Joshua Davis (designer)
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Joshua Davis in his studio December 7th 2012, working on the "Forty Thieves" exhibition
June 13, 1971
San Diego, California
|Residence||Mineola, New York|
|Education||Columbine High School
Marina High School
|Occupation||Designer, artist, technologist, writer, professor, lecturer|
|Home town||Littleton, Colorado|
|Spouse(s)||Melissa Lockhart (m. 2000)|
|Awards||Prix Ars Electronica 2001 Golden Nica for "Net Vision / Net Excellence”|
Davis explores the technical and aesthetic limits of Processing and Illustrator to generate unique visual compositions according to rules-based, randomized processes using hardware and software. Producing both public and private work for companies, collectors, and institutions.
He is best known as the creator of praystation.com, winner of the Prix Ars Electronica 2001 Golden Nica for "Net Vision / Net Excellence”. An early adopter of open-source, offering the source code of the praystation.com composition and animation developments to the public.
Included among Davis’s many awards and accolades that span the worlds of art and design, is his role in designing the visualization of IBM’s Watson, the intelligent computer program capable of answering questions, for the quiz show Jeopardy.
His work has been inducted into the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Nation Design Museum, National Design Triennial 2006 “Design Life Now”, and has spoken at TED in 2005 about his career in algorithmic image making and open source.
The work of Joshua Davis reveals the power of the artist technologist. Davis explores the technical and aesthetic limits of hardware, software, and interaction. Over his past 19 year career as an image maker using programming, Davis writes his own code, to produce surprising interactions with users and to generate unique visual compositions according to rule-based, randomized processes.
Joshua Davis said in a Wired interview: “Pollock showed that there was beauty in randomness”. But if Pollock argued that the process of abstraction, not the end result, is what is dynamic (in his case a static painting), Joshua Davis’ work is never static: the painting is never the same. The compositions are beautifully software generated. ‘Dynamic’ and ‘Abstraction’ are in fact the two words that define the process he uses. Dynamic because of the programming property of outputting an endless array of compositions. Abstraction is defining multiple meanings in the process itself. As Joshua points out: “I was abstracting the act or process of being a designer and doing design, but also my personal visual aesthetic is rooted in abstraction”.
Davis is one of the first generation of web designers: pioneers, who taught themselves how to use the technology as it was developing thereby defining the ground rules of digital design. Davis was introduced to the internet by a design student friend at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where he studied illustration and art history. After a year of working on illustration by day and programming at night, Davis ran out of cash and was offered a job writing HTML for Pratt’s web site. He dropped out of Pratt in his junior year to eke out a living in the then-fledgling field of design technology.
Davis has since become a role model for younger designers: not only for the quality of his creative work but because of his willingness to share ideas and innovations by releasing source files to other creatives.
|“||Among modern artists, I conceptually identify with Jackson Pollock — not that I'm a particular fan of his visual style, but because he always identified himself as a painter, even though a lot of the time his brush never hit the canvas. There's something in that disconnect — not using a brush or tool in traditional methods.||”|
—Joshua Davis, from his studio website
Davis was strongly influenced by Jackson Pollock, an abstract expressionist whose work came of age in the 1940s and 1950s. Pollock splattered paint (as well as other items) across large canvases with the idea that his art was the process of its creation rather than the final product. Embracing the computer as a tool for generating his work, Davis wrote code that randomly distributed, arranged, and distorted his artwork, essentially creating new work as a final result. Other times he generated entire pieces practically completely at random. That is, the art is the code that produces the final result rather than the final randomly generated works themselves.
The second year of Praystation.com was compiled into a CD-ROM called PrayStation Hardrive, which included source files, photos and miscellaneous items that Joshua Davis worked on during that time, distributed in limited quantities by IdN magazine. The disc included a 32-page booklet and was packaged in a plastic casing modeled after the PlayStation 2.
Dreamless.org was the site of a popular Internet forum, hosted by Joshua Davis from 1999 to 2001. Its minimal design, understated Web presence and hidden registration page all added to its intrigue, and for a while it was a gathering place for many graphic and web designers and programmers. "Photoshop Battles" were a popular activity among forum members, leading into the internet phenomenon now referred to as Photoshop tennis.
The community of Dreamless traveled past the boundaries of the Internet — impromptu local meetings ("riots", as Davis called them) were arranged for Dreamless users to meet face-to-face and exchange ideas.
One notorious forum on Dreamless was "08 - Meaningless and Shallow", a topical free-for-all which led to numerous flame wars, post floods and user-led XSS vandalism. After several "meltdowns" and member disputes, Davis closed Dreamless in July 2001.
- Davis, Joshua (2000). New Masters of Flash. 1st edition. Friends of Ed. ISBN 1-59059-209-3.
- Davis, Joshua (2002-07-24). Flash to the Core: An Interactive Sketchbook. New Riders Publishing. ISBN 0-7357-1288-3.
- Joshua Davis Studios
- Once Upon A Forest
- PrayStation.com - Year 2, version 4 archive
- Hype Framework - A collaborative project with Branden Hall
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Awards & accolades
Joshua Davis was the winner of the 2001 Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in the category “Net Excellence” and has exhibited his works at the Tate Modern (London), the Ars Electronica (Austria), the Design Museum (London), le Centre Pompidou (France), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), PS.1 MoMA (New York), among others. In December 2006, His work will be inducted into the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s "National Design Triennial: Design Life Now" exhibit.
- Joshua Davis Studios
- Once Upon A Forest