Algorithmic Art: Dynamic Display ‘Paints’ Surreal Scenes & Melting Cityscapes

Abstracting views of the city, this huge installation uses computer algorithms to deform local everyday footage on a massive 14-by-23-foot display canvas.

Ordinary wall art can get old, especially when one passes it every day. In this case, hours of film can become thousands of unique compositions, slowly deconstructed into impressionist-worthy pieces on the screen.

ESI Design developed this trippy solution for the lobby of 515 North State Street in Chicago, a structure design by Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect Kenzo Tange built back in the 1990s.

As a contextual work,  it features shots of the Chicago River, city trains and waterfront amusements, all devolving dynamically. The designers created the logic and intent, but don’t actually shape the outcomes — this is done programmatically.

“Custom software analyzes each video for moving objects, so moments like a person walking, or a car driving become the ‘brushstrokes’ that slowly create each abstraction. As each video collides with the next, new compositions unfold in real time, literally creating thousands of possibilities.”

Meanwhile, the “display itself uses LED modules that are covered with a layer of vinyl diffusion, removing the harsh digital glare of bare diodes and giving the imagery a soft material quality instead. The entire display is framed with a painted metal molding, with the intention of referencing traditional canvas paintings.” Except even more so than paintings in galleries, each experience of this work is one-of-a-kind.