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Student–Robot Conferences at The School for Poetic Computation

Among the final student projects: a self-destructing robot, an aura-reading mirror, and a black metal font generator.
Alex Tolar’s Aural Mirror. All photos by Filip Wolak

The School for Poetic Computation opened its doors last weekend in New York, welcoming the public into a space that 11 artists, programmers, and tinkerers made their own during a ten-week residency. Inside were the whimsical fruits of their explorations, with ambient sounds of gears turning and computers whirring. Some projects were already polished, some still raw; all were inspiring.

“Some students were new to code and others were new 'artists' but these eleven students proposed 36 projects, and they continue to work on their projects today even though school has ended,” says Lauren Gardner, a former student who helped organize the fall 2015 showcase. Roughly two years in, SFPC’s motto—more poetry, less demo—is yielding fascinating work. Guided by a small faculty, visiting artists and each other, students try out new avenues for artistic practice through computation. Below is our own (abridged) showcase of the Fall 2015 class.


Sarah Howorka’s adorable Shy Robot roved freely around the SFPC space, in anxious spurts. A motion sensor prompts it to roll away anytime someone approaches.

Chris Anderson created two pieces during his residency that explore themes of self-destruction. In Junkie / Frame, a tiny LCD display begs you to push a button, experiences a brief moment of ecstasy once you do, then quickly overdoses until it is <>. In Physical Possibility, a machine slams a hammer on its own hardware until it is rendered immobile.

Bloom, 2015

Yosuke Sakai, a traditional ink painter from Tokyo, generated gorgeous composites of a series of paintings.

Roy Macdonald’s "Black Metalizer" is an app that’ll turn any string of words into a black metal-inspired logo.

Michael Simpson’s P[l]o[t]ems generates concrete poems, mapped out on vellum with a pen plotter.

Robby Kraft’s sound-making glove seeks to impart emotion to an inanimate object. And his origami were mesmerizing.

Alex Tolar, an interactive designer from Berlin, is working on Tapeloops, a project that uses cassette tapes as data storage. After figuring out how to save and read data on the cassettes, Tolar is creating a set of endless looping tapes that will hold the code for LED micro-animations.

Yeseul Song’s snowflake making box is a tribute to her grandmother, who taught her how to make paper snowflakes. You place your hand inside the box and a snowflake lights up in your palm. The shapes and colors can be adjusted by turning the knobs.


Andy Dayton’s Vespers is an attempt to create a metaphysical machine. You must first kneel to the ground and place your face inside a cardboard cut-out. Inside the eye-holes, you cycle through an animation of stars, spirograph patterns, and then, eerily, a reflection of yourself using the machine, provided in real time thanks to a hidden camera.

Dayton also collaborated with fellow students Becca Moore and Brian Solon on the transformation of a closet into the Super Neato Entertainment System, a magical one-person video viewing booth with cartridges holding “all kinds of fun surprises”—we would tell you, but we don’t want to ruin it.

To learn more about The School for Poetic Computation, go here.


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