The Rhizome Digest merged into the Rhizome News in November 2008. These pages serve as an archive for 6-years worth of discussions and happenings from when the Digest was simply a plain-text, weekly email.

Subject: RHIZOME DIGEST: 9.03.04
Date: Sat, 4 Sep 2004 00:51:57 -0700

RHIZOME DIGEST: September 3, 2004


1. Gregory Chatonsky: Translation / Traduction - AT Basekamp
2. John Hoppin: Piñata Party -- It Can Change AT Gavin Brown's Enterprise

3. Daniel Green: Collective: Unconscious Call For Events from Local and
International Artists
4. Doug Easterly: visiting artist lecture needed
5. Brett Stalbaum: [Fwd: Fwd: Scale Journal 8/9 Call For Participation +
Guest Editor Joel Swanson +]
6. Cynthia Beth Rubin: Position at Rhode Island School of Design:
Computer-Based Design Courses Manager

7. Barbara Lattanzi: C-SPAN Karaoke
8. Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: Hlemmur in C by Pall
9. Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: fuorange by Kate

10. Lewis LaCook: Explaining Pictures to a Dead Protocol: Programming
Aesthetic Experience

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 8.29.04
From: Gregory Chatonsky <cgregory AT>
Subject: Translation / Traduction - AT Basekamp (Philadelphia)

18.09.2004 > 31.10.2004


Basekamp 723 chestnut st, second floor, Philadeplie, pa 19106
Opening and performance 18.09.2001
Philadelpha : 16:00 | Paris : 22:00

The revolution took place in New York by Gregory Chatonsky
Googlehouse, The Inhabitants by Marika Dermineur
Des Fleurs, Om, Incidence by Reynald Drouhin
Ladies by KRN
Ram, Submission, Extract by Julie Morel
Dialogues by Michael Sellam

with the funds from Etant donnes (The French-American Fund for Contemporary
Art) / AFAA.

On our screens and in our existence, 0 and 1, an unbroken series of numbers
translate our sensations into images, texts and sounds. From identical
elements, have emerged a complex perceptive web.

Translation is a problematic which allows us to question the deep
ambivalence in the digital. On one hand Digital constrains various medias
(images, texts, videos, etc.) into a unique language formed of 0 and 1,
which makes it translatable in a literal way, on the other hand an exact
translation is impossible.

Then how can we translate, i.e. interpret the behaviour of the viewer in an
interactive system? How can we translate a text into an image in order to
construct a story? What are the places that allow us to go between
technologies and our affects? Is the simplicity of binary language a source
of inaccurate translations, separation effects and shifts, which would open
new and unpredictable significance? Translation incidents offer a world of
possibilities and it questions the disjunctive relation between an aesthetic
system and the very plural public. Is Art a foreign language, impossible to
translate? What is the resistance of translation?

Is it the transfer from one language to another that allows the significance
to be transmitted? And isn't thought always dreamt as translatable[1]?

Can the signifier and signified be divided? And if some untranslatable
exist, isn't it the absolute dream of peculiarity, a sort of absolute unique
form? But translation must take place, therefore an impossible possible. One
can and has to translate, especially when it is possible.

One speaks easily of the impossibility of translation. It is a current
experience for a translator to find that task impossible. This possibility
is thought in continuity with difficulty, and the difficulty starts with the
first sentence. For the translator translates events before translating
words. Even a word is already being carried away by the sentence, the
syntax. In this difficult angle, the heroic and angelic task of a translator
is so hard that it becomes too difficult to carry on. It is impossible.

But this impossibility defies the possibility of translation. In continuity
with it, nothing is translatable, nothing is untranslatable.

Another impossibility exists, or a new order of impossibility, both more
simple and more radical, which would have nothing to do with difficulty, but
it is a rather silly one. Here it goes: when the language of a text is
remarked/noted as a natural language, it can't be translated. A simple
sentence: 'Cette phrase est en francais' (this sentence is in French). The
words 'cette phrase' refer to this sentence where these words are, it cannot
translate because its meaning is mixed with its truth in act. The sentence
does not cause any problem of meaning, it is not hard to translate, it is

This capacity of a language to be itself happens every time it uses the
idiom. For example 'apprendre par coeur' (to learn by heart). The language
curls itself up its idiom, tries to protect her identity, and it is that
which invites and calls a mechanical[2] way which would not be called
translation anymore.

