[ISEA2009] Paper: Meredith Hoy – Vasarely Redux: Electroplastique and the structure of digital aesthetics


It is frequently assumed that as the technical capabilities of digital media expand, so too will immersive and mimetically naturalistic qualities in digital graphics. The ‘conventions’ of digital imagery have transmuted from the highly pixelated, discrete bitmapped graphics emblematized by Super Mario Brothers and Jodi into a smooth, perspectival illusionism that meets or even exceeds the resolution threshold of the human eye.

This trend towards illusionism has resulted in a tendency to obscure the architectonic properties of digital images, which begin life as one of a few basic shapes – circles, squares, and lines. But as the frenzy for digital naturalism licenses the concealment of the undergirdings of digital figures, a competing form of code-based, generative abstraction has emerged to succeed the proto-computational formalisms of artists such as Victor Vasarely and Sol LeWitt. This paper will take an example of this generative abstraction as its primary case study. Marius Watz’s 2005 homage to Victor Vasarely entitled Electroplastique #1 translates Vasarely’s algorithmic visual language into computational generative code. Well in advance of bitmapping technology Vasarely infused his works with a distinct computational ‘look’ by conceptualizing the image as a field of discrete values arranged within and conditioned upon the structure of the grid. Surprisingly, however, little has been done in the disciplines of art history or media studies to evaluate the extent to which Vasarely’s method predicts the possibilities and limitations of encoded computational plasticity.

  • Meredith Hoy University of California, Berkeley, USA

Full text (PDF)  p. 873-879