Golan Levin’s interactive artwork

Golan Levin, like Martin Wattenberg, is an artist who can write code. This convergence is rare enough to make it a delightful treat to browse through his work. In contrast to various other “new” art forms enabled by computers, such as hypertext fiction or virtual 3-d worlds, this interactive graphical work seems to have real staying power, drawing me back to it again and again. Here is Levin’s old site at the MIT Media Lab. Flong is his current address, apparently. (Can anybody tell me what Flong means?)

Some of these pieces are absolutely mesmerizing. I particularly like Yellowtail, Newyear, and The Secret Lives of Numbers. Yellowtail is a nifty little kinetic sketch piece, similar to (though cleaner than) Scott Snibbe’s venerable Motion Sketch. Newyear lets you draw your own snowflakes, and The Secret Lives of Numbers is a monumental opus that reflects the popularity (as measured by web hits) of every number between 1 and 100,000. The dynamic scaling and zooming of the interface is beautiful to behold. We read in the introduction to “Numbers”

…certain numbers, such as 212, 486, 911, 1040, 1492, 1776, 68040, or 90210, occur more frequently than their neighbors because they are used to denominate the phone numbers, tax forms, computer chips, famous dates, or television programs that figure prominently in our culture. Regular periodicities in the data, located at multiples and powers of ten, mirror our cognitive preference for round numbers in our biologically-driven base-10 numbering system. Certain numbers, such as 12345 or 8888, appear to be more popular simply because they are easier to remember.

Related notes: 2 Jul 2002, 9 Dec 2000, 30 Jun 2000.