Exploring the space between humans and computers: Coralie Vogelaar on bin-packing algorithms

Date
22 October 2019
Reading Time
3 minute read

Coralie Vogelaar explores the area where humans and the computer meet. Delving into the space where these two entities overlap, through a thought-provoking interdisciplinary practice, she investigates new ways of seeing or behaving. “I have a methodological way of working,” she tells It’s Nice That, “and it mainly consists of systematically conducted studies revealing mechanisms on valuation within our visual culture.”

In her latest project Bin-Packing Algorithm, Coralie applies the formula – usually used for transportation purposes or 3D printing – to a dataset of 1000 classical sculptures. “A bin-packing algorithm calculates the optimum way of packaging spatial objects inside a container, occupying as little space as possible” she says of the complex equation. It is done by applying a mathematical formula onto 3D objects, “basically a lot of x, y and z points in space.” Using an alteration of an open source 3D bin-packing algorithm by Michael Fogleman, the formula places and rotates the objects randomly, then saves the results when the occupied space is less than the previously stored version.

Interested in applying this algorithm to 3D scans of classical sculptures, the digital artist proceeds to talk us through the several reasons behind this interest in bin-packing classical sculpture. “The sculptures are the most scanned objects available online which is also interesting to me since they are such a part of western visual culture,” says Coralie. Additionally, she found the gesticulating form of the sculptures intriguing. Their variety of expression posed as an ideal use for the bin-packing algorithm and in turn, Coralie was “able to find poses that could perfectly intertwine with one another, but with a different logic than usual.”

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Coralie Vogelaar, Arranging, Moving, Rotating, Packing, One channel 4K video installation (stills), 2019

After applying the calculations onto the sculptures, Coralie went on to translate the findings into a series of different works where “3D software and the human body plays a significant role.” In one iteration, she flattens the bin-packed sculptures into a relief which is then CNC-milled. In another iteration, a video, she translates the results into a 3D scanned piece of sequential choreography. Designed in collaboration with Marjolein Vogels, the choreography has also been shown as a live performance where 3D Kinect scanners are programmed to create sounds based on the movement.

The relationship between technology and the human body is a common theme in Coralie’s practice. She often uses mathematical formulas, recipes or enumerations to predict a result relating to the formation of bodies. Then, she communicates this digital information back through the physical body, allowing the human movement to reinterpret the data through physical space and time. “In the end,” she says of her methodical process, “I want to reconstruct our patterns of looking and point out the possibilities made through reverse engineering.”

It’s an alternative way of understanding ourselves, and our image of ourselves. And through this project, Coralie created a new visual language which is both intimate (through the closeness of bodies) and distant (in the complex processes involved.) Through analysing the various outputs, Coralie can also assess how the programmes understand the human condition. “We notice that the computer doesn’t take into account the tension of the muscles or the suggestion of time in the image,” says the artist. “It just calculates its coordinates through space, creating a new language that is both ugly and beautiful at the same time.”

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Coralie Vogelaar, Untitled (Making Off), HD video, 2019

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Coralie Vogelaar, Optimal Bin Packing, CNC-milled Modeling board, 2019

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Arranging, Moving, Rotating, Packing (Live), Performance with 4 dancers and 2 Kinect sensors, 2019

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Arranging, Moving, Rotating, Packing (Live), Performance with 4 dancers and 2 Kinect sensors, 2019

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Coralie Vogelaar, Optimal Bin Packing, CNC-milled Modeling board, 2019

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Coralie Vogelaar, Installation shot at Bradwolff Projects, 2019

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.

jo@itsnicethat.com

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