Clocks are great machines to design, at least from my perspective as a designer of software machines. My classes have had unusual clock design as an exercise; time-telling systems are not interactive, provide a lot of freedom to the designer, and yet require programmers to develop general functions that work for any time of the day. I know that Michael Mateas and Paolo Pedercini have students program clocks, too. I’ve appreciated software clocks by John Maeda and others, and it’s nice to have a clock as a standard example in Processing.
Thanks to Golan Levin’s “atypical, anti-disciplinary and inter-institutional” FRSCI lab, the CMU Computer Club, and ROM hacking bit-boy Cory Archangel, several instances of previously unknown visual artwork, done by Andy Warhol on the Amiga 1000 in 1985, have been recovered.
Warhol’s use of this classic multimedia system is but one of the many surprising, rich aspects of Amiga history that are carefully detailed by Jimmy Maher in The Future Was Here: The Commodore Amiga. An early topic is the launch of the first Amiga computer at the Lincoln Center, with Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry in attendance and with Warhol producing a portrait of her on the machine during the festivities. Maher also writes about how Warhol’s attitude toward the computer was actually a bit retrograde in some ways: Rather than thinking of the screen as a first-class medium for visual art, he wanted better printers that could produce work in a more conventional medium. The discussion of Warhol’s involvement is but one chapter (actually, less than one chapter) in a book that covers the Amiga’s hardware development, technical advances, relationship to image editing and video processing work, and lively demos — from the early, famous “Boing Ball” demo to the productions of the demoscene. The Future Was Here is the latest book in the Platform Studies series, which I edit with Ian Bogost.
With these images surfacing now, after almost 30 years, the age-old question “soup or art?” is awakened in us once again. Do we need to print these out to enjoy them? To sell them for cash? Did Warhol invent what is now thought of as the “MS Paint” style, back on the Amiga 1000 in 1985?
Note, finally, that there is a detailed report on the recovery project provided in PDF form.
I guess they made it worse by adding a “www.”
My comments were part of a brief piece on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday. NPR only turns to me when there’s a very serious issue at stake; this time, some documentary filmmakers were thwarted, at least for the moment, in their quest to visit an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill and dig up the large number of E.T.: The Extraterrestial Atari 2600 cartridges that, according to reports, are buried there.
Lots of people read the story of E.T. (the video game) as one of monumental punishment for a media company’s disrespect for users/players. To me, there are at least two other important points.
One is that digital media is material. As much as we love to speak of “the Cloud,” “Steam,” and even “the Web” with its gossamer immateriality, the computers that we use are matter, they are physical stuff, and all of so so-called software is ultimately inscribed materially. Digital media is part of our world, capable of being buried and dug up, part of our environment and able to influence its quality.
Another is that when you’re innovating and creating work in a truly new form, it can be easy to cross the line between success and failure. Howard Scott Warshaw takes the rap for creating, under tremendous deadline pressure, the difficult-to-play, difficult-to-enjoy E.T. Before that, he created a hit game, a similar style of adventure, that was also based on a movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark. And, before that, he created a game with a compelling appearance and complex but engaging gameplay: Yar’s Revenge. Ian Bogost and I wrote a chapter about this Atari VCS game in Racing the Beam; it was Atari’s best-selling “original” game for the system. Last year, Yar’s Revenge was added to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, becoming one of only twenty videogames in their collection.
We might need tales of corporate hubris and downfall to remind us not to invest our money, or all of our lives, in today’s digital media companies. But it’s worth noting, too, that media we think of as insubstantial can sometimes be inconveniently material, and that poor work is sometimes not just the result of scorn – it can also happen when a great artist tries to do too much too quickly.
The final report of the Media Systems workshop has just been released:
You can download either the executive summary alone or the whole report.
I took part in the Media Systems workshop in 2012 with about 40 others from across the country. The workshop was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Microsoft Studios, and Microsoft Research. As Noah Wardrip-Fruin, co-author and co-organizer of the workshop, writes on the HASTAC site:
Our report, “Envisioning the Future of Computational Media,” starts with the fact that the future of media is increasingly computational — video games, smartphone apps, ebooks, social media, and more.
As media evolve and change, the stakes are high, on many fronts — from culture and the economy to education and health.
