Code Abstractions

Nevertheless It Spread Itself Into Nothingness

by Lim E-Lynn Joanne


This series of artworks that I am presenting here explores the word “nothingness” and how it might be presented as a formative element on a digital platform. The main artwork that I am offering here has been manifest in the concept of “無“(wú) which means an empty space on the phenomenal level and as a metaphor to explain the nothingness in the Confucion philosophy of 道 (Dao). However, the word “無” (wú) can also mean the empty space to be distinguished from material substance. Between the two meanings, they share a common ground: the existence of nothing “無” (wú) as a precondition for bringing concrete things into existence. Hence, whether one means the noumenal or phenomenal sense of nothingness, for both, have the position of priority when speaking of nothingness as opposed to material existence.

Please press and hold the mouse to see the entire artwork to gently fade and retreat into the nothingness of the void.

This project is a response to a text titled After against the Diamond Tape co-written by Andreas Schlegel and a machine using a Recurrent Neural Network (RNN) application called Rnn Writer by Robin Sloan.

Follow this link to a fullscreen version of this project. Alternative explorations 1 2 3 4 5 6 7.


Joanne Lim is an artist whose work often centers on making the invisible visible. She focuses on the intersection of art and science-tech to explore how perception, time and scale inform the human desire to understand the world, and our emotional and psychological place within it. Joanne works on a variety of traditional and experimental mediums ranging from code abstraction, fieldwork and her latest project involves the photography of sound waves.


In my digital artwork, 無 (wú) , I have tried to invoke the philosophical meaning of nothingness. However I discovered through my research that one cannot present an image of nothingness, except by making a form as both something and nothing cannot exist without one another. Hence nothing and something being co-dependent is the foundation that I built upon for depicting and capturing the object in this work. Referencing different physical and digital artworks, I begin my experimentation into the the object “無”(wú). I found it necessary to give the item a material form, with transitional movements coded. These movements include fade outs, disappearances, and to move within and out of the digital canvas. With these movements, I feel it makes a better representation of the notion of nothingness on this digital platform.

Bearing these ideas in mind, I begin to explore the notion of nothingness through a series of sketches and tried using different forms and movements to try to better understand how to best capture the essence. This discovery culminates in the final artwork seen above: the pixels gently floating within a visually “empty” digital space depicting a presence that could be said to be empty. The dark space also reflects a quietness within the image, which allows the ephemeral like waves of particles to gently float and form the word, giving it a feeling of eternity. The inclusion of a sound element was essential in depicting an element of space within a flat screen. Lastly, to reinforce the idea of nothingness, the object 無 (wú) simultaneously emerges and vanishes through user interactivity, which allows the entire artwork to gently fade and retreat into an apparent eternal digital form to the nothingness of the void.

I hope that through viewing this digital work, the viewer may have a sense that 'nothing' and 'something' are two inseparable components of one whole in the formation of artistic forms.


I was apprehensive at the start of the coding elective class, as generative art was something that I had much difficulties during my first year. However, after this elective, I can say that I am more confident in creating artworks with more complexity. I now also have a better grasp on the placement of codes within the sketch. I am really please to learn how incorporate sound and images into my sketches, which I feel adds dimension to my work. Lastly, I have always admired artworks that incorporates the ethereal movements of Perlin noise, and so I am please to have been taught how to use it effectively within this artwork.

Nothingness Series Sketches

Code Abstractions