Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Electric Sheep on Digg

Scott Draves responds to Digg's coverage of Electric Sheep.


Blogger Guido said...

The polemical equation of Code=Art, is wrong! Code isn´t art, because code is mostly written for completely instrumental reasons without an artistic intent or expression, and because art is not in the code, but in the social process that we call “artistic” and involves the social and cultural context of production and reception in which art forms are articulated. I would like to defend an understanding of art, that places art at the intersections of different social and political systems, where it dramatises this “friction”, where it expresses the beauty and the rawness of the most unlikely possibilities, where it makes strange the most familiar constructions of our culture. Art can thus do much more than illustrating, pleasing or screen-dressing our computers. And I believe that art using software as its main material, can also work in this direction and push the boundaries of our understanding of art in the age of digital computing.
The starting point of the debates about software and “artistic products by software” is the assumption that we have to take software seriously as a cultural “artfact” with a history, a sociology, and a culture. This never happens since and despite Guttenberg created the mobile printing types. A book is something to be written, not to be printed!
It is established by a sort of common sense that “softart” creates connections between data, machines and networks. By that, software, part of whose work is to investigate itself as software, can be understood as opening up a space for the reinvention of software by its own means. So, it´s not difficult to imagine what software is going to do for us during night-time, while we are sleeping. The first disaster/consequence of that is that the bohemian artist is gone. Artists can now go early in bed to count sheeps. What a boring life artists are going to have! They wake up next morning, and the sheep yard is plenty full of new young sheeps. You just have to select the best ones. The others you give to the factory were they are smashed and powder sheep´s soup is packed.
What we can easily glean is that software is embedded in social practices. This is why we can speak of the “dimension of culture” as the field in which software gets built and used, in which it operates and in which it gets developed; the software “environment”, it’s “ecology”, is of course technical, but by being technical it can (it must) also be social and political - in its production as well as in the fields of its application.
I understand the value of connecting human intelligence in a network, and if we apply a notion of collective intelligence then I am all in favor. The essence of my argumentation is that the cultural pattern of this software “environment” is articulated by art projects. I’m not saying that all art with digital media has to address the specifics of software, but I think that “Softart” should.
Software “is” a cultural technique because I believe that is a widely shared understanding of any artifact, whether technical or mechanical, which has no “original author”. Cultural techniques are the practices and applications that you can use everyday and can go from dinner manners and communication skills to the ability of programming your DVD or to set a span-filter in your E-Mail program to avoid messages from (un)certain people.
When talking about software and art, we have to speak about aesthetics – that is not very often done - that engages the value systems that inform our experience of art and our perceptions in general. Aesthetics is something hard to read. Must be the reason why it is so neglected. References have been made to the propositions of Fluxus, Conceptual Art and/or Net Art, each of which implies a set of assumptions about the ways in which to judge the artistic quality of artworks in our culture of deception.
My own idea of art practice, which I also bring to the field of software-based work, is opposed to bland visualisations and translations from one formal system to another. I understand the need for a kind of software formalism in an early period of exploring the material and formal specificities, but these are sketches which should not be considered as serious attempts of making art. I believe that we need a strong notion of what constitutes art, and we must argue about that. For me, art is about the transgression of boundaries, about making familiar experiences strange, about dramatizing what is seen like “innocent”, and about exploring the boundaries of technologies and human relationships.
Let me say that the bad humour I am putting forward here is not a claim for taking the fun out of art; to the contrary, I belive that art projects relate to or express their cultural environment in very restrained or benign, at times even banalising ways. This is not only an issue in software-based art, but for art practice in general - it often tends to be affirmative of the technology, uncritical of its corporate politics and superficial in its aesthetics formulations and expressions. Where is the desire for excess in software-based art?

1/03/2007 3:06 PM

Blogger Philip Northover said...

Well, it's up to him whether he wants to reply to his critics or not but I don't see the point. Anyone who doesn't like what he's doing can get lost! Er, satiate their artistic needs elsewhere ;-) Although yes, there can be propaganda value in keeping a controversy going.

@guido, I'd say code can be art when it's well written. Doesn't matter if the only audience is a few other programmers most of whom wont appreciate what they're seeing anyway. As for code which produces images, I suspect most people are more interested in the images than the code.

I'm beginning to think that art can be all things to all people. You seem to see it in a more aggressive way than me.

The loss of the bohemian individual making art is interesting. Art collaborations can work very well but I doubt if a collaboration would improve on, or even come close, to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Indeed, if you accept the restorers as collaborators, some think the restorations screwed up the master's work!

1/05/2007 12:04 PM

Blogger Guido said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/05/2007 4:29 PM

Blogger Guido said...

Philip, I a m not making critics to a specific technique some artist can have as a tool for own expression. I am not even opening a debate in favor or against specific works of art. I use to understand art as a reflection over reality and/even over the proposals of "Art" itself. But despite such a “proposition” I hope haven't given the impression that I am against art that don’t challenges the viewer. Isn´t that contradictory? Not at all since I consider that subjectivity (still) has an important rule on art creation when experiencing one another’s “truth” – although artists do not create art based on truth - but mainly based on. passions. For me Art has the proposal to change something – including the visual reference to what is right or not, to what is beautiful or not – to change not merely our aesthetic attitudes, but mainly our lives.
I am sure anyone touched by art, music, dance, or literature, has a special aesthetic experience tinged by the prick of the conscience -the moments when their assumptions were overturned. I believe that art through perpetual challenge and shock will lead to the progressive humanization of individuals and society. But I should not be taken to indicate that non-challenging forms of artistic activity do not count. The most naive thing about us (artists) today, is that we think only some of us can make sense of the world. If we are really honest with ourselves we would see that nothing makes any sense. .
An art critic once wrote that if art is whatever an artist says it is, then it can be nothing else. At a time when there would seem to be little consensuses about what art is, or what it’s for, the consequences for our understanding of aesthetical and technological limits are note enough of its importance, both to art and to people. This guideline for judging art may not be as affective for everyone; however, for me it has seemed to allow the most subjectivity to come into play in judging a work of art. This is important because I believe, and will always hold as a belief, that art, no matter what the form, is subjective. Art, music, dance, literature, cinema, theatre are not sciences even though there are those who will find a scientific equation to explain how each one works. The core, the roots of each, in my opinion, comes from the subjective and personal aspect of human beings. Without this aspect, art, music, and literature seem to me like signs of meaningless.

1/05/2007 4:59 PM

Blogger Philip Northover said...

Hi Guido,

"art is whatever an artist says it is"

The better artists are usually correct. If I don't appreciate it, that's my loss :-). As you say, this is a matter of individual subjectivity and judgement.

"signs of meaningless"

One theory of art is that it's a luxury, ie. not necessary for physical survival. In that sense, art is meaningless.

1/06/2007 11:57 AM


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