The Architecture of Association

2010 The Architecture of Association [Version 3.0] Generative Video / Text, Collaboration with Daniel Howe, Renaissance Computing Center, Chapel Hill

2008 The Architecture of Association

Bill Seaman, Daniel C. Howe

Additional Documentation

The Architecture of Association is a large-scale, generative artwork that draws associative links between media elements to form an evolving visual collage. A distributed flow of image, video and poetic text is "intelligently" distributed over a number of display surfaces. As the work is emergent in nature, it does not repeat sequences of images or texts but instead dynamically generates a continuously recombinant network of associations. In 1995, Seaman coined the term 'Recombinant Poetics' to articulate a set of generative virtual worlds.

The Architecture of Association – Bill Seaman | Daniel Howe

The Architecture of Association is a large-scale, generative artwork that draws associative links between disparate video images, and poetic texts to form dynamic and evolving visual and textual collages. A distributed flow of text, image, and video dissolve and “intelligently” become distributed along a line of 12 monitors. As the work is emergent in nature, it does not repeat sequences of images or texts, but instead forms a continuously recombinant network of “generated” media associations. This set of screens form a complex associative unity. Images shot in Seoul Korea form the visual subtext. In 1995, Seaman coined the term ‘Recombinant Poetics’ in his Ph.D. thesis to articulate a set of generative virtual worlds. The Architecture of Association builds on this concept of recombination to create a generative media landscape from underlying associations.

The work passes through particular overall “associative states” including “red”; ”green”; ”brown”; “elevator”; and “night”; along with its normal functioning.

The work was premiered at MIS Museum (The Museum of Image and Sound) Sao Paulo, c2008

Version 2.0 was premiered at the Dans La Nuit, Des Images, Grand Pallais, Paris (in conjunction with Le Fresnoy). It had 12 vertically oriented large scale plasma screens. The voice over is included on the DVD over this video documentation.

The work was shot by Seaman. Edited in part at Nabi Art center, Seoul Korea. Programming by Howe. Meta tags by Seaman. Text by Seaman / Howe. Concept Seaman / Howe. A linear audio score by Seaman loops continuously ever hour as the video and text are generated.

Version 2.0

Details of Functionality

“Intelligent” positioning of media materials

To enable the creation of dynamic associative collages, the Association Engine (AE) stores a range of media elements (text, images, sound, and video, etc.) within a relational database system. Each media element is tagged with a range of meta-data used by the AE to ‘intelligently’ recognize semantic, linguistic and structural relationships between items. Each such relationship is weighted according to the strength of the association and then situated accordingly between the target concepts. For example if the engine is analyzing possible relationships between items A and B, it might recognize term C, whose association with terms A and B has strengths of .8 and .4 respectively. C would then be situated in ‘association-space’ at a distance from A that is twice the distance from B. This represents a simple binary relationship.

1. [A] ---------- [C] -------------------- [B]

2. [A]        [B]



Multiple terms/concepts can interact in such a scenario so that the spatial relationship requires multi-dimensional mapping. These relationships (an undirected graph with edge-weights representing relationship-strengths) are used to dynamically situate new terms within the evolving visual representation so that media elements are appropriately mapped in a dynamic collage space. Here, C's relatively strong relation to D shifts it (along the y-axis) away from A and B, though their relative strengths (2-to-1) remain fixed. More complex relationships can be represented similarly in 3 (or more) dimensions.

System Function

The work unfolds as follows. An initial random image/word/or short section of text is positioned in a particular zone. The system will then search for an appropriate association in the media database. This process continues over time with each newly added element forming associations both with existing elements and newly 'located' media elements within the database. Each new element dissolves into the collage in its appropriate position, due to the graph of its associations, potentially across multiple screens. Together, multiple screens form a coherent “associative” unity, bridging multiple “associated” topic areas which flow across the 12 screens.


The work will use key-words, meta-data and custom clustering algorithms to make “informed” selections from the databases, bringing associative material into proximity for a particular duration. These informed selections will create a network of changing relations, stimulating thought and reflection on key concepts poetically related to “communication”. Thus this “collage” of associations functions as a generative “idea bank", with sets of relationships dissolving slowly in across the set of screens, then dissolving away only to be replaced by a new set of media materials drawn from the databases. The system is always generating new juxtapositions.

The work seeks to provide a continually changing set of “intelligent” associations that are designed to trigger ideas and additional associations/concepts in the minds of passing viewers. Thus a primary goal of the installation is to continually provoke thought, drawing viewers into active contemplation of their own associative process. Where other works might be ignored over time, this work attempts to be provocative in an ongoing manner, continually renewing itself in an emergent fashion. An ambient audio will also play in the space.

