S-Bands, the "paper computer".


Fascinated, in 1967, by the cheerfulness of a holiday installation, made out of many "shtergare", in the famous wood-carved Romanian church in Ieud, I decided to study its basic structures.

Ieud (Yeah Ood) a village in Maramuresh, Transylvania, Romania, where the wooden carved church is situated. Its existence in the 16th century is mentioned in documents. Destroyed in 1717 during the last great Tartar invasion it is rebuilt in 1718.

The shtergar (Shtairgaar) is a tentative spelling of the Romanian word that designates a richly decorated textile banner or towel. Over the centuries, it has been hand woven in the peasant households throughout the Romanian provinces, hence its narrow width and striped look. It is an artistic, spiritual and utilitarian landmark of the great Romanian cultural legacy.

As a matter of fact the "shtergar" is only a small part of the world famous Romanian popular culture inside the boundaries of which a highly sophisticated hand made, personalized and unique art productions expressed the soul of a people. It may be said, what sets apart the Romanian folklore is a preference to express an idea or an object in its essence rather than to augment the embellishment of a surrounding environment. This is most specific for the textiles, beginning with hand preparing the threads and ending with the weaving on in-house looms. Until the 1920's almost everything in a peasant household was woven in house: blankets, carpets, "shtergars", bed sheets, clothes, etc. While the Romanian folklore is quite unique in Europe, its "going to the essence" style is echoed in the Peruvian and Indonesian textiles, a fact that is hard to explain since these cultures were unaware of each other. In any case, in all of them, the stripe is a major player.

While reducing a shtergar to its basic structure (image at the right side ) I stumbled on what I would later call the S-Band (Sherban’s band).




The S-Band is a two-dimensional modular structure which, when it is manipulated, produces subsequent series of art works. This process reconfigures the visual look of the initial piece and carries over its style throughout the entire series of resulting siblings. A common visual flavor unites them all in a distinctive family.

Its software is partially imprinted in its very structure and partially resides in the artist’s brain. It is activated by his/her combinatorial and associative potential, curiosity, and interest. One can produce new and unique alternates as long as one wishes.

The band can simultaneously combine a number of partly independent predefined visual messages controlled by twelve open parameters (9 visual and 3 of geometry), thus offering a large number of possible alternates. Each alternate, even when subsequently computer assisted, is very hard to replicate, if not unique.

The S-Band has evolved in synchronicity with and depending of the media used especially, but not only, the computer technologies.

After 1999 when the Macintosh environment has reached technological maturity, the "mechanically obtained visual DNA" provided by the mechanical side of the process has been translated in the computer format. The result was an extensive body of work both in size (unending random arrangements) and category such as: automated generations, migrated geometries (type/S and type/N), subtractive, additive, minimal, background driven, shifted colors, hybrid, 2D and 3D sculptures, impossible geometries, etc.

For the artist, a working session is triggered by the curiosity and anticipation of a next visual result. Such session evolves algorithmically and similarly to a movie: each frame builds upon the previous one and adds new elements, thus becoming a new and different entity.

Each new configuration has to be aesthetically evaluated in the context of the previous ones and in anticipation of a potential one to follow.

Therefore, the operating hardware is partly its geometrical structure and partly the brain, which uses curiosity, interest, and the body as propulsive agents that drive the process from one step to the next.

The geometry is simply an idle environment that, when manipulated, forces certain types of movement but has no initiative, intuition, or opinion about how such manipulations will proceed. These rely on the artist’s combinatorial and imaginative potential.

Playing with the Birkhoff formula (aesthetic value = order / complexity) and the value of the information, the visual impact of each manipulation can be maximized.

A cybernetic relationship can also exist when the artist exchanges information with a dynamic piece of art and makes decisions according to his artistic personality. This is the principle underlying the S-Band.