The Grove in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, invited Arts Interstices to begin a program of bringing art into its coworking space in 2013. To date, a total of nine exhibitions have fueled workplace inspiration and helped to visualize changing organizational paradigms. Here is a recap!

Navigate Complexity explored the theme of the 2013 Drucker Forum through the work of 17 artists.  Recently it was referenced in a business article authored by a European entrepreneur.

Portraits & Pop Art presented paintings by Raheem Nelson, Kwadwo Adae and Gordon Skinner

Dream Scenes presented drawings and paintings of urban youth from the Future Project & next generation Grovers, with works by special guest artist-instructors Katro Storm & Krikko Obbot

Building Hope Through History was guest curated by Mark Landow of the New Haven Adult Education’s High School Credit Program, whom we were introduced to through independent curator Debbie Hesse. The show featured three-dimensional models of actual local buildings based on original research by students ages 18-25.


re:Generate – Art Based on Code was co-curated with Brian Monahan.  It was an assemblage of generative software projects and their artifacts by Alexander Gross, Brian Monahan, Dan Gries, Danielle Kefford, Robert McDougal, Dan Bernier, Giulia Gouge, Michael Romano and Milton Laufer.  A special event featured generative music performed remotely by the UK band Meta-eX.


I am Mosaic: Connecticut’s Many Faces of MS was guest curated by the artist Mike Marques.

Uptake was a study of flowers by Mick Brown in hyper-realistic detail with saturated color palettes.  He has since produced a calendar with these images.


Citywide Open Studios: Transported included Amie Ziner’s drawings and a special event with Amie Ziner & Raheem Nelson. Live iPad demos were projected at street level and broadcast on television.

Wonder, co-curated with Christina Kane, featured Irene Leibler’s art of the image.


The Grove’s curatorial program has garnered attention from artists and technologists as well as global companies.  Sococo has invited Elinor Slomba to serve on its Virtual Life Panel to represent arts and culture.

Have an idea for an art exhibition? Learn how to apply for a guest curator spot at The Grove.  Sign up for Open Your Curatorial Eye, a three-session program that can be scheduled at your convenience.

We are also experimenting with crowdfunding to support Community Curation.  Our first campaign just launched, and we invite your participation.

I had the privilege of speaking about the 12 Principles underlying the Agile Manifesto at Centare’s Agile and Lean Management conference in Chicago.  The specific topic I was invited to speak on was Distributed Culture.  Here are my slides.

In looking through the lens of cultural anthropology at how to support distributed teams working in an agile manner, my talk started with the concept of discourse, or culture that is observable through language.  I asked the audience to consider whether applied discourse analysis might be a useful way to reveal the implicit or unspoken rules governing how members of an Agile team interact.

Keynote Craig Larman had reviewed with us his fourth “law of organizational behavior:” Culture Follows Structure. If this is indeed the case, and Larman points to evidence gathered by another thought leader to suggest that it does, then choices made about how to support the structure of distributed Agile teams represent a unique opportunity.

Might it not be possible, in fact, to work backward, selecting structures which prioritize individuals and their interactions over tools and processes?  Can distributed configurations be set up primarily to address a team’s social needs in line with Agile cultural values?

First things first: where do we look to find these cultural values articulated?  We look to discourse, where we find abundant examples of actual spoken and written references to the Agile Manifesto by members of the Agile community.  For example, Big Apple Scrum Day 2015 culminated with a session that reinforced culture over tools when it comes to distributed teams.

We know from the discourses embedded in Scrum ceremonies that the practice of revisiting a set pattern of questions at regular intervals invites continuous improvement.  The following questions comprise an inventory any distributed team or team member can use.  As a whole, it is intended as a reminder to take a step back from tooling and inspect/adapt the communications structures we have selected to support Agile cultures.

#1 On Delivering Value

How are our trust levels with clients?  Within the team?  How does it feel when we deliver early and what’s holding us back from doing that more often? How do we let team members know that we care about improving communications with them?

#2 On Welcoming Changing Requirements

How do we presently track and manage our Product Backlog?  How well do we preserve the context around decision-making so we can reference it later?  How well do we work from the road and in transit?

#3 On Delivering Frequently  

How do we share our calendars? How do we manage Time Zones?  How do we discuss the time needed to complete tasks?  What is our expectation around real-time versus asynchronous communications, and have they been communicated and agreed-upon?  Do we co-design meetings to be productive use of people’s time?