Another example is Bilingualism: The studies related to bilingual phenomenon
are various[3]: There are Julien Green, Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov and
Franz Kafka as examples of auto-translation. Beckett writing at the speed of
the thought in a language which is not his, as if the thought - this speed
of interiority - was always foreign.

Gregory Chatonsky

[1] Jacques Derrida, « Donner du temps » (de la traduction).
[2] Many translaters are online, for example :
[3] To quote only some of them : « Bilinguisme et contact des langues »,
by William F., Klincksieck, 1977, « Attitudes et représentation liées à
lâ??emploi du bilinguisme », by Maurice Riguet, Publications de La
Sorbonne, 1984.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 9.02.04
From: John Hoppin <johnhoppin AT>
Subject: Pinata Party -- It Can Change AT Gavin Brown's Enterprise Passersby

Contact: john AT

It Can Change at Gavin Brownâ??s Enterprise at Passersby
September 4-16, 2004
Reception & Piñata Party September 10 from 6pm until every piñata is

A pinata is an object to be destroyed, like the title of a book about Gordon
Matta-Clark. As the pinatas are beaten pleasure is attained; beauty and
craft are sacrificed. The pinata party is a celebratory assault on culture.
It Can Change will be presenting a pinata party at Gavin Brown's Enterprise
at Passersby from September 4-16, 2004.

For this project we are asking artists to contribute pinatas. From
September 4-9 the pinatas will hang in the gallery unmolested. On September
10 we will invite people into the gallery for a pinata party. Each pinata
will be struck with a blunt object until whatever is inside of it falls out.
>From September 11-16 the results of our pinata party will be on view.

During the party debris from each pinata will be collected and heat-sealed
in plastic and packaged along with photographs depicting the destruction of
each pinata. The photographs and bags of destroyed pinatas will serve as
mementos of the actions that took place during the pinata party.

It Can Change
itcanchange AT
Tel: (510) 697-7934

Gavin Brown's Enterprise at Passersby
436 W. 15th St
New York, New York 10014 USA
gallery AT
Tel:  (212) 627-5258
Fax:  (212) 627-5261
Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-6pm

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Rhizome is now offering organizational subscriptions, memberships
purchased at the institutional level. These subscriptions allow
participants of an institution to access Rhizome's services without
having to purchase individual memberships. (Rhizome is also offering
subsidized memberships to qualifying institutions in poor or excluded
communities.) Please visit for more
information or contact Rachel Greene at Rachel AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 8.28.04
From: Daniel Green <hebdemnobad AT>
Subject: Collective: Unconscious Call For Events from Local and
International Artists


i am a co-founder and co-director of collective: unconscious, an artist-run
multi media art space and production facility that has just moved into
nyc/usa/tribeca, to hopefully engage in ther heretofore rather obscure task
of the de-gentrification of a neighborhood in new york city.

at this point, the best way that many of the prolific members of the
experimental art/media/theater community can help us is through doing a
show/event at collective: unconscious. our carrying expenses are 7000
dollars a month, and we need to have a full schedule of weird, strange,
shocking, experimental, original stuff going on in our space to keep us from
economically crashing and burning in short order

we have karen finley doing a run of shows in
september and october, which means sizable audiences to glean for a whole
slew of open 10pm slots.

a partial and by no means exhaustive pitch for our new facility:

air conditioning that actually works

a dsl line useful for webcasting, along with possible access to a t-1

a no smoking space that doesn't leave you smelling
smoky on your way out

much more noise insulation from the street than our old space

a collective of artist administrators that have busted their asses without
pay for many months to keep our ongoing institutional experiment alive- we
need help

the only space of its kind left in lower manhattan, in a sea of starbucked
duane readed name branded cultural garbage, a barnacle of freakdom that you
can help keep alive in the trying months ahead

come by any of our bookings meetings any sunday at 6pm at 279 church st.,
nyc, usa, and/or email scheduling AT speak to gecko or myself

we are inviting both local artists and international artists seeking to do
shows/events in new york city at low cost. we want engaging original work
that may not be as established as the work presented by other experimental
art spaces in nyc such as the kitchen or ps122.

if you don't know about our space and you are interested in booking an event
with us, check out our website

to find out about work we've produced and presented, goto:

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 8.30.04
From: Doug Easterly <playfight AT>
Subject: visiting artist lecture needed

Syracuse University is looking for a visiting artist who can give a lecture
to our Computational Media Projects class, on one of the following dates:

Sept. 20
Sept. 27
Oct. 4
(all Monday's)
the class meets from 10 - noon.

