‘Return of the Unexpected – Computational Photography' exhibition opening

‘Return of the Unexpected – Computational Photography’
Muu Gallery, 11-27 March 2011

The exhibition features four artworks, each of them challenging either existing or arising photographic conventions in its own way.

Computational photography is a new concept in digital photography, referring to the use of algorithms to retrieve, modify and select data from an imaging device in order to expand the possibilities of visual expression. The digital camera is thus seen as a tool for programming instead of merely recording images.

In the very nature of algorithms is their ability to be easily modified, a characteristic that with some do-it-yourself spirit opens up the concepts of image, camera, and picture-taking to redefinitions. With the creative misuse and hacking of algorithms and camera hardware, it is possible to question not only our visual conventions but also the increasing manipulation of our visual environment and eventually, of our memories.

The title of the exhibition “Return of the unexpected’, states that unlike in mainstream digital photography, the results of algorithmic manipulation of camera data are often to some extent unpredictable. Computational photography is in this way reminiscent of the time of early photography and an invitation to artistic experimentation.

The result is an interplay between the artist and the medium, and often accompanied by an interactive format of presentation, that between audience and the artwork.

Exhibition opening live performance
Location: Muu Gallery, Time: 11 March, 18-20

The authors of ‘Portraits of a Machine’, Wolfgang Bittner and Stijn Belle bring an alternative ‘Saccades’ version of their installation to the opening of the exhibition. In Saccades, direct feedback of the visitors gaze is used for creating a photographic portrait. An art model wearing an eye-tracking device looks at her own mirror image. Her eye movements are recorded and they serve as the input for a computer software which draws fragments of the face in response to the eye movement.

Featured artworks:


Self-Organized Landscapes is a series of collages composed of thousands of closeup images that make up an urban landscape. Approximately ten thousand images are collected from the area of interest. Their colour histograms are the input material fed to the Self-Organizing Map (SOM) algorithm, an approach to Artificial Intelligence that organizes data based on its essential structure. Images that appear similar are located nearby in the resulting composite image while those that are dissimilar appear apart. The SOM represents the structure of the set of patterns fed to it and the world as seen through thousands of fragments.

About the artist:

Ben Bogart (CA) is an artist working in installation, audio-visual improvisation and software development. His installations create content live in response to their sensed environment. He works in an Open Source context and makes all the software he develops, that is of general use, available under the GPL. Physical modelling, chaos, feedback systems, evolutionary algorithms and artificial intelligence have been used to inform and engage in his creative process. Ben holds a Masters of Science in Interactive Arts and Technology from Simon Fraser University. His current work deals with computational implementations of embodied creativity, memory and dreaming.


The tools we use change the way we perceive and understand ourselves. Since the 1950s the proliferation of the amateur camera has allowed for the mass documentation of our individual self and our portrait. The staging of the image and how we ‘look’ or represent our selves and our body changed as we learnt in part to ‘play-to-the-camera’. Editing softwares such as the Photoshop lead to further changes and to the ‘touching up’ of the image in the pursuit of perfection. Image processing techniques such as the auto-retouch function enable digital cameras to alter your image in real-time.

The Artificial Smile camera plays with the notions of perfection and auto-retouch. It is a picture apparatus that takes only smiling people’s pictures, irrespective of their former emotional state. To achieve this the camera takes a picture but overlays it with a smiling mouth drawn from a pre-existing pool of pictures with smiling faces. To generate a maximum level of exaggeration, the smiling mouth is matched as realistically as possible with the mouth in the initatial portrait.

About the artists:

Andreas Schmelas (DE) is fascinated by the exploration of biological and natural systems. This knowledge is reflected in his work, through different digital media, from software through to interactive installations. Originally from Tubingen, Germany, he now lives and works as an artist and freelance creative in Berlin. He holds a Bachelor of Multimedia Arts from Middlesex University and at the moment is completing further studies at Berlin’s University of the Arts. Alongside his solo projects, he regularly collaborates with others to create new projects and is a member of the artists’ collective Herrmidi. In 2009 he joined forces with two colleagues to form the design&art agency invertednothing.

Stefan Stubbe (DE) was born in Oldenburg, Germany. After living in Sâo Paulo in 1992 and in Norden in 1998, he went to Berlin in 2004. Equipped with the knowledge of classical design learned through the „class Information Design“ lead by Professor Klar, he continues studying in the „class of Designing with Digital Media“ taught by Professor J. Sauter and Professor J. Ängeslevä. He works with different kinds of media from 3D and graphic design to computational design.


In their ongoing research project Belle and Bittner explore new ways of image making by combining recent technology with old photographic principles. Their experiments aim to expand the notions of moment and lens based photography. Along with the design and creation of their own imaging devices, specific ways of looking at reality are generated. In these setups, the relation between the viewer and the viewed is non-linear and very often takes the form of a feedback loop.

By working with exposure times of several minutes, the interaction with the person who is photographed becomes an image shaping element. The final portrait results from the relation and interplay of the functionality of the camera and its subject, and is open for exploration, chance and spontaneity. Portraits of a Machine not only refers to photos taken by a machine, but also portraits of the machine itself.


About the artists:

Designing and constructing their own devices, Belle and Bittner combine software, electronics, motors, optics and old analog photographic principles. Each technical device also means to establish a specific kind of looking at reality. In each of their setups, Belle and Bittner are focussing on different modes of looking, and thus rendering reality.

Wolfgang Bittner (AT) is a visual artist working in the field video, photography and installation. Originally starting from a painting background, he became more and more interested in the possibilities of software and time based art. Besides the production of photographic prints, installations and short films, he has been realizing video projections for theatre and audiovisual live performances.

In 2005 he earned his diploma at the Kunstuniversitaet Linz (AT), Experimentelle Gestaltung, before he enrolled at the ArtScience interfaculty (Royal Academy of Arts) in The Hague (NL), where he graduated in 2009. He currently lives and works in The Hague, Netherlands.

Stijn Belle (NL) graduated as an industrial designer at the Technical University Eindhoven in 2005 with a project about autism in machines. After working two years as a designer of corporate structures he enrolled in a Masters of Media Technology at Leiden University. His plan is to graduate with a project on machines that become human, and humans who become machines.


Countless fragments of existing architectural photography are merged into multilayered shapes. The original pictures are analysed and categorised according to their vanishing-points and shapes. Based on this analysis, slices are extracted from source images and composed to form collages that introduce a third abstract point of view next to the original ones of architect and photographer. The resulting fine-art prints are entirely unique each time.


Extracts of Local Distances has been created by:

Frederic Gmeiner

Torsten Posselt

Benjamin Maus

Image galleries:

2011 Exhibition, Muu on Flickr

pixelache 2011 computational photography exhibition 1

pixelache 2011 computational photography exhibition 2