6 computers / pcs
12 video cards
12 monitors
stereo speakers, cd player and amplifier
Ethernet connection

The Architecture of Association
Bill Seaman / Daniel C. Howe
line1=person to person | person to machine to person | machine to machine
line2=body to mind | mind to body | neosentient to neosentient
line3=landscape | melody
line4=mathematical observer | chemical observer | observable observer
line5=traffic | flow | speaking volumes
line6=lights out | in the building
line7=language | of scratches | language | of dents
line8=scale | of the body | in relation
line9=a machine | speaking | in tongues
line10=communication | the machine | comes to feel
line11=each body | a different | part | of itself
line12=the machine | transparent | extended
line13=across an echo | space in distance | time (collapsed)
line14=metal | over the teeth | material | communication | of function
line15=hunger | thirst | pain | mapped | and | abstract
line16=force fields | summing | over | machinic trajectories
line17=color | speaking | a physics | of presence
line18=positions | of residue | remain
line19=the world | communicates | itself coming | to know
line20=and never | deciphering | things | entirely
line21=structural coupling | enables new | natures of exchange
line22=circle of intention | cycle of reception
line23=natural | signs | continuously | defined
line24=molecular | language through | formational substrate
line25=accidental seas | change | intent on | combination[s]
line26=positioned bodies | arms enfolded | signals sent
line27=subway station | navigation names
line28=momentum | shifting through | tunnels | of pure | light
line29=finger | pressure | motion | rest
line30=instinctual reaction | culture of difference | sentience
line31=interconnecting | infinite | indeterminate
line32=communication| marks | the skin | folding | over time | signatures
line33=synthetic | sense post | potential | augmentation
line34=electrolytic | reactions | respond | as desire | remains
line35=machinic | absorption
line36=a new | positionality in | memories | chemical physique
line37=registering | a tightening | sight of machinic | response
line38=moist air | passing lips | shapes | increasingly | subtle
line39=misuse | lack of use | new use (words) | machines | translate | and define
line40=scratch | marks of imperfection | words unable | to adhere
line41=similar yet | different pattern | vibrations | theoretically | framed
line42=ambivalent | process | of lifelong | [re]configuration
line43=illusions of stasis | time’s passage | subtle straining
line44=flux arising | in situ | shared
line45=probability of a trait | cellular | communication abstracted
line46=communications from | the diseased | city streets | deserted
line47=infinite parts | forever | enfolding
line48=chemical baths | pivoting connections | probable behaviors
line49=bowing | sends | vibration | bending
line50=biomachines | come to | speak | of themselves
line51=interlocking branches open | escape in | all our | exchanges
line52=space of | communication <-> communication | of space
line53=gestural conveyance | machinic gesture | cartography
line54=new words | come | into being | as code | falls away
line55=forgotten frames | faint recollections | synthetic memory
line56=thin spaces | spell out | chances for | operation
line57=wireless | transmission through | delicate sense | receptors
line58=knowing | intelligence in | itself a process | of coming | to know
line59=categories of categories | implode | transcending | binary limitation
line60=as machines | comes to know | the feelings | words evoke
line61=the ability | to effortlessly | shift and reapply | knowing
line62=machine searching| machine response | waiting | on words
line63=arising amidst the | unknown conditions | of maximal abstraction
line64=each space | communicates its nature | as the neosentient | comes to know it
line65=spoken from the dark | past physical | relation | now machinic
line66=Configurations | of pattern | flows measure | haptic abstraction
line67=definitions | enfolding | constantly in | collapse
line68=words | rounded off | at the edges | and exchanged
line69=submersion | in water | tells us | of a need | to breathe
line70=harsh sunlight | shows | the nature | of synthetic skin
line71=rains | speak of | force and | positionality | a need for shelter | waterproof
line72=umbrellas collapse | and fall away | inverted
line73=an entity | falls in relation | to another | together
line74=coming to know | and speak | of itself | feedback
line75=an open catalog | of disparate locations | memories navigate | the present
line76=patterns | of sounds | in patterns | of thought | enacting
line77=precise log | of the gesture | relational | tracking
line78=a smile for | the synthetic nature | of exchange
line79=timbre of voice | quality in the eye | delicate wisdoms
line80=gestural motion | gesture of longing | transdermal evasions
line81=exchange of glances | changes in position | coded exchange
line82=each expression | mapping signals | over coordinate | systems
line83=exchanging | cards to trade | in silence
line84=each | nervous system | abstracted
line85=reactive gestures | imprinted | knowledge | in motion
line86=each word | that escapes | strikes out | for newly synthetic | homelands
line87=angle | of the glance | attentive to | the return
line88=positions | of authority | position | of submission
line89=position | of uncertainty | culture of difference | state of inertia
line90=the walls | reflect on | their material | nature
line91=position of weakness | positions of strength | super-position
line92=the languages | of enlightenment | position against | our ambivalence
line93=positional flow | through temporal | repose
line94=reinforcing | the repetition | of similar | transductions
line95=contextual | flow over | recursive streams | of entry
line96=one sensing | of the machinic | in touch
line97=change of heart | change of mind | surrogate heart | surrogate sign
line98=each kind | of machine | forms the impetus | for another | reciprocally
line99=in memoriam | for memory | new machinic | bit wisdom
line100=tastes | for language | the physical | wordings | thus evoked
line101=innate shape | of the ear | amplifying | sound through | comparative | vibration
line102=sound | cancellation | pointing | toward new | uses for silence
line103=each decay | the precise | distance from | a particular
line104=algorithmic | enfolding | of text | over syllabic | structure
line105=the flow | of everyday | events as | experienced
line106=imparting | culture | through reciprocal | motion
line107=signs | translated | each | into one | another
line108=each | multi-valent | experience | transduced | through code
line109=new code | spreads | across | a nervous | system
line110=the energy | of interwoven | states | on and off | off and on
line111=vocabulary | arrives | in | self consciousness | mirroring
line112=a new | techno-species | acquires | contextual | understanding
line113=a subset | of special | cases in | the specificity | of the machinic
line114=bonding | machine | to bio | machine
line115=translated through | an artifactual | physics | of transmission
line116=enfolded | within | the machinic | awareness | always | of itself
line117=neosentient to | neosentient | one potential | machine | to another
line118=neo-network | of machinic | sense | apparatus
line119=built | understanding | via | machinic senses
line120=transmission | altering | the nature | of acquisition
line121=breathing | on a mirror | writing on | a breath
line122=inscribing | a word in breath | inscribing | a word in stone | inscribing
line123=bursts | of tuned air | releasing | silent whispers
line124=touching | palms | in signal
line125=time-based | markings | open for | closure
line126=nuanced | perception | in tensing | muscles | for taste
line127=the tampered | language of | engineered | production
line128=sound pattern | shape pattern | patterns | enfolding
line129=instances | flowing | beneath | the surfaces | of inference
line130=sense | patterns | awake to | contextual | recognition
line131=networks of | projections | expectations of | ongoing fragmentation
line132=language, time | repetition, bodies | in | relation
line133=pieces | break away | while other | lace together
line134=patterns | fall together | and apart | in precise | vibration
line135=hand | in ink | keys | in light | system | internals
line136=symmetric | memories | fading | in patterns
line137=fields | variables | containers | vehicles | trains | of thought
line138=words define | conglomerates | for communication
line139=structural | coupling | touched with light | and even | muscle
line140=watching | waving | turning | oscillating
line141= metallic | shadows | of violet | light
line142=gestures | coded in | reciprocal configuration
line143=encrypted | reciprocal | for | words | in doubt
line144=reflected | mechanism | of chemical | allegory
line145=chemical | melodies | spawn digital | emotion
line146=resonant | chords in | organic | vibration
line147=memories | of beginning | lost in | analogy
line148=words | sparking | thought in | the mouths | of others
line149=membranes | of vibration | released | in thought
line150=etched words | cast | in light | motion
line151=words of sorrow | words of silence | words of doubt
line152=entryway | for still | words | in/to code | motion
line153=dark mouth | of cause | and effect
line154=dark | surrogate | for linguistic | machines