The class is based on MAX/MSP/JITTER/SOFTVNS - preferrably you use these
tools extensively in your art making process.

Ideally, the lecture would be an artist talk/demo: discuss your concepts and
methods while showing a few unique Max related techniques.

We can pay for your trip, meals and around $500 artist fee.

Please email Doug Easterly, with url showing examples of work.
deaster AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 9.02.04
From: Brett Stalbaum <stalbaum AT>
Subject: [Fwd: Fwd: Scale Journal 8/9 Call For Participation + Guest Editor
Joel Swanson +]

>+ please forward +
>This email is a call for submissions from theorists and practitioners in
>the following fields: Art, Architecture, Communication, Comparative
>Philosophy, Computation, Computer Audio, Critical Theory, Design,
>Literature, Media (New and Old), Music, Performance, and Software
>SCALE ( would like to encourage you to submit
>"work" for its upcoming online-only August & September issue. SCALE is a
>non-profit journal that explores new modes of production and
>dissemination based on open-source and networked communities.
>The theme for the August/September SCALE is APOCALYPSE. As we look
>forward to the coming election in November, it seems prudent to reinvest
>ourselves in exploring the possibilities of our own self-destruction.
>Often rooted in religious and science-fiction genres, apocalyptic themes
>have proven fruitful as a framework from which to question our
>collective hopes, fears, and concerns, on a local and universal scale.
>In your submissions, feel free to explore and exploit your personal
>imaginations of APOCALYPSE as a loose starting point for your
>submission. Please keep in mind that SCALE likes to abide by terms
>obliquely, and as such encourages all types of submissions, from dirty
>sketches and musings, to polished images and essays.
>Initially formulated within the graduate programs of the Visual Arts at
>the University of California, San Diego, SCALE was created by Jon
>Phillips ( and Patrick W. Deegan
>( as a strategy of response to a growing
>interest in developing Open Source communities across the globe. SCALE
>is a monthly publication living in both PDF print and online PDF/WIKI
>+ Additional instructions for submission can be found at
> under ¹ÄúRead the File and Style Guidelines.¹Äù
>+ Text or Image submissions must be in PDF format NOT exceeding 10MB and
>8.5¹Äù x 11¹Äùin dimension. Because this month is ONLINE-ONLY, color
>submissions are encouraged. Images must be 300dpi.
>+ Multimedia submissions will be hyperlinked for download from a page
>within in the compiled PDF publication. If submitting a file for
>linkage, it is recommended you also submit some type of graphic image in
>consideration of how your piece will be represented in the layout. By
>doing so, we can include the URL to your file within the image provided
>by you. If other circumstances are desired, please let us know.
>+ For Multimedia submissions, please upload the actual file and NOT the
>URL to where it is located on behalf of your own site. WE WILL BE
>respective websites are allowed.
>+ All work submitted will be initially accredited to you unless
>suggested otherwise, however, in its online format the work will be
>deemed Open Content (as defined by and
>could possibly be subject to artistic reinterpretation (at a later date)
>on behalf of SCALE¹Äôs community of readers.
>+ The submission process begins now and ends effectively on Monday,
>September 20, 2004.
>+ In the week to follow, we will be compiling and publishing the
>online-only August/September issue.
>+ Submissions, progress, and status can be immediately checked online.
>If you have any questions, please contact any of us directly. Thank you.
>We look forward to your submissions . . .
>The September & August SCALE team:
>Joel Swanson | Guest Editor, August & September Issue SCALE. |
>jeswanson AT |
>Patrick Deegan | Co-founder of SCALE | pdeegan AT |
>Jon Phillips | Co-founder of SCALE | jon AT |
>scale-announce mailing list
>scale-announce AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Rhizome is now offering organizational subscriptions, memberships
purchased at the institutional level. These subscriptions allow
participants of an institution to access Rhizome's services without
having to purchase individual memberships. (Rhizome is also offering
subsidized memberships to qualifying institutions in poor or excluded
communities.) Please visit for more
information or contact Rachel Greene at Rachel AT

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 9.02.04
From: Cynthia Beth Rubin <cbrubin AT>
Subject: Position at Rhode Island School of Design: Computer-Based Design
Courses Manager

