Net 2.0 and new stuff

Posted by Eric Dymond | Mon Jun 16th 2008 1:30 a.m.

The now too lengthy thread about net 2.0 , blogs, surf-clubs made me think of it's antidote, Pall Thayer's http://pallit.lhi.is/~palli/codechat/ Code Chat.
Is it now a crime to understand the technology, to make it a servent rather than the frame?

I'm not being bitchy, but I really like Pall's work, and don't feel engaged by surf-clubs and their ilk.
I loved MTAA's Karaoke Deathmatch 100 http://www.mteww.com/kdm100/, but I can't get engaged with the spewing that emanates from a blog. Sorry to Tom Moody, but if you can't write the program, you've lost me. Knowledge of the technology is paramount in my mind and provides freedom in the long run.
I think in some way there is a political (by accident) influence at work as well.
Blogs and surf clubs are so G Bush, and Pall and MTAA are very free and open. They look forward, this other stuff bores me death.
Not to say that blogs are rightist by content, but they are by nature.
There ya go, on lovely night in June.
Eric
  • JWW | Mon Jun 16th 2008 3:40 a.m.
    surely some examples are in order
  • Tom Moody | Mon Jun 16th 2008 4:03 a.m.
    We discussed this about 4 years ago on my, um, blog:

    http://www.digitalmediatree.com/tommoody/?29472

    My friend Dave wrote:

    How low level can one go in this contest...

    ... did the artist develop the "language" they used to write the program to produce the art...

    ... did the artist write the compiler which compiles the program into machine code which runs the program which displays the art....

    ... did the artist build the computer which was used to write the program and run the program...

    ... did the artist build the components for the computer which was used to write the program to ....

    ... did the artist manufacture the materials used to fabricate the components used for the computer....blah, blah, blah.

    IMHO, it shouldn't matter if the artist is a programmer or not, it is the resulting visual product which matters (unless the artist is into "process" art so in this case, they get all anal about the endless details of how they made such and such widget art object. But then they are really just technicians, much like print makers who only can talk about hand making their own papers from grandma's antique but stained linen bedsheets and using exotic inks made from virtually extinct sea mammals).

    FWIW, many programmers feel they are artists as well. They write "elegant," sparse, and minimal code with individual "style." Their code is their art, much akin to poetry.

    Pre-developed software is a tool, so are programming development languages. They both are tools which can be used as a means to do interesting things.


    Keep it real,
    George Bush

    • Rob Myers | Mon Jun 16th 2008 7:07 a.m.
      The artist must understand and be able to modify the construction of the tools they are using precisely in order to achieve the visual end product that they want. The opposite extreme to process wankery is technical ineptness, and it is no more interesting.

      In contemporary art the ideal artist is a manager of outsourced production. Compared to this even getting your hands dirty with shrinkwrapped software is the wrong sort of work. So either refuse managerialism and hack the tools you need to make the art you want or embrace it and pay someone else to come up with your work. Acting out the role of the Mac Operator in art is a bit 1991.

      Programmers aren't artists, they are engineers and/or mathematicians. That engineering and/or mathematics may produce art, though.
  • Tom Moody | Mon Jun 16th 2008 10:25 a.m.
    Gallery" artists job out fabrication either from the outset, like Damien Hirst, or when their careers "take off" such the they need help to crank out the product. The vast majority are hands on either because they lack the business initiative or because they are still producing primarily for themselves (and/or a small collector base) without a lot of commercial pressure. Judging from recent NY surveys art materials are pulled off the street corner and arranged, not fabricated. "Found' doesn't necessarily mean inept.
    • Rob Myers | Tue Jun 17th 2008 9:25 a.m.
      Found" doesn't mean inept, but "preset" is very unlikely to mean interesting. Some command of a medium is a prerequisite for expression within it. Installation and assemblage are easy to do but no easier to do well than any other medium.

      People who don't know software well enough to be frustrated with its limitations are unlikely to know it well enough to do anything interesting with it (that is, to create interesting visual end products). And when you get frustrated with a medium the solution is either to move to another medium or to hack it.

      The code in your pencil is like the graphite in your computer. Smudging or stippling with your code, debugging and extending your pencil all modify the medium you are using to meet your creative requirements. It's true that spending a decade making the perfect pencil won't result in a particularly interesting sketch when there are HBs just lying around, but you do need to know how to sharpen them.

