>Code is, as you know, the foundation of all computer communications, all
>interfaces and all digital representations. Code is like the genetic
>make up of the digital world and it is created by humans. I myself see
>code art as a specialized area in net art most of all. In it artists
>examine and experiment with the language people use to make computers do
>things. The term 'code' can however be perceived in a very broad sense,
>just like the term 'network'. There are dress codes, codes of behavior,
>social and political codes, just to name a few.
Arguing that code art is part of net art is clearly incorrect. As Josephine
says, code is what underlies all computer communications, and also all
computer applications. It is not dedicated to networks and there are many
artists for whom coding is the primary creative medium but are not working
with the net; all those artists out there doing interactive art, generative
art, etc. So, let's not see all digital art as a sub-set of net art...it
is, to use Josephines own heirarchical categorising taxonomy, rather the
other way around, with net art being a sub-genre of digital art.
I also think that it can be illuminating to use metaphors, such as
comparing computer code to genetics (suggesting that genes are bio-code)
but it is also dangerous. They should be used with great care and carefully
The point that code is made by humans...this is very important.
>I would suggest that neither of these labels 'net art' or 'code art'
>necessarily has anything to do with computers or electronic networks.
A very good point and one that can be developed further. If one goes back
to Turing's earliest experiments in computability you will find that the
earliest devices he was creating were manual (eg: the user had to manually
manipulate the system) and non-electrical. That is, they were made of bits
of paper and matchboxes. So, one can argue that computers themselves, in
their basic conceptualisation, also have nothing to do with electronics or
networks. The computer was, first and foremost, an idea; an idea about what
language could become.
Net art I agree is art made on, with or for networks and, specifically, the
hybrid computer/telecommunications network we call the internet. Code art
(as an artist who has been making programmed artworks for over 20 years I
must say that I hate this name and hope it doesn't stick) is art made using
programming. It may or may not involve the use of a computer.
I saw a piece the other day by a pair of artists whose names I have
forgotten (probably American's, although one of them had what seemed a
Vietnamese name) where a short story had been written entirely in Java code
syntax. It was very clever in that the grammatical status of the words
defined how they fitted into a more or less correct Java syntax. It was
clear that the resulting text/code would have never compiled or executed
(if it had been written in LISP I think that it could have been jigged to
run), but that wasn't the point. Formally it was correct and it drew ones
attention to how programming is just another form of writing and that it
can also be read for its own sake, not just by the compiler that will turn
it into inaccessable executable code. The text was even beautiful in a
strange way...almost erotic in its emergent subtexts. In a way this work
was the inverse of those projects where artists/writers, create programs
that automatically write texts. A very interesting contrast.
>The web is a part of the net, not the other way around. The web came
>into being around 1994, the internet in... help me anyone!
>1980something. It was then called 'the shiny shopping mall of the net'
>because its visuals looked so much more like tv then the text
>environments of the early net did. The net is basically an 'empty'
>structure of loads of computers linked to eachother which can be used
>via all kinds of software (code) to do all sorts of things. Doing email,
>chatting, exchanging files (from sound and visuals to text) and all
>kinds of search methods... go to a real techie/nerd to show you
>everything. It's fascinating. There is an entire world behind the
>browser, which is one of the reasons the Browser Day was initiated for
The net has been around a long time. I first used a computer connected to
another computer over a phone network (using an acoustic coupler) back in
1979. That was not the net, but such technology represented the building
blocks. The net itself is defined by what are called protocols. The central
protocol is called IP (unsurprisingly, that means Internet Protocol) and
that describes all the rules and conventions required for a network of
computers to communicate using a telecom infrastructure (that is, not just
a network of wires or whatever, but a network defined by the various
telecom conventions). You should remember that not all networks are IP
networks. Computer networks have been around a lot longer than the
internet...the internet is just that network that employs IP, allowing for
levels of extensibility, robustness and flexibility that other network
systems can only dream of. The Pentagon's brief to DARPA when it asked them
to develop the internet was to create a communications system that was
predicated on those characteristics, as well as the requirement that it be
virtually indestructable. Well, DARPA did a good job I think. The fact that
it is hard to put an exact date on the creation of the internet is that its
emergence as a technology was incremental and people will argue about what
was the definitive development.
The Web is also not a simple thing to define. Was Ted Nelson's idea of the
hyperlink and hypertext its origin, or Tim Berner Lee's idea of the
hyper-reference and http (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol)? More that a decade
seperates these development, with Nelson the earlier. It is even possible
to say that Mark Andriessen created the web as he built the first graphical
browser for using it (Mosaic). Whatever, I think one can safely say that
the web began around 1991 with the development of http, html and the
browser all converging at that time. The internet, as we know it today,
predates that by around 15 years...and computer networks have been around
since the 50's.
I am sure that somebody else will have far more precise dates and times
than I suggest above...but I suspect somebody else will have equally
authoritive dates and that they will be quite different...
>"Are knitting or embroidery code art?" There have been cases of
>'cyberknitting', though these have mostly been people performing all
>kinds of ritualistic (?) fiddling with wires in those cheerful days of
>netdotart. Maybe knitting is a forerunner of code art ;) ?
Chris might be refering here to Ada Lovelace who wrote what many consider
to be the first piece of executable code...inspired by the French automated
and programmable (via the use of punch cards) Jacquard looms of the
time...the 1800's. These looms inspired Charles Babbage to develop his
automatic calculating machines...with Ms Lovelace then writing the code to
make them work. So, I think that here Chris is trying to argue that "code
art" (I hope I do not have to use this term many more times) predates the
development not only of computers but even electricity and the telegraph.
To attempt to try and kill off the term "code art", or at least to further
qualify it and hopefully render it less useful, one can talk about
generative art. This practice has been around a long time and has a little
documented lineage, in its computable form, going back to the 60's. A
number of artists and composers use the term with ease to describe what
they are doing. Almost all generative art employs code in some form or
another and is predicated on the idea of making art by making programs that
will then generate the next stage of the process, whether that is the final
output or just another step in the process. "Code art" could be seen as a
conceptually closely overlapping definition or even, in large part, a
sub-genre of this practice...although it is conceivable to make "code art"
that is non-computable, as the above Java text example shows.
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The Great Wall of China @ http://www.greatwall.org.uk/
Babel @ http://www.babel.uk.net/
Research Professor (Digital Media)
Art and Design Research Centre
School of Cultural Studies
Sheffield Hallam University