Manager, Computer-Based Design Courses
Rhode Island School of Design
Providence, RI Job Code:  
Posted: Aug-19-2004   - Department: Continuing Education
- Full-time

OVERVIEW: Develop, plan, staff, coordinate, monitor and evaluate all CE
technology course offerings. Supervise the following certificate programs
coordinators: Advertising for Print, Broadcast + Internet; Computer
Animation; Print Design Process + Production; Video Editing for Digital
Postproduction; Web Design/Development; and Fast Track Computer programs and
assorted Young Artist and Pre-College programs. Work to help integrate
technology into non-technological areas of CE and help plan for the advent
of online learning efforts. Supervise the Computer Lab Specialist and
co-supervise the Programs Assistant. Work with the director and others in
tailoring courses for the public to meet the particular needs of area
businesses. Advise students and faculty as necessary and conduct orientation
sessions. Make recommendations concerning software, hardware, lab
facilities, etc.

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS: Prepare draft copy of seasonal (spring, summer, fall,
winter) Extension course catalogs, sections of the Summer Studies and
Pre-College catalogs, faculty and student handbooks, and orientation and
training materials. Work closely with the CE Marketing Manager on
initiatives for these programs. Participate in establishing annual goals,
objectives and action plans for technology dependant CE programs. Develop
and implement academic policies and procedures, establishing criteria for
assessment, portfolio review, and program completion. Develop new
certificate programs in the area of technology. Manage and oversee the
implementation and evaluation of those programs. Monitor budgets and
staffing plans.

QUALIFICATIONS: Master's Degree, or equivalent education and a combination
of experience in art design, technology, and/or adult education desired.
Minimum BFA, BA/BS required. Three to five years experience in program
planning, implementation and evaluation, preferably in a continuing
education environment. Experience in an arts school or organization, or as a
consultant will be considered. Familiarity with emerging technologies,
network issues, software applications and platforms relevant to web design,
animation, graphic design, digital post-production for video, 3D modeling,
digital photography, and game design, etc. is required along with
proficiency with business and educational applications of such technology
tools. Excellent writing and math skills are required. The ability to remain
current with post-secondary level technology and teaching trends in the
fields of art and design as well as training curriculum for the corporate
sector is desired. Familiarity with registration database software and
Excel, along with the ability to assess the technology knowledge level of
potential course instructors is desired. Ability to work independently, and
as a member of a team.

To apply, visit

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 8.29.04
From: Barbara Lattanzi <threads AT>
Subject: C-SPAN Karaoke

The Interrupting Annotator




C-SPAN KARAOKE software displays media that streams from public archives of
the website, along with karaoke tunes gleaned from various free
offerings on the web. So, gather together with friends and loosen up those
vocal cords...

While you are navigating the flows of institutional political process,
faithfully and invaluably documented by CSPAN, you can always break out in
song...and the louder the better. Use CSPAN KARAOKE and your voice in
collective chorus with friends, to navigate CSPAN video streams - whether
these be representations of illegitimate authority or suspect versions of

Sing with conviction, because resonant frequencies have been known to
shatter glass.


Although streaming video archives are available at the CSPAN website as a
not-for-profit, public service of the lucrative American cable television
industry, they are only publically accessible for a brief period of time.
Some more significant videos may remain available longer, but most CSPAN
videos can be accessed for only a few months before they disappear.

The disappearing CSPAN video archive means that over time, the accumulated
list of video titles for "CSPAN KARAOKE" may contain an occasional "dead"
link, a gap in collective memory of institutional political process. Note
that the more recent videos will always appear conveniently near the top of
the selection list for your KARAOKE pleasure.


Software download page:

Video demo of C-SPAN Karaoke software:


Barbara Lattanzi

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

For $65 annually, Rhizome members can put their sites on a Linux
server, with a whopping 350MB disk storage space, 1GB data transfer per
month, catch-all email forwarding, daily web traffic stats, 1 FTP
account, and the capability to host your own domain name (or use Details at:

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 9.01.04
From: <artbase AT>
Subject: Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: Hlemmur in C by Pall Thayer

Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase ...

+ Hlemmur in C +
+ Pall Thayer +

For the past few year I've been working with various different types of data
and by visualizing/audifying them, examining their characteristics as
artistic media. Lately, I've been working quite a bit with GPS data which
has very unique and somewhat more predictable and understandable
characteristics. Hlemmur in C is one of these projects.