#4 On Cross-Functional Teams:

Are we consistently using a shared drive for access to information?  Do we have groundrules for “pinging?” How do we account for the water cooler effect, i.e., what kinds of serendipitous encounters can people have within the network? How do we build unity and demonstrate that different functional roles are part of the same tribe? Why broadcast availability to connect as a cross-functional team (both formally and informally)?

#5 On Providing a Motivating Environment:

How do people  flag their interest in working on certain projects? How do we do we sense people’s emotions & gather their opinions? How do we share knowledge & insight?

#6 On Face-to-Face Communication

How do we see each other’s faces online?  How do we make the experience as context-rich and information-rich as possible?

#7 On Working Product

How do we build things together?  How well is this working?

#8 On Sustainability

What is the app that signals to others that we are “at work?”  What are the protocols for checking in & out?  How do we avoid burnout?

#9 On Good Craftsmanship

How do we recognize and track progress in skillbuilding?  How do we disseminate good examples of craftsmanship?

#10 On Simplicity

Are there things we must do over and over again that could be automated? What apps are out there that can help simplify reporting requirements (i.e. bug reports, status reports)?

#11 On Self-Organization

What choices do people have about how to collaborate?  How are meetings facilitated? How are shared working agreements arrived-at and stored (with version control)? Are there protocols about language and handling conflict?

#12 On Retrospectives

Have we trained or demoed with any of the numerous groups/communities/companies out there making this easier? How do we know we are headed in the right direction?  How are we integrating play, artfulness and humor into our team interactions?

Have you found solutions that work particularly well in a distributed context for expressing any of these principles?

After nearly two years talking with people who have specialized knowledge about distributed cultures and team mechanics, next I will go principle by principle and delve into some things others have found helpful. You can also answer these questions and see other’s responses in a Google Form – coming soon.

Please note that all solutions to be shared are provisional and not meant to be prescriptive.  As a whole, I hope they provide a touchstone and much-needed dose of encouragement that distributed networks are capable of expressing and reinforcing Agile principles throughout various communication channels.

Several site-specific artworks now form the core of a body of work that belongs to the Grove, in New Haven, Connecticut. They all highlight the unique features of the building which houses the first coworking community in a state that is now home to many spaces where people from startup/tech, nonprofit and creative worlds meet and collaborate.


Mark Williams

paint, paper, foamcore, wood and light fixture

Mark's wall piece

The site-specific installation above is something of a secret; it lives inside the wall between the kitchen and men’s bathroom. The imagery in the scene depicted is inspired by Luray Caverns in Virginia, where the artist traveled to do site research following a successful kickstarter campaign.  Originally part of a group show in Fall 2013 called “Navigate Complexity,” it was purchased for the Grove from the artist.

Climbing Ivy

Giada Crispiels

paper and wire

climbing Ivy

The piece above is a prototype for customizable eco-friendly decor for the home or office.  The ivy is made from upcycled newspapers and magazines. It is a metaphor for how creativity survives and grows organically in the “in-between spaces” of urban environments. Part of a larger body of work called “Urban Shadows of Nature,” the work is on long-term loan by the artist.

Pixellated Portrait

Dan Gries, Danielle Kefford, Dan Bernier

colored foam


Marilyn Monroe’s iconic image has been reconstructed with slices of pool toy noodles! This piece was conceived for the show “re:Generate – Art Based on Code” after artists did a walk-through of the space and saw the grid-like cage structure housing what is commonly known to be the state’s oldest working elevator.  A visual riddle more easily resolved by digital camera than the human eye, the work is likely to be dismantled at some point in 2015.  After that it will go into storage and be available for future re-installation and/or loans to other sites.


As the facility expands so do the ideas amongst its collaborators!  I am inspired, honored and humbled to curate art for my coworkers as a part of The Grove’s programming fabric, and to help grow our circle of guest curators to include many new voices and perspectives.

Entrepreneurs who create lifestyle brands and concept stores often dream of opening their own storefronts and perhaps scaling from there. Because it offers less risk and up-front expense compared to a permanent commercial space, the “popup” has become an increasingly popular way for such entrepreneurs to test out their business models in an actual marketplace, connecting with customers on a temporary basis.

