PØST-GL!TȻH  - jonCates (2014)

when i was asked to think/feel thru my thoughts/feelings on POST-GLITCH i started reprocessing ʎɯ_pØ5-ģ̶Ł̶1̶ɫ̶C̶ʮ̶_e✕✕✕periences to filter/find/search/retrieve/remember me sum starting points for this phrase…

OCTOBER of 2012 (0) i began a public research practice of thinking/feeling through the phrase POST-GLITCH when i was invited to present on the Glitch panel at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. (1) as a part of this process, i began to engage in ongoing definitions + dialogues of the meanings of POST-GLITCH. i began working through theses thoughts/feelings online via the networks + platforms i travel through. tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (2) + the like constitute the primary context for these activities. this project of mine is also deeply related to developments in other major/minor/super-niche medial forms: AAA Video Games, Indy Games, Art Games, Hollywood productions of Corporate Entertainment forms, television shows, popular musics, Music Video products, experimental art/design/fashion projects && the promiscuous self-selected subgenres created by musicians themselves via hashtags on their Soundcloud accounts

in, through && across these multiple terrains, we (the decentralized/networked many who connect via these concepts + forms) navigate pre-glitch - GL1TCH.US - post-glitch continuums together. from these vector-views, i witness a growing increase in GLITCH AWARE sets of sensibilities +/or styles. AFTER GLITCH approaches have reached a certain level of distribution awareness, being diffused into + throughout lifefabrics hyperwoven together, “glitch” is now widely accessible as: a possibility, shorthand, a (cracked) code, hashtagged to represent an available attitudinal perspective, +/or communicable exchange, a set of surfaces + surface FX as well as affective artifacts that may or may not reach more deeply under these currents

“I think that the accident is the future form of art.”

- Paul Virilio (as interviewed by Timothy Murray + Gaëten Lamarche Vadel for Sites)

+ what happens now, after the accident is art? AFTER ACCIDENT? AFTER ERROR? AFTER FAILURE? AFTER COLLAPSE?


+ can failure fail? can error be broken? can glitch collapse?

&& then: warez to goto when we are all good + well after all? when the world didn’t end? (@ least for us, those of us, reading/writing read/write cultures (4) now?)
POST-2001. POST-2008. (5) POST-2012. (6) ⤑⤐POST-GLITCH—-…


( -̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷄◞ω◟-̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷅ ) ( -̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷄◞ω◟-̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷅ ) ( -̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷄◞ω◟-̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷅ ) ( -̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷄◞ω◟-̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷅ ) ( -̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷄◞ω◟-̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷅ ) ( -̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷄◞ω◟-̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥̥᷅ )



    ༼ ̢༎ຶ̀ ̷෴ ̸͘༎͟͠ຶ̷͠༽̕͘ ͠༼ ̡༎̕ຶ ̢͜෴̵̷ ༎̧̕ຶ̢༽͠ ͝ ༼ ̸̨̕༎ຶ ̵̵෴̷̵ ͡༎͝ຶ̡༽̸̧ ̨͝͝ ༼̴̧̕ ̡̀༎̵͜ຶ́͘ ෴̷͜ ༎ຶ̴́༽̡͜ ̡༼͠ ͟༎҉͜͞ຶ̵͟ ෴ ̢́͘༎̸̕͠ຶ༽̷̷ ༼̴ ̴͡༎̷͢ຶ̵͡ ͏෴ ̨͢༎҉ຶ̵̸༽͠



TO: RE:START: a few notes on pre-glitch - GL1TCH.US - post-glitch continuums:

there are several types of usages for these prefixxed terms: pre + post. these prefixes can refer, in their most simple forms, to placements along a more or less linear timelines. in chronological historical accounts, an event is positioned as proceeding another while other events follows others. these uses of pre + post then demarcate moments of change, keyframes in timelines

for instance, or by ways of instantiation, the use the term glitch as referring to a form of music, glitch music, predates the use of the term to refer to the art now known as Glitch Art. simply said: glitch music occurs before + influences/inspires the art now known as Glitch Art

another more complex, less directly linear chronological time-line based example would be a usage the appendage “post” to refer to not only “after” but also “critical of”. by example, the term post-modernism denotes a level of criticality in perspective (of Postmodernist positions on Modernism). in this case, post-glitch would be that which approaches glitch critically as an attempt to formulate or offer positions more critical of glitch +/or Glitch Art that cannot be contained so easily inside the always already unstable categories

an early example of this post-glitch approach via a critical analysis of ‘glitch’ +/or “Glitch Art” motivated D1TH3R_DØØM: dither_d00m / Ditherd00m “felt repelled by the superficial quality of digital art in the aforementioned “seapunk” vein. They decided to create a self-aware movement embracing the paranoia surrounding the “Mayan Apocalypse”… creating work within aesthetic boundaries evoked by the nihilistic mindset of a decadent culture perched on the brink of sudden and irrevocable destruction… If the world was set to end in fiery hailstorm on December 21, 2012, so would their “movement.” (Whether the hailstorm manifested itself or not.) …dither_doom are among the first generation of adults raised in a world where technological devices are everywhere and the New Aesthetic represents not a shift, but the status quo.” (9)

still, this perspective which measures moments + counts on time-based accounts, requires a sense of fixity for histories, recordings, historical accounts + experiences. when 01 encounters these unstable arts now known as Glitch Art one also often encounters instabilities, not only of unstable media, but also of hystorical accounts. multiple parallel mayhaps even contradictory hystories && accounts coexist. in sum cases these efforts are mobilized to revise, remodel, rerender, reiterate +/or reversion one another in a contentious process of pasts, presents + futures overlapping && (re)combining in ways which can’t be predicted by linear hystorical models alone

