Feedback Loops in Pure Data

Recently I’ve been making a few video loops for Dreambait Recordings to use in their shows. The videos, made using video samples and Pure Data, focus on feedback loops. For BYOB Birmingham on Friday 16th March I decided to showcase these video feedbcak creations. Some photos of it in action:

BYOB Birmingham

BYOB Birmingham Flatpack Festival 2012

Photo by minuek

The Pure Data patch used to make these visuals, inspired by this patch is pretty simple: Put an object on screen, take a snapshot of the screen and then apply that snapshot as a texture to another object. You can download it below

Feedback Loops patch

Click to download

As a texture for the cube I used the Skin Cells video again. You could replace this with any video, image or webcam feed. The [pix_contrast] object is there purely to provide an over-saturated look (try bringing Saturation to a negative number). For BYOB I automated the controls by using random number generators (feeding [random] into [metro]). Here’s a render of what the audience saw:

All that is needed now is some cool audio to go with it! Thanks to all those that came to BYOB to see this and other awesome artworks!

BYOB Birmingham Thanks

BYOB Birmingham happened on Friday 16th March and it was a great success! For those who like statistics, in the end the event had 18 artists (plus videos from VIVID’s archives), 22 beamers, and nearly 200 people attend.

My thanks for making the night awesome go to:

  • Flatpack Festival, which has been going for six years, for putting on a great festival and allowing BYOB to be part of it
  • VIVID, whose amazing gallery space was perfectly suited for this event. There were worries about there being too many cables and causing a power outage due to too many beamers, but the excellent VIVID staff were on hand to make sure it all went swimmingly
  • Bobby Bird from Modulate and Gary Judge (aka Arcade) for providing awesome music throughout the night. Many times I received comments about how well the music matched the event. Also, Cylob FTW!
  • Shelly Knotts, for being helping me on the day, taking photos, keeping me sane, and for buying me lunch 😉
  • Rafaël Rozendaal, for coming up with the BYOB idea and allowing anyone to do as they wish with it
  • The people of Birmingham and West Midlands, for coming out in your hundreds to support the event
  • And last, but not least, my thanks go to all of the artists that traveled from all over the country to be part of BYOB Birmingham!

Be sure to check out the artwork from all of the exhibiting artists:
Alan Brooker, Ewa Mos, Daisy Hogan, Antonio Roberts, Chris Plant, Modulate, James Warrier, Sarah Rose Allen, Paul Harrison, Kate Spence, Elizabeth Howell, Soraya Fatha, Leon Trimble, Michael Lightborne, Matt Murtagh, Pete Ashton, AAS

If any of my readers took any gifs, photos or videos (even phone quality is great) upload them to Flickr/Youtube/Vimeo and tag them “BYOB Birmingham” or send them to and, with your permission, they’ll be used in a video documenting the event.

In the meantime here’s some photos from the event


Photo by Modulate


BYOB Birmingham

BYOB Birmingham

BYOB Birmingham Flatpack Festival 2012

Photo by minuek


Keep an eye on for more future events

Libre Graphics Research Unit article on

Last month I attended the Co-Position meeting in Brussels of the Libre Graphics Research Unit. I’ve already talked about one of the work sessions in a bit of depth. Today I was alerted that an article I wrote for Furtherfield that gives an overview of the meeting went live!

Libre Graphics Research Unit on Furtherfield

Click to view the article

How can designers and programmers work more harmoniously? How can the tools being created better meet the needs of users? There is a need for designers to have a greater role in the production of the tools that they use, aside from just reporting bugs, requesting features or designing logos for open source projects.

Head over to further field to read the whole article.

Here’s some of my favourite photos from the meeting from myself and Tom Lechner

The Libre Graphics Research Unit

Almost all of the LGRU attendees

LGRU Day 4 - Prototypes

At the roundtable discussion (there was no table to speak of)

Preparing the round table

Preparing the roundtable discussion

LGRU Day 3 - Shared Vocabularies

Toonloop performance by Alexandre Quessy

More can be seen on the LGRU Flickr tag

For the Spanish amongst us there’s two more articles about the Co-Position meeting

Non-Destructive Image Editing and Git

One of the hot topics at the Lbire Graphics Research Unit Co-Position meeting came from the Visual Versioning work session. The work session focused on creating mockups for ways to improve their Visual Culture Git Viewer.