Evan Nork

Evan Nork

How is a popup designed?

1. It has a Timebox.

First, it is temporary.  This feature makes the popup more like an art exhibit or an urban festival than a traditional retail store. This structures the workflow and creates a pull for visitors who are curious, adventurous and like to be in-the-know.

2. It inspires an Inner Circle of Storytellers.

It is fun to fall in love with a work-in-progress, help it grow and see the results – more fun than being a regular customer! Because of the compressed timeframe, ambassadors and enthusiasts who can get word out quickly via “word of mouse” achieve special status. Their stories serve as fuel to sustain and grow an online community in-between popups.

4. It is, in itself, an Iteration.

How many long-term entrepreneurs wish they could start over and create their businesses from scratch, improving the underlying design and organization?  Through popups, progressive artfulness becomes evident as each iteration improves overall fit-for-context.

3. It is tiny and well-crafted.

Popups manifest a specific creative intent – they cannot do and be everything. What’s not appropriate or practical for one popup opportunity may well be for another.  Those “extra” ideas and the suggestions of well-meaning advisers go on the backlog, where they won’t get lost and can easily be revisited.


5. It is a simple means for Validation.

Startups often use landing pages and Google ad words to validate their assumptions about customer behavior before investing in buildouts.  Popups transfer the same kinds of practices onto the street level.  A tiny window display, for example, can direct people to an online destination.  A nook just big enough for an ATM transaction can be transformed into an intimate shop, where retailers can converse with shoppers one-on-one about preferences and predilections.

6. Retrospecting comes with the territory.

With just a short amount of time to make an impact, entrepreneurs are typically motivated to make the most of it.  They reflect on the artifacts produced from each popup, seek feedback and come to the next opportunity ready to improve in many ways.

7. Everything you know is subject to revision. 

This mindset makes entrepreneurs fiercely adaptable. Need to reroute a floorplan, shift around inventory or change hours of operation?  Someone who has orchestrated their share of popups takes a lightweight approach to such things, even after acquiring their own long-term space.  They know that, after all, all businesses are really popups, in a way.

8. What’s Most Important?

People, people and people!  People like to tell stories.  They like to belong. The space where a retail business takes place is only important to the extent that it enables these functions.

Here are some of the popup people I’ve been involved with this past year:





Art & Design 

And here’s the latest, that got me thinking about these things today. Special thanks to my client, Project Storefronts, a program of the City of New Haven, Connecticut.

Experts say there are a few things we can all do to preserve and even develop brain agility throughout adulthood and into our later years. One key is to incorporate divergent as well as convergent thinking – both the linear and the creative thought processes – into our days.

How do we do this?  As it turns out, the medium of sculpture offers a unique set of benefits.


According to neuroscientist and Tedx speaker Eric Kandel, “The tactile system is one set of neural pathways in the brain. The visual system in another.  When the two converge, the combined effect can be very powerful.” He goes on to describe how engaging with sculpture brings together memory, intellect and sensory impressions.

Because it is a “both-handed” endeavor, sculpture – more than other art forms such as drawing or painting – engages both sides of the brain.  This integration promotes overall cognitive function by mitigating the process of lateralization, or use of specific areas of the brain for different functions, which tends to progress with age.

Dr. Ivan Tirado, an artist who earned his doctorate in instructional design, appreciates sculpture’s connection to a pre-verbal state of human development. “Blending cognitive psychology with art has always been interesting to me. Sculpting, for example, connects us with the first loving touches we received as babies.”

He also points out that making art helps the brain access the state of relaxation so necessary to effective decision-making. “Research shows that tapping into creative flow offers the same neurological benefits as meditation or massage.”

Says one of his students, “When you’re up on your feet, moving around, encouraged to look at things in a new way, it broadens your perspective. It’s not just about art. It teaches you how to pay attention.”

Two years ago Tirado began holding Sculpture Parties to promote social and cognitive wellbeing through the creative process, particularly to encourage acceptance of our imperfections as we grow older by studying the human form.  “We’re all a book, writing it as we go.  We have to fall in love with all of the changes as they happen.”

