"Prehystories of New Media" class at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Fall 2008 + 2009, instructor: Nina Wenhart

“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful. In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power. For the last twenty years neither matter nor space nor time has been what it was from time immemorial. We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even bringing about an amazing change in our very notion of art.”
Paul Valéry, Pièces sur L’Art, 1931
Le Conquete de l’ubiquite

>> students' research papers, Fall 2008

class .13

code art
dec. 15th, 2009 - final class of this semester

comments on research papers

#02 a: introduction
- Bill Gates, "An Open Letter to the Hobbyists", 1976

-- Homebrew Computer Club: Silicon Valley, members included Apple-founders Steve Jobs + Steven Wozniak
---- Xerox PARC --> developments towards a personal computer, Alan Kay, (mouse, GUI, windows, Smalltalk as OS was open source as well), Jobs and Wozniak visited Xerox PARC and stole their ideas

- compare to: rewiring - development of software hopelessly behind the HW-development
- SW was open source to be adaptable to the many different kinds of hardware
- hacker ethics about skills and attitude
- Richard Stallman, 1985, GNU manifesto → says sharing has been the principle at MIT's Tech Model Railway Club (TMRC)
---- David Moises, Severin Hoffmann, "Turing Train Terminal", 2004
- with BASIC, those principles of openness have been turned around into being criminal acts,
shift from an economy of sharing to the stealing/buying
-- gap between programmers and users, producers and consumers, sharing and stealing
-- with SW applications, there comes the "birth of the user": "to be "readerly", SW disguised as HW/tools: the brush, the pencil,..." (Florian Cramer)

#02 b:
- what is software?
-- it is language, formal language
-- that uses loops, routines, algorithms,...
-- to create instructions, executable statements

- what is software art? What are its topics?
-- Software Art „extends art beyond institutions“ (runme.org)‏
-- “Would it be possible to render yourself purely as code, and then sell your skills as applications?" (Adrian Ward)‏

-- fields
---- social/political (hacking)‏
---- technological (user/producer, artistic software)‏
---- connections to traditional art (poetry, concept art, minimalism)‏

-- characteristics:
---- program code used as the main artistic material
-------- Inke Arns: "'Software art', on the other hand, refers to artistic activity that enables reflection of software (and software’s cultural significance) within the medium – or material – of software. "
---- emphasis on the processes inside the computer
-------- Florian Cramer: "makes visible the aesthetic and political subtexts of seemingly neutral technical command sequences", "software code is a conceptual notation"
---- relations to speech-act-theory
-------- Friedrich Kittler, "In computers […], in stark contrast to Goethe’s Faust, words and acts coincide. The neat distinction that the speech act theory has made between utterance and use, between words with and without quotation marks, is no more. In the context of literary texts, kill means as much as the word signifies; in the context of the command line, however, kill does what the word signifies to running programmes or even to the system itself."
-------- and to magic: only as long as we don't see or don't understand/are unable to de-code, it is magic; otherwise, it is science, a trick; but no longer magic

#03: code as art - approaches

#03 a: relations of code art to conceptual art and minimalism
-- elegance of code = minimalism
-- concept contains the work itself = concept art

-- Jack Burnham, "Software", 1970:
---- 1st exhibition of concept art, Jewish Museum, NY
-------- Edward Shanken, „The House that Jack Built“
-------- Concept art as an art “of which the material is ‘concepts,’ as the material of for ex. Music is sound” (Henry Flynt’s definition from 1961) and software art as an art whose material is formal instruction code:
-------- notation and execution in the same piece
-------- use of language
-------- pre-electronic software art mostly literature
-------- quotes:
---------- '... we are moving from an art centered upon objects to one focused upon systems, thus implying that sculptured objects are in eclipse'
---------- 'concept art' and related tendencies, rather than with cybernetics and general systems theory

-- compare to: Vera Molnar, "Machine Imaginaire"

-- Situationist International
--- info online:
-------- http://www.nothingness.org/SI/
-------- http://www.cddc.vt.edu/sionline/
---- sets of instructions as executable statements
---- keywords: psychogeography, dérive, unitary urbanism
-------- explore the everyday environment without preconception
-------- "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals."
-------- rejection of functional, Euclidean values in architecture, as well as the separation between art and its surroundings
--------"a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities...just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape."

