Code is an exhibit of online art based or reliant upon programming where the artist is actively working with concepts of open source or willing to give away their source. Hopefully the exhibit will provide an accessible glimpse into a few contemporary ways of approaching code as art, and contribute to evolved approaches to hybrid methodologies which utilize mixtures of conceptual art and open-source philosophy while occasionally leveraging the strengths of proprietary foundations.
The primary curatorial desire was to support a diversity of approaches, to give a little support to artists who are giving away their art.
Knowledgeable observers may justifiably question the inclusion of proprietary software source files within an exhibit which uses the words open-source. Proprietary software is not open-source. It is impossible to equate proprietary software developed for profit with the beauty of open-source software developed for pleasure. But in actuality all major proprietary software has been cracked; therefore proprietary software is essentially free for non-commercial use in terms of sharing the source files. In addition hardware is far from open-source; languages are not open-source unless you have a frontal lobe capacity and time to learn it. For these reasons, I chose an inclusive (perhaps controversial) definition of open source; basically any web-based art where the source code (at some level of abstraction) is freely downloadable.
And what is code? Well under my freewheeling anti-rigourous theoretics, everything is code: DNA, narratives, images, assembly language, social customs. How do we define or find the source of such permeable interpenetrating subtle fields? How do we distinguish between open and closed sources ? Isn't ultimate openness synonymous with unity itself? Is it possible for a human being to find the 'source' of anything? This may seem trite in an era when the open-source movement has undeniably become a luminous exemplary node of creative resistance against the somewhat-cancerous instincts of copyright, patent and possession. But it still feels relevant to question the vanity of believing that 'sources' as we term them are anything more than abstractions or orifices or points of temporary stillness in the perpeptual flux of energy known as existence.
Concepts have been the theoretical food of artwork for decades. Concepts (perhaps implicit) provide modes of approaching work in a way that opens their potential for provoking intellectual ecstasy. What follows is an attempt to provide an accessible simple synopsis of the central conceptual vectors implemented by artists in this exhibit.
Ontological Ambiguity (David Bouchard) Increasingly identity is open-source, we are known to each other by how we google, by the info on our home pages, and due to the redundancy of names we are often confused or overlapped with others who share our names. Identity is therefore a construct; the group of people with the same name belong to a meta identity. David explores this superimposition of selves.
Satire (Amy Alexander). It might be misleading to reduce Amy’s work to a single conceptual vector, but she consistently demonstrates an ability to cleverly satirize canonical paradigms within software use and communities and keep us aware that behind all the posturing we are simply bodies who Scream….
Distributed modular narrative (bluescreen.net) Using cellphones to distribute a modular narrative that can only be read at specific place opens a large array of questions about how humans develop and digest stories.
Environmentalist AI Art Brut(Martin Howse) ap-2004 is as opaque and brutalist as mediaval alchemy. Both code and data are seen “as an environment” where different segments of code are given “autonomy and initiative…they are not strictly passive but nor are they classifiable as to an end result.”(Source: email correspondence with artist)
Genetics as Open Source (used by Stanza) exists at the interstice between performance art, bio-art and activist engagement. As cloning and patenting of lifeforms emerges, the sale and open-sourcing of our own DNA data evokes many questions concerning ownership.
Note: This is a very simplistic schemata, and may not be how the artist’s conceive of themselves. For more cohesive intimate analysis contact them or visit the blog where a discussion of open-source art is occuring in July 2005.
Language defines perceptual frames in computer culture as much as in society. So what follows is a short listing of the languages chosen by each participant.
Lingo (used by Amy Alexander) Lingo is a scripting language conventionally used within Macromedia’s Director. Amy has developed an executable file which uses the Lingo language but is built outside of Director in an open source project she calls Olly. In essence she has liberated the language from its proprietary parent in order to develop a project which is conceptually vigourous and severely iconoclasticly funny.
Linux and C (used by Martin Howse) These are the elder languages of open source. Linux was born 1991 as an open source OS which amalgamated the legendary GCC compiler of GNU Richard Stallman. ‘C’ was born in the early 1970’s. Martin Howse is developing a promiscuous OS which searches within itself and a network of linked computers to redisplay their entrails as webpages.