About the poetic potential of software bugs

The prototype of the Landscape Wandering Machine generates shadow images through various rendering techniques (specifically, we tested ray tracing, pathtracing, and rasterization). These sophisticated engines are highly optimized to create two-dimensional images. Nevertheless within each engine a tradeoff is always made: On the one hand, the renderer tries to create high-quality images, but at the same time, the computation times for each generated image should be as short as possible.

The crux of the matter is that we don’t see the shadow images as a final product, but rather perform another dimensional transfer. Through displacement, we transform the rendered grayscale images into 3d topologies. With this process, we push the render engines to the limit of their capabilities: “errors” and inconsistencies, blurs and discontinuities that are not noticeable in the pixelated entropy of 2d images suddenly gain clear relevance after the transfer to the three-dimensional spatial domain.

What are these errors?

  • On the one hand, these errors are deliberate compromises that the engine makes in order to keep calculation times low. One example would be the arbitrary “noise”, which is stochastically distributed over the entire shadow image. This noise can (theoretically) be reduced by significantly (!) longer calculation times to such an extent that it is no longer significant even in the 3D spectrum. Furthermore, this noise can also be reduced or concealed by de-noising (within the renderer) or by post-processing within the image (e.g. by Photoshop) – even if this may cause new problems.
  • Far more interesting are errors that are not caused by an intentional trade-off between image quality and computation time, but represent “real” bugs. Especially when these bugs are hardly noticeable in the two-dimensional image, but are much more noticeable in the 3D geometry generated from it.

Generated shadow image (rasterization by Cinema 4D) with small bugs

Resulting 3D topology with calculated lighting. The small bug introduces new qualities into the landscape

These bugs introduce an exciting moment to the generative process, because they do not occur deterministically and thereby introduce special qualities into the shadow image (and the resulting 3d geometry). We interpret these bugs as “wounds” in the landscape that, in a sense, “tell their own story” by indirectly referencing the underlying process of production.