Joseph Franklyn McElroy Cor[porat]e [Per]form[ance] Art[ist] on Thu, 25 Apr 2002 15:44:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> un-plugged-in digest [sawad, fahey, napier]

Quoting nettime's_api <>:

>I also think that many non-artist programmers would resist referring to 
>Flash as a programming language. Well, they would giggle. Programmers tend 
>to think of C/C++, Fortran, Basic, Java as their materials. To be sure, 
>there is a bravura at work there. Programmers tend to work with programming 
>systems or libraries in order to create their applications, but Flash still 
>seems very much tied to the development environment Macromedia sells. 

Having started on Qbasic in the 70's (i was a very young prodigy), munched on 
hexadecimal dumps and machine code during the 80's, baptized in C and VB in the 
90's and now feasting on Java and Actionscript in 00's I think that I can say 
that Actionscript is programming.  Any programmer (or paper writer) that 
disagrees can meet me at the next Iron-man competition where we will duke it 
out to determine the winner. We will get Howard Stern to broadcast it live.  As 
for being trapped by environments - that only happens to the kids - there are 
always strategies for migration or emulation.  All this might change, but 
currently nothing can trap you but time. 

Joseph Franklyn McElroy 
Cor[porat]e [Per]form[ance] Art[ist]
Electric Hands, Inc
Electrify your sales, Electrify your Mind

Quoting nettime's_api <>:

> Re: <nettime> GENERATION FLASH  (3A / 3) 
>      Sawad <>
>      "Christopher Fahey [askrom]" <>
>      napier <>
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> Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 14:58:19 -0400
> From: Sawad <>
> Subject: Re: <nettime> GENERATION FLASH  (3A / 3) 
> >A software artist re-uses the language of modernist abstraction and design
> ­
> >lines and geometric shapes, mathematically generated curves and outlined
> >color fields ­ to get away from figuration in general, and cinematographic
> >language of commercial media in particular. Instead of photographs and
> clips
> >of films and TV, we get lines and abstract compositions. In short, instead
> >of QuickTime, we use Flash. Instead of computer as a media machine ­ a
> >vision being heavily promoted by computer industry (and most clearly
> >articulated by Apple who promotes a MAC as a ³digital hub² for other media
> >recording / playing devices), we go back to computer as a programming
> >machine.
> >
> >Programming liberates art from being secondary to commercial media. The
> >similar reason may be behind the recent popularity of ³sound art.² While
> >commercial media now uses every possible visual style, commercial sound
> >environments still have not appropriated all of sound space. While rock
> and
> >roll, hip-hop, and techno have already become standard elevator music (at
> >least in more hip elevators such as the Hudson Hotel in NYC), it seems
> that
> >the rhythm-less regions of sound space are still untouched ­ at least for
> >now.
> Lev,
> I don't know that programming is as liberatory as is stated here. If 
> anything, programming holds the possibility of involving one in a different
> set of relations to product(ion), as well as to a different class of 
> worker. I've made some references to this other relation elsewhere.
> Mentioning Flash already seems to undermine this libertine vision you want 
> to advance. Although the Flash spec were released by Macromedia a few years
> ago, and is considered "open," as far as I understand it people working 
> with Flash are still very much using the tools provided by a Macromedia. I 
> have seen very limited software libraries written in Java and C (one by 
> Paul Haberli) which allow C programmers (and at some point Java programmers
> too) to create Flash-generated imagery on-the-fly from within their C 
> programs, but I get the sense that this type of programming is not what you
> mean when you talk about Flash. Flash remains essentially "media," as you 
> define it, much as Quicktime. I don't think that scripting separates it 
> from being so. For that matter, some "programming" is also possible using 
> Quicktime. In many ways, for programmers, Quicktime is much more useful 
> because Apple provides an extensive C library through which to access its 
> functionality, which extends far beyond making digital videos. In fact, 
> what is so interesting about Quicktime is that it is not old-media (film, 
> video, sound) specific. Rather, in many ways it is more of a protocol for 
> creating, playing, and delivering *time-based information*. In theory, one 
> can do much more with Quicktime than what artists have tended to use it 
> for. This is not simply a limitation of Quicktime, but of artists as well. 
> Mostly of artists and the systems within which they learn. Anyway, one can 
> also access Quicktime from within Java, as Apple has made a set of classes 
> for doing that easily: Quicktime for Java. I am not defending Quicktime, 
> simply pointing out some problematic issues in the distinctions you are 
> making between programming and media.