-------- "[C]ities have a psychogeographical relief, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes which strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones"

---------- "In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there… But the dérive includes both this letting go and its necessary contradiction: the domination of psychogeographical variations by the knowledge and calculation of their possibilities."
---------- "All space is occupied by the enemy. We are living under a permanent curfew. Not just the cops – the geometry" – dérive is a "a maneuver within the enemy's field of vision" → taking the fight to the streets (compare to Don Quixote)‏

-- Sol Lewitt, 1967:
---- "To work with a plan that is pre-set is one way of avoiding subjectivity. (...) The plan would design the work"
or, even more condensed:
"The idea becomes a machine that makes the art", 1967
---- conceptualist strategy of making the viewer producing the art = execute the artwork; from centralized to distributed

#03 b: artistic software, artware
- written by artists, for artists
- can be used, but is an art object in and of itself

-- definition of artisitc software from Alexej Shulgin and Olga Goriunova, 2002, "Artistic Software for Dummies":

-- definition of artware from Saul Albert, 1999:

-- Casey Reas, Ben Fry, "Processing"
---- processing.org
---- "Processing is an open source programming language and environment for people who want to program images, animation, and interactions. It is used by students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists for learning, prototyping, and production. It is created to teach fundamentals of computer programming within a visual context and to serve as a software sketchbook and professional production tool. Processing is an alternative to proprietary software tools in the same domain."
---- programming language for and by artists
---- examples:
-------- rAndom International, Pixel Roller: http://www.random-international.com/pixelroller-overview/

-- runme.org
---- started by Alexej Shulgin, Olga Goriunova, Matthew Fuller, Florian Cramer et al in 2003
---- repository and platform for software art + theory, open, moderated
---- "The aim of Runme.org is to create an exchange interface for artists and programmers which will work towards a contextualization of this new form of cultural activity. Runme.org welcomes projects regardless of the date and context of their creation. The repository is happy to host different kinds of projects - ranging from found, anonymous software art to famous projects by established artists and programmers."
---- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/runmeorg_15.html

-- Adrian Ward, "Signwave Auto Illustrator"
---- "The routines of Auto-Illustrator have been imbued with coded implementations of the author/artist’s creative decision-making process. In effect, this results in a deferred artistic activity, away from the original author, and as it is a computer application, in the hands of the person executing it."
---- questions regarding authorship and authenticity of digital artworks → the author as code → real-world implementation of cyborgism.
---- mimics certain interface elements in an attempt to highlight the growing inadequacies of modern software

-- Netochka Nezvanova, "nato.0+55+3d"
---- aka
m2zk!n3nkunzt, =cw4t7abs, ...
---- website: http://web.archive.org/web/20050310045248/www.eusocial.org/nato.0+55+3d/242.phenotipe.html
---- real-time, modular, video and multi-media processing environment
-------- predecessor of systems like MaxMSP/Jitter, Pure Data/GEM
---- group name from Fyodor Dostoevski's novel Netochka Nezvanova, means "nameless nobody."
---- appears in the mid 90ies, on mailing lists, about electronic music, code poetry, ACII art
---- created an experimental web browser, "nebula.m81" in 1999
---- a post to the nettime mailing-list: http://www.nettime.org/Lists-Archives/nettime-bold-0009/msg00073.html

#03 c: code as literature
-- "The poetry of codeworks lies not only in their textual form, but rather in the knowledge that they have the potential to be executed."(Inke Arns)‏

-- netwurker mez
--- http://www.hotkey.net.au/~netwurker/
---- "mezangelle", a pseudocode that uses + playfully confuses elements from various kinds of human and machine) languages (ASCII codes, online communications, online games,...)
, thereby offering multiple ways of decoding the text --> polysemy
-------- Inke Arns: "mez lets individual words physically become crossover points of different meanings, we are dealing with material ambiguity or polysemy implemented into linear text or, to echo Lacan, with the realised "vertical" of a point, [63] that is the simultaneous presence of different potentialities within the same word"
---- reflection on the resulting cultural implications

---- Florian Cramer: "Mez does for code poetry as jodi and Vuk Cosic have done for ASCII Art: Turning a great, but naively executed concept into something brilliant, paving the ground for a whole generation of digital artists."
---- Florian Cramer, mez, ,,Re(ad.htm" , 2002

-- Netochka Nezvanova, Kroperom
---- 'M @ z k ! n 3 n . k u n z t . m2cht . Fr3!'
-------- the characters of the ASII code are used to replace the Latin alphabet; human languages mixed together, character-replacement by phonetic and visual similarity/analogy (--> l33t),
---- Josephine Barry: "The act of reading becomes pointedly self-reflexive and, in terms of chaos theory, nonlinear experience with each word representing a junction of multiple systems."