Shorter Phrases
shifting indefinites, landscape melody, chemical observer,
machinic trajectories, structural coupling, bidirectional flow,
instinctual replication, reactive space, infinite mechanism,
machinic potential, chemical physics, resonant chord, chemical melodies,
sympathetic vibration, machinic responders, cause effect, cast light,
chemical allegory, reciprocal enfolding, variable containers,
ongoing fragmentation, pivoting connections, inter- locking, intra- locking,
pattern flow, arising in situ, infinite partings, chemical baths,
trust conveyors, signals setting, branching instructions, inter locking,
violet gestures, chemical allegory, haptic language, faint recollection,
sensible receptor, contextual positions, machinic pulse, bio mimesis,
navigational memory, synthetic memories, electro chemical flow,
gestural physics, coded exchange, nervous systems, reactive gestures,
inertial states, resistant state, reflective soundings, positional knowledge,
recursive loops, streams of re-entry, machinic sensing, surrogate sensation,
natural languages, circular valences, time-based inscription, pattern memory,
irreverent recursion, reciprocal inaction, viral particulate, multi- valent,
layered over space, repressive state machine, many to many, impaired parses,
reverse engineering, meaning production, production lines, synaesthetic relation,
encoded action, silicate etching, inked etching, encoded entry, self generation,
reversible operation, reversible progress, temporal repose, positional ambivalence,
chemical physique, material natures, flux arising,
gestural motion, electrolytic reaction, filmic proportions, illusions of stasis,
improbable behavior, probable behaviors, synthetic memory, transdermal evasion,
encrypted reciprocal, on off, off on, in out, out in, haptic persuasions,
random intents, text hungover, vestigial glyph, signal presence, molecular language,
system internal, tensing muscle, bit wisdom, nature of exchange, bit wise,

Seaman with Howe - 2008

2007 Oslo CS building Proposal