[PD] Re: Code Art

B. Bogart ben at ekran.org
Sat Dec 6 18:33:12 CET 2003

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mathieu Bouchard" <matju at sympatico.ca>
To: "B. Bogart" <ben at ekran.org>
Cc: "thewade" <pdman at aproximation.org>; "the list" <pd-list at iem.kug.ac.at>;
"Pall Thayer" <palli at pallit.lhi.is>
Sent: Saturday, December 06, 2003 4:54 AM
Subject: Code Art

> On Wed, 3 Dec 2003, B. Bogart wrote:
> > Is code the next art, or the next material?
> Yes. :-]
> > I think the argument that the material is what is most important in
> > art has had its time.
> That is the survival meme of conceptual art?

I suppose we have been popping back and forth between material
and conceptual supremacy. In my own art education concept has
tended to be the emphasis, with material asethetics there to "complete"
the package.

In my own work I find it more and more difficult to seperate the "material"
(bits? algorithms? electrons? phosphors? ICs?) from the "concept". I think
its probably my abandoning of black and white logic for a more fuzzy

> On Wed, 3 Dec 2003, Pall Thayer wrote:
> > You can't argue against the fact that the material has a very large
> > impact on the outcome of a work of art. But no, code is not art. No
> > more so than paint or canvas.
> What is considered art has changed tremendously along the years, and the
> purposes of art have changed accordingly. Furthermore, what is considered
> art is contextual to who you do ask. The "average folk", for example, is
> unlikely to care walking into any gallery, and usually will prefer
> 15th-19th century painting to most of what has been done by (academic)
> artists in the 20th century. Then there are a bunch of "lesser" artists
> that are unappreciated by the "real" artists, yet sell a lot.
> In the light of this, it seems clear to me that in the context of the
> open-source programmers' community, (some) code may be art, though nearly
> all other communities won't understand it and may not call it art.
> > [code] is a new material with very new properties.
> Agreed.

Code is also a process (created by, and creating), something like a clay pot
fired as the artwork is being viewed.

> On Wed, 3 Dec 2003, thewade wrote:
> > Code has been around for years in the form of stories, or manual
> > tasks, for example knitting.
> I wouldn't call a story "code". However a recipe, a method for knitting or
> weaving, many things in the engineering corpus, any routine we set
> ourselves, etc, those may be considered algorithms.


> It's a pity that "computer science" is called like that when it could be
> called "computing science". Computing in general is something that can
> happen anywhere. Plants grow following algorithms.

Neil Postman said that "For a programmer, everything in the world becomes an

I've always hated that term, In fact I could not mind dropping the science
altogether, since its a little closer to engineering than science. (even
social sciences
are closer to natural sciences than computer science). It is very closely
tied to that
context of science of course (due to modeling below I imagine). How about
"computation art" - or perhaps "modeling science"... -> (Is there any
science that
does not use models?)

> Anecdote: Computer used to be a job, a noun for a person who compute. Then
> that job was the first cut by the advent of mechanical and electrical
> computers.

It is at the technical level still "computation" -> but is that not almost
anything? don't
reductionists think thought processes can be reduced to compuation? I think
conceptually (and I suppose phiosophically) computers actually model things,
on computation, but I think its the modeling part that is more meaningful
and significant
to computers.

> > I could intrepret material as medium:  then code is just the nex fad,
> > like capris pants or push-up bras... I think its more than that.
> Depends how large a category of medium you do consider. I mean, 16 mm film
> came to pass, but cinema still exists and is stronger than ever. The
> smaller categories are usually quite disposable as long as there is a
> sufficiently suitable replacement. The bigger categories are literally
> kinds of art with their own profoundly defining characteristics and an
> associated culture and language.

medium and material were interchangeable words before Mcluhan, still some
vestages left -- mixed media sculpture... I think the current understanding
that a media has its own context and makes a strong (or overwhelming)
contribution to the content (or makes it irrelevant). I do think material
just as much impact though.

> > I just think code is more than material. Its a sturcture and sometimes
> > a simple mind. But then again I like to think of us as more than the
> > material which comprises us...
> If humans are only made of matter, then the _miracle_ of life is that
> _mere_ matter is, in certain conditions, capable of selforganising to the
> point that it can reproduce its own pattern, acquire information from its
> environment, process that information, remember, affect its environment in
> extremely complex ways, and reflect upon its own thoughts and existence,
> just like the lump of matter I am now ;-)

Without structure the concept of "material" is meaningless.(except for the
case of noise as material) Without material the concept of the word
"structure" is meaningless. These things
are utterly inseperable, and to reduce to one or the other is just that, a

If matter + structure is all that is required to make a mind, then there is
certainly no reason
why a computer could not develop one.


> ________________________________________________________________
> Mathieu Bouchard                       http://artengine.ca/matju

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