Written Images

Generative Art books, eh? You wait 30 years for one, then two come along at once. Having finally ushered my own progeny out into the world, I’m now anxious to get my hands on the other Generative Art book that’s going to press this month, Written Images. Martin has posted some preview images on Flickr, and it looks beauuuuuuutiful.

Written Images is an experimental publishing concept, funded via kickstarter. The idea was to have a 400 page GenArt book where, true to the concept, no two copies are the same, but all are within a tight enough possibility space to be regarded as the same publication. And we’re not just talking individualised covers here, every single page of the book is a one-of-kind artwork.

Each of the 42 artists featured submitted their work as an applet, a chunk of code, which could be added to an automated print process. The idea couldn’t be realised cheaply, which meant the first edition was priced at $200 a copy, but the pledge target was reached rapidly, probably because so many wanted to own a book where even the artists themselves, theoretically, have never before seen the final works that have their name next to them.

My submission, Twill (above, and below), was one of my fave AbandonedArt experiments, that I adapted for print. I had wanted to use it for my own book, to make an infinite set of covers, but this was vetoed early by my publisher (which is why my book ended up costing $20 rather than $200), so I was glad to have the opportunity to realise it as intended in WI. From what I can tell, the WI printing of Twill is much larger and more defined than the single iteration of the system that ended up on my cover, so I’m very glad to see it done justice.

I get one of the 230 copies as a contributing artist, but I’m not sure if this is going to satisfy me. While I’m keen to get my unique copy, I’m also keen to see other folks’ copies, to see how individual/alike they all are. Will the lucky 230 copy-holders form an exclusive club, a global network, who all carry their copies with them on their travels, just on the off chance they might run into another holder with whom they can compare prints? Will they congregate once a decade at remote mountain retreats for Written Images parties, where copy-holders, or their heirs, pass around their prints and recite the words of Bruce Sterling‘s introduction in a reverential sub-glottal murmur?

If not, they should. And there should be a lot more of these bold publishing experiments too. Print isn’t dead. It’s evolving. And Written Images is what it’s future looks like.

twill 4



posted July 12th, 2011



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