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  • Æther Cavendish

In Search of ‘Random Access Memories’

Updated: Mar 31

A Conversation between Rapha and Æther Cavendish


Bonjour Rapha, would you share a bit about yourself and your journey into generative art?

I grew up during a time dominated by analog technologies, only encountering computers in my late childhood and early teens. Despite this late introduction, I always had a strong passion for creation and understanding how things work. This drive led me to pursue Computer Science in my academic journey, eventually venturing into the multimedia industry during the 2000s. My work primarily revolved around collaborating with cultural institutions, where I worked both as a developer and a designer.

During this time, I continued to pursue my artistic endeavors and became involved with a collective. Later on, the discovery of cryptocurrency reignited my interest in coding. Through experimentation and a deepening of my skills, I naturally found myself returning to my coding roots.

In more recent times, I've found a real sense of belonging in the Web3 space, alongside other generative and AI artists. These connections have proven invaluable, enriching my creative journey and opening the door to new possibilities for exploration.

Given the look and feel ‘Random Access Memories’, I’m curious about your early memories regarding computer hardware?

Around age 11, I discovered coding through a PET Commodore computer that saved programs on an external cassette tape. At the same time, I started going to the local Science Museum that was just two minutes away from where my family lived. The museum had open computer hours where people would teach each other how to code. I started to learn turtle graphics and I discovered I could play with colors in a way that was impossible with pen and paper!

In what ways does this artwork challenge conventional interpretations of poetry?

Traditionally, poetry has been closely bound to structured forms, characterized by specific rules and conventions. However, as time progresses, these forms have evolved to encompass a wider range of expressions, embracing non-rhyming prose, free verse paragraphs, and even incorporating graphic typographical elements into compositions.

In this project, my aim is to transform the act of reading into a more subjective encounter. By allowing words to float in a three-dimensional space, I’m inviting the reader to engage with the text, and empowering them to attribute personal significance to each iteration. Through this process, I hope to create a shared experience, where both the viewer and I construct distinct personal narratives from the same seed.

Can you discuss the role of randomness in your artwork and how it might enhance the structured nature of more traditional visual poetry?

Randomness naturally plays a pivotal role in code-based art. In ‘Random Access Memories,’ I leverage randomness to emulate the oneiric amalgamation of words and images constituting our memories. This involves blending disparate events, overlapping them, and occasionally obscuring or clarifying words.

In the human experience, randomness often serves as a gateway to accessing our memories. We know that memories often emerge through random associations, capable of surfacing unexpectedly, sometimes evoking pleasant recollections and at other times, more challenging ones.

While I hold an appreciation for traditional poetry, its structured framework can at times restrict the freedom and joy of a more personal and informal vernacular. There exists immense satisfaction in engaging with structured forms, yet there is also value in adopting a more subjective approach—a space that resides between active participation and thoughtful reflection.

One of things I love about 'Random Access Memories' is its potential for user interaction. How do you envision viewers engaging with the visual poetry in real-time?

My goal is to strike a balance between what viewers can actively do and what they can passively enjoy. On one hand, they can manipulate the memories by rotating them, uncovering hidden words and discovering new layers of meaning. On the other hand, they are also encouraged to simply relax and immerse themselves in the hypnotic visuals. Drawing from my experience with hypnotherapy, I find these liminal states of consciousness particularly potent.

Does your piece follow or evoke a specific narrative? Or does it unfold at the level of stream of consciousness, which your reference to hypnotherapy suggests?

The language used is deliberately simple yet evocative, drawing from my personal memory bank of past experiences and recollections. However, my aim is to make the artwork accessible and highly relatable to others. Rather than focusing solely on the specific narrative of my subjective, individual journey, I hope to tap into our shared human experience. We have all encountered the intensity of childhood memories, experienced the rush of falling in love, and faced disappointment at various stages of life. This universality forms the foundation of this work, creating connections that transcend individual narratives.

How does technology play a role in the creation of your generative artwork? Do you find that your present coding skills limit your poetic expression, or on the contrary, do you find yourself more challenged with regard to your poetic expression?

Having started coding around the age of 11, I often find myself grappling more with the limitations of my poetic expression than with technical challenges. Despite having dabbled in poetry during my upbringing, my poetic skills, like my drawing abilities, are somewhat limited. This is particularly true for me as a non-native English speaker.

In the realm of coding, limitations are a constant, whether they stem from efficiency concerns or knowledge gaps. Yet, there is a certain pleasure in overcoming these obstacles, refining code to better serve its purpose. There is an inherent aesthetic in crafting code that is both efficient and purposeful.

I've always enjoyed pushing the boundaries of my code, deliberately introducing errors or simply embracing existing ones. It's through these experiments that I uncover the true expressive potential of algorithms—particularly in extreme cases where an algorithm may falter and produce something totally unexpected. For instance, in this project, overlapping cubes can meld words together, resulting in a curious blend of meaning and nonsense. I observe surges in novelty at the edges between the two.

Merci Rapha!

Merci Æther.

This was a conversation between Rapha and Æther Cavendish.


Release information:

'Random Access Memories' on FXHash | Rapha x Atelier

April, 2024

100 editions


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