As he wrote in his dissertation, art provides experiences that “improve self-efficacy, which is the perception of skills to achieve a goal, by bridging new concepts to known concepts and experiences, focusing on short-term goals, guidance, feedback, and motivation. Commitment to short-term goals leads to accomplishment, which improves self-efficacy, creating a cycle of transformation.”  These brief, linear sequences embedded into cyclical feedback loops achieve the combination of divergent and convergent thinking recommended for keeping an individual’s neural connections rapid, plastic and strong.


Tirado’s artwork is published in the books International Contemporary Masters VI (World Wide Art Books, 2012) and Important World Artists (WWAB, 2013). His research is published in the International Journal of Strategic Information Technology and Applications.

LEARN MORE and – if you’re in the New Haven area register for one of his Sculpture Parties!

Art professors and curators have honed a facilitation skill most IT folks need to practice: critiquing works-in-progress.  Too often individuals’ communication styles can block or limit a clear pathway from feedback to improvement.

speed networking

Meet-the-curator event at Artspace in New Haven Oct 2012

In the art world, there are many structured formats for conducting a critique.  The one I tend to reach for as a model for software teams is a kind of Perfection Game compatible with principles of Non Violent Communication.

The process consists of group members performing four observable actions in sequence.   Prompts for each action take the form of questions. In steps 1 & 3, the responses are open-ended.  In steps 2 & 4 the responses are binary.  This pattern of alternating open-ended and binary questions sets up the framework for a productive critique.

1. Describe – In its current state, what do you notice first about this work?  What are its salient features?


2. Analyze – Do the relationships among the various parts create an overall sense of harmony or distress?  Does every element really need to be there?


3. Interpret – What do the form and functionality here imply about the intent?  What might bring this work closer to fulfillment?

4. Judge – (go ahead, it’s safe at this point!) Is the work gelling or not (yet) in its current state?  Is the “Why?” of this thing obvious?

 Bonus game-within-a-game: The group can create a mnemonic device for remembering the sequence of actions according to the first letter of each word.  For example, DAIJ can stand for “Dem Apples Is Juicy” or “Do All Introverts Joke.”

Art students who practice giving and receiving feedback embody the knowledge that creativity relies on structured group communications.  Peers in such forums have a responsibility to help each other clarify and measure intent.  Full realization of anything complex is an iterative process, generally requiring more than one round of group critique.

MANY THANKS to predecessor Lee Devin, co-author of Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work and The Soul of Design.  And to the team at Independent Software who practiced the artful critique in their demos.

Want to know more about models from the arts that apply to business? Schedule a Creative Companies consultation with Elinor Slomba.  Email artsinterstices at gmail dot com.

Artful Agilists is a group multimedia exhibition intended to demonstrate one of the intrinsic rewards for working in an Agile way: bringing more of ourselves to work.  The success of this demonstration rests on the vulnerability of respected Agile practitioners sharing who they are as creative art makers and practitioners. It is scheduled for Saturday, February 21, 2015 in the Agile Leader Hall, a virtual space in Sococo .

Fractal Cylinder, Artist Dan Gries (middle)

Fractal Cylinder, Artist Dan Gries (middle)

The venue is the online home of Bill Krebs’ Distributed Agile Study Group.  Offering workshops to help Agilists gain fluency in virtual worlds, this is a global community of practice for what Fast Company columnist Scott Anthony calls “associational thinking.” Associational thinking is defined as the ability to make surprising connections. Members are co-present in the Agile Mindset across distance, methodologies and domains.

Here is the rationale behind the exhibition:

During the Industrial Revolution, people in the workplace distinctly separated what we think of now as “art” from “technology.” Though engineers held the well-oiled machine in high esteem, it was in a realm far from the bright ornaments with which the Victorians populated other spaces. Thus efficiency was divorced from beauty. Engineering was divorced from craftsmanship.

We suffer when we reinforce this false split while trying to accomplish knowledge work. The boundaries hurt because they no longer apply.

As Agilists, we want to hone our aesthetic senses and re-integrate art and technology. This is one path to healing the wounds of an inhuman workplace. We seek to apply artfulness to our roles as makers and users of technology. We also respect and promote art’s function as an embodiment of culture.

Artist Robert McDougal, Yale

Artist Robert McDougal, Yale

This is an online gallery where you can interact with the viewers in real time. If you’d like to participate, here’s how:

MANY THANKS to Lyssa AdkinsDoc List and Paul Sutton for their early commitment to participate,

to the members of New Haven Artful Agilists for their continuing on-the-ground inspiration,

and to Esther Derby for providing valuable insight and moral support.

