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Peter Burr's 'Pattern Language'
Peter Burr's 'Pattern Language' | Image courtesy of Ka-Man Tse for Times Square Arts
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Peter Burr's Hypnotic Animations Take Over Times Square

Picture of Rachel Gould
Art & Design Editor
Updated: 15 May 2018
Brooklyn-based artist Peter Burr works in a visual language of digital animations. Each night in May, his black-and-white video piece titled Pattern Language will take over the New York City’s famous advertisement screens as part of Times Square Arts’ latest series of “Midnight Moments.”

Peter Burr operates within an alternative, binary universe. Engaging yet simultaneously discomforting, his immersive worlds amalgamate familiar images, such as people and landscapes, with visual modes associated with computers (repetitive, black-and-white patterns akin to binary code).

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Peter Burr’s ‘Pattern Language’ | Image courtesy of Ka-Man Tse for Times Square Arts

Constructed within a video-game engine, Pattern Language is what Times Square Arts describes as a “rhythmic, strobing composition in richly patterned black and white.” According to Burr’s website, the work’s title is named after a concept proposed by the Austrian architect and design theorist Christopher Alexander, which “describ[es] the aliveness of certain human ambitions through an index of structural patterns.”

Outlines of people without defined characteristics walk through “endless generative levels of lights and right angles, while others fill the screen with dots that bloom or wilt according to the classic ‘Game of Life’ model developed by mathematician John Conway in 1970, in which each cell lives, dies, or revives depending on the ‘alive’ or ‘dead’ states of neighboring cells,” Times Square Arts continues.

Through the visual articulation of “cellular automata and crowd-simulation algorithms,” Pattern Language investigates what it means to be organic and alive. From 11.57pm through midnight until May 31, 2018, Burr’s esoteric universe straddles reality as we know it and the digital world on the other side of “the screen.”

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Peter Burr, ‘Pattern Language’ | Image courtesy of Ka-Man Tse for Times Square Arts.

Equally inspired by New York’s expansive, complex network of transit systems circulating people around the city, the artist began experimenting with “arcology”: a mid-century concept proposed by the Italian architect Paolo Soleri that integrates the principles of ecology with physical architecture.

Pattern Language is born from my ongoing practice designing modern day labyrinths; dense, self-supporting structures that emulate living organisms,” Burr said in a statement. “I’m interested in the way our own universe may operate on a similar set of discrete digital rules, bursting from a few small pixels into a life of patterns from screen to screen.”

As presented by Times Square Arts and non-profit arts institution Clocktower Productions, Pattern Language is a curated edit of Burr’s larger project of the same title. This never-before-seen cut of Burr’s video is a unique version of the pre-existing project, with new sequences that transport viewers into what Times Square Arts decribes as “the endless labyrinth, which mirrors both the pointillist quality of Times Square’s LED billboards and the patterns we ourselves trace through the megastructure environment of New York City.”

Pattern Language can be viewed from 11.57pm through midnight until the end of May in Times Square, between 46th and 47th Streets between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10036.