To create media capable of continuing the expansion of computational media’s impact, we need to combine technical research that develops media possibilities with innovations in the creation and interpretation of media projects and forms.
Instead, today, we generally separate these activities. Technology research organizations generally don’t have disciplinary, funding, or organizational support for making or interpreting media. Media making and interpretation organizations generally lack support for long-term technology research.
Our report is focused on recommendations for how to fix this.
Although I see the success of people who have integrated technical and humanistic viewpoints all the time – in my colleagues and collaborators, to be sure, but also in MIT students who bring together technical depth and with humanistic inquiry and artistic creation – I realize that there is still a gap between computation and media. I hope this report, which offers a dozen recommendations to address this disconnect, will be helpful as we try to improve our own skills and those of our students.
Matthew Battles has a nice post about the “Programs at an Exhibition” show, up now on the metaLAB blog.
Here’s some documentation of “Programs at an Exhibition” by Nick Montfort & Páll Thayer, an exhibit of five Commodore 64 BASIC programs and five Perl programs at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery, March 6-16, 2014.
The front of the gallery hosts a Commodore 64 running Nick Montfort’s “After Jasper Johns” (left) and an Intel/Ubuntu computer running Páll Thayer’s “Flag” (right). These two pieces respond to and rework the famous 1954 painting, Flag, which is in the collection of the MoMA. Jasper Johns, we salute you.
Visitors are invited to take cards with all of the code to the five one-line BASIC programs and the five Perl programs that are running in the gallery. For you online visitors to this documentation, a disk image of the five C64 BASIC programs can be downloaded; VICE or another C64 emulator can be used to load, run, list, and modify the five programs on that image. (Except for “Zen for Commodore 64,” the programs do have to be retyped or broken into several lines to be modified.) Also, Páll Thayer’s entire Microcodes series, which includes the exhibited programs and which Thayer began in 2009, is online.
Páll Thayer’s “How to explain Perl to a dead hare,” based on the similarly-named 1965 performance by Joseph Beuys. The Perl program reads the Perl documentation aloud, one word at a time. The Perl documentation, incidentally, is really quite amusing to listen to.
Páll Thayer’s “Erased de Kooning” enacts (repeatedly, in this instance) the erasure of one of Willem de Kooning’s drawings by Robert Rauschenberg.
Not shown but also in the exhibit are Páll Thayer’s “Seedbed” and “Untitled composition.”
Nick Montfort’s five Commodore 64 programs running on five of the taupe keyboard-and-CPU units. Two of the monitors, the smaller ones, are NEC 12″ CRTs; the other three are Commodore 1702 CRT monitors. On the middle display, one of the zip paintings generated by “After Barnett Newman” can be seen.
On the left, Nick Montfort’s “After François Morellet,” which presents in one-character form all of the paintings that Morellet would have eventually painted if he continued to do other panels in his 1958 “6 répartitions aléatoires de 4 carrés noirs et blancs d’après les chiffres pairs et impairs du nombre Pi.” On the right, the instance of Nick Montfort’s “After Jasper Johns” that is running on a CRT monitor.
As with all of the programs, the complete code is presented along with the work’s title, the year of development, and the aritst’s name. The BASIC programs are also written out in a clearer form, with comments.
Not shown up close but also in the exhibit, in addition to “After Barnett Newman,” are Nick Montfort’s “Zen for Commodore 64″ and “After Damien Hirst.”
I like clicking through this: “Psychographics: Consumer Survey” by Dane Watkins. And I learned something about myself by doing so. I think. Yes.
Nick Montfort & Páll Thayer
Programs at an Exhibition
At the Boston Cyberarts Gallery
141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
Located in the Green Street T Station on the Orange Line
Phone number: 617-522-6710
The exhibit runs March 6 through March 16.
Opening: 6pm-9pm, Thursday March 6.
Part of the life of remarkable artworks is that they are appropriated, transformed, and made new. In Programs at an Exhibition, two artists who use code and computation as their medium continue the sort of work others have done by representing visual art as music, by recreating performance pieces in Second Life, and by painting a mustache and goatee on a reproduction of the Mona Lisa. Programs at an Exhibition presents computer programs, written in Perl and Commodore 64 BASIC, each running on its own dedicated computer. The 20th century artworks reenvisioned in these programs include some by painters and visual artists, but also include performances by Joseph Beuys and Vito Acconci. All of the underlying code is made available for gallery visitors to read; they are even welcome to take it home, type it in, and run or rework these programs themselves.
