Week 2: random chance

Dr Charles Martin

Semester 2, 2020

one of these is a Mondrian, the other is a program simulating a Mondrian on an IBM 7094

how do you think the size and location of these particular squares were chosen?

random chance

What do we value in “art” anyway?

Can art be random?

How can we use randomness in p5?


Jean Arp (1886-1966)



paper collage

Formed by randomly dropping paper shapes!

Jean Arp (1886-1966)

Terrestrial Forest Form



private collection

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Bicycle Wheel

1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913)

metal wheel mounted on painted wood stool


Rafaël Rozendaal

can a readymade be digital?

check out http://leduchamp.com/

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)



readymade porcelain urinal



Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven


c. 1917

courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven



Randomising materials…

Randomising composition…

Randomising cultural values…

randomness and the unconscious

Leonora Carrington

Evening Conference

c. 1917

49.5 x 72.5cm

can art ever be random?

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)

Blue poles [Number 11, 1952]


enamel and aluminium paint with glass on canvas

212.1 (h) x 488.9 (w) cm

Nation Gallery of Australia

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)

One: Number 31]


Oil and enamel paint on canvas

269.5 x 530.8 cm

Museum of Modern Art, NY

video: demo of Pollock’s process

are these totally random?

what are the rules of “action painters” like Pollock?

Joan Mitchell



oil on canvas

© estate of Joan Mitchell

rules and randomness

infinite variation

installation view of Stanley Whitney’s “In the Color”

Lisson Gallery

Stanley Whitney (b. 1946)

Untitled, 2020

Monotype in watercolor and crayon, 121.9 × 172.7 cm

Two Palms, NY

Stanley Whitney (b. 1946)

In the Color

Lisson Gallery

Stanley Whitney (b. 1946)

in the studio

Lisson Gallery

Tim Hawkinson

Tim Hawkinson

Emotor, 2000 (link)

Mixed media

Where's the randomness?

breaking down art into steps

TV Art

instructions for art making

Allan McCollum on Art21

Allan McCollum on Art21

Allan McCollum on Art21

Allan McCollum on Art21

Allan McCollum on Art21

a toolkit for randomness

Think about introducing variation rather than noise.

What random things can you do in p5 already?

random() is your friend…

input from a person with mouseX and mouseY


  • random() gives you a number from 0 up to 1.

  • random(10) gives you a number from 0 up to 10.

  • random(25,50) gives you a number from 25 up to 50.

Have a look at the reference - there’s some other details about random that we will look at later.

input from a person

We’ve tried using mouseX and mouseY to control something directly

are there more subtle ways to use it to introduce variation?

how about using it to “transform” other variables…

let's make some random art

further reading/watching

Katharina Grosse in “Fiction”

Tim Hawkinson

The process of Jackson Pollock

“Random Chords” Example

Ch.8 “Random” - Getting Started with p5.js