Making Choices

Processing by Hans Verhaegen

In theory it seems that you don’t have to care about any kind of selection or choice when working with a computer. You can always select and save all. But that does not work at all for humans. Who wants everything from anything? Or anything from everything?

Our natural and personal limitations as a human being always and automatically will bring us to a point where we make a choice. You always will end up to select something. Everybody has personal preferences. The configuration of the settings for these preferences starts on the day you are born. It’s probably not possible to reset these to a ‘default’ at any time.

This natural, very personal selection process is very hard to describe. It just seems to happen. We can only try to rationalise and express the underlying mechanics after something happened. Of course science and other people in general can help to explain some of it. Every action or choice we make in our life seems the result of a long list of ‘events’ or ‘instructions’ combined, often by accident, with a long list of personal preference settings.

Hopefully my art is at least an almost true visualisation of these indescribable, personal settings.

It all begins with writing simple instructions to create images. A weird text that results in an image when processed in an animation software. The naïve rationality of these basic combinations of functions, parameters and variables brings forward a certain comfort, even hubris and false believe that growing programming skills actually open the door to understand something from everything. Like a painter in full control of the art of oil paint tends to believe that the produced paintings are a window to the complexity of the world. They never do.

So lets focus on the easy part of the process. How does selection or choice happens while producing my computer-aided works of art?

Do I use or write all types of instructions? Of course not. I am not an automated dictionary of all possible combinations of functions, parameters or variables. In spite of some experience with programming language and computers, I am, as a human being, unable to process ‘all’. Simple, often uncontrollable human emotions and the various organic states of the body play an equally important but invisible part in the writing of a flow of new instructions.

So I write and copy and try and fail and try and copy and run and all that over and over again. First in one program (Flash) later in another (Processing). That doesn’t really matter much. Instructions are instructions in every kind of program.

I usually start to find out how to draw rectangles and what other parameters and functions are available. Rectangles have a width and a height. They can have a border and a fill. The border and the fill can have a colour. The colour can have a transparency. The rectangles can be rotated and moved in different ways across the canvas. All kinds of readymade functions can be used to manipulate the behaviour of these rectangles. Randomness is one of these key functions.

Not more than 10 different kind of geometric forms are build with rectangles. Combinations of six of these forms are arranged in such a way that they seem to form a human figure. This simple and restrictive setup opens the door to an almost endless play. The continuous need to choose or select automatically pops up. How many of this? How many of that? How long? How big, how small? Fast or slow? Which colours? Etc.

Hard drive of Hans Verhaegen

After a series of choices the small sets of instructions are saved on the computer. These are now drawing programs build to produce an image or a sequence of images. I can open such a set, change only one parameter and save it as a variation. Endlessly. Here again, the absolute human necessity to make choices saves me from the horror of infinity. I do not much care about the reasons behind a particular choice. I try to get in a certain trance by not thinking or feeling anything in particular. Just getting lost in the pure motion of playing with colour and forms and the choices being made.

The resulting images or image sequences of a drawing program can be saved. On a hard drive they also linger on in my own memory. Some of them seem to ‘work’ and are chosen to be promoted as a ‘work of art’. Others are archived as a simple file and might be used as input for a new drawing process. In a manual process with commercially available graphic software or in a newly written program. More continuous choice.

Kling at Lounge#1

Another choice is to decide how one of these ‘works of art’ will be published, exhibited or more generally be presented to the world. Even then, the possibility always exist to choose to delete or destroy what seemed once to be a work of art. The most difficult and final choice is thus to accept all choices made before. It’s a very odd experience to enter a stranger’s room hoping that you did not fool yourself while facing one of your works.

From here on choices are made by others. They will choose to love or hate, ignore or adore, collect, buy or sell.

Author: Hans Verhaegen, 2015