The programs (Commodore 64 BASIC by Nick Montfort, Perl by Páll Thayer) re-create aspects of the concepts and artistic processes that underlie well-known artworks, not just the visual appearance of those works. They participate in popular and “recreational” programming traditions of the sort that people have read about in magazines of the 1970s and 1980s, including Creative Computing. Programmers working in these traditions share code, and they also share an admiration for beautiful output. By celebrating such practices, the exhibit relates to the history of art as well as to the ideals of free software and to the productions of the demoscene. By encouraging gallery visitors to explore programming in the context of contemporary art and the work of specific artists, the exhibit offers a way to make connections between well-known art history and the vibrant, but less widely-known, creative programming practices that have been taken up in recent decades by popular computer users, professional programmers, and artists.
The Perl programs in the exhibit are from Microcodes, a series of very small code-based artworks that Páll Thayer began in 2009. Each one is a fully contained work of art. The conceptual meaning of each piece is revealed through the combination of the title, the code and the results of running them on a computer. Many contemporary programmers view Perl as a “dated” language that saw its heyday in the early ages of the World Wide Web as the primary language used to combine websites with databases. Perl was originally developed by Larry Wall, whose primary interest was to develop a language for parsing text. Because of his background in linguistics, he also wanted the language to have a certain degree of flexibility which has contributed to its motto, “There’s more than one way to do it.” “That motto, ‘TMTOWTDI,’ makes Perl challenging for professional programers who have to take over other’s people code and may struggle to make sense of it,” Thayer said. “But it’s one of the main reasons that Perl, a very expressive programming language, appealed to me in developing this project. This flexibility encouraged Perl programmers to explore individual creative expression in the writing of functional code.”
“Páll’s work in Microcodes engages explicitly with the way computer programs are read by people and hwo they have meanings to those trying to understand them, modify them, debug them, and develop them further,” Nick Montfort said. “The Perl programs in Microcodes are quite readerly when compared to my BASIC programs. I’ve tried to engage with a related, but different documented historical tradition — the one-line BASIC program — as it works in a particular computer, the Commodore 64, and to dive into what that particular computer can do using a very limited amount of code, given these many formal, material, and historical specifics. Because my programs are harder to understand, even though they are written in a more populist programming language, I’m including versions of the program that I have rewritten in a clearer form and that include comments.” Montfort’s related projects include a collaborative book, written with nine others in a single voice, that focuses on a particular Commodore 64 BASIC one-liner. The book, published in 2012, is named after the program that is its focus, 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10. Montfort also writes short programs to generate poetry. These include two collections of Perl programs that are constrained in size: his ppg256 series of 256-character programs, and a set of 32-character concrete poetry generators, Concrete Perl. His book #! (pronounced “Shebang”) collects these and other poetry generators, along with their output, and is forthcoming from Counterpath Press.
Nick Montfort develops literary generators and other computational art and poetry, and has participated in dozens of collaborations. He is associate professor of digital media at MIT and faculty advisor for the Electronic Literature Organization, whose Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 he co-edited. Montfort wrote the book of poems Riddle & Bind and co-wrote 2002: A Palindrome Story with William Gillespie. The MIT Press has published four of Montfort’s collaborative and individually-authored books: The New Media Reader (co-edited with Noah Wardrip-Fruin), Twisty Little Passages, Racing the Beam (co-authored with Ian Bogost), and most recently 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10, a collaboration with Patsy Baudoin, John Bell, Ian Bogost, Jeremy Douglass, Mark C. Marino, Michael Mateas, Casey Reas, Mark Sample, and Noah Vawter that Montfort organized. Nick Montfort’s site, with his digital poems and a link to a free PDF of 10 PRINT: http://nickm.com
Páll Thayer is an Icelandic/American artist working primarily with computers and the Internet. He is a devout follower of open-source culture. His work is developed using open-source tools and source code for his projects is released under a GPL license. His work has been exhibited at galleries and festivals around the world with solo shows in Iceland, Sweden, and New York and notable group shows in the US, Canada, Finland, Germany, and Brazil. Páll Thayer has an MFA degree in visual arts from Concordia University in Montréal. He is an active member of Lorna, Iceland’s only organization devoted to electronic arts. He is also an alumni member of The Institute for Everyday Life, Concordia/Hexagram, Montréal. Páll Thayer currently works as a lecturer and technical support specialist at SUNY Purchase College, New York. Páll Thayer’s Microcodes site: http://pallthayer.dyndns.org/microcodes/
Ten programs will be exhibited, running on ten computers. Two of them, one in Perl by Páll Thayer and one in Commodore 64 BASIC by Nick Montfort, are based on the same artwork, Jasper Johns’s Flag:
Flag · Páll Thayer
Perl program · 2009
After Jasper Johns · Nick Montfort
one-line Commodore 64 BASIC program · 2013
I’ll post more on this soon, but for now, let me invite you to the opening of my & Páll Thayer’s show at the Boston Cyberarts Gallery: 141 Green Street, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130, located in the Green Street T Station on the Orange Line, 617-522-6710.
