The Form of Sorting Algorithms is an experimental artwork by Julia Laub and Cedric Kiefer (onformative). The work is all about a set of a special algorithms: the ‘sorting algorithm’. These types of algorithms are used to order a random or chaotic set of numbers. They were mostly invented right after World War II, in the very early days of computer science. Last year onformative started experimenting with the way these little systems actually deal with the data we feed to them.

They coded an environment in which a few sorting algorithms are fed a photograph. The job of the algorithms was to scan the pixels of a photograph, sort the pixels in different ways and present them back in completely new patterns. The visual result of this process turned out to be stunning.

The sorting algorithms create living digital paintings in which the original photographs are slowly transformed into colourful and hypnotic patterns. It’s a new and ever changing re-arrangement of the original pixel structure.

“While a sorting algorithm itself is very techno centric, we are intrigued by possibilities of using the process of sorting as a narrative. It contains the story of something unordered becoming meaningful. Finding references in the chaos. Those who sort and organize might be able to guide others.”