Process Study: Superstructure
Livia Foldes and Jared Smith
Video, paper, drawing robot: Headlands Center for the Arts is a physical space enveloped in an invisible superstructure of relationships and connections. This project is an attempt to make pieces of that structure tangible. We started with a data set: all of the artists who have participated in Headlands’ programs over the last twenty five years. We found connections between the artists—by year, location, and discipline—and used network mapping software to manipulate the data.The images you see were generated by algorithms. The images are not ornamental: they are the artifact of a process intended to arrange data into legible images and patterns. But neither are they strictly informational. We worked together with the algorithms to make these images, massaging data and selecting outputs to generate a distinct vocabulary of shape and movement.The resulting forms, governed by a sometimes inscrutable internal logic, give shape and weight to the complex web of connections generated in this physical space.
After completing the Headlands Center for the Arts symposium website I was approached by long-time design collaborator Livia Foldes with an opportunity to continue the collaboration by building a physical representation of the dataset visualizations that were core to the website.
Together with Foldes, I came up with the idea of creating a long-running cnc drawing robot to live-draw the data visualizations throughout the day at the Headlands Center during the symposium.
Similar to an etch-a-sketch in theory and operation, except for the addition of a small solenoid to drive the pen off the paper, a crude binary z-index if you will. We ended up loving the artifacts lefts behind by always having the pen in contact with the paper, so we coded the z-index moves to a minimum.
A dream project to play a part in: physical supporting digital, all scratch-built here in house, and all to support an institution that has done so much over the years to support artists.