Wednesday, July 26, 2017

From the Archive: The Combinatoric Project (Introduction)

This is the poster I published in 2003. All the contact info is out of date.
 Has it really been fourteen years?  In the early 2000s, I created this promotional poster inspired by work on combinatorics by Oulipo writers Italo Calvino, Georges Perec, and especially Harry Mathews, under whom I was lucky to study in a workshop he gave at DU circa 1998. (Deep thanks to Rikki Ducornet for getting me invited to that one!)

The poster shows a table of 49 cartoon drawings in which the columns determine the type of character: cuddly animal, mermaid, robot, fat cat, stick man, space alien, & dork; and the rows determine their action or mood: joyful, disconsolate, lost, enraged, sleeping, dancing, & showing off. Assignments on rendering style and format cycle through the pattern and algebraic formulae determine the distribution of props.

Thus, every second image has a border or frame. The rhythm isolated figure/figure plus background/figure plus cast shadow cycles, skipping one space on each new row. Rendering styles are outline/crosshatch/high contrast/full shading, cycling skipping two spaces on each new row. Patterns are employed for every l= 5.5n-3.

The distribution of props is as follows: Pizza, l= 11n-5. Coffee, l= 12n. Milk, l= 15n-1. Letter/Missive, l= 11n-7. T-shirt, l= 13n-14. Flowers, l= 12n-2 and l= 12n-5. Party hat & balloon, l=20n. Vaudeville hat & cane, l=20n-10. Bowling ball, l=12.25n-4. Cigar, l=15.5n-11.5. Whiskey, l=15.5n-3.75. (note: all fractions were rounded down to the nearest integer) Butterflies appear every fourth prime number (counting number one as prime). A beach ball bounces down the page beginning in panel 2 and bouncing alternately 2 across/2 down and 3 across/1 down.

A clinamen occurs every l= 13n-3. The clinamen, or swerve, is an important feature of combinatoric writing. It's where you break your own rules, violating some part of the assignment.

The challenge was to find the most elegant solution to each assignment of character, situation, style, and props. A couple of examples:

#17. Lost Robot with pizza and butterflies. We see a pizza delivery robot with a bent navigational antenna delivering pizza to an empty meadow.

#23. Angry Mermaid, clinamen. She's angry because she's not a mermaid but an actress, and the sailor who netted her aboard has ruined their movie.

An attentive viewer would be able to infer similar narratives throughout the poster, were such a person to exist.

Over the next week, I'll post each of the seven rows along with their assignment descriptions, last to first so it'll ultimately scroll front to back. Check back tomorrow for row seven: characters showing off.

Here's a bit of fun. Looking back, I'm pretty sure I made at least 2 math errors. Can you find them and post them in the comments? And here's a question: the sequence directs the images but they're not connected in time. So is it sequential art? Is it comics?

The framed original drawings are in the collection of Dennis Pimple, a longtime champion of obscuro pictofiction. The drawings, as you see, are tiny.

No comments: