Anna Pinkas

Collectio ex machina

A computer’s pixelated collection: exploring the vertiginous implications and potential beauty of collecting in the digital realm.


A collection can be defined as the gathering, organizing and displaying of items - three verbs one could easily use to describe a computer’s modus operandi. "Collectio ex machine" was inspired by the parallels between the human impulse to collect and computational data collection. The subject of this screen-based artwork is the layered collection of an anthropomorphized computer. Pixels are the only entities the machine can display and are thus at the core of this endeavor: the algorithm retrieves an image titled “my collection” from flickr and divides it into 4x4 sequences of pixels. Each of theses 16-pixel arrays is used to generate a stack of 100 images (all containing this particular sequence). The collection is ongoing. The process is repeated over and over again. This absurd combination of arbitrary decisions and strict rules produces a mesmerizing, and dizzying, collection - an uncanny evocation of our own obsessions.

User Scenario
The viewer can peruse the collection through keyboard/mouse triggers. There are different levels for him/her top explore: 1. The master image 2. The master image's arrays of pixels 3. A particular array's stack of images 4. A particular image within a stack. The "collecting" algorithm (a processing sketch retrieving images from flickr) is presented alongside the main visualization. It offers insight into the computer's collecting impulse and highlights the ongoing, time-based nature of the project.