Writing to Somewhere: Software as Art

The dominant aesthetic of software is utility, as distinguished from say truth, which is to say, art. As an artist, here, I wish to think about software as art, rather than as I would in my other occupation as CTO.

Typically, software is for business where performance, cost, scale and a variety of utilitarian goals are foremost, all aimed at making software serve business. Software may, like paint, be useful. Where paint can be used to coat a house and protect it, it can also be used to make paintings. Paintings can be used to decorate and cover holes in walls, but they can also be illuminating.

Software-as-art is something different than software-as-getting-things-done. (see: Ad Reinhardt’s Art as Art)

I’m writing this as a way to find a way to make the software I want to make. A software that is not about utility but says something else.

Some Art-Moves

  1. An Art app in which you distribute it as a mobile app via the AppStore. The app is only to provide an awareness that one is holding this thing in one’s hand, and a sense of loneliness. Rather than say metaphysical connectedness and progress.
    How does one price it? Of course it must be free.
    The store also un-ironically and conveniently bypasses galleries.
  2. Writing & Compiling Code as a performance. Like writing about writing, useful and personally illuminating. It also involves the theater of teams and interpersonal dynamics and a variety of experiments (e.g. pair programming, and open-source).  I’m not really interested in this, though I could imagine a theater of syntax errors, and Godot like wanderings on the road to compilation. If you don’t care about utility per se, then why would care about syntax? What is a bug?
  3. Running Code: code that runs slowly. There’s more here. What happens when it runs? Is it visible? Are objects exchanged? Between what and what? What is represented?  Is it viewed only with a debugger —  How is it translated for viewing?  Consider software as an analogue of paint, its not the paint that matters, but what it represents… But paint is analog and unique… and software can be that way too. And each encounter with it is unique, even if the painting is unchanged.  But paint is purely visual whereas software is not so constrained.
  4. Running Code: code whose sole purpose is to make the computing hardware get hot. Perhaps heating and cooling in some pattern.  Code that exercises a chip and its components and interconnected hardware in some way… Then using a microscope with an infrared view of the chips RAM so that you can see that a flame has been drawn by the action of exercising memory addresses according to the actual physical location of the circuitry. And alongside this setup, a candle with a real flame.
  5. Running Code: on Amazon’s global public computing infrastructure (AWS) move software from server to across the world so that it spins counter to the earths rotation, as viewed from space.  And then spin forward…  And then back again… repeating…
  6. Running Code: create objects called “observer” around areas where human rights crimes are occurring, so as to note and observe and record these. (This is weak. Twitter enables immediate reactive speech, and Tor makes it’s possible to view and communicate when the computing infrastructure is about control of your views and communication. Art that witnesses is valuable, but what really is a useful form of this (utility being ok in the service of freedom). )
  7. – taking part & interacting with politics…  (parodying)
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