> I also think that many non-artist programmers would resist referring to 
> Flash as a programming language. Well, they would giggle. Programmers tend 
> to think of C/C++, Fortran, Basic, Java as their materials. To be sure, 
> there is a bravura at work there. Programmers tend to work with programming
> systems or libraries in order to create their applications, but Flash still
> seems very much tied to the development environment Macromedia sells.
> Furthermore, this issue of liberation through programming seems somewhat 
> more Romantic than it needs to be. One of the linguistic issues which 
> programming languages have made so apparent is the citational dimension of 
> all languages, be they social, mathematical, or programmatic. "A software 
> artist re-uses the language of modernist abstraction and design ­
> lines and geometric shapes ...." Similarly, programmers very often learn to
> program by copying and modifying other programs and, on a more abstract 
> level, algorithms. (Beth Stryker and I delivered a paper earlier this year 
> at CAA in Philadelphia which sketched out some relations between 
> programming algorithms and notions of space and representation in general.)
> Advanced programmers use these same techniques. They also utilize software 
> libraries (talked about earlier in the case of Quicktime) which contain 
> code which can be referenced ("called") from within one's (own) code. In 
> other words, programmers are always already indebted to other programmers. 
> The whole GNU project depends on this structure of debt. I don't disagree 
> that there is an element of liberation to be studied here, but it is not a 
> simple one, and certainly not one that is merely oppositional.
> While it is true that Flash currently is implemented upon a vector-based 
> set of routines, your use of its attributes to characterize all software 
> art is simply synecdoche.
> "A software artist re-uses the language of modernist abstraction and design
> ­
> lines and geometric shapes, mathematically generated curves and outlined
> color fields ­ to get away from figuration in general, and cinematographic
> language of commercial media in particular. Instead of photographs and
> clips
> of films and TV, we get lines and abstract compositions. In short, instead
> of QuickTime, we use Flash."
> There is no reason that software art cannon use/create "images" in the 
> narrowly defined sense of "pictures," or any other form we identify from 
> our experiences with so-called old-media. Through software one can create 
> images or effect any number of sensuous phenomena. Your position vis-a-vis 
> the "modernism" effected by the Flash protocol, which is designed to 
> deliver compressed animation over relatively narrow bandwidth seems to me 
> mistakes technological limitations for an iconoclastic morality.
> Sawad
> >To return to the topic of new modernism. Of course we don't want to simply
> >replay Mondrian and Klee on computer screens. The task of the new
> generation
> >is to integrate the two paradigms of the twentieth century: (1) belief in
> >science and rationality, emphasis on efficiency, basic forms, idealism and
> >heroic spirit of modernism; (2) skepticism, interest in ³marginality² and
> >³complexity,² deconstructive strategies, baroque opaqueness and excess of
> >post-modernism (1960s-). At this point all the features of the second
> >paradigm became tired clichés. Therefore a return to modernism is not a
> bad
> >first step, as long as it is just a first step towards developing the new
> >aesthetics for the new age.
> >
> >PART 3B will be posted shortly.]
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> From: "Christopher Fahey [askrom]" <>
> Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 17:36:00 -0400
>   I agree with Eryk that NN/m9ndfukc/nato epitomizes the "software
> artist" to a certain extent, but there are several mitigating factors I
> would like to add to this discussion:
>   FIRST, programming is hard work! The "individual-artist-genius" model
> of art criticism is hard to apply to Manovich's vision of this new
> "software artist" creature simply because programming is commonly done
> by more than one person. While individual artists like Praystation or
> Golan Levin may often work individually, we are increasingly seeing
> software artwork produced collaboratively. Multi-artist collaborations
> (like Alex Galloway's Carnivore collaborations) and murky artist
> collectives (the excellent c404) are able to produce works greater than
> the sum of their parts - also, they can frequently achieve greater name
> recognition as a group than as one person. It is widely believed that
> NN/m9ndfukc/nato may be at least five different people, any one of whom
> might have a hard time achieving that kind of notoriety by themselves.
> The amount of labor and specialized skill it takes to produce certain
> kinds of software artworks is comparable to the labor in making a film
> or a building. And like with films, it is often impossible to attribute
> the artistic vision of a single person to the final digital product. 
