Menu Close

Tag: programming

This website was archived on July 20, 2019. It is frozen in time on that date.
Exolymph creator Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

Once & Someday Software Experiments

Andi McClure is an artist whose primary medium is code. She uses proverbial `1`s and `0`s to make game-like creations, a programming language called Emily, and digital sigils. Andi and I chatted on Skype recently about these various projects and how she conceptualizes her work.

This conversation took place via IM. The full transcript is available for your reading pleasure, but it’s much too long for a newsletter. Instead, I selected some of Andi’s loveliest statements.

Art-Purposed Computing

“Um, I guess I just had this drive to make stuff. I didn’t really question it. I guess at the beginning, when I was making things, I seemed focused on making worlds people could dip into? all my BASIC programs were grossly simple text adventures, and hypercard I was all making point and click adventures (it’s suited for that, it’s technically the program Myst was eventually made in)”

On the games Cyan made before Myst: “you’d explore these bizarre alice-in-wonderland worlds that were full of stuff that reacted in funny ways when you clicked on them.”

Cover art from McClure’s collection Sweet Nothings.

Cover art from McClure’s collection Sweet Nothings.

“I do definitely think of myself as an artist. Code happens to be the thing I know how to express myself through, so that’s how I create art. Sometimes I think of the way I approach certain things in life (politics, day to day problems) as being sort of an engineer’s mindset, but if i’m writing code, that’s art. My programming language project is maybe not itself art, but I’m doing it with the goal of making art WITH it, so.”

On trying to distribute “little minimally-interactive systems”: “I’d have this problem that the only way anyone could see this little bitty thing I made, that I spent like a day on and that takes about a minute to two minutes to appreciate fully, was to download this 2MB .exe, and run it on their computer, and half the time have to disable their antivirus or something. So that was awkward.”

The answer to that problem was a website called…

“dryads are trees that are also girls and that is very compelling to me.”

“i was very specifically trying to find something that evoked a sort of a tension between something organic and wild and something mathematical and technological. like some of the ones i didn’t go with were ‘glitch dot flowers’, ‘fleshy dot rocks’, ‘screaming dot computer’”

“i really really liked the idea of a dryad trying to design technology and what that would look like. i imagined that it would involve lots of crystals. i had this mental image of a tiny plant girl holding a wrench about as tall as she is, looking out over some kind of cryptic crystalline machine.”

“Again I’ve only got two things up so far but the descriptions are all going to be completely inaccurate descriptions as if the little toy I made was some sort of device built by dryads, with a specific purpose which is vaguely incomprehensible to humans but makes a lot of sense to a tree.”

“i do want to make sure this doesn’t feel like trees trying to use human technology and make sense of it. this is trees doing their own thing that may or may not have anything to do with you.”

Andi McClure Chat, Full Transcript

Andi McClure is an artist whose main medium is code. She uses proverbial `1`s and `0`s to make games and game-like creations, a programming language called Emily, and digital sigils. Andi and I chatted on Skype recently about these various projects and her artistic practice(s).

This is the full transcript, which is messy like most IM conversations. I sent a collection of quotes to the newsletter subscribers. Read more

Bots Say The Darnedest Things

I talked on the phone with Darius Kazemi, best-known member of the #botALLY community and whimsical internet artist. First things first — is it pronounced Dah-rius or Day-rius? The latter, he said.

This is how reality is created, by asking questions and assimilating the answers. We participate in making meaning with each other. It’s unavoidable — you can’t opt out of being a cultural force without opting out altogether; relinquishing existence. You can, however, pursue the opposite aim. Amplify yourself.

All this from name pronunciation? Am I getting carried away?

The latest nonsensical Venn diagram by @AutoCharts, one of Darius’ projects.

The latest nonsensical Venn diagram by @AutoCharts, one of Darius’ projects.

Darius used to make a living as a programmer. For years he worked in video games: “A lot of the core skills I learned making video games, I still apply to the stuff that I make today.” He wrote code to generate terrain, maps, and whole worlds. Now his creative practice is also his day job. Darius co-founded the technology collective Feel Train with Courtney Stanton. You can commission web art from Feel Train — for instance, they just finished developing a Twitter bot that will be part of a marketing campaign this spring. Of course, the members of Feel Train also continue express their own aesthetic urges.

I asked Darius to identify his cultural antecedents. He cited a variety of sources: Dada, the Situationists of the 1960s, William Burroughs’ cut-up poetry, and John Cage. “Name off your standard list of avant-garde early-mid-twentieth-century artists,” he joked. Then Darius mentioned Roman Verostko, who has been making digital art for almost fifty years. Verostko wrote “THE ALGORISTS”, an essay that functions as both manifesto and history. He describes algorists — those who work with algorithms — as “artists who undertook to write instructions for executing our art”, usually via computer. Verostko states, “Clearly programming and mathematics do not create art. Programming is a tool that serves the vision and passion of the artist who creates the procedure.”

Beau Gunderson told me something similar: “as creators of algorithms we need to think about them as human creations and be aware that human assumptions are baked in”. I’ve seen many algorists stress this principle, that computers can’t truly create. Programs only encompass process, not genesis.

Darius told me about a book that profoundly affected him: Alien Phenomenology by Ian Bogost. Here Darius was introduced to the possibility of “building objects that do philosophical work instead of writing philosophy”, as he put it. The concepts in Alien Phenomenology acted as “permission to do something that doesn’t even have a name”. Soon Darius began spinning up the bots that comprise his current “stable”, starting with Metaphor-a-Minute.

Philosophical underpinnings aside, Darius doesn’t regard his art as a heavy-handed intellectual exercise. His bots are conceived like this: “I think, ‘Blah is funny.’” Then he considers blah further and concludes, “I could make that. I should make that!” He says that bot-making is “way different from a game, where you have to beg and convince people to engage with it”. The bots invite interaction and duly receive it.

I asked Darius about power. He said, “I think a lot about the rhetorical affordances of bots, and how bots allow you to say things that you wouldn’t otherwise.” A bot allows its creator to express messages indirectly, through a third party. Darius continued, “Bots can get away with saying things that normal people can’t. […] People are very forgiving of bots.” We treat them like children or pets. He added, “Bots say the darnedest things!”

© 2019 Exolymph. All rights reserved.

Theme by Anders Norén.