Wednesday, July 9, 2014

[Yasmin_discussions] Keeping works

(Am I doing this right, do I correctly address
those who are listening to, and taking part in,
the current discussion about keeping and
preserving or even re-animating digital things
considered to be of aesthetic qualities?)

Jon Ippolito, on the 2nd of July already,

send a message of beautiful thoughts in nice
formulations that I want to take up a bit at
least, even though I should first continue
reading how others have reacted. So I take the
risk of repeating what you have read before.

Towards the end of his post, Jon takes up two
topics: memory vs. storage, and Re-Code as a
currently appropriate form of reverse engineering.

The young people who are leading the Re-Code
movement have a great idea and are lovingly
friendly to many of us. They say, early computer
art is bound to disappear because its physical
substrate, the hardware, is already extinct, and
where it is not, it will soon be. Correct.
Therefore, they say, we must reverse engineer
(not their word) the programs that were running
on small dinosaurs of machines and generated
those works. If we do it, their expectation is,
in Processing, we stand a chance to keeping the
work. I am not so sure. But I like their
approach, nevertheless.

1. As long as the re-coded software depends on
some particular operating system, or some
particular programming language, chances are that
te re-code will be obsolete again in ten years or

2. In my particular case (which is, of course,
not interesting at all), I have published
flow-diagrams of quite a number of things I have
done. Flow-diagrams are a high-level and totally
machine-independent notation. Together with some
educated human memory it would not all too
difficult to re-code.

3. In other cases, where you have, perhaps, a few
images that serve as instances of the class of
images a program may once have been standing for,
it is virtually impossible to come up with a
re-coding because the function is just too
complex to conjecture. We do know from
mathematics, that in many cases the inverse
function to a function just is not possible to
find. I claim that, without some extra hints, my
programs of 1966 and 1967 cannot be reversed.

On the other hand! Recently, in a discussion with
the two collaborators in my project "The
Algorithmic Dimension in Visual Art", we
discussed about certain visually rather simple
images by Max Bill, based on a grid and playing
in intelligent ways with color. Our question was
of this kind:

»Here we see an image and we see quite clearly
how Bill constructed it. Let us describe the
abstract class to which it belongs.«

This is always possible in nicely inventive ways.
You usually come up with classes (and this is, a
program) that do contain the given image. But if
they are executed, it will usually take trillions
and zillions of years before the original Bill

So we can give a perfectly well-formed new form
for the old piece, a generative one, and we know
the old piece is contained, but it is unrealistic
to wait until it appears.

Observations of this kind have led me to say: The
art in the algorithmic work of art is the class
it belongs to. The abstract infinity becomes more
important than the sensually perceivable finite


Prof. Dr. Frieder Nake
Informatik, University of Bremen, PO Box 330440, D-28334 Bremen, Germany
or: University of the Arts, Am Speicher XI 8, D-28217 Bremen
(for parcels use: FB 3, University of Bremen,
Bibliothekstrasse 1, D-28359 Bremen, Germany)
fon +49-421-218 64485 fax +49-421-218 64459 | | @CarlCanary


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