Agoston Nagy Interview

“tur1ng #6” by Agoston Nagy

Who are you?

As an artist, I have been making algorithmic art, building responsive environments using free and open source tools since the early 2000s. I gave international workshops across the EU, Asia and the US in the fields of interaction design, computational thinking, sonification and creative coding practice. Through my work I mainly focus on understanding complexities in natural phenomena, entangled systems of sonic and visual structures, cognitive aspects of extended perception, prototyping and open source exchange of text, code & ideas.

When did you start making generative art?

In my early years I was interested in performance art, fluxus and critical media theory. I also liked the experimental electronic music and glitch scene of the 90s. I was heavily inspired by abstract digital art from Lia, netart from JODI and liminal, underground internet websites. One day I saw some screenshots of max msp patches (node based visual programming language for music)
from Autechre, and I was fascinated by the myriad graphic elements and abstract constellations that were far away from ordinary UI components of the time. So I decided to get an understanding of how algorithmic beats, organic melodies can be constructed using random probabilities and markov chains within programming languages. I started making visual sound
instruments and made a phd within the field. I also took part in the early live coding scene
among Alex McLean, Dave Griffith and others. Later on, I released some sonic toys for iOS on the App Store that can be used to create interesting music by manipulating visual elements on the touch screen. Today I enjoy making code based art on environmentally friendly blockchains.

You incorporate audio often with your generative work. Why is this?

My way into dynamic media started with sounds, and even today I am really interested in how time, events and dramaturgy can be incorporated into visual media. I still think that the relationship between sound & imagery is a relatively unexplored territory in digital art. As
opposed to a theatre piece, an open air electronic music party or a painting in a gallery, experiencing art on the blockchain is really different. The focus, the set and the setting, the attention span and the time needed for unfolding the artwork are so different compared to other contexts. Another thing that is interesting for me is the act of listening itself.
Understanding structures through resonating vibrations (stream of water, traffic in cities, people and living creatures in forests, etc) gives a deep relationship with the essence of the artefact being observed. John Cage, Pauline Oliveros and others introduced these concepts beautifully to a wider audience.

“LandWaves #10” by Agoston Nagy

What is your creative process to create a new work?

I usually start with observing simple computational problems, algorithms. I make plotter graphics, so for example sorting, intersecting, optimising lines are a wide territory of beautiful trigonometric problems to be solved. Then, I try to find and articulate some specific aspects of the scene. Colours, layering, movements, animation come into the workflow, with lots of iteration with the code. When I make work for commissions, I always start with collecting, modifying visual sketches. I think the Processing tool, especially the p5js derivation, helped me a lot in extending these skills. Meanwhile I am in a constant dialog with the subject, seeking for a good title for it, which is often the hardest part. The audio component comes after, connecting synthesis to trigger events that might arise from movements or spatial organisation of the elements on the canvas.

“moiré” was your Genesis mint on FxHash. What’s the story behind this work?

This piece was made quite quickly. I was fascinated by the possibilities of FxHash, the platform I was waiting for, even though I was not aware before what I was missing. I experimented with platform specific random seeds, and decided to make a really simple, super-minimal piece for that occasion. I saw many colourful artworks appearing already, so I decided to go the opposite way: find the minimum threshold of variability that is still perceivable. In physical reality, moiré
patterns are balancing on the edge of recognizable patterns, and they are very sensitive to their environmental conditions (proportions, distances, angles, etc). They usually appear when artificial systems, grids, lines, geometric patterns overlap. In most cases we consider moiré as an unintended consequence or error that appears when image content exceeds sensory resolution
and the alignment is not perfect.

“moiré #7” by Agoston Nagy

What is the difference between a good and great piece of generative art?

As far as I see, a good generative art piece is like a finely crafted ornament, where the
methodology is aesthetically compelling, well balanced and evaluated. Whereas a great artwork operates on multiple levels: technical brilliance, conceptual coherence combined with novel ways of communication of different ideas that might sometimes be surprising or even uncomfortable. It works when all of the obsolete components of the piece are eliminated. As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry says: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

“L-2D CA” is a beautiful cellular automata and musical work. How did this piece come to be?

