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Algorithmic Botany

Sean Catangui, Matt Jacobson
Alex Miller
January 18, 2023 to March 22, 2023 (5 classes)
Section 1: Wednesdays, 6:30-9:30pm ET, January 18 - February 15, 2023 Section 2: Wednesdays, 6:30-9:30pm ET, February 22 to March 22, 2023
Online (Zoom)
$750 Scholarships available learn more...
Applications closed on December 2, 2022

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More likely than not, one of the first pictures you drew as a child was of a plant. Even some of humanity’s oldest recorded images depict plant life and our relationship to it. This course on Algorithmic Botany examines what role computation plays in shaping the present and future of this simple, very old, and very human endeavor of capturing the beauty of the natural world in our art. In some ways, by using code to express our artistic observations on plant life, we’ll be able to distill the qualities of plant-ness with a clarity unique to this medium. Perhaps plants are some of earth’s oldest computers. We will also examine the contradictions that come with using code in this way, when computational models are so often used to predict, optimize and otherwise manipulate nature. This course will start by trying to depict plants with code. The goal of this session, through code and theory, is to make art that operates like nature, within nature, and for the benefit of nature.

Images courtesy of teachers, participants, class documentarians and guests.

Course of Study

  • Week 1: Orientation – Introductions, community agreement, learning objectives, technical setup. We’ll also do a warmup exercise in using randomness in plant-themed generative art.
  • Week 2: Trees – Implement the L-System method for drawing trees and discuss the ways in which trees have influenced human thought over history.
  • Week 3: Small ecologies – Dive into Cellular Automata and consider what the software equivalent of home gardening might look like.
  • Week 4: Biomimicry – Survey several schools of thought of what it means to design with, like, and for nature.
  • Week 5: Review – Wrap up the session by reflecting on how we have learned and can continue to fuse plant thinking with the way we engage with and make software.


Time & Workload

Participants will be expected to engage in creating weekly computational art sketches that respond to theoretical and critical readings.



  • Computer
  • Internet connection
  • Figma account

Recommended but not required:

  • A basic knowledge of building web pages with HTML/CSS/JS
  • A rudimentary understanding of programming: variables, loops, arrays, functions

Is this class for me?

This class may be for you if:

  • You are an artist, designer, or technologist with an enthusiasm for plants.
  • You are interested in generative art but unsure of where/how to apply it.
  • You have an appetite for looking at art and computation through an anthropological and historical lens.
  • You want to develop a personal value system within your creative practice.

Meet the Teachers & Guests


Sean Catangui

Sean Catangui is a graphics editor at the New York Times, a lecturer at the New School, and an SFPC alum. He combines code, design, and art direction in service of visual storytelling.

he/him · website · twitter · instagram


Matt Jacobson

Matt Jacobson is a recreational mathematician, educator, and generative artist based in New York City. Working with algorithms and plotters his work focuses on mathematical aesthetics and how they can help us explore and expose the often obfuscated rules that guide the world around us.

he/him · website · twitter · instagram


Alex Miller

Alex Miller is an artist, programmer and teacher. In his creative practice under the name SPACEFILLER, he focuses on low fidelity simulations with emergent, naturalistic behavior. He uses these systems to build installations or audiovisual performances.

he/him · website · twitter · instagram


Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video. Online programs are held over Zoom.

Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating learning environment for your needs.

reach out with questions about access...

How do I apply?

Apply Now

Tell us about a time when you’ve seen (1) natural phenomena unfolding in a digital environment or (2) the algorithmic beauty of a plant/ecosystem.

Applications open until Applications closed on December 2, 2022.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on December 16, 2022. Please email us at with any questions you have.

more about what we look for in participants...

How much does it cost to attend?

For 5 classes, it costs $750 + $25.80 in processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email if these payment options don't work for you.

Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved. We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.

I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?

If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that we’re able to do so.

We have also started a scholarship fund, and we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC. We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered, disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.

Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers, pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards transforming SFPC’s financial model.

How can I help others to attend SFPC?

For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have the financial privilege to do so, please donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center of poetry and justice that we know it can be.

What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?

  • Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
  • 50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
  • No refunds can be given after the first day of the class

Interested in more learning opportunities at the School for Poetic Computation? Join our newsletter to stay up to date on future sessions and events, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Support our programming through scholarships. Get in touch over email.