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

Marc Lavallée odradek at videotron.ca
Fri Dec 5 17:42:59 CET 2003

Hello Ian.

On Thu, Dec 04, 2003 at 06:40:07AM -0700, 0 wrote:

> I think that trying to define whether code is art is impossible. 
> Duchamp proved that anything can be art, dependent only on the intention 
> of an artist. So of course code can be art, but it isn't necesarily.

So there: you defined that code can be art.

> a method of translating human thought an attention to computers, 
> whose main strength and purpose is to process huge amounts of data 
> very rapidly. 

Computers have no attention and don't care.
People who program and use computers should care.

> The ultimate goal of programming languages, for me, is to bridge the gap 
> between human and computer modes of communication. 

Computers are not communicating. 
Humans are, sometimes through the use of computers.

> I would hope that eventually computers will do the work of understanding 
> human beings, rather human beings having to learn computer languages -- 

Humans can barely understand each others, and computers have no ways to
understand. It is a faculty of intelligence, not a fancy algorithm.
Artificial intelligence is the one that makes some of us believe computers
can or should be equal or superior to humans.

> I'm in favor of computers doing the hard work. 

I'm in favor of humans getting a hold on their lifes, even more regarding
hard work. We should not surrender knowledge of computing, and make sure
it is widely accepted and public. Computers are tools: we know about them,
not them about us.

Computer languages were all designed by humans for humans, not for
machines by machines. Computers have no personaes, they're not like
individuals that we can enslave. Computers are machines, and we are 
completely in charge when using them. We are responsible.

> This way computer and information related art becomes accesible to 
> everyone, rather than being the elitest and arcane field it is now.

And which arcane elit will bring us this magic?

> I think PD is an important step in bridging the gap between computer 
> and human methods of communication. PD is one step above an actual 
> programming language, lowering the learning curve considerably.

PD is a different programming language... It makes us think in a certain
way. PD can be above other programming languages, but not in all

> For me, the art that is created with a PD media installation isn't the
> installation itself, but what the audience does with it.

"Static" art, as opposed to interactive art, also allow people to do what
they want, but in their heads... What's fun about interactive art is the
fake dialog between the machine and the user. Installations are art works,
but with an audience that sometimes interact artistically.

> Thus the code isn't the material, PD isn't the material, what I create 
> with PD and code is the material that the audience uses to create art. 

You're giving too much credit to the audience; they are mostly looking,
even when interacting. Creation takes time and reflexion. Most
installations are like gadgets that the audience play with, not really
create, although some interactive experiences can induce artistic ideas.

> But I will admit that I do perceive what I create at each step is also 
> a kind of art, as is PD, as is the syntax of the programming language 
> itself 

Art is the result of expressing specific ideas. The artsy feeling we get
when using fancy tools is the satisfaction of understanding, using and
creating. These steps are like tiny "art units", but "Art" mostly happens
before and after using tools, to create works that we can share with

> Commercial art is still art, it just works on a different aesthetic. 

It's called "Industrial Design". It's the art of embedding devices into
plastic shells adapted to local cultures.

> Denying the art used to write ProTools, 3DStudio, Photoshop and other 
> genius commercial programs, is denying Andy Warhol and his ideas of pop 
> art. 

Lipton C++? Neo-Dadaism programming? Sure, people use what they have to
create, but those genius tools are not own by their users. We can go a
step further and build our tools, on a individual and collective level.

> I won't argue that computer art has entirely depended on things like 
> Photoshop, but I definitely believe that computer art would be in a very 
> different place today if Photoshop had never existed. 

Photoshop is one incarnation of similar commercial or free software. Adobe
have no moral right on image manipulation, even if they say so. Our world
would be similar without Photoshop; the application would be called
"Digital Calotype" or "The Gimp"...

> Just because it is commercial doesn't mean that it is not art. 

Commercial art is designed to be sold "en masse"; this is the art of
consumerism. It strongly shapes our collective culture.

> Just because The Adventures of Monkey Island or Doom, were sold for 
> money, doesn't mean they weren't great pieces of computer art, and 
> very influential on the world of computer art. 

Very influential. Quake3 -> Virtual World of Art
(http://www.workspace-unlimited.org/). This project is based on a
commercial game, but is possible because of free software. 
This is a good example of pop art.

> Even without us being able to tear them apart and look at their code, 
> they are still valid works of pop art. 

Commercial art is made to invalidate non-commercial art, and also itself
because of over-exposure. It is nihilistic and addictive, to make people
hate art and accept what they're forced to look at, listen to, read, and
use, until it doesn't work anymore, so they can buy "new" art.

That's why sampling and recuperation became so important, because people
need to deconstruct and reshape things.  Commercial art always recreate
the same things, and creators always deconstruct those same things, hoping
to create something else. There's joy in repetition.

> Sometimes an artist, for whatever reason, 
> wants to keep his/her methods secret ( http://www.4dart.com ).

I don't believe art has more value when artistic processes are kept
secret. I know about "holovideography", and I enjoyed Anima. I used it for
an interactive installation before I saw Anima, and I don't think I stole
4dart and others that explained me this old trick.

> Would you argue that, because you cannot know exactly how Van Gogh used 
> his brushes, his works are not art? So Micro$oft can be

I prefer to know that I can build my own brushes and use them in any ways,
not the Van Gogh or the M$ way. I might never take the opportunity to
build tools and/or create art myself, but I'm concerned about those

> Just a thought or two.

Thanks Ian.

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