15 March Research Lab — Machine Room

Bram Bogaerts & Jesper Vos, 2015




In February 2015 we were contacted by EYE to start research on the archive’s collection of generative film art. EYE asked us to think about the value of computer-made code and how this could be dealt with in terms of preservation, access and reuse.

We came up with two questions:

  1. What is the relationship between film and computer code in a generative film context?
  2. What is the life span of computer code?

From our own experience as interaction designers we know that self-written softwares becomes incompatible and unusable after 2 years. The programming software that we often work with is regularly updated with new functionalities and improved capabilities. After one of these updates we often have to adjust a number of rules in the code so that the new version of this programming software can understand the code allowing the software to restart. Regarding computer generated art works – it is often the software that gives life to the work – if the software does not work then the installation does not work.For our research we concentrated on the software that Vegter used for his last film De Tijd.We found that the file GrowC.c was one of the main sketches Vegter made for De Tijd and we decided to focus on this code file in our research

It costed a lot of time and effort to start Vegter’s code. This s due to fast technological developments – old softwares has no support from new systems. Vegter didn’t take into account the fact that his code would not be able to work again after 10 years.

Next to researching the possibilities of archiving generatieve art we, as artists, also visualized our vision on this form or art.




In short we describe the project Machine Room as a reenactment of the computer code that Dutch film artist Bart Veger used to generate his film De Tijd. A wall-sized projection visualizes 45 computer processes being actuated by Vegter’s code through which the connection between film, code and computer becomes visible. The spacious interaction model enables the visitor to navigate through the visualizations and enter deeper layers of the active computer processes to also see how these relate to the specific software function in Vegter’s code.




The project in based on the idea that in generative art the computer is what the pencil is in traditional art, and the code like the paint that, together with the hand of the artists, determines what is being painted. The monitor is only the canvas whereon the artist paint though his computer. The operations being executed by the processor, the memory, the graphics card and the harddisk are like the arm strokes of the painter, only these are kept in the computer, invisible. Even the artist himself does not get insight in this.

Machine Room is a generative work that visualizes these “arm strokes” in real-time by continually requesting and visualizing the current activities of the various computer parts.

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