Max Pihlström

July 23rd – August 8th, 2015

Max Pihlström lives in Uppsala, Sweden, where he is currently finishing his Master’s degree in computer science at Uppsala University.

With interests in philosophy, mathematics and artificial intelligence, Max’s art inquires into questions about essence and abstraction, the nature of perception and the scope of the aesthetic experience.

The project is a culmination of interest for visual art and expertise in computer science. With the computer as a platform, he wanted to explore the visual domains. This led to the question of what imagery in computer graphics is? What a digital and mathematical visual representation is? In computer graphics, there are essentially two frameworks for a visual representation: pixel graphics and vector graphics.

We say that an image is an area in 2 dimensions on which we want to a way to formulate a notion content as regions of color. To talk about regions, the area needs to be divided into parts, segmented. For finer levels of detail, the segments need to be smaller. The pixel is the smallest segment, the atomic element. [demonstration.] This is a practical limitation, but also a philosophical. A pixel has a color and a location formulated most easily in terms of coordinates on a grid. The area in the 2nd is exhaustively and completely described by these elements.

Vector graphics describing visual objects. The prime example being letters and fonts. Take the letter ‘C’. It can, of course, be described as an image in terms of pixels. But there is also a more concise description: one way would be to say that it is this kind of bulbing smooth curve between two endpoints pointing to the left. Vector graphics is the formalization of this kind of abstract description. Graphical objects are described in terms of mathematical curves. At no point then are pixels stored in the machine, but only the minimal information about how the curves should bend and where they should start, etc.

Pixel graphics and vector graphics, then, surely are different. they are different species. But how different? Are there alternatives? A third species? The obvious way of generating a third species from two is hybridization. What would it look like? He ended up exploring the triangulation as a visual representation. The triangulation is the segmentation of an area into a mosaic of triangles. This property of segmentation is related to the pixel grid, and the triangle is like the pixel in this sense. But the nodes and edges connecting the triangles and composing the triangulations are also freely moving. In this sense, the triangulation is more like the abstract description of vector graphics. More dynamic shapes can be more concisely described.

The triangulation what you end up with if you have freely moving pixels. “My technical contribution is making sure that the triangles can move without breaking the triangulation, the segmentation. This algorithm of mine is what allows me to explore transformations.”