+ + +


audio/visual experimental multi-user whatever-you-wanna-call-it

all to create abstract imagery

cv -

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 9.03.04
From: <artbase AT>
Subject: Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase: fuorange by Kate Southworth

Just added to the Rhizome ArtBase ...

+ fuorange +
+ Kate Southworth +

fuorange is a collaboration between Kate Southworth, Patrick Simons and
Christina McPhee. fuorange comes from 'fuckyou orange' - construction
workers' lingo for the orange mesh around forbidden zones, like manholes and
tresspass lines. fuorange is a short circuit past the fuck you, don_t go
there, into a matrixial spacewalk via sound curves and cascades of text.
fuorange records the derive of a real world walk, captured and meshed within
the artifice of the net.

Audio and digital photography were recorded on location in Cornwall, July

Sound processing and generative music design are by Patrick Simons from
location/voice recordings. Photography and html edit is by Christina
McPhee. Progressive movies created by Kate Southworth.

A coproduction of Glorious Ninth and naxsmash group. Produced with
fellowship support from the Interactive Art & Design Research Cluster at
Falmouth College of Arts, Falmouth, Cornwall 2004.

+ + +

Kate Southworth is an internet artist. Her work focuses on the co-emergence
of knowledge, and on trying to understand and articulate different ways of
knowing ourselves and others through processes of interaction.

Kate received an MSc in Multimedia Systems from London Guildhall University,
UK and a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Manchester Polytechnic, UK. She is
currently undertaking practice-led PhD research into Matrixial Networks at
the University of Leeds, UK.

She has taught Multimedia and Interactive Arts at London Guildhall
University and Dublin City University. Kate is currently based at Falmouth
College of Arts, Cornwall, UK where she is leader of the Interactive Art &
Design Research Cluster, and Programme Leader of MA Interactive Art &

Producing work with new technologies since the early 1990s, she began
working with sound artist, Patrick Simons on Internet art projects at the
end of 2000. Their work explores personal, social and historical phenomena
using a variety of aesthetic, political, theoretical and conceptual
approaches. The space between their different approaches is Glorious Ninth.

Glorious Ninth has exhibited net art projects at galleries and museums
including: Centre of Contemporary Culture, Barcelona; Evergreen Cultural
Centre, British Columbia, Canada; Irish Film Centre, Dublin; Watershed Media
Centre, Bristol and the Institute of Contemporary Art, London. They are
featured in several net art databases including Martin Wattenbergâ??s Net
Art Idea Line on the Whitney Museumâ??s site, Rhizome Artbase, and

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +


Date: 9.02.04
From: Bubble Sort <llacook AT>
Subject: Explaining Pictures to a Dead Protocol: Programming Aesthetic

Explaining Pictures to a Dead Protocol:
Programming Aesthetic Experience
Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is
everything else we do.

--Donald Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming

The Beethoven Code
The idea of programming aesthetic experience is a seductive one. Figuritive
painters have employed means for centuries to control the flow of a viewer's
sight through a painting; composers have developed strategies to break
Western Art Music out of the comfort of functional tonality and into the
realms of serialism(Schoenberg) and indeterminacy(Cage). Indeed, all arts,
even those not executed via computer, seem to be based on the idea of
programming experience, and by the binary forces inherent in programming:
freedom and control. Paul Tulipana, one of the members of the art
programming group Eidolon(, has written

Underlying the acts of the creation and viewing every piece of art created
in or by a computer there are thousands of lines of code. Everything from
the algorithm which controls image manipulation in many recent paintings to
the html that underlies the visual elements of Alexei Shulgin's 'form art'
is driven by lines and lines of code, resultant (albeit not necessarily
considered) in what the artist intends to be your viewing experience. The
infrastructure is compounded when viewing a piece of art on the computer -
Maciej Wisniewski's Turnstile Part II, for example, is reliant not only on
HTML and a JavaScript client-side program, it is reliant on an XML backend
that allows communication with a huge database of found data. Moreover,
viewing this piece is reliant on the code that runs the server (say,, not to mention the code that allows your computer to connect
to the server (TCP, IP, your internet provider, your browser, your operating
system, and so on for a very long time).(Tulipana, 2002)