      I repeat: it is because the end results are what matter that the artist's technical ability to realise those end results is a factor.

      Dave's list of questions fails to assert the primacy of whatever it is trying to assert the primacy of. We are discussing artistic competence, not technical purity. If you want to paint a plain purple canvas and cannot mix a purple or stretch a canvas then you are incompetent. If you want to produce a realtime spiral of drop-shadows and cannot script it or hack it you are incompetent. Technical incompetence is artistic incompetence (where it is not competent performance).

      Coding is no different from any other kind of computing activity. What in the self-image of the profession that used to master perspective, anatomy, colour theory, metallurgy, chemistry and other technical skills, and that currently waxes theoretic at such tedious length, makes coding such kryptonite?
  • Eric Dymond | Mon Jun 16th 2008 1:50 p.m.
    The Bush comparison was directed at the clean hands/clean mind nature of much of the art identified earlier as Net 2.0.
    I think the content on some of the sites is very good (such as Tom's) , and would be exactly the same on a printed page or a DVD (reading the screen).
    When Goya produced etchings, he created prints that were far different than the typical print reproduction of a painting that was popular as well. Knowlege of the print medium by artists from Durer to Nolde that created 'original artists prints' has a whole history and degree of interest that reproductions of their paintings and drawings by specialist engravers can't have. Knowing how the box works opens up new paths expression.
  • Frederic Madre | Mon Jun 16th 2008 4:13 p.m.
    artists OUT OF THE WEB!
    NOW!
  • Joe McKay | Mon Jun 16th 2008 5:08 p.m.
    Understanding the box does not just mean understanding the circuits or the programming, but also understanding the context in which that box is situated. The best two things I saw at the Maker Fair was Corey Fogel's "Purl Drums" (an intersection between drumming and knitting http://tangram7s.info/cmf/ ) and Phil Ross's "Chronic Revelator" (cameras "aged" in a cement mixer http://billhoss.phpwebhosting.com/ross/index.php?kind040#). Both of these projects worked particularly well in the context of the maker fair. They understood that the conversation about technology goes beyond being a good programmer or solderer.
  • Ethan Ham | Mon Jun 16th 2008 6:55 p.m.
    Hmm... Regarding Rob's "programmers == engineers || mathematicians" comment, I'd say programmers are more logicians than mathematicians--most programming doesn't really require terribly great mathematical skills, but all programming requires strong analytical skills.

    I don't have any problem with art that's created using higher level tools... but I think Tom's a little off base with his line of questions leading to whether the programmer invented the concept of zero :) The usefulness of being able to program isn't about having a homemade quality, it's about not being constrained to the limitations of a given product. By being proficient with C++ I know that I can do just about anything on the computer that I can conceive of--I'm only limited by my imagination, free time, & the physical limitations of the computer.

    If a particular project is easily done with a higher level & easier technology, I would certainly would use that instead of C++, but it's nice to know that if push-comes-to-shove I have the skills to pioneer the technology I need.
  • Tom Moody | Mon Jun 16th 2008 8:11 p.m.
    The point of Dave's list of questions is that you don't evaluate art on technique, because someone can always claim to have a more refined technique.
  • Ethan Ham | Mon Jun 16th 2008 10:25 p.m.
    I wouldn't disagree with that, but I think it's being conflated in the larger discussion with the idea that there is no intrinsic value to a new media artist having programmer skills. Sure, a given artwork's effectiveness doesn't (necessarily) depend on the artist's technical skills, but the artist's effectiveness does.

    A painter who doesn't know how to mix paint might be able to some great paintings, but ultimately that artist is going to be hemmed in by the limitation... if the artist can't find a particular color in a paint tube, then the artist will have to compromise the color choice.
  • D Z | Mon Jun 16th 2008 11:45 p.m.
    How exactly are the forms and order of current work (what specifically?) a priori to its means?

    Are these 'arguments' are hinged on the assumption of a medium that is a singular system?

    What exactly is an artist's "effectiveness"?
  • Ethan Ham | Tue Jun 17th 2008 12:16 a.m.
    If D Z's first two questions are directed to me, I don't understand them.

    What I mean by artist's effectiveness is the ability to be able to see through an idea or artistic intention. I was recently talking to an artist who has a project he'd like to do. But the project requires programming, and since the artist can't program he will either have to find a collaborator who can program or the money to pay for the programming. In all likelihood the project will never be done. This doesn't mean the artist isn't able to create some compelling artworks (and it would be silly to evaluate those artworks based on whether or not he programmed them from scratch), but clearly he has been limited by inability to program.

