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American, born 1972
Over the past fifteen years, Casey Reas has emerged as one of the leading artists in the genre of software art, defining both the practice in this field and the theoretical discourse surrounding it. In 2001 Reas partnered with fellow MIT student Ben Fry (born 1975) to initiate and create Processing, an open-source programming language and visual environment for coding. Today artists, designers, and students around the world use Processing for visual prototyping and for programming images, animation, and interactivity.
Reas' software art typically explores systems, specifically their emergence and underlying instructions and conditions. Instructions form the basis of all generative art, in which an autonomous system—such as a machine or computer program—creates a work of art based on rules outlined by the artist. The instruction-based nature of software art points to art-historical roots in conceptual art. Reas explicitly references the work of Sol LeWitt (1928–2007), who generated works through a set of written instructions for others to interpret.
A Mathematical Theory of Communication blends conceptual art and information science by merging aspects of both in order to create an experiential data landscape. For this commission, Reas captured television images with an antenna, then processed the images using algorithms—or “instructions”—he designed. The abstracted images were processed again, generating some forty thousand results, from which Reas chose two perspectives with converging energy. The images were inkjet printed to create the mural on two walls.
The title of this piece is borrowed from a highly influential article (1948) by Claude Shannon (1916–2001) that is considered one of the founding texts of the field of information theory. Shannon proposed that messages are transformed into a signal by a transmitter, then sent through a channel, decoded by a receiver, and finally delivered to a destination. Reas used the title to capture the visual and conceptual theory of communication unfolding in his art, emphasizing that as viewers, we become receivers who decode the imagery. While the title of the work suggests a technologically or scientifically driven exploration, the project itself is highly visual, conceptual, and experiential.
Location: North building of The Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex & Dell Computer Science Hall (GDC)
GPS: 30.286389, -97.736667