A Machine to Catch Ghosts: Generative Art and Sass

Sass has the potential to be exactly that: a machine to catch ghosts. (That line comes from Jack Spicer, whose poetry I am wholeheartedly taking out of context.)

Generative art is when you create something indirectly; it is when you create a system or process that does the creating for you. A lot of Sass could be classified as generative art. When you use a grid system instead of manually defining every margin yourself, you are giving that grid system a certain input, and it will generate the styles which comprise a layout.

I will be talking about how the random() function in Sass provides an opportunity to explore a different kind of generative art. Whereas most @mixins and @functions will generate the same output provided the same input, random() introduces chance – unstable stylesheets – ghosts.

The talk will cover the inner workings of the random number generator that powers the random() function in Sass, non-digital chance art (including examples from most of recorded history), and a variety of other connected topics.

Demonstrations will include randomizing colors, animations, and layouts, and some details on how random() behaves within different control directives.

About Miriam Nadler

I live in Brooklyn, NY, and have lived in the northeast megalopolis for my entire life. My favorite word is megalopolis. I spend my work time as a front-end developer at Vox Media; some of my free time is spent making art with Sass. I am especially interested in randomization and CSS animation.