-- Brion Gysin, William S. Buuroughs, Ian Sommerville
---- permutations and the cut up technique
---- William S. Borroughs, "
The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin"

-- RACTER, "The Policemen's Beard is Half Construced", 1984
---- http://www.ubu.com/historical/racter/index.html
---- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/racter-policemans-beard-is-half.html

#03 d: ASCII-art
-- see f.e. Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon's "Nude"

#03 e: generative art
-- Christa Sommerer, Laurent Mignonneau
---- "From the Poetry of Programming to Science as a Form of Art": http://netzspannung.org/cat/servlet/CatServlet/$files/270795/sommerer.pdf (only in German)
---- Life Spacies: http://www.interface.ufg.ac.at/christa-laurent/WORKS/IMAGES/LIFESPACIESII_PICTURES/LifeSpaciesIIIcons.html

-- see works by Casey Reas (e.g. Microimage), Ben Fry (e.g. Valence), LIA (e.g. re:move series)

#3 f: hacking
- MIT, 1960ies
- hacker ethics: about skills and attitude
- the idea of freedom of information and respect for other peoples’ data
- actual terrain is not necessarily technology, could be any kind of system
- work on network concerns (compare to "cracker")‏

- The Mentor, "A Hacker's Manifesto", 1986:

- Chaos Computer Club

- "Unauthorized Access": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUiWzwmDSx8

#3 g: net.art

- [...] J8~g#|\;Net. Art{-^s1 [...]
-- from an email to Vuc Cosic, only readable part of the message was net.art
---- birth of net.art from an accident

-- artists developing this field include:
Alexej Shulgin, Olga Goriunova, Olia Lialina, Vuc Cosic, jodi, Cornelia Sollfrank,...
-- net.art uses internet as medium, as material (technical protocols as well as content), as space, as translocal space, as distribution medium
-- this makes this artform extremly dependent and ephemeral

-- Heath Bunting, _readme (1998)
---- text about him turned into a hypertext, each word of the text was linked to a company's website with that name
---- critique of privatizing/commercializing of public space:
when started in 1998, a lot of these links didn't lead anywhere, while in 2001, most of these domainnames were actually in use.
---- also critique of information or what information is, is a too much of information still valuable?

-- Cornelia Sollfrank, "female extensions", 1997
---- net art generator: http://net.art-generator.com/
---- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/interview-florian-cramer-cornelia.html
-------- "Female Extensions" done for Hamburg exhibition on net art in 1997 ("Extension": from the 280 submissions, 2/3 were sent in by women, all of these by Cornelia Sollfrank under different names. Her software made net art out of footage found on the web,
reeassembled html-code by her "Net Art Generator" --> collages, tactical intervention

-- jodi.org
---- 1995: http://wwwwwwwww.jodi.org/
---- creating and mimicking computer glitches, crashes, viruses
---- source code layer offers a different view of the artwork, f.e. ASCII code that the brwser tries to interpret
---- art is crawling iinside your computer, happens in someone else's computer
---- Mark Tribe: "Clicking past the home page led to screen upon screen of digital detritus: fragments of pixellated images, blinking text, animations gone awry. Upon exploring the rest of the site, it quickly became clear that the first page of scrambled text was not an error, but rather an intentional display of one of the Internet's fundamental aesthetic properties: the glitch.", "Jodi.org can be seen as a formalist investigation of the intrinsic characteristics of Internet as a medium. But jodi.org operates on a conceptual level as well. In addition to experiments in glitch aesthetics, there is also a bomb in the source code, a hidden message to those in the know. Artist Sol LeWitt described Conceptual art as work in which "all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."
---- Mark Tribe: "enact a deconstruction of the medium, playfully exploiting bugs to produce disconcerting experiences of technology."