    This isn't to say that every artist should learn to program... but it's certainly worth considering for artists who frequently work with computer technologies.

  • Joe McKay | Tue Jun 17th 2008 4:52 a.m.
    Painters have traditionally had different approaches to "mastering" the tools of the trade. Pollack's understanding of paint was not the same as Cezanne's or Warhol's. To say that a computer artist's effectiveness depends on her technical skills seems like an over-simplification of how we use computers today.
    I'll agree that, as an artist, knowing more is generally better than knowing less but I don't think that translates into needing to know c++ to be an effective computer artist. Or needing to work alone for that matter.
  • JWW | Tue Jun 17th 2008 6:06 a.m.
    I think Michael Bell-Smith's type-in webpage for the Nasty Nets DVD about sums it all up.
  • Ethan Ham | Tue Jun 17th 2008 9:26 a.m.
    Joe, I wouldn't steer artists towards learning C++, I just picked that language because it's low-level and can do pretty much anything... Javascript, Actionscript, Processing, etc. are probably more appropriate for most projects.

    Sure, Cezanne, Warhol, & Pollack all worked paint differently--but that's really just extending the metaphor beyond usefulness (I think).

    Look, if you can achieve artistically everything you want with Garbage Band or Blogger or whatever--great! No need to go further. And if you can find folks to do the time consuming work of programming your vision into reality, that's great too. But do you really think one is an effective technology-based artist if projects can't be done simply due to a lack of available programming skills?

    Incidentally, I'm not suggesting that media artists who program are automatically better artists than those who don't... just that a media artist who programs are less limited than the same artist who doesn't.
  • Tom Moody | Tue Jun 17th 2008 11:13 a.m.
    Knowing more is generally better than knowing less but I don't think that translates into needing to know c++ to be an effective computer artist."

    c++ or any other language.

    A "computer artist" might hate computers and the strength of his/her art might come from working in a field whose assumptions s/he questions. This [hypothetical] artist might use a "shrinkwrapped" program "wrong" without having a clue how the thing is programmed and create the "computer art" equivalent of Pollock's Guggenheim mural while an earnest artist-programmer team is merely churning out grant-friendly mood music.

    This hypothetical artist might also teach herself a language as necessary to realize a piece (and then not talk about it) or come up with an impossibly complex series of personal workarounds to avoid learning the f-ing language.

    Joe's painter metaphor is *not* overextended, Ethan. Those are three artists who all thought about how to get outside the limitations of their medium and their field. It expresses a range of reverence toward, and willingness to abuse the medium.
  • T.Whid | Tue Jun 17th 2008 11:16 a.m.
    +++

    I would like to interject that technique can inhibit the creation of good art.

    As way of anecdote, when I was in college I was a painter. Made to take a photography class, I was pretty good at it, considered changing majors, but realized that I was being seduced by the gadgetry/technique that I could geek-out on. I decided to stick with painting (whose technique I thought I understood) so as to focus on (what I considered) the 'art' -- as opposed to technique.

    Now look at me! Dirty media artist.
    • T.Whid | Tue Jun 17th 2008 11:19 a.m.
      +++

      Having said that, I'm interested by a quote I once heard (somewhere) that it's hard to truly understand contemporary culture if you don't at least the basics of a computer language.
      • T.Whid | Wed Jun 18th 2008 6:57 p.m.
        +++

        haha! found it:

        And where did I hear it? Here!

        http://rhizome.org/discuss/view/29881/

        "I recall something that Friedrich Kittler said once in an interview that to understand contemporary culture you have to know one natural language and one artificial language.
        • Ethan Ham | Wed Jun 18th 2008 7:19 p.m.
          So either C++ or Esperanto?
      • | Fri Jun 20th 2008 2:35 p.m.
        From Latin & Greek to Python & LISP ... methinks the latter are gaining the cultural currency the former once had ...
    • Ethan Ham | Tue Jun 17th 2008 11:28 a.m.
      Agreed... there's way too much art that out there that seems to be an excuse to put technology through it's paces. That art should come first--then hopefully the technical skills are there to see it through.
  • Matthew Williamson | Tue Jun 17th 2008 1:55 p.m.
    What qualifies as tech saavy will also depend greatly on the audience and their ability to decipher the tech that has been used.

