or all those crazy visualizers from Jeff Minter. Since it’s all code, it should be more easy and obvious to add interactive features. If all those 32-byte-thingies were interactive, it wouldn’t take many floppies for a full night’s VJ-set!

I believe Paris (us) was talking about this a few years ago, as a key feature of making visuals from scratch with old tech. With his background in analogue modulations and physics, he should know.

Anyway: one of the titans of low-res VJing is the C-men (nl). Starting as a duo, it’s now a one-man army who’s brought his Amigas around for over a decade, and not only for chip-related gigs. His visuals don’t use the “8-bit aesthetics” even if they technically are.

Two of my favourite VJs are Otro (fr) and Raquel Meyers (se). While Otro is perhaps more known for graphic design, his VJ-sets are incredible aswell. Raquel has recently taken an interesting turn into the text mode world, with e.g. 2SLEEP1 (together with yours truly). Both them have also made a few works for the demoscene.

And finally: Enso (us) has a nice psychedelic flair to his visuals, Pikilipita (fr/uk) made VJ-software for e.g. the GBA and VjVISUALOOP (it) seems to have made some nice stuff. Now I’m going to eat, but please comment about all the VJs I’ve forgotten here!

Btw: lulz @ writing a post about visuals that only contains text.


Winning Printers

November 2, 2011

Printers are the future! Like Apple’s new CEO said. According to … the Onion.

So it was a joke, but there is definitely something strangely futuristic about printers. It’s probably the most invisible post-digital thing around, and with DIY 3D-printers like reprap they might get some love soon again.

Or perhaps they already did? I’ve come across many printers with a strong character lately. They seem really fun to experiment with. The spraycan-based Near Tag Quality makes me think about an unthinkable mixture between beamers and blu (or?). Time Print Machine bleeds ink on paper, which creates round “pixels” of various sizes. Kind of like the LEGO printer and the human printer, but with more interesting results.

Electronic Instant Camera by Niklas Roy

But the Electronic Instant Camera by Niklas Roy is the reason for writing this post, really. Great work. Like a slow-fi Polaroid. A mixture of Gameboy Camera, Anton Perich’s painting machine from 1979, and the waterfall screen. I hope that it sounds good too. Printers are good music instruments

Anton Perich's Painting Machine

Finally, the TXT-PRINTER. It’s an official Philips TV from 1984 that contains a printer for outputting teletext pages. One at a time. I actually have one of these, and I can’t believe it didn’t get more popular! Photo taken from this page.


August 23, 2011

Text art is having a revival of sorts. If you didn’t notice it yet, you’ll see it in the next release on Chipflip with some goodness from Raquel Meyers. I recently saw some nice work made with Melly’s ASCIIPaint and also good animations made in a program called ascii-paint (which was built from ASCII-Paint).

ASCIIPaint-work by Markham, 2010 (cropped, to avoid artefacts)

Yeah. Hm. Since ASCII is the lowest common denominator for all (?) computer character sets since the 1960s, I suppose that most other standards (Unicode, PETSCII, ATASCII, ANSI, etc) can be called ASCII art aswell. But that’s an engineer perspective. From a more cultural point of view, you could argue that each of these charsets has its own function, history, aesthetics and users. So they are more different than similar.

The C64’s PETSCII gave BBS’s (and disk directories, BASIC-games, etc) a special feel, especially since the slow modem speeds made them automatically “animated“. Telnetting to for example Antidote today is an experience that is hard to match. As you read the messages posted in the PETSCII-section, you can see how the text (art) slowly builds up, char by char. Check out Poison’s Notemaker demo to see how it can look. Can you feel the baud rate, aww yeah?!

PETSCII-stuff by Raquel Meyers, 2010, for (coming soon)

Afaik, PETSCII was never released on its own. But on the Amiga scene dedicated ASCII-groups was formed, and the so-called ASCII-colly started to appear as separate artefacts around 1992 [1]. It was mostly connected with warez/hacking but also the demoscene. These cultural settings and the tight monospaced fonts and line spacing led to an eLiTE mixture of graffiti and poetry. When they used colours, they sometimes called it (Amiga) ANSI.

Razor 1911 logo by Skope of Up Rough & Divine Stylers, 2010

On the PC, you couldn’t make ASCII the same way. The most popular characters ( /  –  _  \ ) had space inbetween them, so it wasn’t possible to make continuous lines in the same way. PC ASCII-artists had to find other ways, and they mostly relied on the extra characters found in the 8-bit MS DOS font. It was a new style that the Amiga-people called ANSI, and the PC-people called (Block) ASCII. A couple of years later some PC-users returned to the 7-bit ASCII-usage and called it … newskool! This style became popular on the web, of course, but is nowadays often complemented with Unicode characters.

ANSI then, seems to be applicable to most text art that has colours. But if it’s Amiga text art (which isn’t really supposed to use any DOS/IBM-shit) you should watch out. And of course, if it’s PETSCII, you shouldn’t call it ANSI. You might get seriously injured.

But anyway – it seems that according to the PC’s “art scene” ideas the various ASCII-Paint softwares above should in fact be called ANSI-Paint. But I guess this is a battle that will be lost. For most people it’s not very relevant to distinguish between ANSI and ASCII. Just like with “8-bit” or “chipmusic” or “electro” it gets pretty complicated if you refuse to accept the dominant use.

Besides, is there anyone who wants to discuss the difference between ANSI and ASCII anyway? \o/

Btw#1: if you need more text art, you can also check out these posts
Btw #2: if you know of good resources on text art, get in touch.

