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A Portrait Of The Algorithm As A Young Man

Machines may not be able to find you the date of your dreams, but they sure can paint. This art is being made by an algorithm. A “life game” algorithm, to be exact. All decisions about which ink to drop and where to drop it are remotely controlled by the ever-changing calculation that predicts the growth of living systems.

Instructions are zapped from the electronic brain to this contraption, which is loaded up with inks in ten different colors and two different viscosities.
The “painting” arm zooms back and forth, in and out, as directed by the computer, and inks drip out of the nozzles onto a glass surface, where they either spread or are repelled by the liquid on the glass or each other.
This “artist” has made a number of works that are on display at the gallery (and sell for very respectable prices). Unexpectedly, each is quite different from the next.

Nor, the designers of this project, explain that Dyebirth was inspired by living systems like dendrites and bacterial colonies. The inks used in the paintings have different viscosities and properties, which interact and “bloom” over time after being dripped onto the painting. As they “grow,” they resemble the biological systems that planted the idea.

If you’d like to see this quirky algorithmic artist in action, it’s painting away right now in Harajuku, every day until November 1, 2018. 


Ultra Super New Gallery

Hours: 10:00 – 19:00

Admission: Free


This exhibit is part of Tokyo DesignArt week, which is staging various exhibits all over Harajuku, Omotesando and Gaienmae through this weekend. Be sure to check the dates of stuff you plan to see – some have already finished.

If you love Japan, you might enjoy The Last Tea Bowl Thief too

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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly newsletter Japanagram, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had

Jonelle Patrick View All

Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!

3 thoughts on “A Portrait Of The Algorithm As A Young Man Leave a comment

  1. Wait! Isn’t Idolmaker your newest Book? Anyway, I ordered it and just started it. Congratulations of your best yet! You do a great job on characterization which is what I enjoy most in fiction. >

    • Phoebe, you brought a smile to my face today! Idolmaker is the third, and Painted Doll is the newest. You’re not the first to recently be surprised by that, but I’m so happy you enjoy them. Those are the nicest words any writer dreams of hearing.

  2. Um…isn’t that kinda the same as that machine they used to have at amusement parks where you squirt paint onto a spinning card but without all the biology junk? I think it cost a quarter. Meow.

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