December's salon/party

Tuesday’s salon was also LISA’s holiday party, but we made room for two presenters in amongst the festivities.

Carter Cleveland, founder of, presented first. is a fine art recommendation website, currently in development. It has recently been in the tech news due to involvement from Larry Gagosian, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and a host of other high-profile advisers and investors. Cleveland came up with the idea as an undergraduate comp. sci. major at Princeton, when he struggled to find art for his dorm room walls. Ignored by art dealers in commercial galleries, and overwhelmed by the masses of bad art for sale online, he began to wonder if technology could be applied to make the process easier. He decided to come up with an algorithm that would recommend art, as Pandora’s algorithms have done for music and Netflix for movies, and moved to Silicon Valley after graduation to start coding the “Art Genome Project.”

Initially, he said, he had thought that buying art online was a young person’s game. But he discovered that (surprise) college students had little money, and that older people with cash and wallspace to fill needed help finding art too. So he cleared out their code and started from scratch. The site is now targeted to a wealthier audience, and they are pursuing partnerships with galleries and dealers.’s structure allows users to start out with an established, familiar artist and progress through connections to those they may not have heard of. Cleveland describes each artwork as a “matrix” of branching connections, and the site’s code uses over 100 characteristics to classify an artwork and link it to others. Over time the site will amass more information and become more finely attuned to its customers. (I wondered what it would make of Komar and Melamid’s “Most-wanted paintings”, which were created from polling thousands of people about their art preferences and delivering ludicrous aggregrates of the results. Could the website be tweaked to yield “’s most wanted paintings”?)

Cleveland also has plans for mobile and iPad apps that would show you where your favorite artists were showing in Chelsea, or allow you to grab information about an artwork from a barcode, without having to deal with the gatekeepers behind the gallery desk. He strongly feels that’s most important function could eventually be education. Nevertheless, he admits that the site is curated and is not an open platform. “You have to draw a line somewhere, otherwise what distinguishes you from Etsy?” (As an avid reader of, I have to agree.)

Hans-Christoph Steiner was up next. He describes himself as a “hacker, artist, technologist, and audio worker.” He is involved with PureData, Max/MSP’s “free and open-source cousin”, and has spent a great deal of time on Pd-extended, a new collection of libraries, extensions and documentation to open up the platform to more users. PD is popular among sound artists because it makes it easy to perform tasks in parallel, and with precision (down to 20 microseconds). He described his obsession with “getting PD running on everything”, and screened a video of himself and a friend playing chiptunes on two 1st-generation iPods that had been pulled from the trash.

Hans-Christoph screened several videos from Terre Natale: Exit, which recently premiered at the Cartier Foundation. He contributed sound to these large-scale, immersive visualizations of global data about climate change, population and the flows of people and money around the world. Using Audacity and FreeSound, he partnered sound to the visuals to enhance the immersive experience. Some excerpts are available on vimeo.

For some comic relief, he then showed a video from his offline experiments with the Madagascar Institute. He admits that he took his life in his hands in riding a jet-engine powered carousel. “Since I welded all the parts that might kill somebody, it made sense for me to ride it first”, he said. Fortunately he lived to tell the tale…

On that note, we moved on to holiday festivities and a raffle (with prizes generously donated by Erik Sanner, Phil Stearns, Lesley Flanigan and Bora Yoon). Happy holidays to all and we look forward to seeing you at a LISA event next year!