Friday, June 30, 2006

Functional = Beautiful

Living objects found in nature took their form not by how attractive they are aesthestically, but how useful their functions are. Yet, almost everything we find in nature is stunningly gorgeous. Man-made objects often sacrifice functionality to keep its beautfiul form, but is statistically less beautiful than living things. Why?
, and Manhattan Bridge is an ongoing subject for me. It is a functional utilitarian object created not for its beauty, but for its function. Like nature, living things take their forms not by its appeal, but by its necessity.

On photography

Photography is a very good and effective way to study composition.

I started using photography as a mean to study composition when I bought my first digital camera. For the first time, I was able to capture and review my visual decisions instantly. The immediate visual feedback is powerful

For most people, photography brings back memories of particular moments and events. For me, photography brings back memories of how I used to see. It serves as a visual diary of how I interpret what my eyes see. It enables me to analyze and criticize my visual decisions, and enables me to catalog my progress along the way.

Theorizing aesthetics

I have always had an idea of theorizing aesthetics. I believe that aesthetic judgement, though seemingly abstract, can be quantified. And through the discovery of these aesthetics principals, it is possible to programmatically create aesthetic composition through programmatic algorithms. My goal, for this continuing study, is ultimately to create the art generator.

Artists don't like this view of the world. The larger part of the design community, will in fact tell you that designers should be ashamed of themselves if their designs were formed by theory. I, on the other hand, believe that it should in fact be seen as an advantage.

The music communite has created many variants of algorithm-based music generators ( Artists have long utilize color theories in their paintings. Itten, from the Bauhaus, wrote a monumental book called The Elements of Color on the subject matter. The language of architecture and urban planning was eloquently catalogued in Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language. This book on architecture has in turn inspired four programmers (Gang of Four) to write a book called Design Patterns, which revolutionized the object-oriented programming space. So why is the art and design community so afraid of composition theories?

Education before college

I grew up in Hong Kong, and the education system allows for two focus-path: science or arts. The science track is formed by subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Advanced Mathematics. Most everything else is grouped into arts: history, geography, literature, etc. The arts category seem odd at first, so I formulize the categorization in my way: by the kind of tests given to the students. Subjects that allow you to score an A by answering the only possible answer is Science. Subjects that have a larger range of flexibity in the form of essays, and usually graded subjectively is categorized as Arts.

High school was to be the stepping stone to getting into a great university. In order to achieve the goal, I have decided to go with the path that will allow me to get good grades given equal study efforts. My early education, before I entered college, was thus constructed by a science-biased view.

I never really dream to be a scientist, however. Almost everything that I did in my spare time had nothing to do with science. Instead, they are all about arts. My life was surrounded by music, and I spent most of my time as a pianist for choirs, choruses, ballet schools, etc. Although I was never really good at it, I also tried to draw, sketch and paint. I find the experience very relaxing.