Tulipana is honing in on computer-based arts here, specifically network art.
But in a way this also applies to more 'realtime' art activities; is there
not code in Beethoven? Is the system of notes and time signatures that is a
formal music education not in essence a programming language? Or at least a
markup language, like HTML(it does lack control structures--no while loops
on the staff). But traditional art music praxis does bring to mind the
dynamic of computer and network art; the score can be seen as code executed
by an orchestra or any other set of musicians. Christiane Paul, introducing
the 2002 Whitney ArtPort commission project
points out, "...there is no digital art that doesn't have a layer of code
and algorithms, a procedure of formal instructions that accomplish a
'result' in a finite number of steps. Even if the physical and visual
manifestations of digital art distract from the layer of data and code, any
'digital image' has ultimately been produced by instructions and the
software that was used to create or manipulate it. It is precisely this
layer of 'code' and instructions that constitutes a conceptual level which
connects to previous artistic work such as Dada's experiments with formal
variations and the conceptual pieces by Duchamp, Cage and Sol LeWitt that
are based on the execution of instructions.(Paul, 2002)"

Control and its Other
"Within the past quarter of a century, operational instructions have been
imbedded in the design of many industrial and household utilities. They
implement our daily use of telephones, automobiles, cameras, TVs, and
radios. Our hospitals, factories, banks, and shopping centers all depend on
the algorithms that control inventories, transactions, communications and
security. They are ubiquitous and our mass culture would collapse without
them.(Versotko, 2004)"

If this makes you nervous, it probably should. The fact that contemporary
urban culture has become so dependent on algorithms IS a bit scary--I mean,
who's writing this code, anyway? What do they want of me? In a world of
voice mail and instant messaging and ATMs and cable television remote
controls, have I, as a human being, become nothing more than some
pre-determined entity that presses buttons in precisely prescribed sequence?

This is where art usually steps in--to "humanize" phenomena; not to
anthropomorphize it per se, but to lay a veneer of the "organic" over our
mechanized, algorithmic culture. Network and software art should play a
vital role in this: successful aesthetic programming often highlights and
debunks the control structures inherent in our communication networks. Such
works critique the medium because it's their duty to; comprised of the
medium, they often utilize control to no purpose(at least from a capitalist
perspective), or for the 'fuzzy' purpose of pleasure...

"The path of a user's experience follows a narrative trajectory: confusion >
discovery > understanding > exhaustion. " Brad Borevitz surmises. "The
pleasures of this passage involve the sensual, empathetic experience of the
algorithms of the software(Borevitz, 2002)." To speak of empathy and
algorithms in the same sentence may puzzle many; to the daily user,
automation goes unnoticed, is taken for granted (I don't get particularly
excited when using the ATM). But to the PROGRAMMER, ah, the programmer sees
in the abstraction of a good algorithm beauty and elegance. Sites like may seem to offer little more
than ascetic tools for ascetic codehawks, but note the presence of projects
like Filelight(, billed at sweetcode as "a
cute interactive visualization of disk space consumption."

The Artist-Programmer Caresses Her Tool
So who is this weirdo who finds something to empathize with in automation?
Is he obsessive-compulsive? Does he spend his day washing his hands over and
over again? Recently, I became interested in the relationships network and
software artists had with the programming languages they knew. In true
democratic netizen fashion, I sent a survey out to a few email lists--most
notably the Rhizome list, Netbehaviour, Webartery and Wryting. What I got
back reads (perhaps not surprisingly, since we're talking about something as
intimate as one's relationship with language, whether that language compiles
or not) as strangely personal, confessional even. Of course, when one of the
questions in a survey is "Have you ever dreamed in code?" you can't expect
institutional responses.

To the query, "Does each programming language imply an ontology?", Francis
Hwang, Rhizome's Director of Technology, points out that "...under the
surface in OO design...these debates (are) raging. People in stricter typing
languages (C++, Java) tend to believe that you need to set up this deep
forest of Platonic types before you can write a single line of code. We
dynamic folks (Ruby, Smalltalk) are much more likely to believe that types
are practical and provisional, but have no reality behind them. You discover
types as you need them, and you discard them if you think they're no longer
relevant to your task(LaCook, 2004)" Francis outlines here the differences
in variable declaration procedures in programming languages; some languages
require a variable to be declared, and tied to a specific data-type(text,
number, true/false polarity), before it can be used; others will treat a
variable as a less-than-definite entity, easily converted from one data-type
to another. Strict languages do seem to be more Platonic, more dependent on
transcendent "categories," than, say, Flash's ActionScript, an interpreted
language that pretty much trusts the programmer to know what kind of data
she is working with, and that she knows what to do with it. Or, as
multimedia artist and poet Dan Waber answers:"...some ideas are sonnet
shaped, some ideas are rondeau shaped, some ideas are free verse shaped."

