An Interview with k0ch: The Algorithmic Artist Lost in a Recursive Loop

by Luxpris

ALGORITHMIC ARTIST LOST IN A RECURSIVE LOOP. koch’s work combines the beauty of nature with the artificial decay of big cities, represented by organic algorithms that grow like neon lights in the middle of concrete. He is inspired by internet culture, dystopian/sci-fi films, old videogames, punk, mathematics and generative art.

This week I had the pleasure of sitting down with k0ch to hear more about the thoughts behind his dystopian, cyberpunk GIF art. We chatted about the relationships between art and code, the inspiration behind his glowing ideographs, the unique qualities inherent in the GIF as a format, and more.

Go deeper [NO3D]
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Made with old school techniques, no 3D engine.
Dedicated to all demoscene lovers around the world.

I think in one of our more recent conversations you mentioned that you are a software developer by day. Did this precede your interest in digital art or have they always been closely intertwined? 

They have always been closely intertwined. In fact my first serious programming project was a game that combined my work with digital art. I worked in the video games industry as a programmer for 3 years. With time I discovered that I’m more interested in the algorithmic aspects of programming than in software architecture, and creative coding provide me the opportunity to work in an intense way with algorithms and mathematics doing the thing that I most love: art. 

Another important thing is that my developer work provides me experience with different tools and languages that you need to use for every software project, and generative/algorithmic art, like code repositories, syntax, compiling and specific language flows.

Could you share some information about your creative process and the tools you use to create your work? 

I can describe my creative process like an iterative process between me and the computer. 

Normally, I start programming an autonomous system to explore some field, and I decide if this is providing me good outputs or not. After that, I select the outputs that represent the feelings that I want to express for a certain piece. For the pieces that I have tokenized right now (GIF animations), I’m working entirely with Processing–P5JS to be exact. It allows me to work easily with only a text editor and a browser. I capture all the frames in the animation in PNG format, and after that I create the GIF using ImageMagick commands.

I also prefer to work with open source tools. It’s amazing when you have the possibility to dig deeper inside the code without limits. Free software opens up the possibility of democratizing technology and art.

The Nutcracker
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Are you nuts?!

Earlier this month you tweeted a “GIF artist manifesto”. Could you share more about how you constructed these guidelines and why they’re important to your work? 

I wrote this manifesto because I found that GIF is more than a format for short animations, it is a technology with magical characteristics. First of all, colors are limited, so if you watch closely, all of the complex GIFs have some level of dithering. You can get mad with this limitation, or you can use it to your own benefit. This is why one of the rules is “Dithering is part of the artwork”. The other two rules are more about the concept of the loop and infinity. One is to “avoid ping-ponging (when a GIF plays forward, and then plays in reverse)” and the other is that “Perfect Loops are the goal. The GIF must have no visible beginning and end.” The perfectly looped animations allow me to explore the concept of infinity. The ping-pong technique isn’t bad in itself, but if you use it for all of your animations, you lose some important techniques that allow you to step outside of ping-ponging. I don’t want the GIF to feel trapped in a scene. 

Of course, if GIF is only a format for you, these rules make no sense. This is only valid if you want to do GIF art!

Your artist statement notes that your work “combines the beauty of nature with the artificial decay of big cities.” This theme runs powerfully through most of your work. How has this imagery developed over time, and why do you enjoy exploring it? 

I grew up in an ex-industrial neighborhood in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, playing hide and seek between abandoned buildings and old railroads. One of the most magical things in an old building is when the plants grow between concrete cracks. Nature never gives up, and this fact provides a lot of metaphors about our life and our landscapes. The cities in Latin America are really big, with unplanned and chaotic growth. This is why I use broken neon lights and ideographs (like old billboards) in my pieces. For me it’s a good way to express the feelings of an urban person from this side of the world. I usually use Chinese or Japanese in my pieces because you can express a complex idea with a few characters. I think that all the ideographs are a really powerful tool for art. If someone wants to go deeper into the artwork’s meaning, these characters are probably a good start. 

This is not a 3D artwork
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2d rocks.

Are there any other upcoming projects you are working on that you’d like to share?

I will continue with my GIF works. Right now I’m obsessed with the ways to create 3D effects using only 2D techniques. I think this is a good way to understand deeply how we perceive the dimensions. Also, I’m working again on Corvus Project, a project that I have with @nadart12 that explores the connection between algorithmic art and dance/movement. We will tokenize some videos in the near future.

Author profile

I am a creative technologist who assembles abstracted landscapes and collages with code. I work primarily with p5.js and use generative processes while designing. The result is extraterrestrial, angular, and heavily geometric. Conceptually I'm drawn to questions unearthed when collaborating with machines. What does it mean for an artist to act as a curator of a computer's procedural outputs? Where does the user end and the machine begin?

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