Jim Andrews
Since the beginning
Works in Victoria Canada

Jim Andrews does http://vispo.com . He is a poet-programmer and audio guy. His work explores the new media possibilities of poetry, and seeks to synthesize the poetical with other arts and media.
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Regarding Conceptual and Aesthetic Implications of Code in Computer-based Art

The code of programs can be interesting in other ways not yet mentioned that are relevant to the art work. In a similar way to how the plans of a building are relevant to an understanding of the architecture.

The term 'architecture' is applied to software in Computer Science. It's quite an apt use of the term.

The plans for a building can range from napkin notes to sophisticated computer simulations of stress tests.

From an onlooker's point of view, these are useful insofar as they let us understand the fundamental challenges and achievement of the building's architecture.

When we look at architectural works as art, we don't just look at the finished building itself, necessarily, if we want a deeper understanding.

So too in looking at software art, we can look at the code, the documentation, the napkin notes, and so on, toward a deeper understanding and appreciation of the whole art work.



Martin Davis's 'Engines of Logic'

If you're interested to understand digital media, let me recommend Martin Davis's book 'Engines of Logic: Mathematicians and the Origin of the Computer' (paperback).

It looks at the development of the computer as "Leibniz's dream". Davis looks at the life and work of Leibniz, Frege, Boole, Cantor, Hilbert, Godel and Turing in relation to the development of the computer.

It's a very intriguing book in its biographical sketches of these men. It looks at their trials and successes. Cantor was in and out of sanatoria. Godel starved himself to death out of paranoia that his food was being poisoned. Turing (probably) committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple. Leibniz had a day job writing the story of his boss's family and his boss valued that more than Leibniz's own work as one of the pre-emminent intellectuals of human history.

But what do these mathematicians/logicians have to do with the development of the computer? The book looks at the development of the computer in relation to the development of the languages and theory of symbolic logic. It's been remarked by people who built computers out of Mechano that computers are made of logic, not silicon.

You don't need to be a mathematician/logician to read this book. Though, if you are, you'll also dig it. Martin Davis is an emminent logician from New York who taught at the Courant Institute and has done significant work on undecidability, among other things.

It's a terrific book both in the 'history of ideas' and in the human dimensions of the lives of these giants of math/logic.

What's in it for digital artists? Well, I said at the outset that it's a good book for those interested to understand digital media. Not at the nuts and bolts level. But at the level of history, at the level of the relation of Godel and Turing's work to what the medium is saying.

And then tell me.




The issue of 'embodiment' in art is quite interesting and often not what one might think it would be. There's quite a bit of rhetoric concerning the importance of art related to the body that actually translates into a situation where the emphasis is simply placed, for purposes of funding, on work that investigates input devices other than the mouse and keyboard, and that operates in a gallery situation rather than on the net, say.

Often this sort of art is well funded and available to but an extrordinarily small audience. And is "hermetically sealed" in that sense.

So it's important to see beyond the rhetoric surrounding 'embodied art'. However, as you point out, it definitely has its real side.

My main background is literary. Books. Pretty disembodied. They have to be able to operate on their own. That is part of the challenge of net art. For the art to be *there* when you're not. So I'm less interested in artificial life than in the life of art, the liveliness of art.

And that involves many things. Embodiment. Disembodiment. Relation to the wreader. Relation to the world. Relation with language. Everything. Passion. Insight. Reach.

I'm not an "essence" man myself, by the way, except on Tuesdays.

And, yes, Manik is right to raise the issue, I agree.




Hi Curt,

It's true, of course, that our embodiment and its nature inform human thought and experience ever so deeply. To the bone. But we can easily imagine creatures with totally different physiologies as being sentient moral agents. Thinking isn't something specific to humans. It's also true that we are wondrous in our capacity for sentient thought. But we aren't diminished by the notion that all that wonderous capability is fundamentally the operation of an amazing machine (what else could we possibly be???). One simply needs to raise one's consciousness about what a machine can be rather than thinking it's limited to a non-thinking realm.

And that also changes how one views the horizons of digital art.

But the horizons of digital art are not simply determined by the capacity of machines to think. Thinking is but an example of the capabilities of machines, albeit a totally impressive one.

The horizons of digital art are not even limited by our imaginations. Because emergent behaviors can be unanticipatable.

This is not 'utopian'. I'm not saying this is all for the good. I'm not saying it's all for the worse. I'm simply saying that the horizons of digital art are radically different from the horizons of non-programmable art.