    You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time...
  • Ethan Ham | Tue Jun 17th 2008 2:01 p.m.
    I don't really think it's about showing of technical chops (much less "fooling" people)... it's about being able to achieve the results one wants.
  • Joe mcKay | Tue Jun 17th 2008 4:07 p.m.
    Eric,
    Thanks for the Processing shout-out!

    For me the painting analogy breaks down because the computer has such an invasive role in our society, something painting never had / has. We use computers to communicate, to be entertained, to tell time, to drive our cars, to have sex (okay, paintings do that too), etc. This diversity makes me leery of saying that there's a better way to approach making art with the computer. One way would be to become a programmer and get under the hood, but other approaches are just as valid.
  • MANIK | Tue Jun 17th 2008 5:46 p.m.
    FUCK MACHINE
    MANIK,JUN 2008.
    • Rob Myers | Tue Jun 17th 2008 7:04 p.m.
      Teledildonics 2.0!
  • Ethan Ham | Tue Jun 17th 2008 6:44 p.m.
    Hmm... Tom, I think we may be talking about two different things. By computer-based artists are you including artists who use computer-based tools but whose art doesn't require a computer as a medium (i.e., could just as easily be shown as a video, printed out, etc.)? For this discussion I was really thinking of artists who are using interactivity, data mining, etc. I wouldn't argue that an animator who happens to use Flash or Blender or whatever has a overwhelmingly compelling reason to learn to program.
  • Tom Moody | Wed Jun 18th 2008 12:15 p.m.
    No, I'm in agreement with Joe that the field is the whole spectrum of computer culture, including digital rendering of video, etc. Interactivity and data mining are practiced by corporate entities for the "wrong" reasons just as much as they may be practiced by artists for the "right" reasons. The "low fi," "defaults" position of critique is as much from within as without.
  • Ethan Ham | Wed Jun 18th 2008 1:37 p.m.
    Are you talking about a medium or a topic? Computer culture is not a medium... and using digital rendering isn't a culture, it's a method.
  • Tom Moody | Wed Jun 18th 2008 8:08 p.m.
    Possibly you missed the Web Art 2.0 discussion where we were talking about the Net as a "medium that works across media" (Damon Zucconi's phrase). The Net is computer culture to most people, everyone knows what a "dot com" is, for example, and if you can't get on the Net you call the Geek Squad. As for digital rendering not being a culture, talk to an analog audiophile.

    Ethan, let's just leave it that you and I are from different camps and probably do not agree what's even worth arguing about. Hackers vs Defaults, Net Art 1.0 vs Net Art 2.0, or whatever you want to call it.

    But thanks for suggesting these phrases:

    "Computer culture is their medium, or so they say."

    "They interpret the culture of digital rendering, which some see as only a method (or so they say)."

  • Ethan Ham | Wed Jun 18th 2008 10 p.m.
    Well, I'm cool with dropping the discussion if you want, but I'm actually interested... I'm not just being argumentative :) I'm always curious about boundary conditions was wonderingwhere you see Net Art starting and ending (e.g., does a scan of a photograph of a painting that someone puts on their blog count as "net art"?).

    Anyway, if you'd really rather drop it, drop it I will.
    • yer main man twhid | Wed Jun 18th 2008 10:57 p.m.
      ++

      ah HA! My definition of net art sure would come in handy now, now wouldn't it?

      ...would be really nice to actually be talking about the same thing instead of two different things with the same name where no one can even agree on what they're talking about so they endlessly argue about it because they don't even know they're talking about two different things.

      I'll take one point for that thank you. Good night!

      :-)
      • Ethan Ham | Thu Jun 19th 2008 12:46 a.m.
        Talking about the same thing would be nice...

        To be honest, I'm not sure I totally understanding the distinction that is being made between Net Art 1.0 & 2.0 (incidentally, I think using version numbers is a terrible way to make the distinction--it doesn't really communicate anything except a suggestion that Net Art 2.0 is in some way an improvement over Net Art 1.0).

        From what I'm gathering, the distinction is really between Internet/Computer-interested art versus Internet/Computer-activated art. It's kinda like people arguing over whether a house painter is someone who paints pictures of houses or paints the houses themselves.
  • Tom Moody | Thu Jun 19th 2008 2:54 a.m.
    >>does a scan of a photograph of a painting that someone puts on their blog count as "net art"?).

