HD Traffic (Collaboration)

Software Projection, 2011

A collaboration with Jazz composer John Chin

Juilliard Music Technology Center's "Beyond the Machine 2011"

An installation by artist John Simon, accompanied by original music by John Chin for jazz quartet with interactive electronics

I was a wide eyed six year old mesmerized by an endless stream of cars. To a boy from Louisiana, New York City was the outside world in constant motion. How could it be so dense, complex and fascinating, too? The repeating patterns in "Traffic" trace their origins to this youthful introduction to dynamic systems.

Traffic simulation is such an elegantly simple piece of code to write. The rules are familiar to everybody. Red light stop. Green light go. Move forward but don't hit the car in front of you. And yet, when I apply these rules to hundreds of software objects and let them loose in a video frame, I get endless variability. Each day's traffic tells a different story. Flows and slowdowns come and go. Cars pile up at intersections. Traffic jams occur in my computer simulations exactly as they do in the real world. And they clear up just as mysteriously.

Piet Mondrian captured the rhythms of New York City in his famous painting 'Broadway Boogie Woogie' (1942-3). His love of jazz and improvisation informed his composition. The geometry of the streets became the stage for improvisation.

"Traffic" starts with Mondiran's attitude and sets it in motion. Randomness in the software provides unexpected movement. Mondrian's geometry is a perfect match for the pixels of a computer screen. The Modernist vision is played out in its endless combinations which are as real as the traffic on the street.

The images in the "Traffic" software change continually and never repeat. Colors vary, street size and number, even the number of cars on the street changes. It can be shown in real time from a computer, as HD video or standard video. As a video, "Traffic" is a 10 minute long selection. The software version constantly evolves as new traffic patterns are explored.