Bitmap and Object
By Hideki Nakazawa
There are two types in computer graphics; one is a paint type based on the bitmap-concept, the other is a draw type based on the object-figure-mode. The former regards the world in atomism fashion as a gathering of minute colored dots. The latter regards the world in idea-ism fashion as a form indicated by a certain numerical formula. As both of them are fundamentally different each other, actually even data's interchangeability does not exist.
There are many oppositions between two things in various scenes when interpreting the world, such as the oppositions between Venetian School and Florentine School in the Western art history, between minimalism and conceptualism in modern art, between chemistry and physics in science, and between plants and animals in biology, and I think that all of them essentially correspond to the opposition between the bitmap and the object. In other words, if it is possible to take the matter as a new digital continent, the land would clearly interpret those two oppositions using a new mode of expression, and yet it would repeat them again at the same time.
The other day (in June, 1997), I held a solo exhibition at Gallery NW House in Nishi-Waseda. The theme of the exhibition was the presentation of the opposition between the bitmap and the object seen in computer works, which was, in fact, another allusion of atomism and idea-ism in art. As the exhibition turned out to be a satisfying one for me, the explanation of my own works may naturally be unnecessary. So the reason why I write like this is just like the case in which you announce a list of articles and their derivations when you make an offering. I would be happy if this article could help you understand my idea better, especially for those who missed the exhibition or who had interest in it.
The exhibition consisted of 10 (9) works: 6 of them were bitmap works of letters, 3 (2) were object works of a line, and 1 was a work of two-voice polyphony of colored-light. On the first day of the exhibition, "Two-Voice Polyphony," a musical piece composed by myself, was performed for the first time by Kyo Ichinose and Tonika Ichinose. I regard the two-voice polyphony as so significant and symbolic a representation which made the bitmap and the object into chimera that I want to explain the matter in full detail on another occasion. So let me omit it now and let me just explain here the bitmap works of letters and the object works of a line in that order.
The minimum unit making the bitmap-conceptual world is not necessarily a colored dot. When you see it as a data structure, even if you replace a colored-light code with a character code of letters for example, no change will happen in its structure.
And it is my opinion that you can visualize the system more perfectly when you use letters than when you use colored-light. In case of colored-light, colors come out differently on different monitors, or colors can be felt differently by different viewers. On the other hand, a structure made by letters is very stable, as far as a ready-made letter-list is obvious. It is difficult to convince others that this is a color of R-00% by showing near-red colored-light, but a letter "亜" is always "亜" for everyone.
Conversely speaking, letters are more perfect colored dots. That is, letters are colors, a palette of letters is a palette of colors, and a text arranged by letters is a colored painting. I used letters this time to create perfect colored paintings.
[a] Letter-coordinates-type painting of 29 letters by 29 lines, No. 1
I arranged Ming-type letters vertically and horizontally in an orderly way on a square light box and made the letter-coordinates of 29 letters by 29 lines. The letters used are 5 kinds of kanji having radicals of 木火土金水(the five natural elements, i.e. wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), hiragana (cursive kana characters), and blank letters. For selecting individual kanji, I used the ready-made JIS kanji code classified by radicals. In the stage of arrangment, I elaborately arranged letters in order to produce an organic nature among those animistic sensations evoked by strong visual letters of individual kanji, those evoked by the kanji group level, and those evoked by the whole work.
I filled spaces of the kanji group with hiragana in the order of the kana syllabary. Here I put hiragana upside down, because I did not want to loosen hiragana, a phonetic symbol, instantly to a phonetic sound on the one-dimensional time-axis. This situation implied another meaning of making realize the hybridity of Japanese. I used blank letters to clearly emphasize the system of coordinates.