[1] Year taken from Freax (p.121). Rotox, Desert and other West Germans are described as the first Amiga ASCII-artists in the late 1980s (which I have not been able to confirm). Other early ASCII-groups artists were H2O and Mogul (de) and U-Man (se). Some of the earliest Amiga ASCII groups are Epsilon Design (se) and Dezign (de). More info wanted!

The most expensive pixel art ever in the history of time and space?

June 26, 2011

Two years ago Andy Baio released a chipmusic tribute to Miles Davis. He paid royalties for the music, but forgot about the cover art. It had a pixel art version of a photo by Jay Maisel, who sued Baio. The whole thing ended with a settlement outside of court where Baio had to pay $32,500.

We know this because Baio insisted on his right to be able to talk about it. That’s rare. Usually there are contracts to make people shut up about these things. We’ll probably never know what really happened with all that Timbaland-stuff, for example.

Now the haters are all over Maisel. Maisel is the bad guy, Baio is the good guy. But this is not really a story about two individuals. It’s about a complex system that revolves around money, and is maintained by those who can profit from it. Lawyers, for example. Copyright holders. Copyright collecting agencies. Distributors. And last (and probably least) the people who produce the stuff that this system revolves around.

In this case, Maisel can earn this amount of money in a day doing other things but for his copyright attorneys it’s their main source of income. They don’t care about Maisel’s reputation, they are “just doing their job”. Maisel, on the other hand, probably considers this as a good deed for the photographic community which has been severly screwed by mainstream media for decades.

So: nobody is doing anything “wrong”? Maybe not. In fact – copyright lawsuits happen even if everything is legit (which probably was the case here). But if you don’t have the money to pay the lawyers, you will always lose to those who can. So you choose to not risk it, pay the settlement, and shut up “because that’s the least expensive option available“. That is the story here and Baio is a hero for making it public. And reactionary initiatives like Creative Commons are more like make-up that justify the abuse instead of fixing the problem.

Minidemos: 32 bytes = better than 300 megabytes

May 20, 2011

What does a computer want to say, really? What is inside the machine? If there’s just 256 bytes of software, we might be getting closer to some sort of answer. Or is that just bullshit?

It is of course a craft that demosceners have worked with for many years. Ever since the 1990s demoparties have categories for intros made in for example 4 kilobytes. But in the last years, this has dropped well below 1 kilobyte. Now there are audiovisual “demos” that consist of less than 32 bytes. Usually it’s “coder porn”. There’s for example the 224-byte tunnel-effect for PC, coded in Photoshop (!) – check the video. Also, Loonies have made some impressive audiovisual Amiga-works with hot code and soft-synth electro: ikadalawampu (Amiga, 4096 bytes). On the C64, there’s music that use almost no CPU-power at all.

Other works are chaotic systems that look so good that it doesn’t have to matter that it’s just 256 bytes. Look at the video of Difúze by Rrrola (PC). It’s some kind of audiovisual (General MIDI) new age minidemo. Rndlife 2 by Terric/Meta is a text mode C64-production where the PETSCII characters are sliming around the screen like there’s no tomorrow (exe).

256 bytes is, in itself, rather useless. In a way, software doesn’t exist without hardware. Minidemos require nice hardware. If the hardware is complex enough, then 4 kilobytes can look and sound like a Hollywood movie intro. If the hardware is low-tech fresh, then 23 bytes can be a 9-minute audiovisual data catastrophe/victory. Just look at the video of 4mat’s Wallflower for C64. I wonder if he himself can explain what’s going on?

It’s also possible to do story telling in minidemos. Check out A true Story From the Life of a Lonely Cell by Skrju (256 bytes, Spectrum). Dramaturgy with two pixels. Viznut made a similar thing in 4k, that also has music to help the storytelling.

Still, my favourite minidemo is still Rrrola‘s 32-byte masterpiece for MS-DOS: Ameisen. Two years ago I recorded it, so I could show it at the online exhibition Minimum Data >> Maximum Content that I curated for Cimatics’ defunct Intermerz project. If you don’t like compression, the video looks pretty crappy. I really made my best to translate the data performance into recorded video, but well, a performance is usually better than a recording! 32 bytes of instructions can obviously be better than 300 megabytes of video.

Spectrum Babez (But no Men?)

April 11, 2011

Pixel art is usually thought of as a manual labour, just like chip music. Every byte set by hand, except for rudimentary copy functions. If you only use keyboard or joystick that’s also a plus. Personally, I like conversions aswell. They tend to reveal nice artifacts that manual labour often wants to hide. And what’s better to convert than hot humans? Porn -> big pixels is just as popular as pop-music -> big waveforms. Computer-generated text art pretty much started with porn.

So here are some female babes in Spectrum vision by Max Capacity and Prosthetic Knowledge. These are all conversions, afaik. Obviously, there are no losses in these translations. They have either opened up images to more interpretations, or locked them into a new state of excellence. Translation is for winners!

If you crave more low-res-xx you can check Otro’s cover art for Kittenrock’s Pornochip compilation is N.I.C.E! There’s Goa Brudbilder – the interlaced PETSCII madness by Role Model and me (C64). Of course, there’s always, but for the real C64-porn go for JSL’s porn packs. It’s animated PETSCII, and it’s like it was made by a drooling 13-year-old.

Ok, but what about the men? Where are all the naked hunks in low-res? Are they all busy fighting dragons in Vallejo-remakes and riding with a sword into the sun set? Calling all low-res hot boys!

Max Capacity – Love Maniacs

Max Capacity – Totally Awesome

Prosthetic Knowledge – Outside of Screen (originally by nam)

Prosthetic Knowledge – Untitled 1 -2011 (original by C. Kirk)