Intrigued but not yet ready to contribute? LEARN MORE about the platform of Sococo and check out Elinor’s mentor Lee Devin, co-Author of Artful Making and The Soul of Design.

An interview with Jesse Fewell, author of “Can You Hear Me Now?: Working with Remote Virtual and Distributed Teams”




ES: I found reference to your book at the end of Mark Kilby’s wikinotes from Agile Alliance 2014.  He led a session called “Remotely Agile?”  I’m really honored you have time to speak about this. What is the main pain point common to all teams working remotely across the agile space?


JF: Preparation.  When you assume you’re set up and can just “hop on the call,” it becomes painfully obvious when you’re not.  We’ve all been there and not followed our own advice. It happens.


ES: That’s for sure…my computer overheated once and I had to use frozen pizza as an emergency cooling pad!


JF: Hah!  And then of course preparation means much more than gear, although the gear is important.  It’s also more than simply setting an agenda and booking a meeting in Outlook.  Preparation means asking ahead of time: what information needs to flow out of this meeting?  What are the pieces to be unlocked by the exchange?  How are we going to create a collaborative environment?


ES: It can be difficult to get anyone to focus on these questions in advance.  How do you do it?


JF: I find it helps to have a framework.


There’s Innovation Games  “Ideas into Action” model that invites us to choose a format based on the conversation we’re going to have.  There might be a portion of time set aside for ideation where we use sticky notes.  Then we do some shaping of the material, this might be in a shared GoogleDoc which we type  in and look at together.  Then there might be some prioritization which could involve an online poll.  You can actually map a conversation through these different platforms.


Innovation Games has taken the effort to productize some useful things for online work, including the Budget Game. The idea here is how do you decide in a consensus in a collaborative environment?  Everyone has monopoly money to spend, and they form alliances.


And check this out if you haven’t already: “We’ve Got to START Meeting Like This” by Dana Wright.

She says whenever there’s an event or a meeting, or say for instance an Agile ceremony, you follow this model:

  • Beforehand, anticipate.
  • During, use engagement techniques.
  • Afterward, think about how to extend the dynamics, momentum, the energy.


ES: That makes a lot of sense.  How can we equalize the dynamics on teams that have some members co-located and some remote?


JF: I like to have everyone dial in.  Whether you’re thirty feet apart or thousands of miles, it’s a great equalizer so everyone can virtually collaborate.


When Verizon Wireless wanted to bring different silos together into the product requirements phase setup, not everyone could fly in but they still wanted to be involved.   We achieved a collaborative dynamic with these people through a simulcast – virtual teams were established with a facilitator in the main room.  They broke out then had a debrief at the end with representatives from each virtual team.  It worked!


ES: Is there a set of meta-skills needed to arrive at protocols for how teams will operate virtually?


JF: Interesting question, facilitation is one.  When you’re face to face, the speaker owns the room. The audience gives the facilitator a huge amount of authority to set up the collaborative energy.  If he or she says, “Stand up and talk to the person next to you,” we do it.


In a virtual environment it’s much harder to rely on one single person to facilitate.  Everyone’s distractions are a lot closer at hand, and so everyone has to bring a commitment that “we’re going to make this work.”  Remote facilitation is about connecting people to their sense of purpose and reminding them why it matters.


The book Remote by 37 signals talks about this. Working remote is how they recruit the best talent, so getting it right is a badge of honor and a source of pride. You have to reseed that original emotional investment.


ES: Okay, facilitation.  Any other meta-skills?


JF: Because the peripheral senses are missing in an online environment, we can’t read each other as well.  So introspection becomes important.  We rely on everyone to be a little bit more self aware than usual.  Checking in needs to happen more frequently, not just at the beginning of  a meeting.


I’m actually going to be speaking more about this at my keynote at the PMI conference in St. Louis in October.  There is definitely a personal skillnet that is needed for individuals to help bridge the distance on teams.


ES: Well, thank you.  Let’s speak again after you give that talk and before I go off and tell stories about remote teamwork at Agile Tour London!


There will be a follow up conversation in October 2014.