    Yes. I'm glad we agree.
    • Ethan Ham | Fri Jun 20th 2008 1:16 p.m.
      We agree? In what way?
      • Ethan Ham | Fri Jun 20th 2008 2:12 p.m.
        Actually, I do recognize the sarcasm... :)

        But I'm always a little at loss at how to respond to such tones online. I guess Tom really wants to end the conversation (he's continuing to post about it on his blog, but doesn't allow comments there).

        I am left wondering if Tom's sarcasm extends beyond the claim of agreement to the statement that a photograph of a painting on a website is net art. If he's serious about that, it's an interesting position--but it definitely dilutes any possible meaning that the term can have.

        If he isn't serious about including everything under the net art 2.0 umbrella, then feeling out where the boundaries lie shouldn't be avoided... that's where the interesting things happen.

        • Frederic Madre | Fri Jun 20th 2008 4:50 p.m.
          let's dilute
          let's be impure
  • Tom Moody | Sun Jun 22nd 2008 4:23 p.m.
    Ethan,
    You have followed me over to my blog and now Paddy's pretending to be interested in what I have to say and fretting that I am not talking to you. I hope you are serious about stopping this.

    Your question ("is a scan of a photo of a painting on a blog 'net art'?") is something you had obviously already answered in your mind.

    If anyone answers "Yes" you hang your whole critique of the new work on that answer ("then all net art as you define it is meaningless! Sorry, dude, I thought you were trying to say something interesting!"), and assume no responsibility to educate yourself about other reasons the new work might be interesting ("I didn't realize I was going to have to read all that stuff just to talk to you.")

    You are asking the question in bad faith, then lecturing me about my responses being sarcastic. Please, please stop now.
  • Pall Thayer | Tue Jul 1st 2008 8:13 a.m.
    Sorry for coming into all this stuff late. I was on vacation. I've only skimmed over this thread rather quickly but there are a few points I would like to add that may or may not be of interest or importance.

    Regarding "code" (once again). I think we have to look a ways back in time to get at the real issues here. We could almost say that differing opinions regarding artist's use of code are Marshall McLuhan's fault but I think it's actually the way that his work has been taught in new media art programs that is at fault. McLuhan talks about media as the end mediator. That which delivers the "message" to the consumers and because of the way this has been taught, that has become the "defacto" definition of a medium even within the arts. However, that's the exact opposite of older definitions of media within an art context. An artist's medium used to be the material that he/she manipulated to deliver a message. Both are equally correct but occur at opposite ends of the scale. A medium is simply something that occurs in between and can occur at any point between the artist and the viewer. Netart and the way various artists have approached it has made this whole "system" a bit more complex.

    Amongst the median elements of a work of netart we have things like; code, concept, network, computer, screen, etc. It's important to determine what the "medium" is because as McLuhan tells us, that's the "message". One thing that really makes this complicated is that, as an artist who writes code, I don't think that "my medium" is the same as the "viewer's medium". My medium is the code. That's what I shape and manipulate to convey my "message". The viewer's medium can be something else. It could be the Internet or the computer or the screen, depending on how they regard the work. It could even be the code as long as I reveal it. But I'm not really in a position to dictate to the viewer what they may or may not refer to as "the medium". That's dependent on their own experience. Regardless, whatever I consider as "my medium" has a big impact on the nature of the work itself. In many ways it defines and guides the creative process.

    Artists who produce netart but rely on collaborators to write code for them, will naturally produce different types of work. The code is not their medium and therefore doesn't "define and guide the creative process". Something else does. This does not produce a qualitative difference, just a difference.

    This is why it "matters" whether an artist writes code or not.

    One other little issue I'd like to address is what I feel is a slight misunderstanding amongst those who don't write code. Many people seem to think that writing code is an exact science. That there's always a single, correct way of implementing something in code. That's not true. Writing can be a very flexible, creative process. No less so than molding clay or applying paint.

    Pall
    • t.whid | Tue Jul 1st 2008 9:50 a.m.
      +++

      Pall,
      Thanks! The best thing ever written in this forum on this tired old argument.

      I've always felt that Jon Ipollito's exhibition Seeing Double: Emulation in Theory and Practice did the best job I've seen of allowing viewers to see beyond the screen of new media.

      +++
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