In 2021 I made a code based piece called “Mira” for the Processing Community Day fundraising event on Hic et Nunc, one of the first nft marketplaces on the tezos blockchain. It is built on a two dimensional game of life simulation, where each state is layered on top of the other, creating a digital sculpture of the game. Generation of each layer triggers some microsounds. I just started experimenting with web audio synthesis. I sold it for a multiple of my average pricing at that time, and I donated all the proceeds from primary sales to the Processing Foundation. This was the first time I felt that nfts can be used very effectively for aggregating community values, converting creative energy into donation purposes. Then, I had to make a plottable version of the piece, so I was turning the graphic elements into minimalistic lines and symbols, to be able to
draw them to paper. This visual language led to the release of the following editions on FxHash.

“L-2D CA #14” by Agoston Nagy

Cellular automata is featured in lots of your works. Why is this?

I am fascinated by cellular automata since they represent the complexities of our reality in a very clean and concise way. I like simplicity, and I find that minimalistic systems leave more space for imagination than overcomplicated ones, such as GANs, neural networks and all the recent AI hype in the art field. A cellular automaton instead is supersimple: it is a collection of cells arranged in a grid of specified shape, such that each cell changes state as a function of time, according to a defined set of rules driven by the states of neighbouring cells. Though it is simple, it has been suggested for possible use in public key cryptography, as well as for applications in
geography, anthropology, political science, sociology and physics, among others. The process of the evolving automaton reminds me of our continuous, endless struggle to maintain order in our chaotic environment, trying to compete with the nature of entropy that is omnipresent in our known universe.

“Nil” is your most recent FxHash mint. What does this piece mean to you and how did you know when it was finished?

This is a natural progress in my workflow. Within this piece I started to use web audio synthesis more in-depth, by extending the audio chain with custom made nodes. Until this project, I was using raw oscillators with simple envelopes only, but by implementing and adding a smooth reverb module to the soundscape, the sonic atmosphere has been turned into a rich and warm environment. Apart from the audio, I started thinking a bit about variations on nesting automation as textures on different shapes within a scene, so I combined these intentions. The result reminds me of the sound of the early Warp records electronic label releases. Must not be
a coincidence that the visual appearance for me resembles early Warp LP covers, made by the Designers Republic.

“Nil” by Agoston Nagy

What do you have planned for the future?

I am planning to continue merging sonic textures with abstract visual patterns in the digital domain using code. Apart from coding, I also make physical installations, using plotters, sound, papers, metal and wood components. Spatial thinking and embodied experience are key elements within my forthcoming projects. I am also continuously looking for nonconventional, niche, liminal, experimental platforms for self expression & liberation. For example, a text-based nft marketplace for the tezos blockchain, has just been released a few days ago and I
immediately fell in love with it. There are countless possibilities and opportunities ahead of us if we keep cultural diversity and internet plurality in mind.

Is there any piece of advice that has stuck with you throughout your life?

One thing that comes to my mind very often when thinking of making decisions: choose the
harder path whenever possible. Not trivial, you can not make it all the time, but you will learn
and benefit from it way more in the long term than staying with the easier, temporary solutions. At least for me, it helps a lot when I have to recalibrate and reinforce my relationship with other people, everyday events and my own path on both professional and personal levels.

“Entropy III” by Agoston Nagy

Is there anyone you want to shoutout?

There are many things that inspire me beyond the generative scene. Reading, listening, and
environmental awareness equally shape the vision of my art and practice. To name a few friends and artists from the NFT space: Andreas Gysin, Paul Prudence, Leander Herzog are making great, honest and brilliant artworks that I love.

Anything else?

First of all I would like to thank the Processing community for what we are doing for the visual arts and related activities. Thanks to Casey Reas, Lauren McCarthy & the Processing Foundation for making computational art accessible for us, thanks to Golan Levin, Zach Lieberman, Dan Shiffman for their great, inspirational guidance and vision, thanks to Hic-et-Nunc, the FxHash community for building next level radical platforms. Also thank you Miller Puckette for creating
Max & Pd, Peter Brinkmann for helping make musical apps possible, Yotam Mann, & Tero
Parviainen for your efforts on building extraordinary audio tools for the open web, and thanks to all visionaries for showing the way to the true nature of reality.

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