Proposal for a Net Art Commission

Project Name:     "John Cage continued.."

Project Description:

John Cage was well known for using random principles in his musical work. I was less aware about his visual work applying generative principles and utilizing random numbers derived from the I-Ching.

10 x 19in, 25.4 x 48.3 cm
WHERE R = RYOANJI (4R)/4 - 7/83
pencils on handmade Japan paper

Cage's R=Ryoanji series is inspired by the stone garden of the Ryoanji temple in Kyoto. The pencil drawings are good examples, which show his process and the achieved results. Kathan Brown's book contains a good description of the process.
This process consists of: Randomly selecting stones, positioning them on a grid paper using random numbers; Tracing the stones with a pencil and repeat this process a predefined number of times.

I propose to recreate, visualize and automate the above process in a web-based program. The program would produce an unlimited sequence of Ryoanji type drawings in a fleeting screen representation while revealing their underlying generative principles.
Watching the moving stones and the emerging tracings could be a ZEN like experience.
The project may trigger discussions about "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical (Digital) Reproduction".

3 done and 4th stone beeing traced
Sketch of screen during construction of drawing


The proposed project (a web page, programmed in Flash or Java) will allow visitors to watch the following series of events resulting in a sequence of drawings:
start (program steps in pseudo code )
draw grid on a surface representing the Ryoanji stone garden 
Do n times {  (1)
	select stone (2) out of a repository of 15 
	move stone to a randomly selected spot on the grid
	draw pencil like line (3) around the stone
	remove stone from grid
remove grid
wait (d seconds)  user can appreciate finished drawing
erase drawing (simulated eraser or fade to white) (4)
go to start new drawing

(1)  n represents the number of stones selected and traced onto one 
      drawing. This and other parameters could be user selected.
(2)  John Cage used 15 stones ( as in the Kyoto Stone garden)
      His stones are often exhibited together with his graphic work and 
      the used pencils. Photographic representations of the same stones
      could possibly be obtained from the Margarete Roeder Gallery for 
      the project
(3)  My lifelong obsession with random lines will allow me to program 
      lines simulating human tracing.
(4)  It is important to make it clear that the achieved results are not 
      actual works on paper and are not meant to be preserved or even 
      stored on the computer, so no copyright issues should result 
      from this project. 
Timeline and Budget

The project could be built in one month. The chance of a Rhizome presentation and the addition of some money for software upgrades would highly increase my motivation to build the proposed program.

Tools John Cage used for the series

Curriculum Vitae: 

I live and work in New York City.

    -    Born on a small farm in Switzerland
    -    University of Bern, MS in Statistics with Physics and Mathematics
    -    Joined IBM as working student (early experiments with random numbers)
    -    Founded a group to organizing photography exhibitions in Switzerland
    -    Moved to New York, attended International Center of Photography
    -    Graduate studies at Columbia University, artificial intelligence, neurobiology
    -    NY Institute of Technology, MS in computer science and computer graphics
    -    Independent consultant supporting diverse clients with web applications
    -    Web artist

My feet facing the Ryoanji garden in Kyoto

Supporting Links

ARTificialART random art site,
listed on ArtBase, documenting my experience with random lines.
Monthly Weblog since 2000 with a collection of arti, political and personal web pieces.
ARTwareSoftware   web page describing my professional/technical background
Kathan Brown John Cage VISUAL ART: To SOBER and QUIET the MIND
Pick and earlier Rhizome project submissiom resulting in a honorable mention.

Copyright 2005 by Kurt Baumann, New York