[NetBehaviour] Some things I've been thinking about lately

Edward Picot julian.lesaux at gmail.com
Sun Sep 27 18:20:32 CEST 2020


I've really enjoyed this thread, and I've been sitting here scratching 
my head trying to think how to express my ideas about it. The piece of 
yours that I've been looking at is 'Square with content flipping on two 
axes', which has got a q and a p opposite each other, and a d and a b 
opposite each other, inside a square, like this:

q p
d b

Every now and again they twitch slightly: and it's only when you read 
the code, and reflect on the title of the piece, that you realize 
they're changing places every few seconds, either left-to-right or 
up-to-down, and the slight twitch is the only outward sign of this, 
because their symmetry is precise enough for them to step into one 
another's positions almost invisibly, almost without a disturbance. 
Probably, it occurs to me, the piece would be even more perfect if the 
slight twitch could be eliminated: then there would be no outward sign 
at all of what was taking place, and the meaning and action of the piece 
would be entirely latent, entirely in the mind and understanding of the 

It seems to me that what makes this piece work is that it's exploring 
the difference between what we see on screen and what's actually 
happening inside or behind that on-screen image, in terms of code and 
its execution. Ordinarily when you read a piece of text on a screen you 
just read the text, as if it were print on paper; you don't think about 
the digital process which puts it in front of you; but in the 'Square 
with content flipping on two axes' that inner process, which is always 
there, is foregrounded, and we feel as if a new dimension has been 
opened up for us inside or behind the flat visual shape we are looking 
at. On top of which, of course, there are parallels with concrete 
poetry, and there's an element of pure aesthetic pleasure, exploring the 
geometry of the typeface you're using.

With your piece 'This is not a pixel', the same kind of thing is 
happening. What we seen on screen us just a red speck. In order to 
understand the red speck we have to look at the code, and understand 
that it's instructing the computer to locate the pixel right in the 
middle of your 'canvas' and turn it red. So it's not a pixel, it's a 
spot of redness generated by a piece of code. Again there's a reference 
to other art, namely Magritte's 'Ce n'est pas une pipe', but again it's 
a digital equivalent: whereas Magritte's painting asks us to recognise 
that a painting of something is never the same as the thing itself, your 
piece is reminding us that what appears on-screen never gets there 
without code and execution of one kind or another. We ignore it most of 
the time, but it's always there. And again, there's an element of pure 
aesthetics, exploring the possibilities of what can be done by working 
with code in this way.

I do like the idea of making an equivalent to this piece by printing it 
on a t-shirt or sticking a square piece of wood on top of another piece 
of wood - but I think the meaning of such an equivalent would be quite 
different. It would be translating something born-digital into the realm 
of sculpture and DIY (or design, if you did the t-shirt); the code 
wouldn't actually be executing; it would be one medium commenting 
ironically on another, rather than an exploration of the digital medium 


