'Autography' is an interactive artwork, in the form of a software application, that automatically generates evolving 3D graphic characters that resemble human hand-writing. The intention is to create a form of automatic writing made by a machine (instead of by a human). Automatic writing is commonly understood to be a form of unconscious expression, where a human in a fugue or similar state writes automatically. The writing often resembles hand-writing but tends to look more like scribble. The perceived value of automatic writing is dependent on the apprehension that human beings possess a subconscious (or unconscious) that can be interpreted through the act of automatic writing. The technique was popular amongst early 20thC aficionados of theosophy and early psychology. Surrealist artists such as Andre Masson used the technique to develop semi-abstract artworks, whilst later authors and artists, such as Henri Michaux and Cy Twombly, employed the technique to develop highly sophisticated paintings and 'writings' that questioned both the authenticity of the artist's mark-making and the semiotic potential of writing. Jackson Pollock's late paintings can also be interpreted within this framework.

This work explores the potential for machines to create automatic writing, raising the question of whether a machine might have an unconscious, whilst at the same time critiquing the idea that humans may. In some respects this work is a further reflection on the themes I was exploring in earlier works, such as these large-scale computer-generated pen-plots on paper from 1984.

"Autography" functions as an interactive 3D application. Once downloaded you can navigate its 3D space, within which the automatic writing evolves, using your mouse/trackpad and keyboard. You can use your mouse/trackpad to pan around the 3D space. Holding the 'shift' key on your keyboard, whilst holding down your mouse-button and moving the mouse up/down, allows you to zoom in and out of the 3D scene. You can mix these mouse and keyboard actions to gain more control of the navigation and explore the evolving writing, from a distance or close-up. Passing through the textual plane of the writing reveals a "dark mode". Pressing the key 'b' on your keyboard returns the scene's camera to its original location and orientation, restoring the original view of the scene. Enjoy.


If you do not have Java's runtime library you will need to download and install it to run the applications.
For Mac OS X and Windows download here: Java 8

The work has been tested on Apple Macintosh computers (Macbook Pro, Mac Pro and Macbook Air) of various vintages and specification. Generally it runs smoothly in both high and low performance versions. The work has also been tested on a fairly high specification Windows laptop (Intel i9 CPU with NVidia GTX1060 video card) and whilst the high performance version runs it is a little bit jittery when panning and zooming. It is recommended Windows users download the low-performance version as this runs quite smoothly.

The application's screen resolution is 1920x1080 pixels and the work is in black, white and grey scale. The application runs in its own window. Once downloaded and extracted from its Zip file simply double-click to run. You may be requested to give permission for the application to run (unknown developer status). The permission process differs between operating system versions but generally involves your computer Privacy and Security settings. Once the application is running you can quit it by clicking in its Window-Close box, holding the Command and 'Q' keys down (on a Mac) or pressing the ESCAPE key (on a PC).

Download the Mac OS X application (high fidelity, for high performance Mac) - 5.9 MB.

Download the Windows 64 bit application (high fidelity, for high performance PC) - 4.9 MB.

Download the Mac OS X application (low fidelity, for other Mac computers) - 5.9 MB.

Download the Windows 64 bit application (low fidelity, for other PCs) - 4.9 MB.

Video documentation (fly-through screen recording) here:

CC 2020 Simon Biggs