Jesse’s book is mentioned on this wiki from Agile Alliance 2014


Jesse Fewell spoke with Big Visible about Learning and Engagement at Agile Alliance 2014


You can download a free e-copy of Jesse’s book at his website here:


For more Stories of Remote Collaboration, see my article on InfoQ:

Last week, near Yale…

full invite RE

Members of New Haven Artful Agilists saw the grid-like structure on the face of the oldest working elevator in Connecticut and thought they looked like pixels.  The only next sensible thing to do was to cut up pool noodles into three-inch slices and insert them into appropriately color-coded spaces to recreate a portrait of Marilyn Monroe!


More steps in the process of installing this work can be seen here.

The results are in the exhibition re:Generate / Art Based on Code on view at The Grove now through September 20, 2014.

Other artists and works in the show include:

focuslessness, a writing/art collective that experiments with ways of generating, composing, processing, displaying, publishing, using, and experiencing language. It was founded in Buenos Aires in 2012 by Milton Laüfer, an Argentine writer, computer programmer, and digital artist currently living in Brooklyn and Michael Romano, an American writer currently living in New Haven. The group’s first experiments aimed to break out of conventional writing/reading formats and practices to explore memory and transience. Says Michael, “The reader can never go back to what she has just encountered and has no control over what she will encounter. She’ll never know what would have arrived if she had stayed. Her reading—each of her readings—is unique and irretrievable.”  Focuslessness is also participating in “Vagaries of the Commons” at Artspace.

Robert McDougal, a mathematician turned computational neuroscientist. He develops techniques for using computers to help understand the brain.

Embedded image permalink

“Every thought we think and every moment we spend appreciating art and beauty is made possible by the collective activity of nearly 100 billion neurons in our brains. In an ironic case of ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ we tend to forget about these important cells. And though we all have them, they are too small to see with the naked eye and most people have never even seen one in a microscope. This work physically manifests real, traced neurons on a human-interpretable scale, allowing us to appreciate them not just for their raw computational power, but also for the beauty inherent in their delicate branching structures. The six neurons displayed in the piece each come from different parts of the nervous system and relate in different ways to how we perceive the world around us.”

Giulia Gouge

“I work in communications daily, and have to be very clear and concise and leave very little wiggle room when it comes to interpretation.  Tone is important.  As we move into the digital age, we find the balance of communications shift from hyper ambiguous with abbreviated text and lack of punctuation to hyper emotive with…well…emojis.  Then we find ourselves lost in translation.”

Dan Gries

“A mathematician and educator by training and vocation, computer programming came to me later in life as a way of creating interactive instructional applications. Later, code become a way for me to express myself artistically. My work follows no hard and fast rules except that I aim to create objects which are visually appealing. I am particularly fascinated with the idea of creating aesthetic imperfection, by harnessing and controlling randomness. I also prefer to do only a bare minimum of post-processing in the form of image editors, so that each image is purely a visual representation of an algorithm.”

Fractal Cylinders

These three works were the result of experimentation which began with a simple question: how would you program a computer to draw a circle the way a human would – imperfect and wobbly? A method for producing such circles was worked out based on fractal subdivision. This led to the creation of “fractal cylinders,” by allowing closed curves to smoothly sweep across the canvas, as the curves morph from one of these imperfect circles to the next. The resulting objects marry jaggedness in one direction with smoothness in a perpendicular direction. The variations in the resulting images were created by tracing curves either along the length or around the “waist” of the cylinders, by changing colors and transparency and the way the light blends together, or by allowing two fractal cylinders to intersect each other. The images were coded in JavaScript, and methods were worked to push a web browser to extremes to generate these large, high resolution images.

Cellular Boids (live animation)

This animation is essentially a mashup of two classic algorithms: cellular automata and the boid algorithm. Each cell (square) in this two-dimensional array contains a color, and on every refresh of the screen each cell changes color according to the behavior of its neighbors. The rules for changing colors are somewhat technical, but have simple underlying ideas: each cell wants to be a similar color to its neighbors (cohesion), but without being exactly the same (avoidance), while also changing with a color flow similar to the average flow of its neighbors (alignment). Colors are defined by red, green, and blue components, and as colors change this corresponds to a motion through this three-dimensional color space. This is the flow direction that the cells attempt to align with their neighbors. The animation begins by giving each cell a randomized color, but once this initial state is set the animation proceeds without any influence of randomization. Although the tapestry of color evolves endlessly, unpredictably, and chaotically, it is a completely deterministic consequence of the initial state.


