Week 10: Abstract over video, or sound

This week we continue our exploration of what is possible by writing instructions to create works. This time, we use video, or sound. And we start thinking and documenting ideas for the final MEDA102 project.

As we have already seen, Sol LeWitt abstracts a visual idea into instructions.

Abstracting an aesthetic idea is only one way to use instructions to create art works. Another way is to abstract a process into instructions. The artwork is then created using this process. The process itself is generative of the work’s material, but may not abstract (or capture) any aesthetic judgement.

Maria Merz’s work: A Real Sum is a Sum of People (1972) in which a series of photos is taken following the order of the Fibonacci series is one example of a work in which the instructions define a process, not an aesthetic. If a group of people were to execute one of LeWitt’s wall drawings, each work would be very similar. If a group of people were to execute Merz’s rules they may come up with very different works.

The question we ask today, is what works might be possible if we use instructions to define a process that involves video or sound?

One example of such a work is Erica Scourti’s ‘My Life in Adwords’, already discussed in lectures. What is the realm of meaning of Scourti’s work?

Are there possibilities for new and exciting works in the video-rich social media platforms we use everyday?

What is the relationship between the instructions that Scourti has generated and the resultant realm of meaning of her work?

Analysis 1

What is Erica Scourti doing in the below work? What is her process? What is the realm of meaning that she is addressing?

Analysis 2

Discussion: how might the execution of a set of instructions hold meaning in a work?

One way that instruction-based processes have been used in art is through iteratively copying a work. The below works explore this process. That is, copies are made of the original work over and over again. Each time a copy is made, it is degraded. Here, what is being abstracted is a process that iteratively changes a work.

  • What are the effects?
  • What thoughts do they inspire in the audience?
  • What do these processes say about the technologies used and our relationship to them?

Alvin Lucier, I am sing in a room, 1969

Canzona, I am sing in a room, 2010

William Raben, 2’45”, 1973



These exercises are designed to help you explore possibilities for your final assignment. As you go through them, document your research as a blog post. Post the URL to the blog post as a comment to this page.

Exercise 1: Instagram feed.

Examine your Instagram account. Choose one of your images which you find particularly engaging (for any reason). Document the process that led up to the creation of the photo. Ask yourself: what would happen if this process was repeated 40 times? What realm of meaning might come out?

Exercise 2: Research scholarly articles

Go to scholar.google.com. Search “rule based art”. Filter through the results for any interesting cues and suggestions about processes. Add additional search terms to refine the search to creative art. Document.

Exercise 3: SnapChat stories.

Examine your SnapChat ‘stories’ feed (if you use SnapChat). Document a video that you feel exposes something personal about the person who submitted it. Translate that video into a set of rules. Execute those rules yourself.

How might you use SnapChat as a video platform to create a work? How would you capture those videos? Does capturing SnapChat videos break the platform?

Exercise 4: LearningToLoveYouMore

Go through the ‘assignments’ on this website: http://www.learningtoloveyoumore.com/

Choose one ‘assignment’ (there are 70 documented), such as “Photograph a scar and write about it.” Execute the assignment yourself, document the results. Explore and document how you might expand this rule to create your own work.

Exercise 5: Iterative destruction (or creation)

In the spirit of the analysis exercise above, define a process that will, iteratively, change or destroy a work. For example:

  1. Choose a photo you took last weekend, write a comment that describes how you felt when it was taken
  2. Ask a friend to replicate the photo as closely as possible
  3. Ask another friend to replicate the replication
  4. Repeat 10 times
  5. Publish the last image on your blog, with your original comment describing how you felt when the original photo was taken.

Exercise 6: Research Erica Scourti’s other works

Explore Erica Scourti’s website: http://www.ericascourti.com/. Examine 3 of her other works. Document whether they can also be considered rule-based-works.

Exercise 7: Document your own ideas

There are various ways that you might start capturing and testing ideas. You might:

  • abstract a particular aesthetic directly,
  • abstract a process that generates a work, without concern to the final aesthetic and without concern with what is produced,
  • abstract a process that generates many possibilities and choose just one of those generated possibilities as your final work (this is how much digital generative art is produced)


To use sound in Processing requires the installation of extra sound processing libraries. Importing Sound libraries is easy on Processing V3, and more involved in Processing V2 (the version supplied in the computer labs). This document pertains to Processing V3 (so you will have to download and run V3 on the lab desktops, or use your own machine).

To install these go to Sketch > Import Library > Library. Search for “Sound” and choose the item that reads “Sound | Sound library based on MethCla for Processing”. Click “Install”.

Next, try the below code to test the sound library installation.

import processing.sound.*;
SinOsc sine;

void setup() {
  size(640, 360);
  // Create the sine oscillator.
  sine = new SinOsc(this);

void draw() {

Once the sound library installation is working try the following exercises:

  • Use a loop to create a sweeping sine tone (from a low frequency; 20 Hz, to a high frequency; 10000 Hz)
  • correlate the drawing of shapes with specific tones

Explore the examples at https://processing.org/reference/libraries/sound/

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