OSP Visual Culture Git Viewer

This tool goes some way to addressing the issue of not being able to visualise the contents of a repository by providing thumbnails of the contents. One of the functions missing from this tool is the ability to compare and merge different versions images. Github already provides the ability to compare still images (.jpg .png etc) in various different ways:

Image view modes

However, this is only a way to compare the output of the program. How could revision tools work with PSD/XCF, SVG or SLA files that contain more information such as layers and tools used to complete tasks?

Non-Liner Version Control in GIMP

A team of researchers has attempted to address this problem, at least in GIMP. Their work demonstrates an extremely effective way of doing version control from within GIMP

The research surrounding this tool is available to view and hopefully it’ll one day be implemented into GIMP. Whilst this solution is very effective and address every problem mentioned so far, it creates another problem: It is tied to GIMP and is not easily transferable to other programs. Trying to apply this to other programs such as Scribus or Inkscape would require extra resources, which are in scarce supply. Essentially what is needed is a program-neutral solution that would require few additionaly resources to implement.


Almost all modern programs allow you to undo your actions. When you look at this with more detail you begin to see that undo is a (highly unsafe) method of revision control. By using Ctrl + Z and Ctrl+Y/Ctrl+Shift+Z you can scroll through previous states of a file. All of the data surrounding your use of the program, such as what tools you have used, what files you have opened and possibly even the time each action was executed, are being recorded in the undo history. One solution proposed in the work session was to devise a way to capture and record this data. By doing so you could “play back” the file through each of its stages. Once you have this data you could then begin to build a standalone tool that operates in a similar way to the GIMP revision control tool

Edit Decision List

A very common way in which people implement their own version control system is to create numbered revisions of their files. For plain text files this presents few problems, but for binary files (PSD/XCF etc) it could mean that you have many large files which present a whole host of problems around bandwidth and storage space. Ana Carvalho and Ricardo Lafuente, who produce Libre Graphics Magazine with ginger coons, revealed that the repository for the magazine – including previous issues – has reached 8GB.

The solution proposed at the work session would address this issue as you would only need one copy of the original files that you work from. The “undo data” would be captured to a separate file that would then simply apply those actions to the file.


GEGL, which is the new core powering future versions of GIMP is, to my knowledge, already working in a non-destructive way. Peter Sikking, the lead interaction and UI designer for GIMP, has more to say on this topic.

Blender node editor by Dykam

Users of Blender and other node-based compositors will already be familiar with this approach. Effects are chained together in a non-destructive and then sent to an output file. As Pete Sikking describes:

If the structure of [the] graph is written to a file—apart from the input images, all other boxes are just snippets of XML—and a year later it is re‑opened in GIMP, then each of the operations and their parameters; each of the vector shapes or text can be freely changed

If the time can also be recorded then you could essentially reconstruct an image using nothing but the input files and this XML file.

Next steps

Of course, at the moment, all of this is theory and ideas which, in some ways, was the purpose of the work session. For this to be taken further what needs to be done is to first find a way to expose the data that is saved in the undo states. If this data is useful then the next steps can begin. Then, if it looks like a viable solution, all that is needed is developers willing to take on the task.


My thanks go to Constant and its many partners for organising for Libre Graphics Research Unit and to those in the work session – Ana Carvalho, Eric Schrijver, Ale Rimoldi, Gijs de Heij, Thomas Laureyssens and Camille Bissuel – whose ideas this blog post contains, along with some of my own.

Alpha Glitch

For my performance with Freecode as part of Network Music Festival I wanted to move away from producing visuals that consisted mostly of video playback and move towards generative art. Demos of this were posted on my Flickr site, and the first performance that utilised this new approach happened on 26th January

The feedback from people online and at the performance was really positive, with a lot of people were asking how to do something similar. The patch I made for it was very messy so I (albeit slowly) remade part of the patch that achieves that effect. It’s available for download below

Alpha Glitch

Click to Download

This isn’t strictly a generative patch as it still relies on an source image/video as a texture, but I think it’s more generative than it is video playback. The patch, made in Pure Data, works first by using [repeat] to generate many cubes which are zooming towards the screen. These, then, are textured with an image of your choice. The “magic” comes in the use of [pix_alpha]. The red, green and blue sliders remove a percentage of that colour from the image texturing the cubes, revealing the cube below. The green toggle button randomly removes a different percentage of each colour at different speeds. This, coupled with the constant movement of the cubes I think creates a sort of animated glitch using only a still image.

