Exhibition History

Ignotus the Mage is a performance that extends into various other productions. Works derived from the material gathered through performances assume many forms, including digital prints, interactive installations, audio compositions, and video. The documentation on this site describes the performance and installation for Siggraph 2006 and for Structural Elements, a group show in Chicago (2006). An earlier installation, Pond, was exhibited in many venues, including the Chicago Cultural Center (1997) and the Block Museum at Northwestern University (2001). The algorithmic pattern-making card deck and the "dysfunctional fortuneteller" performance date back to the early 1980s in Spain, before I used computers, and have been used to generate many works. The earliest works were shown in "Travesias," an exhibition of drawings, paintings, a floor installation, and a cake, with a collaborative walldrawing created by theater group TET, in the Palau Maricel, Sitges, Spain (1982). I am currently revising the "installation" of Ignotus the Mage, making it more compact and mobile, for exhibition at the Chain Reaction International Gathering organized by Upgrade! in Skopje, Macedonia in September 2008. Documentation will be added here soon after the event.

See also: the Ignogame, from my exhibition Works on Paper.

Artist Statement

Ignotus the Mage combines and extends a series of earlier works in which samples of digitized faces and spoken names provide the raw material for an interactive installation. It brings together various processes that have long informed my work: induction of the audience into the creative process, the social process of assigning meaning to empty forms, pattern-making games, intermedia composition, remixing as a metaphor for memory, and collaborative interaction.

In Ignotus the Mage, a performance serves to gather the raw material for an interactive multimedia installation. The artist performs as the Mage, a dysfunctional fortuneteller who sits at a table and interprets the patterns that participants create with his homemade binary punch cards. In exchange for his services, he records the face and spoken name of each participant. The names, faces and patterns inhabit the interactive installation, a table with embedded sensors for magnetic "stones" that control projected video and spatialized sound.

A topological transformation of the Mage's patterns yields graphs that can be interpreted as generative structures for musical or multimedia events. Here they control the selection and remixing of sounds from the spoken names and the collaging of different faces. The captured material from each successive installation becomes a jumbled but evocative "collective portrait" of the group that participated. The faces and voices fragment and recombine, yet we may still detect individual qualities and the traces of a specific time and place.

Left alone, the installation quietly sifts through its material. When visitors arrive, it wakes up and triggers rhythmically collaged sounds and images in response to their interaction. With a little patience, they can learn to control different aspects of the installation.

Technical Statement

The homemade binary punch cards with patterns on their faces implement an algorithm for generating Latin squares of different geometric tiles. The holes and slots in the cards are used to sort them. The artist developed the cards in the late 1970s and later created several computer programs to mimic them. The cards allowed him to let other people compose his paintings for him. Out of gratitude, he offered to interpret the cards for them. Over the years, these readings have become a social process for assigning meaning to the geometries of the cards--I found some people even learn to assist me interpreting them.

The interactive multimedia installations associated with the performance have employed many different strategies for controlling audio and visual events. "Pond" used agents exploring directed graphs derived from a topological transform of the patterns generated by the punch cards to trigger events. More recent installations make freer use of rhythmic and melodic material derived from the patterns, providing more room for chance and for audience collaboration. The recorded voices used as audio material are analyzed and controlled with digital signal-processing software. The images are fragmented and composited using alpha channels derived from rule-based colorings of the patterns.

See also this page (PDF, 2.6M) from the Siggraph 2006 Electronic Art and Animation Catalog.