The opening is 6pm-9pm on Thursday March 6.
The exhibit (which will be up March 6-16) will feature ten programs (five in Commodore 64 BASIC by Nick Montfort, five in Perl by Páll Thayer), each running on its own computer. The programs re-create aspects of the concepts and artistic processes that underlie well-known artworks, not just the visual appearance of those works. They participate in popular and “recreational” programming traditions of the sort that people read about in magazines of the 1970s and 1980s, including Creative Computing. Programmers working in these traditions share code, and they also share an admiration for beautiful output. By celebrating such practices, the exhibit relates to the history of art as well as to the ideals of free software and to the productions of the demoscene. By encouraging gallery visitors to explore programming in the context of contemporary art and the work of specific artists, the exhibit offers a way to make connections between well-known art history and the vibrant, but less widely-known, creative programming practices that have been taken up in recent decades by popular computer users, professional programmers, and artists.
Flag · Páll Thayer
Perl program · 2009
After Jasper Johns · Nick Montfort
one-line Commodore 64 BASIC program · 2013
Purple Blurb, MIT’s digital writing series organized by Prof. Nick Montfort of the Trope Tank, powers on, thanks to the four excellent writers/artists who will be presenting in Spring 2014. All events this semester will be held Mondays at 5:30pm in MIT’s room 14E-310.
March 10, 5:30pm in 14E-310:
Short Perl programs that are also artworks, presented for viewers to read, download, and execute. Thayer will trace some key steps showing how he went from his background in painting and drawing to presenting code as his artwork.
Páll Thayer is an Icelandic artist working primarily with computers and the Internet. He is devout follower of open-source culture. His work is developed using open-source tools and source-code for his projects is always released under a GPL license. His work has been exhibited at galleries and festivals around the world with solo shows in Iceland, Sweden and New York and notable group shows in the US, Canada, Finland, Germany and Brazil (to name but a few). Pall Thayer has an MFA degree in visual arts from Concordia University in Montreal. He is an active member of Lorna, Iceland’s only organization devoted to electronic arts. He is also an alumni member of The Institute for Everyday Life, Concordia/Hexagram, Montreal. Pall Thayer currently works as a lecturer and technical support specialist at SUNY Purchase College, New York.
April 7, 5:30pm in 14E-310:
Experimental writing & video
Including a reading from his recent book [[ there. ]] and video from his Theories of Forgetting project.
Lance Olsen is author of more than 20 books of and about innovative writing, including two appearing this spring: the novel based on Robert Smithson’s earthwork the Spiral Jetty, Theories of Forgetting (accompanied by a short experimental film made by one of its characters), and [[ there. ]], a trash-diary meditation on the confluence of travel, curiosity, and experimental writing practices. His short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in hundreds of journals and anthologies. A Guggenheim, Berlin Prize, N.E.A. Fellowship, and Pushcart Prize recipient, as well as a Fulbright Scholar, he teaches experimental theory and practice at the University of Utah.
April 28, 5:30pm in 14E-310:
Videos & combinatory videos
Produced in collaboration with Roderick Coover, Nick Montfort, and others, including: The Last Volcano, Cats and Rats, Three Rails Live and Toxicity.
