MA2 – Geoff Davis: Various Unusual Events
ZX Spectrum 48k – 1984
Above: MA2 data cassette distribution
MA2 was a compilation of conceptual pieces, designed as an introduction to a few of the possibilities of computer art. In some ways it was mocking conceptual art with ridiculous examples.
It opened with a simple menu, which announced:
VARIOUS UNUSUAL EVENTS
Minimal is an example of slow art, several years before there was such a thing. It was a very slow drawing program, perhaps the simplest computer art ever created.
The Money-Work System was an animated comic strip based around SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas, the psychopath who shot Andy Warhol. Dada provides words for automatic speech.
The Piano Bar, was a generative art piece that was taken from MA1 ‘Abstract Originals’ as an example program, as it made lively graphics with simple code. All code was editable by the people running the programs.
See below for full descriptions.
Minimal Option 1
This was a drawing program that placed one pixel on the screen, starting top left and moving across and down the screen. The maximum pause was coded such that the artwork (a white screen) took a very long time to appear.
The pause was set to 65535 frames of the display (TV) at 50 fps. This is 21.85 minutes. This is plotted onscreen on 45056 locations.
One run takes 683.66 days, or over 1 year and 11 months. If started in January 1st, it would end nearly two years later on Nov 14th.
Above: one pixel to bottom left.
A pause on the Spectrum can be cut short by pressing a key, so the art can be raced through if in a hurry.
Studio (Random Walking) Option 2
No escape! Trapped inside the monitor, two feet walk around endlessly. Perhaps a comment on forthcoming CGI games and social media?
As a contrast to Minimal, this program made two feet (actually shoes) walk around the screen, changing direction with a beep sound when they reached the ‘frame’ of the screen, while overwriting the screen with colour bands. As well as the beep on ‘impact’ with the edge, it also wrote ‘OUCH!’ on the screen. This had a colour selection menu.
By adding a walking action to the generation of the screen art, the whole concept of a generative art piece is changed. It looks ‘as if’ the feet are painting on the screen.
Dada # 0 Option 3
In June 1916 Hugo Ball (German poet and writer, founder of Dada) appeared on stage at the Zürich Cabaret Voltaire nightclub and performed a set of sound poems. These poems were made of sound-words, unrecognisable, nonsensical, challenging, following the principles of the Dada art movement.
Dada # 0 was a word generator that used semi-random letters (vowels and consonants generated independently) to give strange words. This was historically related to automatic writing (Dadaists, Surrealists) and speaking in tongues (religious experiences, David Byrne). At the time, The Cocteau Twins singer Liz Fraser was using made-up words for the sound rather than sense.
The Money-Work System (SCUM Manifesto) Option 4
Animation of SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas. This was and is quite controversial. I was interested in the idea of a post-capitalist money-work system, rather than her psychotic hate campaigns including the attempted murder of Andy Warhol, who never properly recovered.
Solanas proclaimed the end of the money-work system, when all work will be automated and everyone will be free of economically defined roles. This utopian system is now known as Universal Basic Income, UBI.
This idea of economic definition of psychological roles in a money free system was explored in one of my later fictions, a crime novella ‘Death in the Bubble World’ (1997), which had an electronic money system ‘Easy Money Units’ (Geoff Davis 1997). These Emus are also used in my new novel due in 2019, which set in a near future where Emus are used for the UBI, and all manner of unnatural disasters overtake the characters.
The MA2 version was a simple animation, or rather, a simply animated comic strip, of some sections of the SCUM manifesto. The character was slowly drawn onto the screen for each frame, the useless repetition of the dignity of labour.
The original was an adult version. In the interests of outreach the frames have been edited.
Carry On Computing Option 5
This was a program that displayed chunks of code on the screen, in a ‘show and tell’ way. Nothing was explained so it was not educational. I liked the idea of code as art. There is a way of looking at computer graphics, which is that they are the surface of the computer, in an analogy of the eye being a surface of the brain, neurologically joined and developed together.
Carry On films were a comedy genre from the British film industry, a mixture of sexual and social embarrassment (often based on class) and slap stick humour. 31 films were made from 1958 to 1992.
This is a mix of actual programming code and numbers written on top.
The Piano Bar Option 6
A scrolling colour generator than looked a bit like keys on a piano, and mechanical scrolling music for player-pianos. The animated bars are drawn across and upwards and move from side to side with overlays. It is related to the origins of mechanical calculating machines in observations of weaving, and the serial and repetitive nature of coding. There is nothing object orientated about this piece.
This has visual parallels with Anni Albers (Bauhaus) woven creations, and the loom inspired origin of computer technology (Jacquard’s Loom). Both used repetitions with variations, as does Piano Bar.
Colour could be selected, although the menu says predominant, it is the only colour.
Loop of 2 and 6 7
The two visual pieces could be run in a continuous loop.
This was for ambient never-repeating visuals.
The data cassette inner sleeve is shown below.
Above: Inner card for Micro Arts MA2 – Geoff Davis: Various Unusual Events