Josh Katzenmeyer (luxpris) is a creative coder and a cryptoartist. He defines himself as “a creative technologist who assembles abstracted landscapes and collages with code”. I had the opportunity to talk with him about his amazing creation process, the art that inspires him and the future of creative coding, generative art and cryptoart.
Tell me about your beginnings. What was first, programming or art?
I’m actually relatively new to programming. For a long time I exerted most of my creative energy through music. I began looking at computing a bit more seriously when I started to realize my pattern of seeking out audio production tools that forced me to “think outside of the box” (tools like Renoise, Hundred Rabbits’ ORCA, Pure Data, etc). A long term goal of mine is to create tools similar to the ones that inspired me when I first started creating, and that’s what led me to programming.
Visual work started becoming a focus of mine as I started to design my album covers and flyers for performances and whatnot.
Currently I design all of my work with p5.js, and that’s fun because it offers me a lot of flexibility on how I’d like an image to look without being distracted by features I find superfluous/distracting. Empty slate.
What do you think about the generative art category? Does it fit with your pieces?
I don’t think it’s always easy to pinpoint where a work begins or ceases to be generative. For me I think of it as any work that involves a certain level of computed chaos in process or design.
I do see my work falling within different categories on a spectrum of generative art. Some of my pieces are “more generative than others” simply because every time I run the code, something completely new and unexpected comes out. Other times I use procedural tactics to stimulate new ideas: to throw things on a canvas that I “tidy up” in post. Another category I can think of is one where the works are much more painstakingly/deliberately designed, but then there are segments with randomized patterns, textures, etc.
For me, one of the most interesting parts about using computers to produce art is the way that the user/programmer’s role shifts during the creative process. Sometimes I feel very much like a traditional artist, and other times I feel like I consider myself more of a curator for whatever the code is doing.
Do you more often start from the output that an automated system gives to you or do you start from an idea and after that you create the system? Does the code or the idea come first?
Most recently I get quite a bit of inspiration from paying close attention to architecture in my immediate surroundings and the compositional elements of works I admire. A lot of times I’ll translate these things into rudimentary structures/shapes I connect with and then randomize coordinates, scales, textures, and so on. I guess the idea comes first, the code tears that idea apart, and then I find a new idea with whatever remains! The final output is always a surprise.
When I first started coding it was more common for me to design work based around certain technological concepts I wanted to practice. This still happens from time to time.
I found in your pieces a combination between several styles, from Suprematism abstraction to Bauhaus architecture. Tell me, What art inspires you?
Yes, I’m very much inspired by a lot of the classics: Malevich, Lissitzky, Gropius, Zwart, etc. The clean geometric style can almost feel Utopian to me: like “how could you ever find imperfection here?” On the other hand, I think that angular/mathematical approach has a darker undercurrent when it’s created in collaboration with machines. It makes me reflect on what human autonomy even means when we live in a world governed by nefarious technological/economic forces.
Some more contemporary folks who leverage tech that I really enjoy: Hundred Rabbits studio, Olivia Jack, William Fields, Mike Hodnick, Tyler Hobbs, and Matt DesLauriers. In the cryptoart space: Bryan Brinkman, Sarah Zucker, k0ch, Osinachi, and James Fox to name a few.
What is the future of our field? What do you think of creative coding’s current state?
It’s just going to get better and better. I think hyper-corporatized tools and networks come with an insufferable load of ugly side effects, but a silver lining is that disenchanted developers and programmers continue to create awesome open source tools that bring true creative joy and freedom. There is a new radical future coming closer to fruition with every passing moment, even if it is a struggle to see it sometimes.
I’m also fortunate to live in a time period where so many of us can seamlessly interact and share our work on so many different platforms. Future innovations in blockchain and virtual reality will also continue to pave the way for really cutting-edge and interactive art experiments.
Do you feel comfortable with the “cryptoartist” category? What is your perception of cryptoart?
“Cryptoartist” is definitely a contentious title for some folks. I’m sure everyone that uses the word probably has a different definition for it! I’m fine calling any self-proclaimed artwork that’s tokenized on blockchain “cryptoart”. I have no qualms with the title, because it’s through blockchain that I’m able to eke out a humble living doing what I love and connect with so many fabulous people from day to day.
I would even say that I appreciate the title. I would hope that as we “cryptoartists” continue to produce work we’re proud of and that others are willing to seek out and experience, it will continue to legitimize what we’re doing here to larger and more diverse audiences. I think that there are still a lot of artists and patrons that misunderstand blockchain and, by extension, write off a lot of really amazing work before they even see it. I say wear the title as a badge of honor and help bring the outside world up to speed.
I want to know more about your future tokenizations. What are you working on?
Always something. I’m a creature of habit: it’s fundamental that I create every day! There are upcoming works that rely a bit more heavily on a minimalistic, neon, architectural aesthetic that I’m excited to share. Beyond that I’ve also finished an album of generative electronic music. I’m creating a visualizer for each track and hope to start tokenizing these before the year is done.