Art by algorithm

If you dabble in the intersecting worlds of electronic music, code-writing, and generative art, you may know Justin Gitlin—whose work, “Interphase,” will be featured at the 2018 WAVE festival—by the name “Cacheflowe.” The moniker dates to his early days producing experimental electronic music, later evolving to encompass his software development personality, and ultimately his brand and business identity.

Gitlin works as a creative coder—a field that utilizes software as a tool to output a wide variety of cross-disciplinary products, from 3D models to music videos, custom printed clothing to interactive installations.

“Not a lot of people do what I do,” said Gitlin, whose specialty is interactive installations. During college, he held an internship as a video game designer, and in 2002 graduated with degrees in computer science and digital media studies from the University of Denver. After that he worked in advertising, cutting his teeth on high pressure situations with big creative teams before moving on to the software startup Mode Set, and eventually striking out on his own.

“I’ve been making pictures move in software for 19 years,” said Gitlin, whose first big interactive installation was the public art project, “OhHeckYeah,” an “immersive street arcade” in Denver where players made real-life, full body movements to activate a large-scale video game, created in conjunction with a host of partners and funders.

“I’ve made a million websites, but you have no idea if the users are enjoying them,” he said. With “OhHeckYeah,” he reveled in “reshaping what the city is, and seeing the possibility of that unique experience. Seeing smiles, people interacting with each other and having this magical moment, is really fun for me.” Gitlin generally works on a team, where his role is “the technologist—writing the software that’s powering the digital component of the experience.” At the same time, he is “very much integrated in early creative decision-making,” he said, to provide input on what can be done on the technology side. He works with the physical fabricator, too, to ensure components like cameras fit into the structure; and music contributors, to make sure video and audio is in sync, for example. “I sort of have to talk to everybody,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

As a coder, Gitlin creates algorithms—essentially sets of steps that tell a computer what to do to create a specific outcome—whether for team projects or his own personal explorations, such as a T-shirt design he created by writing a piece of software to draw his concept. “Another way to think of it is parameterized design—you create an algorithm with parameters you can adjust,” he said. “You use that to create possibly thousands of options, then pick your favorite. It’s a different way of approaching how you might arrive at a final design.”

On the commercial side, Gitlin has worked with Nike and other partners to build a series of interactive retail and branding experiences, including the “Nike Air Chamber,” an LED-lined, 25 x 25-foot cube that captured and digitized the movements of US Olympic basketball team members as part of their 2016 send-off.

In 2018, he’s making an effort to spend more time on his own concepts, bringing “visual, audio, and space” together. One of those concepts—an original, user-activated musical instrument that drives an LED-lit water sculpture—will grace this year’s WAVE festival in Breckenridge, taking place May 31-June 3, 2018.

Cacheflowe //
Photos courtesy Justin Gitlin + AudioPixel