Scott Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture in the department of Linguistic, Literary, and Aesthetic studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. Rettberg is the project leader of ELMCIP (Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice), a HERA-funded collaborative research project, and a founder of the Electronic Literature Organization. Rettberg is the author or coauthor of novel-length works of electronic literature, combinatory poetry, and films including The Unknown, Kind of Blue, Implementation, Frequency, Three Rails Live, Toxicity and others. His creative work has been exhibited online and at art venues including the Chemical Heritage Foundation Museum, Palazzo dell Arti Napoli, Beall Center, the Slought Foundation, The Krannert Art Museum, and elsewhere.
May 5, 5:30pm in 14E-310:
Jill Walker Rettberg
With examples from her own work as well as from photobooths, older self-portraits, and entries from others’ diaries, in her talk “Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs and Wearable Devices to Understand Ourselves.”
Jill Walker Rettberg is Professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen in Norway. Her research centers on how we tell stories online, and she has published on electronic literature, digital art, blogging, games and selfies. She has written a research blog, jilltxt.net, since October 2000, and co-wrote the first academic paper on blogs in 2002. Her book Blogging was published in a second edition in 2014. In 2008 she co-edited an anthology of scholarly articles on World of Warcraft. Jill is currently writing a book on technologically mediated self-representations, from blogs and selfies to automated diaries and visualisations of data from wearable devices.
To continue the productive discussion of uninscribed artworks in Craig Dworkin’s No Medium, this report discusses, in detail, those computer programs that have no code, and are thus empty or null. Several specific examples that have been offered in different contexts (the demoscene, obfuscated coding, a programming challenge, etc.) are analyzed. The concept of a null program is discussed with reference to null strings and files. This limit case of computing shows that both technical and cultural means of analysis are important to a complete understanding of programs – even in the unusual case that they lack code.
Please share and enjoy. And do feel free to leave a comment here if anything to add on this topic, or if you have a question about this report. I’d be glad to continue the discussion of these unusual programs.
I went to New York to attend the opening of Ultraconcentrated, Casey Reas’s solo show at bitforms. As a rather pure computationalist, one who always tries to maximize code and minimize data, I was a teensy bit wary of the data-driven nature of Casey’s work in this show, which is based, to some extent, on digital television. This idea of using data wasn’t completely offputting, though; Casey and collaborator Ben Fry have done a nice mural here at MIT, which I often walk by, called Signals and based on the interconnections of proteins.
The works in the show certainly didn’t display data in a straightforward or disappointing way. There were prints (Control Room (Forward Command Post)) that seemed studies of color. There were also two laser etched anodized aluminum pieces, each with two semicircular segments, which present television signals as if they were converted to a monochrome and very uncanny landscape or cityscape. The main screen that turned on — two screens, actually — was a diptych video that shifts very rarely into a somewhat figurative or identifiable image. The work (including that on the 6th floor) was all appealing and interesting. It certainly justified the packed house at the opening.
Overall, the trip was great, as we caught up with several friends in New York. The other art-related encounters were excellent, too. I met Ben Fino-Radin and others at the XFR STN exhibit and project at the New Museum, where video and born-digital materials were being recovered for artists.
Most oddly, as I was walking though Chelsea after seeing Casey’s show, I noticed an opening of collage art by someone who — however conventional, however absent from today’s avant-garde — has written a great amount of poetry that has pleased and provoked me over the years: Mark Strand. (Among other things, such as dozens of poetry books, he is the author of a very offbeat book of prose, Mr. and Mrs. Baby.) He was wearing a white suit, as I expected (see, for instance, the beginning of his book Dark Harbor). And while I couldn’t think of anything to say to him that would have merited interrupting the excellent time he seemed to be having talking with others, it was nice to see his collages and share the room with him for a bit.
The Internent isn’t just the Web; it’s also telnet, Gopher, email … and the Worl. Here are 500 pages of the Worl that I printed out and mailed today to Kenneth Goldsmith’s exhibit, Printing Out the Internet.
The Worl is accessible to anyone who has a recent Web browser and has installed The Deletionist.
This was my New Year’s poem for 2013. It is based on Claude Closky’s 1989 “Les 1000 premiers nombres classés par ordre alphabétique” [The First 1000 Numbers Classified in Alphabetical Order], which he laser printed and which begins this way:
A full image of the first page spread (which is the source for the image above), and more context for this work, is available on this page.
The printed copies of my “The First M…” were dot-matrix printed on two connected sheets of fanfold paper. In the printout, as online, I included the program as well as the output.