The Barbican Centre
Together is a collaboration between Universal Everything and the audience, bringing together two fundamental parts of the studio’s process: drawing and rule-based creation. The work explores the notion that every person conceives a unique response to the same challenge.
A bespoke web app presents the audience with a limited shape and colour palette, encouraging them to create short animated loops in response – as simple as drawing on paper. The minimal toolset enables the audience to duplicate a frame, onion skin, trace over a guide frame, and erase or delete a frame.
Audience-created contributions will be shown in a gallery of multiple works looping concurrently, creating a wall of individual animations that are a collective response to the aesthetics and rule-based limitations presented to them.
This work continues the studio’s exploration into methods of generative design. Their role as artists is to define the instructional ‘seed’ which ‘grows’ infinite visual variations often using custom software, and now through the engagement with the public as creators of the outcome.
The results are a compelling consequence of the unpredictability of the human touch, revealing the inventiveness and diversity with which we work with limited resources.
The artwork launches with a collection of animations created by Universal Everything, which, over time, is mixed with audience contributions forming an ongoing dialogue between studio and public.
Contribute to the project at drawntogether.org
An essay by Antonia Lee
For their work Together (2014), Universal Everything decided to collaborate with the public in order to stage a cultural experiment with the help of combining two fundamental aspects of their practice: drawing and rule-based digital creation.
A bespoke web application using primitive cell animation techniques allows the public to create individual drawing loops following a limited set of aesthetic rules that dictate a template and available colours – as simple as drawing on paper. The minimal tools enable the audience to duplicate a frame, to onion skin, trace over a guide frame and erase or delete frames. Drawings from anywhere in the world are then automatically submitted to the studio via the Internet and fed into the installation – a set of screens – at the exhibition venue. The audience-created loops are displayed in a gallery where multiple works loop concurrently and create a wall of individual animations that are a collective response to the aesthetics and rule-based limitations.
Drawing is the foundation upon which Universal Everything’s work is built and a fundamental part of the studio’s process. Not only did Pyke study botanical and technical illustration, but drawing is one of the oldest forms of both human expression and communication. It is considered the ultimate method to express ideas and creativity. Furthermore, drawing is measured as the most revealing record of artistic creativity, offering the most direct expression of the artistic self. Acknowledging that everyone can draw, making everyone an artist, Universal Everything assumes that their app combining the process of drawing within a set of aesthetic rules will reveal a link, a pattern, a coherency between all submitted drawings by the public – regardless of the cultural and geographic background from which each drawing might originate.
Matt Pyke: “Self-imposed aesthetic rules reduce your freedom of interpretation, and yet, one can be incredibly inventive with restricted ingredients. I am interested to find out how the public will deal with such a challenge; what the general human response is to a shared problem.” The hypothesis is that drawing, with its immediacy, its ability to create a link to the artist’s emotional inner self, will reveal common denominators that illustrate each individual’s humanness, regardless of upbringing and context.
The concept of Together turns many previous methodologies dictating Universal Everything’s works on their head: whereas Pyke and his collaborators most usually are concerned with making technology anthropomorphist, injecting it with some sort of human “essence” that visually crystalizes before a viewer’s eyes when watching one of the studio’s digital animations, Together feeds alive people what could be considered a digital code; the aesthetic rules and constraints that every drawer has to adhere to if he or she wishes to take part in the interactive work of art. Pyke: “Is there something inherently human that unites everyone and that we can see from the Internet submissions?” Instead of machines being programmed to evoke distinctly human characteristics, Universal Everything instructs humans as if they were machines. It is an experiment to test whether code yet again prompts humanity itself to materialise in visual expression.
The evolving work that Together forms will not only show where each drawing is from on hand of a world map, but the piece in its entirety of multiple screens will constantly evolve as a publically curated sculptural installation: anyone will be able to vote online for their most favourite works. Those with the most votes will increasingly dominate the exhibition screens, reflecting aesthetic preferences as an international collective decision.
Universal Everything’s creative process is led by an experimental approach to materials, allowing them to paint and sculpt with new technologies and formats that include 3D printing, touch screens, motion capture and large format video displays.
2014 – Digital Revolution, Tekniska Museet, Stockholm
2014 – Digital Revolution, The Barbican, London