This painting could be at home in any gallery.

But it was created by this robot.

It’s watching a nearby street, and interpreting the movements of the commuters.

Though it can miss.

A computer manages the visual processing. It scoffs at drop cloths.

Most paint robots use paint guns. This one uses air pressure.

And as people pass, they can actually see themselves be painted in real time.

Co.Design

Robot Paints Like Jackson Pollock, With City Traffic As Subject

A painting robot that interprets nearby street and sidewalk traffic as sprays of pigment.

When Jackson Pollock splattered paint on canvas, he was labeled a genius. His contribution to abstract expressionism was seemingly boundless in its scope, but Pollock followed strict rules of his own devising. From the colors he chose to the constant flourish of his wrist, Pollock worked within tacit parameters to create distilled expression.

So if Pollock followed rules, could a computer’s logic do the same thing? City, Paint, Machine is an attempt to automate creativity by panGenerator. It’s a painting robot that interprets nearby street and sidewalk traffic as sprays of pigment.

Watch at 00:43 in.

“Although the paintings look abstract they are a result of some pretty precise calculations based on trajectories of people and cars moving on the street,” creator Piotr Barszczewski tells Co.Design. Yet that calculation. much like Polluck’s, is fascinating because of both its rules and its flexibility—logic surrounded by a constant element of randomness.

Barszczewski explains the machine as painting processed at a few levels. The first is observed chaos, a camera tracking the people and cars walking down the street. The second is the software layer, a predetermined set of rules interpreting this signal.

So the robot is turning chaos into order, but then that order is injected with a bit more chaos. City, Paint, Machine uses a pressure-based paint system that has a level of unpredictability akin to Pollock’s dripping brush. “Even though the trajectories were controlled with some degree of precision there was always an element of randomness introduced by the mixing ratio of the paint, splashes made from the pressurized stream, and the time it took to dry,” Barszczewski writes. (Plus, on top of all that, there was always a level of human decision, such as how long the robot kept painting, from a few hours to a few days.)

City, Paint, Machine isn’t the first painting robot and it won’t be the last. But it is an interesting, parallel-world-style case study on the automatization of art—and especially, the role of an artist as data interpreter. After all, when someone paints any landscape, they are really just filtering photons through rules in their mind’s eye, balancing the randomness of their medium with the steadiness of their hand. Can we earnestly claim that this robot is doing things all that differently?

[Hat tip: Triangulation]

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1 Comments

  • Rachel Gould

    What an idea! I love the expression of chaos within the streets. I've always had a hard time accepting Jackson Polluck's work, and the way he works with his media. As years went on, I learned to love his work. The idea of the City, Paint, Machine is incredible. Depending on how long the robot paints and other factors make each painting so incredibly unique. I would love to see a series of paintings that would range from morning chaos to night chaos, or what each day of the week would look like and the differences in population. Is there a calculation to what color is sprayed on the canvas?  The color used could also express the severeity in choas or the time of day.

    "So the robot is turning chaos into order, but then that order is injected with a bit more chaos." I love this quote from the fifth paragraph. It pretty much sums up life. We all have chaos that we put into order, but the order turns into something more chaotic. This quote expresses the robot, as well as, what the robot does in a deeper level. The expression of humans and their way of life is such an interesting subject!