[b] Letter-coordinates-type painting of 29 letters by 29 lines, No. 2
One of the reasons why I used the same 29 letters by 29 lines as No. 1 may be that I took into consideration a visual fixed form or a visual fixed form of verse. Letters used are the second standard JIS kanji, hiragana, and blank letters. In arranging letters, I started from the upper right corner and ended at the upper left corner drawing with a single stroke of the brush. Therefore, if compared with the painting No. 1 in which zero-dimensional dot-like kanji were just arranged on the second dimension, the bitmap degree of No. 2 got lower than that of No. 1 because of the intervention of a one-dimensional line. But it will become a different story if this single line reminds you of a curved line which eventually fills up the two-dimensional plane.
I selected individual kanji evenly and orderly from the table of sexadecimal JIS code. It has not only such gradation as dark at both ends and light in the center, but also it has symmetricality if seen from the point of different radicals. The way of arrangement of hiragana is like that of dominoes falling down one upon another.
[c] Painting with changeable number of letters per line, No. 1
On the monitor of Macintosh, an imported ready-made computer, TeachText was open, a ready-made and most-standard simplified foreign-text word-processor software, and there was displayed a text file as a work. Under these circumstances, the appreciators were able to see the work changing freely with a mouse the number of letters per line, or see the work freely scrolling up and down on the screen. There are two reasons why I used the ready-made TeachText as it is; firstly, I perceived it as neutral as canvas or Kent paper, and secondly, I wanted to make it clear that I made no device to control a row of letters. In other words, what appears in this work depends on the potential of a row of letters itself, not on a control-level trick.
The text file displayed as a work is a row of letters which includes no control code for starting new lines. Five kinds of kanji having radicals of 木火土金水 (the five natural elements, i.e. wood, fire, earth, metal), and water), and hiragana are arranged in a fixed regular order. Although this is essentially a one-dimensional line-like row of letters, the work seems like a two-dimensional plane letter-painting in appearance because of the typical basic function of foreign-text word-processor software which displays the row of letters folding it back at the end of the window's width. Such being the case, there appears on the monitor such a pattern as can be said to be an in-between scene of the first dimension and the second dimension, and the appreciators can view various patterns interactively.
Generally you cannot put letters upside down on a word processor software. So I made a device in the computer's OS level, but what appears to be upside-down letters for human being's eyes are nothing but some foreign letters for a computer.
[d] Painting with changeable number of letters per line, No. 2
The row of letters in the work is, in short, a crab canon (Krebskanon) where the second standard JIS kanji were all used. That is, there goes every four letters in right order, and, starting two letters behind, every four letters are arranged in reverse order. Both of the voices cross each other at the very middle of the text.
[e] Painting with changeable number of letters per line, No. 3
For the row of letters in this work, I coined English-Japanese words by combining alphabet vowels (a, i, u, e, o) with kanji (having radicals of 水), and arranged the coined words and Japanese blank letters alternately. The letter widths of alphabet are not fixed like those of Japanese letters. And the basic function of foreign-text word-processor software forbits to fold back in the middle of a row of continuous alphabet. (In a foreign text, folding back happens only at a space place.) Therefore, unlike No. 1 and No. 2 where only Japanese letters are used, the letters displayed on the monitor do not form orderly lines in vertical directions, and the ends of lines or the heads of lines come out irregularly. (Sometimes a Japanese blank letter appears at the head of a line.) Consequently, the bitmap degree of this work is low, and so this is an object-type row of letters which is rather suited for foreign-text word-processor software. There exists a moare-like complexity in a pattern displayed, and if you scroll, you will view just like such a scene as of waves coming forward and backward.
[f] Meaning (Soul of sound)
This work consists of four parts: (1) Japanese sentences written on vertical-writing manuscript paper. (2) English sentences written on horizontal-writing paper with ruled lines. (3) The same Japanese sentences as (1) were exactly written on horizontal-writing paper with ruled lines. (4) The same English sentences as (2) were exactly written on vertical-writing manuscript paper.
As for (3), each kanji was decomposed into parts and were arranged on a horizontal straight line, and fixed to write closely with each foreign-text space inserted between neighboring words. As for (4), each English word was arranged two-dimensionally in each square, which means every one word became one letter. This work, to be exact, is an explanatory one which directly shows the opposition between the bitmap mode and the object mode in letter-arranging.