Sound confusing? Hopefully it’ll become clearer once you dissect the patch and view the help patches of each object. Here’s an example of the output from this patch using this image from my Skin Cells video:

If you know Pure Data well you can modify the patch so that it uses videos or a webcam feed instead of a still image. However, be aware that having that many objects on screen with a video stream can cause the output to be stuttery. This patch was made with Pure Data Extended 0.43 on Ubuntu 11.10.

BYOB Birmingham lineup

Myself and Pete Ashton are curating the first BYOB event in Birmingham. After lots of chin-stroking decision making we can finally announce the lineup of artists and musicians taking part!

Exhibiting Artists

Alan Brooker, Ewa Mos, Daisy Hogan, Antonio Roberts, Chris Plant, Modulate, James Warrier, Sarah Rose Allen, URRRGH, Paul Harrison, Kate Spence, Elizabeth Howell, Soraya Fatha, Leon Trimble, Michael Lightborne, Matt Murtagh, Pete Ashton, AAS

Music provided by

Arcade, Bobby Bird (Modulate) and 8bit Pete

BYOB is presented by VIVID and Flatpack Festival and takes place at VIVID on 16th March 2012 7-10pm and is completely FREE to attend! Check out the event listing on Facebook and

Can Glitch Art go public?

A few weeks ago I put forward a proposal for a public art project that focuesd on augmented reality. There could be some confusion over what is meant by public art (if a gallery/event is free to enter isn’t it public?) so I’ll borrow the definition from Wikipedia, which, for all its faults provides a darn good definition:

The term public art properly refers to works of art in any media that have been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. The term is especially significant within the art world, amongst curators, commissioning bodies and practitioners of public art, to whom it signifies a particular working practice, often with implications of site specificity, community involvement and collaboration. The term is sometimes also applied to include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings.

Glitch the city

My basic idea was to subvert reality by glitching various landmarks around Birmingham. It was a response to Birmingham’s ambitions of becoming a digital city and also how we’re becoming more reliant on 1s and 0s for our wellbeing. I wont go on describing it in more detail as I was unfortunately rejected. I did, however, get some very useful feedback:

  • We like the glitch idea, very fun and engaging
  • You had chosen some really good landmarks to glitch
  • We have concerns that your idea might have some technical implementation issues
  • We were concerned that the audience might not “get it”


The technical implementation issues I feel were a moot point. With enough expertise it could be implemented. From that feedback I began to wonder what place, if any, glitch art has in public spaces. There is great interest in everything surrounding glitch art, circuit bending and similar art forms – as witnessed at GLI.TC/H and with examples such as Modified Toy Orchestra. However, you could argue that much of this interest is from those already interested in glitch art, so they would need little convincing and would already see value in such a project proposal.

Bus Tops

At the end of February glitch artworks by myself and others were exhibited on bus stops around London as part of the Bus Tops project. It would be easy to draw a conclusion from that example that glitch art can reach a wider audience and be successful, but what is missing is the voice of the public. Do you think they “got it”?

Without being a devoted follower of the glitch art scene do you think the public, in the ~30 seconds they may be waiting at the bus stop, will realise that it’s artwork that has been glitched/glitch art or will they, as Mez suggested, think that the displays are simply broken?

Glitch Safari

The Glitch Safari project by myself and noteNdo, is an example, not necessarily of creating glitch art for the public, but of recognising the artistic value of glitches seen in public spaces. It was initiated in 2010 during GLI.TC/H: Whilst at a bar, we noticed an arcade machine was glitching.

We instantly saw the artistic value in this and excitedly rushed over with our cameras to snap this feelting moment. For us seeing these glitch in public is the real-world equivalent of winning the lottery (it never happens in real life), but the same question can be asked: Would the wider public get it?

—>    .

I think there’s much bigger questions to ask: is glitch art – either in public or confined to galleries – just for glitch artists? Should it aim to reach a wider audience i.e. go public/be more accessible?

This isn’t an attack on the guys that rejected me. I’m very flattered to have been considered for the project – they approached me – and I’m delightfully surprised that they gave me feedback, which usually never happens when being rejected for an art project. Either way, it’s given me a lot to think about and work on, which can only be a good thing, right?