[PD] Re:[PD][OT] code as material, or is it more...

Marc Lavallée odradek at videotron.ca
Thu Dec 4 05:37:16 CET 2003

On Wed, Dec 03, 2003 at 04:48:07PM -0700, thewade wrote:

> Code for me is a more compleate way to communicate idea, 
> and to develop idea.

Art can be done through any medium, including programming, as long as
your target audience can understand ideas expressed through this specific
medium. So let's talk about code as art.

Programmers can read and understand "nice" code, but there's a lot of
beautiful code that says nothing. Esthetics is not enough to be art in
itself. The medium is not the message.  For me, art should be "political"
as much as beautiful. Code per se is not artistic, but it can express
artistic ideas. Free software, for example, can be artistic, partly
because of its agenda, and because we can appreciate ideas expressed
through human readable code.

Proprietary software is not artistic: it's like a recording that you
"play" over and over, ad nauseam. (We forgot a lot of rock bands because
they were boring "one shot deals"). A proprietary software can be used to
express and recreate artistic ideas, but it cannot be a work of art in
itself, unless you're kinky enough to appreciate assembler code that can't
be modified without being accused of felony...

There's no osmosis between code and the art it can support. I have worked
enough with artists to understand that software and machines are not
considered artistic when used to create art. Programmers abused by artists
are not artists. Maybe working "with" artists makes a difference, but I
don't believe it's very significant, only more cheerful.

> I just think code is more than material. 

It's not much different, except that the ideas expressed by code can live
in different materials. Good copies of famous paintings usually have the
same impact than the originals. Software are easier to copy, but only
free software can become works of art because we can read, understand and
reinterpret it.

Code is not more than material. Velasquez did his stuff the right way.  
Coding a Velasquez painting would not bring "more", although it could be
beautiful. The more I see Siggraph demos, for example, the more I get
bored, because the emphasis is on the beauty of techniques expressed
through code, not the message expressed on the screen. Sometimes we get
both fabulous techniques and meaningful messages, but Art exists when a
message is not blurred by its beautiful technique. That's why "ugly" and
conceptual art can be so strong: because there's no beautiful technique.

PD is for me a work of art; I don't really care how it's being used, but
since art can be created with the help of PD, it makes it even more
interesting, not more artistic. I used PD for automation more than art,
and for the joy of programming.


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