The 128kb Framework and its Aesthetic Characteristics

Published by Tim on Tuesday May 14, 2024

Last modified on May 15th, 2024 at 12:10

One day in early 2024 I started to experiment with a new idea. I wrote down a set of rules for a new explorative project. That’s how I usually start.

  • output: gif
  • max filesize: 128kb
  • dimensions: 128 * 128 pixels
  • max colors: 128
  • use Processing or p5.js

Within these boundaries and parameters I started to investigate the creative possibilities. in the beginning it reminded me to old school computer graphics and the Demoscene. The tiny format and the limited filesize foster a lo-fidelity aesthetic. But there’s a tricky aesthetic problem to solve: It would be problematic to think of the output with “memories to the good old past”, with Retro-Computing or nostalgia. This way of thinking blocks the way into the treasure trove of simple technologies. Unfortunately, high technologies are causing us to subconsciously allow this mental framing. (read more here).

High tech artworks market new PCs. Even if they aren’t meant to. Artworks that make use of new, expensive technology can’t avoid being, in part, sales demonstrations. Part of the message of an online video stream, whatever its content, is “Hey, isn’t it time for an upgrade?”.

Lowtech Manifesto by the Redundant Technology Initiative, 1999

High Tech pushes aesthetics towards complexity, more computational power, more details. We use airplanes to fly to the next supermarket, atomic reactors to cook our morning coffee. But in a time of planetary exhaustion and economic acceleration, low fidelity and simple technology can be an aesthetic statement for sanity, slowness and simplicity.

So one question for the future will be how I can avoid the nostalgia cliché within 128kb framework and replace or at least overlap it with something that expresses the idea of serene renunciation and progress through simplicity.

So these ideas pushed me forward to explore the creative possibilities and technical boundaries within the 128kb framework.


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