Builder/Eater, Colour Version, 2016

Paul Brown

United Kingdom
Moving Image Award
Builder/Eater at FACT

Builder/Eater was first created in 1977 using a Nova 2 minicomputer and a home-brewed 96 x 96 pixel frame-store made by Julian Sullivan.  It is believed to be one of the first real-time, computational and generative works of art in the world.  A second version was made using a home-brew microcomputer system in 1978 and this version was probably the first artwork to have its own dedicated, embedded microprocessor.  In 2014 Jim Boulton commissioned me to recreate the work (V3) for the Digital Archeology section of Digital Revolution at the Barbican Centre (3 July to 14 September 2014 and international tour). The current version (V4) submitted for the Lumen Prize was created especially for the custom LED screen on the facade of FACT - the Foundation for Art and Creative Technology - in Liverpool as a part of Scouse Roots: Art That Makes Itself – a Brown & Son Project, 8 April – 2 May 2016. Thanks to Leslie Taker, who curated the show and Mark Murphy, Programme Technician.

Builder/Eater consists of two concurrent processes:  one looks for pixels that are OFF and turns them ON - the other looks for pixels that are ON and turns them OFF.  In this way they compete endlessly for possession of the screen. In this version three Builder/Eaters - one red, one blue and one green - compete together on the screen.  The artwork is submitted for exhibition as a video documentary of the installation at FACT.

Builder/Eater V1, 1977 - recreated as V3 2014
Builder/Eater V2, 1978

Original software for V1 created using DG Assembler and for V2 8085 Assembler.  V3 and 4 (this version) are Java Apps created using Processing and running on a MacMini.  The screen is a custom 50 x 50 pixel LED screen created (not by me) for the FACT facade.

Builder/Eater on the FACT LED Screen