On 24/09/2020 19:05, Pall Thayer via NetBehaviour wrote:
> Hi all,
> Here's another "sketch" where I'm sort of wrapping my head around 
> these ideas. Used my dog, Hambae, for this one.
> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org/hambae/
> On Thu, Sep 24, 2020 at 9:48 AM Pall Thayer <pallthay at gmail.com 
> <mailto:pallthay at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     Hi Bruno. Didn't you and I share a hotel room in Bergen, NO many
>     years ago?
>     I think I get your point. Yes, programming code is like a
>     blueprint in a way. That blueprint then gets interpreted by a
>     computer or software and then turns into an action. A movie or
>     play script is also a blueprint but one that gets interpreted by
>     humans. Obviously, a human "interpretation" of something is going
>     to be a lot more flexible than a computer's interpretation of
>     code. Therein lies the main difference between those two
>     schematics. What I'm proposing is a bit of a hybrid. If I feel
>     that my own (human) interpretation of a piece of code is going to
>     make the outcome somehow better (or just different, if people
>     prefer), then I'm going to do so from the perspective of a human
>     who knows full well how the code will perform when interpreted by
>     the computer. So it's still grounded in a more restrictive outcome
>     than a movie or play script. If I allow myself too much freedom in
>     my interpretation, then I might as well abandon the programming
>     code part and we're basically back to 60s conceptualism. I'm
>     looking for something similar but different.
>     I do believe that the text of programming code can stand on its
>     own as works of art and have pursued that angle for several years
>     in my Microcodes (http://pallthayer.dyndns.org/microcodes/) and
>     Object Oriented Art Code
>     (http://pallthayer.dyndns.org/stealthiscodeart/). I see the ideas
>     that I'm pitching here as my "logical next step".
>     Best r.
>     Pall
>     On Thu, Sep 24, 2020 at 2:53 AM Bruno Vianna via NetBehaviour
>     <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
>     <mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>> wrote:
>         hi Pall
>         I don't know if I'm playing devil's advocate or standing for your
>         point, but it comes to my mind the idea of a blueprint, which
>         is not
>         exclusive to code. Wouldn't a script for a movie, the lines of a
>         play, be also forms of laying out a final shape? And these codes
>         (text) are also self-standing pieces of art? I could go even
>         further
>         and think of the frames of a movie compared to the screened
>         result in
>         a session.
>         In case, the argument is very interesting.
>         Bruno
>         On Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 7:13 PM Pall Thayer via NetBehaviour
>         <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
>         <mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>> wrote:
>         >
>         > As some on this list know, for many years, I've been pushing
>         the notion that programming code should be viewed as an
>         artistic medium when it's used to create art. The artist molds
>         it into shape, as they would with a lump of clay, until it
>         takes its final form. When I've discussed these ideas, I've
>         always gotten a lot of pushback. People will say that
>         programming code is a tool, like a paintbrush, not the medium,
>         like paint. I don't agree. This notion has piqued my interest
>         again in the wake of a rising trend where artists are creating
>         graphic images by only using HTML/CSS (e.g.
>         https://a.singlediv.com/ ,
>         https://diana-adrianne.com/purecss-francine/ ).
>         >
>         > The problem with computer programmed art, however, is that
>         it requires a computer. In my mind, there really hasn't been
>         any justifiable reason to display computer programmed art on
>         anything other than a computer... unless it adds something
>         significant to the work. And this is something interesting
>         that has recently occurred to me. I came up with this really
>         simply piece:
>         >
>         > http://pallthayer.dyndns.org/notApixel/
>         >
>         > And have decided that this piece, although based entirely on
>         computer programming code, will work better when divorced from
>         the computer and the browser's interpretation of the code. On
>         my 4k screen, it's practically impossible to see the red pixel
>         in the center. If I remove the work from the environment that
>         interprets the code, I'm free to determine the size of a
>         single pixel:
>         >
>         > http://pallthayer.dyndns.org/notApixel/notApixel.png
>         >
>         > And I could choose to produce that piece in any physical
>         material I want. It could be a block of wood glued to a panel
>         of wood. What determines the size of a pixel of wood? What
>         determines the result of a hexadecimal color code when it's
>         been removed from the computer? If the code is to be
>         interpreted in wood, what does #f00 mean?
>         >
>         > My main point is that with the example shown above, the
>         piece can be made to work better at a conceptual level than it
>         would if it were not removed from the browser environment.
>         >
>         > I'd love to hear other people's ideas on this. I did just
>         write this all off the top of my head, so if I'm rambling and
>         things don't make sense, just ask and I'll do my best to clarify.
>         >
>         > Pall Thayer
>         >
>         > --
>         > *****************************
>         > Pall Thayer
>         > artist
>         > http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>         > *****************************
>         > _______________________________________________
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>     -- 
>     *****************************
>     Pall Thayer
>     artist
>     http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
>     *****************************
> -- 
> *****************************
> Pall Thayer
> artist
> http://pallthayer.dyndns.org
> *****************************
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> NetBehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org
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