Alexander Gross 

The world that we live in is unimaginably complex. We are awash in a sea of information. Autonomous agents act and interact everywhere around us, with each other, and in ways that are impossible to predict or truly understand. As a society we exert considerable effort towards isolating and presenting patterns, rules, theories, “truths”; attempting to tame our fear of the unknowable sublime and replace it with “understanding.” But ultimately these understandings remain merely models of a reality we will never master.  As creative researcher, I seek intervention into the neat little models and equations we use to define our world. Technological interventions provide a way to explore potential worlds and to reconnect with the fragility of our own complex existence. Towards this end I cultivate a liminal practice situated at the border of the unknown. A place where disparate areas of research can fuse horizons in previously inconceivable ways. A place where a relaxation of assumptions can lead to new conclusions.  A practice of this type is, I believe, critically important, because loathe though we may be to admit, it is not the things we think we understand which make this life worth living, it is only mystery.


Danielle Kefford

“I am a software engineer in a corporate environment during the day but I have always had a curiosity about graphics programming over the years. I also drew a bit from time to time when I was younger, but only during the last 8-10 years have I elevated my drawing to an actual hobby. Generative art is a satisfying fusion of those two passions by allowing me to be expressive through code.”

Dan Bernier

Fractal Circles

Take a square, subdivide it, repeat; but each time, maybe we stop and draw a circle instead, and maybe it’s solid, or hollow, or maybe even missing.


These pieces originally started as a way to explore combinations and permutations of members in a set. Combinations with one or two circles could be large, but combinations with more would have to be smaller, to fit. I liked the effect of mixing multiple sizes, but I had to choose each set of combinations, and choose how to organize them, so I abandoned that idea for randomly-generated fractal layouts instead.


Brian Monahan

Structures is a simple piece that is built in processing (a program language.) The pieces were created by moving a mouse and create points that are then connecting to one another, in realtime. The prints are artifacts of the process. The structures that I created in this were meant to resemble an organic or fluid substance, that had the structural components within, in many ways supporting the overall form.

Source Code


int[] xpos = new int[100];

int[] ypos = new int[100];


void setup() {

size(1920, 900);


for (int i = 0; i < xpos.length; i++ ) {

xpos[i] = -100;

ypos[i] = +150;






void draw() {


if (mousePressed) {

for (int i = 0; i < xpos.length-1; i++ ) {


line(xpos[i], ypos[i], xpos[i+1], ypos[i+1]);

xpos[i] = xpos[i+1];

ypos[i] = ypos[i+1];


float distance = dist(xpos[xpos.length-1], ypos[ypos.length-1], xpos[i], ypos[i]);

float b = map( distance, 4, 2, 1, 1);



if (distance < 105) {

line(mouseX, mouseY, xpos[i], ypos[i]);




if (mouseX != 0 || mouseY != 0 ) {

xpos[xpos.length-1] = mouseX;

ypos[ypos.length-1] = mouseY;






Taxonomies are useful tools for visualizing culture.  Cultural categories are divided into “domains,” each of which have their own “folk terms.”  For the ethnographer or student of culture, the job is to uncover, clarify and reveal underlying taxonomic structures by mapping out the domains and folk terms of the people being studied.


In this mapping process, the ethnographer learns a lot by asking “what are the kinds of…,” “what are the steps in…” “what are the parts of…” or “what are the ways to do…” X according to what is being studied.


When complete, a taxonomy will have a set of strictly contrasting or binary categories.  This phase of the process comes down to testing many variations of this question: “how do you know that this is this, and not that?”


Here’s what a binary taxonomy looks like describing simple objects:

Taxonomy sample

I have the privilege today of facilitating a community retrospective of a four-year public arts project.  We will use this worksheet to uncover the first phase of taxonomic structures:


blank taxonomy

The purpose of this exercise is to find out how the community categorizes itself, which may not be the same as how it has been categorized in the past by funders, city agencies and other outside entities.  Cultural studies like this one rest on a foundation of respect for the insider’s viewpoint.  The results will inform future programming and fundraising efforts so as to contribute maximum value to the community on its own terms instead of just “good PR.”


A great resource for further information is The Cultural Experience: Ethnography in Complex Society by McCurdy, Spradley and Shandy.




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