Douwe Osinga's Blog: People doing strange things with Software

Thursday, August 26, 2004

People doing strange things with Software

I made it to the conference and the first day was a bit of challenge, with the minimum amount of sleep I had, but after that it got a lot better. The conference is more an art festival and less of an scientific thing than I thought and as far as it is scientific, it is mostly about art critic, not so much about software engineering. Which is all fine and probably to be expected, but it did take me a little by surprise. Still, there are some genuinely interesting things going on here, things I probably should have heard of, but I haven't. Let's see:

On Tuesday there was a concert with live coding, which is not a fixing bugs in a system that runs, but is a way of making music. The artist types in lines of code that produce looping sounds and by changing his code, changes the music. A special programming language has been developed,  based on SmallTalk, SuperCollidor. The resulting music might not be for everybody, but it sure is interesting.

Casey Reas presented some of the stuff they had been doing with Processing, which is basically a preprocessor + library for java that makes art programming much simpler. You'll see something of that here soon. Then there was klippav, a way to do live audiovisual  breakbeat cutting, i.e. live video manipulation based on the sounds.

Popautomate is an interesting webapplication where Jean-Baptiste Bayle and Beatrice Rettig have collected over 3500 words as a number of samples from popsongs. You can enter a sentence and it will translate it into an mp3 of these samples. Aparently is used in some performances.

There is lots more and I'll be sure to blog about it when I have nothing else. One interesting thing is that this is an art-festival and I'm presenting some of my works, which would make me an artist. People ask me whether me joining Google doesn't undermine my integrity as an artist. It probably does to some extend, Google Hacks are somewhat suspicious when you work for Google. But it makes the whole question one does Software become Art a personal one.

May be it is really the other way around. Art == Hacking. Or at least for (post) modern art. You take something out of the context and use it in a different and interesting way, some way it was not meant for, but gives people interesting or disturbing insights.