One factor in the relationship between artists and programming languages
that always fuels fiery debate is whether or not the language in question is
open source. To create interactive Flash objects, for example, one must buy
Macromedia's product; not only that, but programmers have no access to
ActionScript's core engine, can't modify it to suit their whims. A language
like PHP, on the other hand, is a free download, and programmers are
encouraged to modify it. Would artists particular about the politics of art
and social critique frown on proprietary technologies?

" I don't choose my paint based on political ideas." Dutch artist Jan Robert
Leegte replied curtly. But Jessica Gomula was quick to point out one of the
advantages of open source code: "I would never have had the opportunity to
learn if tutorials and resources were not available online and if other
programmers had not posted their source-code as examples."

Gomula also outlined the very fundamental difference between
networked/algorithmic art objects and more familiar media. "Once it is
interactive the artist loses control over the exact expression of an
experience," she explained. "But by programming specific response and
avenues into the piece, the overall experience is still highly guided.
Coding it is one of the only ways to introduce a non-linear experience,
which I believe adds an important element to art, as the idea of the
non-linear experience, stemming from web use, is a paradigm that has yet to
reach it's fullest expression."

Just to confirm that I wasn't imagining things, and that indeed the
execution of code could provide some rare personalities with pleasure, I
also asked if it were true that one could code catharsis, could introduce
into an artwork some automation that reaches the user on a more intuitive,
subjective level. Dan Waber took umbrage: "To me, the answer to this is so
obviously 'yes' that I am compelled to ask you: what makes you think a coded
art object might be inherently incapable of producing catharsis in the
user?" Net poet and theorist Alan Sondheim completely dissolved the art
object in his response. "I'm not sure what 'art object' is." He wrote,
"...anything can produce anything depending on the content..." And
artist-programmer Rob Myers cut to the chase as far as human subjectivity
and automated objectivity go. "Yes. I wrote a small script to print "I am
drunk" repeatedly the other night. It was very cathartic."

A compiled text of the responses to the Programming Survey can be seen at .

Questioning the ability of code to produce empathy and catharsis in end
users will, as time goes on, become a pointless activity. "In a world where
artists use software to write software that will be seen via other software,
questions about the 'aesthetics of the code' become a symptom of not being
able to see the wood for the trees." Richard Wright asserts in the latest
issue of Mute. "Programming is not only the material of artistic creation,
it is the context of artistic creation(Wright, 2004)." That is, the subject
of code is surrounded by code. When Francis Hwang wrote about the Platonism
of strictly-typed languages, he could just as well have been referencing the
longing artists and theorists often feel when confronted with algorithmic
art objects. A desire for the transcendent, for immanence; basking in the
mediation that is algorithmic reality. And hasn't art always been mediation?


Lewis LaCook


Works Cited

Borevitz, Brad. Super-Abstract: Software Art and the Redefinition of
Abstraction. Graduate Thesis. 2002

LaCook, Lewis. Programming Survey distributed to list-servs (Rhizome,
Netbehaviour, Webartery, Wryting). 2004.

Paul, Christiane. CODeDOC 2002

Tuulipana, Paul. On Network Art. 2001-2002.

Wright, Richard. Software Art After Programming. Mute, Issue 28. 2004.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and an affiliate of
the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Rhizome Digest is supported by grants from The Charles Engelhard
Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for
the Visual Arts, and with public funds from the New York State Council
on the Arts, a state agency.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Rhizome Digest is filtered by Kevin McGarry (kevin AT ISSN:
1525-9110. Volume 9, number 36. Article submissions to list AT
are encouraged. Submissions should relate to the theme of new media art
and be less than 1500 words. For information on advertising in Rhizome
Digest, please contact info AT

To unsubscribe from this list, visit
Subscribers to Rhizome Digest are subject to the terms set out in the
Member Agreement available online at

Please invite your friends to visit on Fridays, when the
site is open to members and non-members alike.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +