Randomness, order, art and copyright

“I decided to register the copyright for Gaussian-Quadratic with the Library of Congress. At first they refused since a machine had generated the work. I epxlained that a human being had written the program that incorporated randomness and order. They again refused to regsiter the work, stating that randomness was not acceptable. I finally explained that although the numbers generated by the program appeared ‘random’ to humans, the algorithm generating them was perfectly mathematical and not random at all. The copyright was finally accepted, thereby giving Gaussian-Quadratic of being perhaps the first registered piece of copyrighted art produced with a digital computer.”

–A. Michael Noll, describing his decision to register his 1965 Gaussian-Quadratic with the Library of Congress. A. Michael Noll, “The beginnings of computer art in the United States: A memoir.” Computers and Graphics 19:4 (1995), 41.

Gaussian-Quadratic, 1965

pinball 1973 (a lesson)

From one of my favorite Haruki Murakami books, not published in the US.

Where there’s an entrance, there’s got to be an exit. Most things work that way. Public mailboxes, vacuum cleaners, zoos, plastic condiment squeeze bottles. Of course, there are things that don’t. For example, mousetraps.

* * *

I once set a mousetrap under my apartment sink. I used peppermint gum for bait. After scouring the entire apartment, that was the only thing approaching food I could find. I found it in the pocket of my winter coat, along with a movie ticket stub.

By the third morning, a tiny mouse had flirted with fate. Still very young, the mouse was the color of those cashmere sweaters you see piled up in London duty-free shops. It was maybe fifteen or sixteen in human years. A tender age. A bitten-off piece of gum lay under its paws.

I had no idea what to do with the thing now that I’d caught it. Hind leg still pinned under the spring wire, the mouse died on the fourth morning. Seeing it lying there taught me a lesson. Everything needs an entrance and exit. That’s about the size of it.