suckerPUNCH: describe your project.
frederikVANHOUTTE: in retrospect strange symmetry is an attempt to break rules. it is not a true project in the sense that it was created with a purpose along some coherent timeline. it evolved over a couple of years in jumps and is still evolving. strange symmetry superficially ties in with popular concepts like self-similarity, complexity and, god-forbid, emergence but holds no philosophical ambition. it tries to get rid of the paradoxical familiarity of fractals: despite an infinity of detail, the julia and mandelbrot sets hold no surprises, nor do the more common strange and chaotic attractors.
sP: what or who influenced this project?
fV: initially, strange symmetry was conceived to mimic images created in processing by people like dave bollinger and jared tarbell. the poor code got mangled by a mixture of part ignorance, part curiosity and part plain stupidity, a poor man’s substitute for creative talent… and strangeness ensues.
usually the study of fractals, attractors, iterated function systems and the like requires a solid mathematical framework. this rigidity acts as a safety net.
the rules are clearly stated and with the right background easy to follow. judging from the amount of fractal-like images submitted on flickr and the amount of applications to create them , there’s definitely appeal in exploring the maths. however, judging from the absence in popular iconography, the images themselves are deemed rather tacky. perhaps this has to do with the kind of people exploring the rules, people like me, scientist and engineers. we learned to work within the constraints of formal systems.
but reliability and reproducibility are not the hallmarks of interesting imagery.
a project like processing, an open source programming language/environment initiated by ben fry and casey reas, is traditionally viewed as a tool for artists in this digital age. in fact it also works the other way around, it provides the algorithmic mind with tools for visualization. and somewhere, a gap is bridged. on the one hand, purely aesthetic systems are manipulated to yield real structures. on the other hand, the rigid rules of math and science are broken for no other purpose than to create interesting images, art even.
sP: what were you reading/listening to/watching while developing this project?
fV: lacking a real development process, it’s hard to pick something particular. when coding i often have autechre, brothomstates, trentemoeller and other minimal electronic playing on the background. anything that adds a glitch to familiar concepts, really…
reading material ranges from science textbooks on biology and physics to pamphlets on algorithmic architecture. sometimes fiction creeps in but only if it makes me smile.
sP: whose work is currently on your radar?
fV: i’m not plugged into any scene related to design and as such lack a radar. i do have a stick i wildly swing about. the last thing it hit was the pamphlet “tooling” by aranda/lasch.
it focused on algorithm driven design techniques rather than on the results one can achieve with them. very fascinating and an excellent source of inspiration.