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Episode 60: Code as Creative Medium

February 26 @ 4:00 pm 5:30 pm PDT

Artists who work in code explore the “Distant Early Warning Line (DEW line) of culture. Today they play in the medium of privacy, surveillance, AI, robots, 3D printed stem cells, and body mods. During this global pandemic, when we’ve lived so virtually, we’ve come to realize that virtual interfaces are as real and present and have as many governance issues as the real world does. There is a there there. When we see scientists ”rip“ the DNA of a virus from bits to atoms, crowdsource it around the world and recombine it into atoms again as a vaccine. We can no longer ignore the fluid line between how code informs and shapes our world. In many ways artists have our dreams and nightmares about the future for us. They help us develop new approaches as they engage with their own agenda (and sometimes demons) pushing against the edges of the world they find themselves within.

Yet, code as art had a pretty tough time getting respect at first. When we think back to the reviews of cybernetic serendipity in 1968 and the emergence of the idea of people creating code that creates art. Or that learning feedback loop that emerged that were generative, unpredictable and new. Code became seen by some as jazz collaborators pushing and playing back what they heard, riffing on themes, and stumbling on new pathways. 

Our past guest, Kate Compton of Sim City and Spore fame, who works with casual creators and builds procedural playgrounds, pointed out that “the Zen butcher never sharpens her knife.” She learned that the code or algorithm didn’t want to bend certain ways. Instead of fighting it she learned to respect it as a playmate that taught her where to go. She related it more to dancing with a partner than sitting in front of a screen typing obscure snippets of protolanguage. 

How has code impacted your life and learning? When we were young there was a movement from procedural languages to Seymour Papert’s constructivist philosophy with his introduction of Logo. Today we’ll hear about how our guests found their way into dreaming and creating in code and what they’ve learned and how they’ve shifted their practice and pedagogy to open more minds to the next generation of artists, thinkers, and pioneers. 

Part 1 Code as Creative Medium Golan Levin and Tega Brain will explore how each new medium leads to a new palette and canvas for exploration. Their book explores ways you can play with art assignments that atomize the primitives of space, time, perception, and a collection of other dimensions into powerful pathways that allow artists to grab ahold and push against code in ways artists of the past pushed against the limits of paint, fabric, or stone. 

Part 2 A Techno-Vernacular Mindset The maker movement has ushered in a democratization of the tools of production and creativity, yet historically marginalized communities are under represented in maker learning and culture. Nettrice Gaskins, an artist, educator, critic, and assistant director of the STEAM lab at Lesley University previews her forthcoming book and alternative approach to engaging and fostering maker identities. She’ll share how these methods cultivate creativity and innovation.She’ll share three modes of activities. Learn about how reappropriation, remixing, and improvisation play together to foster a techno-vernacular mindset.

Part 3 Experiential Research Through Design Dan Buzzo is an artist, researcher, and educator in the human-computer interaction and applied media technology space. He looks for ways to apply emerging technologies as a means of teaching, researching and making by putting them all into a sort of creative friction. Dan will share his philosophy and passion for experiential immersion into communities of design, research, and applied technology.


February 26, 2021
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm PDT