Cellular Automata for Visual Media by Paul Brown

Date: 25 July 2008
Venue: National University of Singapore, Communications & New Media Lab
Time: 9.00am – 4.30pm
Workshop Capacity: 15 persons
Registration Fee: Non-delegates - $120 per person
For ISEA2008 Delegates - $40 per person


This Workshop will introduce cellular automata and give delegates basic hands-on experience of working with them. It will also serve as a simple introduction to programming in Processing (Java) for those who are unfamiliar with this environment.

Workshop Participants

The workshop is intended for under- and postgraduate students studying art & design, new media arts, etc. The workshop is also open to professional artists and designers so long as participants meet the basic requirements.

Workshop Participants Requirements

Participants should be familiar with working on a computer system and have some appreciation of either a programming or a scripting language like Java (Processing) or Lingo (Director), etc. Full program templates will be made available so prior experience of programming is not necessary but some familiarity is desirable. The workshop is also suitable for people with more advanced programming skills who want to learn about cellular automata.

Workshop Materials

The following materials will be provided and may be retained by delegates:
1. An Introduction to Cellular Automata in Art and Science (as a pdf file)
2. Links to CA sites of interest (as an html file)
3. Modifiable program templates (as Processing source files)

Workshop Structure

Lecture, Introduction to Cellular Automata and Artificial Life
Hands-on session – Introduction to Processing
Lecture, Cellular Automata in the Visual Arts
Hands-on session – Simple CAs
End of day review


At the end of the workshop delegates should:
1. Understand the concepts behind cellular automata, their history and how these have been applied in both science and the arts.
2. Have a basic introduction to the area known as artificial life and how this relates to the field of computational and generative art.
3. Have gained skills that will enable them to develop and pursue an interest in the area.
4. Acquired practical skills that will enable them to create simple programmes using the Processing environment and to use this as a foundation to develop further skills in using computer programming as a creative tool.
5. Learned how to create computational models of some kinds of CA.
6. Learned how to apply CAs in computational and generative (code) art.


Paul Brown is an artist and writer who has specialised in art, science & technology since the late 1960s and in computational & generative art since the mid 1970s. His international exhibition record spans four decades and includes the creation of both permanent and temporary public artworks. He has participated in shows at major venues like the TATE, Victoria & Albert and ICA in the UK; the Adelaide Festival; ARCO in Spain and the Venice Biennale. His work is represented in public, corporate and private collections in Australia, Asia, Europe, Russia and the USA.

In 1984 he was the founding head of the United Kingdom's National Centre for Computer Aided Art and Design and in 1994 he returned to Australia after a two-year appointment as Professor of Art and Technology at Mississippi State University to head Griffith University’s Multimedia Unit. In 1996, he was the founding Adjunct Professor of Communication Design at Queensland University of Technology.

From 1997-99 he was Chair of the Management Board of the Australian Network for Art Technology and he is a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards for LEA, the e-journal of the International Society for the Arts, Sciences and Technology (MIT Press), and the journal Digital Creativity (Routledge). From 1992 to 1999 he edited fineArt forum, one of the Internet's longest established art 'zines and he is currently Chair of the international Computer Arts Society (CAS) and moderator of the DASH (Digital ArtS Histories) and CAS e-lists.

In 1996 he won the Fremantle Print Award and during 2000/2001 he was a New Media Arts Fellow of the Australia Council when he spent 2000 as artist-in-residence at the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics (CCNR) at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. From 2002-05 he was a visiting fellow in the School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he worked on the CACHe (Computer Arts, Contexts, Histories, etc...) project and he is currently (2005-08) visiting professor and artist-in-residence at the CCNR, University of Sussex where he is working on a project to evolve robots that can draw.

Examples of his artwork and publications are available on his website at:

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