#3 h: exhibiting and collecting net.art

-- Whitney Artport, Christiane Paul

-- http://prehysteries.blogspot.com/2008/07/christiane-paul-public.html

---- Golan Levin, "AxisApplet", 2002

- turbulence.org
-- Joe-Anne Green and Helen Thorington, Boston
-- started in 1997
-- commissioned projects

#04: books

- Marc C. Marino about Software Studies

- Matthew Fuller, "Software Studies: A Dictionary", MIT Press, 2008

- Lev Manovich, "Software takes Control", 2008
download from: http://lab.softwarestudies.com/2008/11/softbook.html (pdf - without footnotes, doc - with footnotes)

- Casey Reas, Ben Fry, "Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists", MIT Press, 2007

- Read_Me Festival Readers:
- http://www.m-cult.org/read_me/reader.php
- Olga Goriunova, Alexej Shulgin, "Read Me: Software Art and Cultures", Aarhus University Pres, 2004

- Nettime, "Readme!
ASCII Culture and the Revenge of Knowledge", Autonomedia, 1999

- McKenzie Wark, "A Hacker Manifesto":

#05: video

- criticalartware interview with Alexej Shulgin:

#06: further reading:

Inke Arns, "Read_me, run_me, execute_me", 2004

- Florain Cramer, Ulrike Gabriel, "Software Art", 2001:

- software studies lab @ UCSD: Lev Manovich, Noah Wardrip-Fruin et.al

- Ars Electronica 2003, "Code"

- Xerox PARC

- Lev Manovich on net.art:
>> Lev Manovich (media theoretician, author of “Language of New Media):
"The experiences of East and West structure how new media is seen in both places."29 - "For a Western artist, [...] interactivity is a perfect vehicle both to represent and promulgate ideals of democracy and equality; for a post-communist, it is yet another form of manipulation, in which artists use advanced technology to impose their totalitarian wills on the people. Further, Western media artists usually take technology absolutely seriously, despairing when it does not work; post-communist artists, on the other hand, recognize that the nature of technology is that it does not work, that it will necessarily break down. Having grown up in a society where truth and lie, reality and propaganda always go hand in hand, the post-communist artist is ready to accept the basic truisms of life in an information society (spelled out in Claude Shannon's mathematical theory of communication): that every signal always contains some noise; that signal and noise are qualitatively the same; and that what is noise in one situation can be signal in another."

#07: sources of / for artistic software:
- processing.org
- runme.org

#08: movie
"Hackers", 1995 (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113243/)

No comments:

>> recommended books

  • Richard Barbrook - Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to the Global Village
  • Fred Turner - From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism
  • Howard Rheingold, Tools for Thought, MIT Press, 2000 or online: http://rheingold.com/texts/tft/index.html
  • Oliver Grau - MediaArtHistories
  • Oliver Grau - Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion
  • Neil Spiller, Cyber Reader: Critical Writings for the Digital Era. Phaidon Press, 2002
  • Stephen Wilson - Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology: Intersections of Art, Science and Technology
  • Gene Youngblood - Expanded Cinema
  • Ruth Leavitt - Artist and Computer
  • Jasia Reichardt - The Computer in Art
  • Jasia Reichardt - Robots. Fact, Fiction and Prediction
  • Herbert Franke - Computer Graphics, Computer Art
  • Frieder Nake - Ästhetik als Informationsverarbeitung: Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informatik im Bereich ästhetischer Produktion und Kritik (Hardcover)
  • Norbert Wiener - Cybernetics
  • Claus Pias - Cybernetics - Kybernetik 2. The Macy-Conferences 1946-1953
  • Jasia Reichardt, Cybernetic serendipity: The computer and the arts, 1968
  • Catherine Morris, 9 Evenings Reconsidered, 2007
  • John Cage, Variations VII by John Cage: E.A.T. - 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering (1966) - DVD
  • Robert Rauschenberg: E.A.T. and ARTPIX: Open Score by Robert Rauschenberg (1966) - DVD
  • Noah Wardrip-Fruin - From Wagner to Multimedia
  • Erik Davis - TechGnosis: Myth, Magic + Mysticism in the Age of Information
  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun - New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader
  • R.L.Rutsky - High Techné: Art and Technology from the Machine Aesthetic to the Posthuman
  • Lev Manovich - The Language of New Media
  • Lev Manovich - Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database
  • Siegfried Zielinski - Variantology. On Deep Time. Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies
  • Siegfried Zielinski - Deep Time of New Media
  • Timothy Druckrey - Facing the Future. 20 years of Ars Electronica


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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.