The essence of the object-figure-mode is the sudden appearance of the object (or a numerical formula which means it) as a simple substance, before any declaration of the coordinate world is done. Coordinates as a "space" are born rather later by the object. And as for the matter of a numerical formula, what is important is only the surface of the object which is defined by an equation, and the inside of the object whose area is shown by an inequality is just like an appendix.
When seen from the viewpoint of art history, the area of art which presents the object itself as a work has been sculpture. But, before presenting a two-dimensional curved surface as a surface in three-dimensional space, a one-dimensional curved line should be presented as a surface in two-dimensional plane. And furthermore, it is a zero-dimensional dot that should be presented first as a surface in a one-dimensional line.
In fact, the presentation of zero-dimensional dots in a one-dimensional line is a row of letters, whose sequence on the line brings forth a meaning just like seen in English words. Or, in the case of music which is a structure on the first dimension, the time-axis, it is single-melody monophony. This time, as an artist, I presented works of a one-dimensional single curved line with inflection points in the inside, which I regard as the most basic visual object-type works that correspond to a one-dimensional row of letters or single-melody monophony. In other words, I created a single curved line as perfect sculpture.
[g] Single curved line with 4760 inflection points
I started from drawing a segment of a line, then put some dots on the segment, and bent the line at each dot defining each as an inflection point. Then I put some other dots on it and bent at the dots as inflection points. After repeating the above process regularly, finally I got this single curved line. I printed it out longer than the width of a wall, and displayed the work bending along the wall.
As the neighboring differential coefficients of inflection points should always be reverse each other in plus and minus, the number of dots newly put on the line should be an even number. The number of dots thus put should be exactly systematic, but the places where dots are put and their bending degrees can be chosen freely by hand. This work needed at least 4760 hand-operations with a mouse.
If these repetitive operations reminds you of an infinite nesting structure, at that point the one-dimensional nature is weakened and it becomes a model of a landscape.
[h] Single curved line with 430 inflection points
[i] Single curved line with 608 inflection points
---The two works printed out at the same time
I created the two works using different number systems, and just printed them out at the same time on a sheet of paper in a crossing way. Therefore, this single printout work should be counted as two works.
By the way, if this were two independent voices obtained according to a regular rule, it would be a work of two-voice polyphony. So this situation of printing out two works at the same time is that of just prior to two-voice polyphony.
Like the historical fact of "baka," (where a deer was called a horse), in the exhibition I called the letters colors and the curved lines sculptures, which, in a structural point, just turned out to be another allusion of the classic opposition between two things in interpreting the world, that is, atomism vs. idea-ism. So let me make a brief remark on that matter.
At least art history, as far as it is the history of how to interpret the world, seems to me nothing but the process of having been all entangled in the opposition between two things in spite of all the trials to get rid of it. But some would think that the mission of an artist is to pursue what is truly of value overcoming the established world. That may be right. But I have kept living feeling more reality in resigning myself while knowing the situation.
Dadaists committed suicide in their resignation, minimalists showed the actual state of things in their resignation, simulationists were reconciled in ready-made of ready-made in their resignation, and illustrators have already obeyed other's sense of value in their resignation. But now, to our embarrassment, there has appeared before us new digital circumstances of "though it should be resigned, even the things to be resigned have not at all been filled up yet." So I call that situation a new digital continent scornfully, also feeling scorn for myself, and I helplessly invented a bitmap 3D tool and a bitmap word processor, and created colored paintings by letters and sculptures by a curved line. I have not enough courage to commit suicide, so I am engaging in filling up the hole already made before us for the time being, and I have to admit that I even take delight in it just like I take delight in a cheap joke. If you think this chart of disgraceful resignation uninteresting, there may be no situation so uninteresting as this.
I have no idea what will come after the uninterestingness.
(Written in June, 1997)