Read_me, Run_me, Execute_me: Some Notes About Software Art, Inke Arns


Inke Arns (Dr. des. / PhD) is an independent curator and author focussing on media art, net cultures and Eastern Europe. After spending four years in Paris (1982-86) she studied Eastern European cultural studies, Slavistics, Political Science, and Art History at the Free University Berlin and The University of Amsterdam (Erasmus scholarship 1992); 1996 M.A. thesis "Neue Slowenische Kunst
(NSK) -- analysis of their artistic strategies in the context of Yugoslavia in the 1980s" (published 2002). 1998 - 2000 PhD grant of the Berlin Senate (NaFoeG). 2000 - 2001 lecturer at the Institute of Slavistics at the Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany. Since 2002 guest-lecturer at the art academy Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (HGB) Leipzig. In 2004 she completed her PhD at the Institute of Slavistics of the Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany. Her dissertation, entitled "Objects in the Mirror may be Closer Than They Appear: The Avant-garde in the Rear View Mirror", researches a paradigmatic shift in the way artists reflect the historical avant-garde in visual and media art projects of the 1980s and 1990s in (ex-)Yugoslavia and Russia.

Inke Arns, Dortmund

The heuristic term "software art" describes an artistic activity which in the medium of software allows for a critical reflection of software (and its cultural impact). Software art does not regard software merely as a pragmatic, invisible tool generating certain visible results or surfaces, but on the contrary focuses on the program code itself - even if this code is not explicitely being laid open or put in the foreground. Software art makes visible the aesthetic and political subtexts of seemingly neutral technical commands (F. Cramer). Doing so, software art can happen on different levels: it can be located on the level of the source code, on the level of abstract algorythms or on the level of the result generated by a certain program code. Thus it comes as no surprise that there is a wide variety of software artworks ranging from so-called "Codeworks" consisting predominantly of ASCII-Code (not being executables), to experimental web browsers (e.g. "WebStalker", 1997), and fully-executable programmes.

Lately there has been a growing confusion between the notion of "generative art" and "software art" which very often led to a blurring of boundaries between the two. In this lecture she will argue that a clear distinction needs to be made between these two notions.

While in the context of generative art software is seen as a pragmatic tool generating certain results of surfaces (while the tool remains unquestioned), in the context of software art software is understood as a culture which is being scrutinised and questioned for its aesthetical and political subtexts. Software in this context can be "experimental" and "non-pragmatic", and it is considered as an independent work, rather than simply serving code. In software art, code can be an extravaganza and does not need to be efficient. It can be useless, luxurious, growing exuberantly, consciously anti-elegant code. Furthermore, in the context of generative art and design generative processes are often employed in order to negate intentionality. Software artists, on the contrary, conceive of generative systems not as negation of intentionality, but as balancing of randomness and control: "Far from being simply art for machines, software art is highly concerned with artistic subjectivity and its reflection and extension into generative systems." (1)

Inke Arns has argued that in the context of software art a far more interesting notion than the "generative" is that of the "performativity" of code. This notion - borrowed from the context of speech act theory - does not only comprise the ability to generate in a technical context, but also encompasses the implications and repercussions of code in the realm of the aesthetic, the political and the social.

(1) Florian Cramer / Ulrike Gabriel, quoted after Andreas Broeckmann, "On Software as Art", in: Sarai Reader 2003: Shaping Technologies, New Delhi 2003, pp. 215-218, here: p. 216.

**Projekt Gnutenberg/ walser.php (2002)

**Robert Luxembourg: "The Conceptual Crisis of Private Property as a Crisis in Practice" (2004)

[see also description/transmediale:]
[see also transmediale Software Art Jury Statement 2004:]

**Dragan Espenschied & Alvar Freude: insert_coin (2001)