Assignment: Algorithms

Design an algorithm to be independently executed by two classmates, who are only provided with instructions and the materials.

The “groups” are listed here

The idea is to see how different people in different contexts interpret the same set of rules, the “executers” should not look at each other’s work.

It must have elements of iteration and conditionals.

It can be a score, instructions for a walk, a performance, a ritual, a recipe, a choreography, an art-making process etc.

It has to be defined by a set of relatively unambiguous rules.

It must be actually executable, and it must aim toward an aesthetic, expressive goal. The product or the process should be documentable in a visual form.

Post the results and some documentation of the process, the two “executers” co-present.

Two classmates are the minimum requirement, if you want to involve more people you are welcome to.

If you have something in mind that you don’t want to inflict to other people let me know, I’m open to that.


As a warm-up we are doing a more narrowly scoped activity in class:

Let’s analyze this procedurally generated image

Create a series of instructions able to generate an infinite set of different drawings.

Without showing the previous results ask three (or more) people to execute them. You are not allowed to communicate verbally during the execution.

Your rules must contain an element of iteration. There should be “loops” in the execution that create repetition, seriality, fractal structures.

If there is repetition in the process you may have to devise an ending condition. You can verbally stop the execution, set up a timer, or prescribe a certain amount of iterations.

Your rules should be as specific as possible but also able to generate different results every time, so you should include at least one element of randomness or ambiguity.

Most importantly: the goal is to create a recipe for interesting drawings, not arbitrary doodles. Can you embed style and composition in a set of rules?

Post the results on the blog.

Rule-based art

In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work [. . .] all planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art.”

Sol LeWitt: “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” Artforum, summer issue, 1967.

conditional drawings

Conditional design

Instruction pieces / scores

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Non-standard score of Fontana Mix by John Cage

Conceptual artists and members of the Fluxus movement had a keen interest in games and procedural pieces. Yoko Ono wrote several poems that sometimes read like absurdist game rules or impossible performances.

Draw a Straight Line and Follow It
-La Monte Young

Draw a map to get lost
-Yoko Ono

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Unfortunately there’s no digital version of Grapefruit but you can find most of the pieces as scans

Water Yam, George Brecht 1963

Good PDF anthology of Fluxus scores

Some more examples along with language based concept pieces

(Rule based) Performance art 

Image result for Tehching Hsieh
Tehching Hsieh, Art/Life One Year Performance 1983-1984, New York.
Related image
Image result for Tehching Hsieh
One Year Performance (Time Clock Piece) 1980-1981, Tehching Hsieh

In public

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The Situationist practice of psychogeography and drifting, was theorized in ’50s but it has since been developed by artists and game makers into a genre of strategies for exploring cities, taking pedestrians off their predictable paths forcing them into a new awareness of the urban landscape. Contemporary examples:

Transition Algorithm
by Suyin Looui, 2006

The Rules

  1. Visit a neighbourhood in transition.
  2. Take a photograph(s). This photograph documents physical changes to the neighbourhood and street life, whether they are juxtapositions, conflicts, changes in language, ideals and politics, interactions between people, old/new, rich/poor …
  3. Take home a souvenir. This item cannot be purchased.
    What would you take home to remind you of this place?
    It should be a souvenir of the place you have visited and that marks the changes taking place in the neighbourhood. The souvenir can also be a memory of an overheard conversation or interaction.

“Insert information in a place that has an absence of information”

“Create a sculpture by arranging things you find on the street”

“Post a copy of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in your workplace lunch room. Document how long it takes for HR (or somebody else) to take it down.”

“Tip, in a non-tipping industry.”

“Create a message here on earth that is visible from space. The message can be text, pictures, or both. It must be large enough to be legible on Google maps or Google earth.”

sf0 community created tasks 

Playing the world

99 tiny games
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My students’ microgames

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Casual Games for casual hikers site

casual games feature