Fifteen years ago being and artist and the ability to program were considered mutually exclusive by the mainstream art establishment. Now the study of the tools and techniques of software art are a standard part of the curriculum for many undergraduate art degrees.
Some artists have always been interested in expanding the boundaries and potentials of art by adopting new technologies, which at the time, have been treated with initially suspicion and then acceptance by the mainstream, and software art appears to be no exception. However, in this paper, it is argued that art in which expression occurs through constructing code is a more significant shift in kind than the adoption of technologies such as photography into mainstream art practice in the 20th C. This makes it worthy of greater scrutiny; developing a practice of software art is more involved than acquiring logical programming skills in one or more “creative” software environments.
Art, in the context of this paper refers to processes by which materials are transformed to communicate experiences. The relationships between “formal” and “natural” language; conscious agency and the creativity of the unconscious; free expression and near infinite permutation – are complex and difficult to define, but issues that lie at the core of any practice of software art. Essentially, can “art” arise from within a well-defined ontology?
This paper draws upon readings across multiple disciples of linguistics, neuroscience and philosophy to sketch out an “open ended” unbounded approach to the expression of nebulous concepts through computer coding. Touched upon are the Integrational linguistics of Roy Harris to reconsider the relationship between formal and natural language; the neuroscience of Antonio Damasio to conjecture about some of the mental processes used in art and coding; the “expanded mind” hypothesis of philosopher Andy Clark which extends the boundaries of cognition beyond the brain / body to include external artefacts, such as computers and artworks.
The author has an extended perspective on programming covering 30 years experience firstly as a physical scientist and for the past fifteen years as an artist, and in 2008 completed a PhD in software art.
- Dr. Bill Hart is an artist and lecturer in Electronic Media at the University of Tasmania, he has been working with computing technology for 30 years, firstly as a physical scientist, and for the past fifteen years as an artist, in 2008 he completed a PhD examining expressive programming, language and realtime imaging. His art practice engages with language and cognition through software art.
Full text (PDF) p. 1130-1135