March 26, 2023 2:46 pm

It was an earworm that lasted 4 dozen years, but it wasn’t a jingle, it was an algorithm. An equation George Legrady came across in 1986 in Scientific American has captured his imagination once again and once again ever because.

In 2021, he returned to it after far more to develop “Phantom Waves,” a series of photos exploring the intersection of digital photography and math, now on view in the California Nanosystems Institute on the second floor of Elings Hall at UC Santa Barbara.

George Legrady’s ‘Phantom Waves,’ 2021. (George Legrady) Credit: George Legrady

“Every after in a even though, I come back to this, how to use math equations to develop aesthetically exciting benefits,” stated Legrady, distinguished professor of media art and technologies.

“The minute you digitize a photograph, it is actually not a photograph any longer it is just a string of numbers,” Legrady stated. “The other factor about digitality is you can move information from one particular domain to a further. You can turn information into a sound or an image mainly because it is just numbers.” 

Published in the post “Computer Recreations” by A.K. Dewdney, the algorithm in Scientific American that inspired Legrady employs frequency modulation. In physics, it is signal processing but for Legrady, it is an aesthetic device.

Writing in C language on an IBM individual laptop or computer, his experimentation in the 1980s brought new types of photographic visualization. Some of it was produced probable by technological developments such as the Truevision Targa analog-to-digital graphics board, which was the 1st to permit artists to manipulate photographs with code.

Each six or so years because, Legrady has returned to this algorithm to see what he can do with the most current technologies.

His new operate utilizes the 1986 equation along with custom software program, capturing in nevertheless photos the oscillations of numerous frequencies that modulate every other, building complicated patterns.

The algorithm performs by building the frequency modulation: A sinewave frequency with a worth is sent from left to ideal. At the similar time, a further sinewave with a unique frequency worth is sent from leading to bottom.

The two waves intersect at every pixel building numeric values, resulting in harmonics, several occasions outdoors of the 0–255 colour variety from black to white. Legrady explained that he then “recycles the out of bounds values to get unique benefits.”

“The patterns emerge by way of phantom frequencies generated when the signal goes beyond the tonal variety of person pixels,” Legrady stated.

“This series brings interest to the nature of the digital photograph as fundamentally a sequence of numbers that can be manipulated mathematically to outcome in photos that do not exist in the planet but are developed algorithmically,” he stated.

“The series is a project in generative art, an iterative human-software program collaboration exactly where the artist selects numeric parameters by which the software program generates tonal values for every pixel inside the two-dimensional image space,” he stated.

In component, Legrady was inspired by the electronic music compositions of Iannis Xenakis and other 20th century composers. “Phantom Wave” photos are visual expressions resulting from tweaking oscillating frequencies applied to pixels inside a two-dimensional matrix space.

The objective, Legrady explained, was “to arrive at photos that could not have been realized with no computation and mathematical modeling.” 

Making symmetrical and monochromatic strings of pixels and patterns, Legrady’s “Phantom Waves” photos discover digital photography by way of the lens of mathematical equations.

“Why do we think in the photograph when it is a constructed image? It is not a correct image,” stated Legrady, who also directs UCSB’s Experimental Visualization Lab. “With digital technologies it is completely manipulated and processed.”

The current performs had been inspired by experimentation Legrady undertook in his spare time more than COVID-19. He also noted that in the years involving 2000 and 2016 he was operating with collaborators on complicated information collection and evaluation.

Then, in 2020, he had an art installation canceled in Beijing mainly because of the pandemic (it is now been rescheduled to open at the Shenzhen Museum of Modern Art in April).

Through quarantine, he stated, he was “just sitting right here in my studio by myself.” He started to revisit projects that he could rapidly do on his personal. “I was experimenting with sending sine waves left to ideal or leading to bottom. The waves imply that every pixel receives a signal, and it creates harmonics.”

As an analogy, Legrady likened how the algorithm performs to creating sounds on a guitar string with your finger. If you push the string down and play it, you get a sound. But if you just touch the string, you get harmonics.

The photos depict exactly where the waves meet at every pixel — and by way of this approach, Legrady can develop values that are beyond the tonal variety of the photographic image.

“Frequency modulation is a basic element of electronic music composition as practiced by my Media Arts &amp Technologies colleagues Curtis Roads, JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, director of the Allosphere, and lecturer Karl Yerkes,” Legrady stated. “I’m interested in the type of photos I can develop.”

Legrady received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2016. His artworks are in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Canada, the Centre Pompidou Museum, Paris, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Musée d’art Contemporain in Montreal, the Philbrook Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, 21c Museum and other individuals.

He has realized a quantity of permanent public commissions such as “Kinetic Flow,” a significant 18’ x 22’ abstract image of a sinewave modulated by subway demographic information at the Santa Monica/Vermont Los Angeles Metro Rail (2007). He also has made public installations for the Corporate Executive Board (Arlington 2009) and the Seattle Central Library (2005–present) — a information visualization installation that may possibly be the longest operating project of its type to-date. 

UCSB has been household to other pioneering algorithmic artists, such as media arts and technologies professors Marcos Novak and Marko Peljhan and Jean-Pierre Hebert, former longtime artist-in-residence of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics, whose operate is at present exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in the show Coded: Art Enters the Personal computer Age.