>   This "collaborative model" borders on a kind of "corporate model". Jon
> Ippolito recently advocated that digital artists should give up on
> making money as artists and keep their "day jobs". I would extend that
> idea even further to say that the production of software art is so
> similar to the production of commercial digital products that the two
> modes benefit from close proximity. It is not uncommon to find that
> digital artists have day jobs working for digital companies, or to find
> artists who actually OWN or are principals of a commercial enterprise
> closely linked to their artistic production (examples include
>, and even my own comparatively staid
> Increasingly we are seeing artists who
> do not hide their day jobs from the art world, who are not embarrassed
> by their day jobs - and these artists tend to be digital artists.
>   This is not to say that I exactly buy into the McElroy model of
> marketing artwork as a corporate product (to me his position often reads
> like a parody of the artist's aversion to corporate thinking), but I do
> agree that the separation of art and commerce is unnecessarily
> artificial and does not lend itself well to the production of software
> artworks of any level of complexity above D.I.Y. 
>   I do not think that complexity=quality, but I do know that many
> artists (like myself) have dreams and visions of building artworks that
> are simply beyond the ability of a single person to realistically
> complete. While this has always been true for many art
> practices(fabricators and artists assistants are common even among plain
> ol' oil painters), it is particularly true for digital artists who
> cannot specialize in every digital production tool in the world. Someday
> we may have digital artists with their own (paid) programming staffs in
> much the same way a Nam June Paik likely has a nice little staff of
> fabricators and video technicians. 
>   This also ties quite closely with Ippolito's advocating that artists
> employ the General Public License method of copyright/patent-free
> production. The GPL itself was born out of the idea that building
> software products *requires* large teams of people: If a large team of
> developers is producing something just for fun, then they at least need
> some assurance that one of the members of the team won't just take the
> whole product and sell it as their own. The GPL allows development teams
> to form without worrying about who is the real "owner". And online
> source control systems like CVS provide the infrastructure for
> developers to work as close-knit virtual teams without stepping on each
> other's toes and without corporate management.
>   While I find the collaborative model more politically interesting than
> the "single-auteur-genius-with-a-staff-of-technical-assistants" model, I
> would also give my left arm to have five hotshit programmers working for
> me building my most elaborate ideas. 
>   SECOND, I think that "software artwork" needs to be subdivided
> somewhat. I think the net/not-net debate is less important than the
> interactive/non-interactive debate. We are living in a moment where we
> see an increasing number of artist-programmers whose work manifests as
> either "Autonomous Algorithm" or "Interactive Experience". 
>   "Autonomous Algorithm" describes a work that is entirely
> self-contained, where the software is executed and it does its thing
> regardless of what any human audience does to or with it. This category
> includes a wide variety of works, from 'artificial life' applications to
> automated data visualization systems to even plain old fashioned video
> and film and performance. Actions occur over time according to a
> pre-arranged plan. The plan may be simple, as is the case with a video,
> or it may be very complex, influenced by intricate algorithms,
> dynamically scraped data, random seeds, etc. Such works often have some
> interactivity to allow the user to browse through the product or change
> perspectives, but this interaction is not critical to the overall
> concept.
>   "Interactive Experience" includes everything from mouse-following
> Flash toys to Playstation games. In such a product, the interactivity is
> central to the experience. The user is invited to be involved, and the
> artist's intention/emotion/message is communicated through the user's
> actions and decisions. The experience can be physically immersive,
> visceral, or tactile... or it can be psychologically immersive or
> suspenseful. 
>   I am essentially trying to make a distinction between experiences that
> are meant to be *seen*and those that are meant to be *used*. 
>   It is my feeling that the Interactive Experience model is the only
> truly new art form because it alone introduces a fundamentally new and
> different kind of experience to humanity. Browsing and clicking freely
> from page to page on a web site and seeing different pictures,
> animations, and texts only scratches the surface of what interactive
> artworks really can be. Browsing, in fact, is not even the same as using
> or playing. AutoIllustrator and NATO, or Quake III and Grand Theft Auto
> II, are qualitatively different kinds of things from most web sites -
> they invite the user to stop being a viewer and to start forming goals
> and plans entirely within the context of the app/game. They involve a
> mental transformation, a mode change in the mind. They ask the user to
> invest a bit of their own consciousness into the machine's
> protoconsciousness, to put a stake in what the program does next. 
>   Just as experiencing traditional media is different from experiencing
> unmediated real life (this difference is disappearing in our
> media-saturated world, but this was not the case 100 years ago when
> seeing a movie was a jarring experience), experiencing interactive media
> is different from traditional media in a fundamental phenomenological
> way.
