Andreas referenced the Reena Jana text in Wired.com. I organized the
recent panel and performance event called "Artists and their Software" that
Reena's text references, and so this month's topic strikes me as
The event went very well. A comment from the audience, however, stuck out
as something that seems to be a central shortcoming. Many choose to look
at the coding and the programming and the "how to" aspects of
art-as-software, often overlooking the immensely fertile territory that can
be addressed through a broader look at the phenomenon: why is it important?
What implications do this trend have on our general understanding of what
art-making is all about? How do the values/strategies/principles that
art-as-software maintain affect the way in which artists and audiences
understand art? Many more broad questions come to mind: why are artists
attracted to software? How does their awareness of software, and its
availability, influence their art-making strategies? How do institutions
need to respond to this growing interest? Is incorporating software nothing
more than a technology fetish? More specific concerns can arise: what
happens to "improvisation"? How is the notion of chance incorporated in
this type of art? What happens to the "aura"? What are the boundaries of
software as an art-making medium? How can artists involve their audiences
with software? Can one talk about software-generated art as ever being
"finished"? Do software artists have to be programmers? What is the social
life of software?
The algorithm seems to replace the creative will of the artist, in many
cases. This is exciting to me not because it is technologically marvelous,
but because of what this implies in how the artist and the audience
understand each other.
Software is a set of rules. It is the grammar within which a vocabulary of
computer code makes sense. As British sociologist Anthony Giddens has
pointed out, we understand our reality as already existing and seek to
write scenarios that allow us to act out a role within that reality. The
software seems to be the scenario, but it relies on users to act it out.
What makes software come alive is precisely its social life: how these set
of instructions are interpreted and enacted. And understanding this
process of interpretation, of behavior, can fill up pages and pages.
I look forward to more postings this month... thank you!
Director of Education and Public Programs
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center
22-25 Jackson Ave
Long Island City, NY 11101
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