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Explore Intricate Alien Landscapes Created by These Complicated Algorithms

Joanie Lemercier has created 1,000 sprawling, computer-generated landscapes comprised of thousands of single dots.

by Emerson Rosenthal
Dec 24 2016, 5:10am

A close-up of one of Joanie Lemercier's procedural landforms. Images courtesy of the artist

This article was originally published on December 12, 2014 but we think it still rocks!

Inspired by the unverifiable images of Comet 67P's surface, artist Joanie Lemercier has created 1,000 sprawling procedural landscapes using nothing but uniformly-sized black dots. Known as "landforms," Lemercier's collection of finely-textured digital images and prints was created using complex video game functions and CG techniques to achieve a result that the artist who, in the past, has designed digitized forests, projection-mapped giant domes, and even curated major light art group shows, considers "deeply inspiring."

According to Lemercier, "I wanted to have my own go at depicting landscapes, and surfaces of desert planets, where no reference of scale, position or time can be found." The effort began with Eyjafjallajökull, which required that the artist delve into CG technologies including the organic texture-generating perlin noise function. Armed with the ability to now create naturalistic environments, including "sand dunes, oceans, mountains, clouds and even wind flows," Lemercier began by creating the simple, geometric topographies seen below: 

Examples of Lemercier's code-based landscape experiments from 2010

Lemercier has been expanding into more complex terrains through the use of ambient occlusion, a CG technique "to calculate how exposed each point in a scene is to ambient lighting, resulting in a grainy but uniformly lit landscape." Explains Lemercier, "Rather than trying to achieve a perfectly balanced composition, I then decided to let the code generate a large series of unique visuals. I set that number to one thousand. Technically there is no limit to the amount of different visuals the computer can generate, but statistically I am convinced that at least one of these visuals actually exists somewhere in the universe."

The resulting topographies look like caverns and canyons, craggy plateaus that are at once as organic-looking as they are unnatural and alien. Says Lemercier, "The landforms are all composed entirely with small black dots. Their arrangement and density determine the overall shapes, and create gradients and shades in the viewers eyes when seen from a distance. This play on perception questions our reality and how we perceive the world around us."

Joanie Lemercier's landforms are sprawling topographies comprised entirely of uniformly-sized dots. 

Using laser-cutters techniques available through a residency at Eyebeam, Lemercier was able to create the final fruits of his landform labors: massively complex black paper prints of both his landforms and images from Comet 67P that, when spread up against windows or over LED light boxes, become three-dimensional worlds of texture, geometry, and, perhaps most importantly, wonder. 

A landform created from images of Comet 67P (original photo: ESA). Laser cut on black paper, light box.

A close-up of Lemercier's laser-cut landforms. 

The light through a window illuminates Joanie Lemercier's laser-cut landforms. 

One of Joanie Lemercier's landforms against a light box on the wall of a gallery space.

Click here to learn more about the artist. Prints are available here

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