> -Cf
> [christopher eli fahey]
> art:
> sci:
> biz:
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> Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 00:16:06 -0400
> From: napier <>
>  >>> Lev Manovich wrote:
> >Thirty years of media art and post-modernism have inevitably led to a
> >reaction. We are tired of always taking existing media as a starting
> point.
> >We are tired of being always secondary, always reacting to what already
> >exists.
> >
> >Enter a software artist ­ the new romantic. Instead of working exclusively
> >with commercial media ­ and instead of using commercial software ­
> software
> >artist marks his/her mark on the world by writing the original code.
> An interesting term: "original code".  Is this:
>          machine language (binary)
>          assembly language
>          BIOS calls
>          OS API calls
>          C, C++
>          Java
>          Flash Actionscript, Lingo
>          HTML, DHTML, Javascript, Perl
> A programmer can code in any one of these.  What distinguishes hard-core 
> coding from soft-core is the level of access to features.  To an assembly 
> level programmer Java is a lightweight language, but to an HTML programmer 
> Java is hard-core coding.  The more power, flexibility and control a 
> language provides, the more we think of the language as "original code".
> Is IOD "original" code (written in Lingo, the programming language of 
> Shockwave -- a commercial product).  Is Netomat "original" (where screens 
> are generated by a scripting language that is built on XML and 
> Java).  These authors of these works have found a point in the technology 
> where they can accomplish their goals.  IOD could be implemented inside the
> browser, using Perl, GIF images and Javascript.  Is this less a product of 
> code than the same piece written in Lingo?
> >Programming liberates art from being secondary to commercial media.
> As much as I'd like to believe this...
> Progamming may produce new forms outside of commercial media, but 
> programming puts the artist into new relationships with other existing 
> forms.  If I dabble in 3D rendering then my work could be competing with 
> Pixar, Toy Story, and Shrek.  Can I accomplish what teams of Silicon 
> Graphics programmers can pull off?  No, but that's not my role as an
> artist.
> A low tech example: Is an rtmark sabotage secondary to the corporate image 
> being sabotaged?  The two are certainly related, and the sabotage can be 
> seen as a reaction to the corporation.  But this sort of action has it's 
> own presence as well, it's own aesthetic impact, that relies on leveraging 
> existing forms, much as software artists leverage existing forms.
> Artists look for leverage points in the technology.  Flash is one such 
> point, where powerful features are available with relatively little 
> effort.  Comparatively, Java has lagged behind in usage because of it's 
> steeper learning curve, despite being versatile, powerful, and an early 
> standard in browsers.
> There is a prejudice that a downloadable EXE is "real software", maybe 
> because it appears to be more like the corporate software products we're 
> familiar with.  Yet this is a 1980's approach to software.  For years 
> software has been breaking into pieces that can talk to one another through
> specialized programming interfaces.  Today the browser is an engine that 
> can be embedded in email clients, Word documents, and 
> spreadsheets.  Software components provide services to other software 
> components, and languages frequently become the glue that connects 
> pre-fabricated components together.
> To use these powerful and complex tools the software artist has to find 
> ways to create maximum impact with relatively little coding.  Very few 
> artists have access to a team of eager programmers.  And many artists are 
> unwilling to invest the time to learn low level languages like C, given the
> inevitable dent it will make in the time they spend on aesthetic issues.
> The artist has to decide where they will operate within this structure of 
> interdependent software.  HTML is a form of high-level code that instructs 
> the browser environment, much as Java can instruct the Windows OS, or 
> assembly code can instruct a chip.  All of these code forms require 
> investment of learning time, and provide access to features of the 
> computer.  The question is not "does the artist write code".   The question
> is: how much leverage does the artist get from their knowledge.  What is 
> the bang-for-the-buck of HTML vs. Java, or C++.
> What this means, though, is that the artist never completely "rolls their 
> own" software.  The artist never gets back to the world of pigment, oil and
> canvas.  In the medium of software, there is always interdependence.  Even 
> suppose that I find a team of C programmers that are happy to code low 
> level graphics routines for me, then I become dependent on that team, still
> a far cry from the romantic image of a solitary studio painter.
> My role as an artist is to crack open the technology and find the humanity 
> at work under the tech veneer.  If I can do that with a Perl script, then I
> will.  When that form is too limiting, then I turn to Java.  But any tool I
> use requires that I work in relationship to other tools, environments, 
> products and media.
> mark
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