Pattern Language

Peter Burr

Clocktower Productions

Peter Burr is a master of computer animation who has centered his art practice on immersive cinematic experiences, primarily through animation and installation. His most recent work explores these concerns using tools and conventions from the video game industry. He creates experiences that are intimate in the way only interactive media can be, depending as it does on human input to sustain itself.

Pattern Language, built in a video game engine, is a rhythmic, strobing composition in richly patterned black and white. Employing cellular automata and crowd-simulation algorithms, Burr creates a fantastical vision of human life within a labyrinthine “Dirtscraper” – an inverted, underground skyscraper. Indistinct, nongendered figures in shades of grey walk through endless generative levels of lights and right angles, while others fill the screen with dots that bloom or wilt according to the classic “Game of Life” model developed by mathematician John Conway in 1970, in which each cell lives, dies, or revives depending on the “alive” or “dead” states of neighboring cells.

Part of a larger project of the same name that has appeared from Manhattan to Amsterdam, May’s Midnight Moment is a new edit including never-before-seen sequences. Viewers will be immersed in the endless labyrinth, which mirrors both the pointillist quality of Times Square’s LED billboards and the patterns we ourselves trace through the megastructure environment of New York City.

Pattern Language is born from my ongoing practice designing modern day labyrinths; dense
self-supporting structures that emulate living organisms. It was developed during a residency at 3-Legged Dog in Lower Manhattan where I spent time observing transit patterns through New York’s various megastructures. The building I created here is known as an arcology: a fusion of “architecture” and “ecology”. It is based on a set of design principles for very densely populated, ecologically low-impact human habitation developed by architect Paolo Soleri in the middle of the twentieth century. In this work, patterns emerge through the interaction of various algorithms. Pattern Language employs a popular cellular automata algorithm called Conway’s Game Of Life to encode a remarkably life-like system in simple black and white pixels. I’m interested in the way our own universe may operate on a similar set of discrete digital rules, bursting from a few small pixels into a life of patterns from screen to screen.”

- Peter Burr

Peter Burr (b. 1980, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) is an artist specializing in animation and installation. His work has been presented across the world by institutions including Documenta 14, Athens; Le Centre Pompidou, Paris; and MoMA PS1, New York. A master of computer animation, with a gift for creating images and environments that hover on the boundary between abstraction and figuration, Burr has in recent years devoted himself to exploring the concept of an endlessly mutating labyrinth. Existing as stand-alone pieces, much of his work is also in the process of expanding into a video game through the support of Creative Capital and Sundance. Previously, he worked under the alias Hooliganship. Between 2002-2004 he helped catalyze the community arts initiative Bookmobile Project / Projet Mobilivre with a diverse group of emerging North American artists and community activists. In 2006 he founded the video label Cartune Xprez, through which he produces video compilations, live multimedia exhibitions, and touring programs showcasing a multi-generational group of artists at the forefront of experimental animation. His most recent large-scale project, a commission from the The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, is a room-sized video game entitled “Dirtscraper” that premiered at the ICA’s inaugural exhibition in April, 2018.

Clocktower (founded 1972) is a non-profit art institution working in the visual arts, performance, music, and radio. Founded in Lower Manhattan by MoMA PS1 Founder Alanna Heiss, Clocktower is the oldest alternative art project in New York, and its radio station, Clocktower Radio, was founded in 2003 as one of the first all-art online museum radio stations in the world. The institution functions as a laboratory for experimentation, working closely and collaboratively with artists, musicians, curators, writers and producers to develop, realize and present innovative and challenging work in all media, ranging from installation to performance and from experimental music to radio theater. By engaging both the physical resources of its partner organizations and Clocktower Radio’s access to a broad and international online audience, Clocktower disseminates experimental work to numerous communities, and promotes a rich cultural and social dialogue between artists, audiences, and institutions worldwide. Clocktower produces multidisciplinary art projects all over the city through these creative collaborations with Pioneer Works in Red Hook, Knockdown Center in Queens, Playland Motel in Far Rockaway, and Times Square Arts, Red Bull Studios, and Jones Day in Manhattan. These spaces host Clocktower exhibitions, performances, residencies, radio, and administrative activities.

Photographs courtesy of Ka-Man Tse.