"the time is now, post-glitch cometh!" - Mason Dixon (10)

nonetheless, we (@ least from a traditional Western-philosophic bias) do experience events occurring, from our reality-tunneled && enculturated subjective experiences, in some sorts of sequences which can be shared w/ others in the sense of consensus reality. still, these sequences may or may not involve what we understand to be causality. in other words: the pre-glitch may or may not cause the glitch; the post-glitch may or may not be caused by the glitch


in 2013 the Cartoon Network (“an American basic cable and satellite television channel that is owned by the Turner Broadcasting System division of Time Warner” (11)) aired an episode of the Adventure Time series entitled “A Glitch Is A Glitch”. this episode, written, directed + animated by David O’Reilly (12), spread quickly + informally online. ppl reacted w/ love && excitement:

as well as more decidedly mixed emotions. this episode was simply a more recent recurrence of similarly mainstreamed moments through which glitch aesthetics, as a detached (visual) style had alrdy been integrated into such corporate entertainment products/media:


which themselves are reappropriated + reintegrated into other ongoing discourses over times:

now, while i actively disrespect distinctions (i.e. between high|low art forms), there are most certainly different motivations @ work w/in these approaches. networks of influence are deeply distributed now. these distributed nets are nonlinear + decentralized. super-niches communities can become mainstreamed quickly, almost simultaneous to their own experiments + community formations. (15) mainstream/popular cultural embraces are most often very fickle, fleeting love affairs that flicker into existence, burn brightly + then go out overnights. meanwhiles, those fires whose flames were once seen burning bright might still smolder + continue to burn w/in smaller scenes, underneath the proverbial surfaces of main streams

all of these relationships are based on accessibilities of matching metaphors + vocabularies. in this Glitch Era we experience a specific kind of breakage based on the broken promises of the Modern Era. these experiences enable communications exchanged on the basis of a shared language of glitches. Postmodernity offered critiques of Modernism. meanwhile, Modernist impulses persist, now running alongside Postmodernist critiques b/c ‘post’ is not a replacement technology, not a historical hard cut that slices through continuities + renders irreversible changes to our accounts of the past. ‘post’ is simply a conceptual demarcation, an indicator of transitions + a potential flag for critical stances taken up as positions


amidst various collapses, certain (i.e. American) mythic promises of endless utopic improvement, are clearly  based on illusions generated through consumerism && technological positivism. the deception that leading ppl to believe that each generation moves beyond the apex of the last, like an unbroken arrow into futures of better + brighter tomorrows, now appears to be hollow, false + an impossibility. the world is more complex. the systems now naturalized into + of this world, our technosocial systems, are more complex then stories of ‘progress’ once told. as we increase our systems complexities, we may be approaching a singularity beyond which we cannot even conceive of specific outcomes of these systems themselves or their systemic developments (17)

we humans live in a broken world, a technologized world of our own making. the technological is a socially constructed set of ideas + realizations of material power that shift + shape over times, fundamentally informing && affecting our understandings of ourselves. furthermore, these unstable dynamics include, enframe, contextualize + give rise to our ideations of glitch, nature, the natural world, the technological world, specific Digital Art technologies + our Arts in Technological Times. in this context: malfunctions are manifest; Noise is a type of Art witchcrafted comes from pre-glitch Musics such as Musique concrète, Electronic, Industrial && Art Hystorical origin points such as Futurist, Dadaist, Surrealist and FLUXUS (18); && glitch is a language regularly expressing values programmed into these codes through cracks in their surfaces

Netochka Nezvanova / 0f0003 | maschinenkunst once said: “Any fool can program komputers. I program krikets.” (19)

"Any føøl can program kømputers. I prøgram krikets."

"áπÿ ╒δΩ└ caπ P┌ôg┌áM KºmPú┬èΓ$. í P┌°G┌@M kΓiKΣ┬$."

"äÑ¥ ƒòδ└ ¢àn P┌ºGΓåM kömPùtèΓ$. ï p┌óg┌ªM KΓíkε┬$."

"˙$┼éʞíγʞ ɯªγbòγd í ˙$┌ǝ┬údɯφʞ ɯå┌b°┌d ∩αç ן°σ╒ ¥∩á"

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as an American, it’s important for me to state here, @ this pt, that i come from a broken empire, a fallen empire delusionally attached to fantasies of it’s own primacy. mayhaps, from this vector-view, glitches have become an available set of matching metaphors + shared vocabularies to describe life on these unstable grounds, a terrain based on brokenness in which
‘the glitch’ functions as a culturally diffused/dispersed reference to brokenness/collapse/crash. questions made possible by considerations of post-glitch become then even more urgent in that it becomes necessary to navigate these nets && move through these subjects w/ awareness + criticality. this dynamic set of ever changing + fundamentally incomplete/reconfiguring relationships move in imperfect unions forming glitchscapes

technologies are unstable due to the rates of technological change that have developed since the Industrial Revolution until today. the machine world is a world literally machined out of the previously ‘natural’ world. this process begins, in its most recent form, in the 1900’s. @ the turn of the century (post-Civil War + into the 1900’s), in the nation-state now known as the United States, “steam + electricity replaced human muscle, iron replaced wood, + steel replaced iron” as Howard Zinn writes (21). this process of Industrialization was also fundamentally related to the project of nation-building in the United States, a rapid, brutally violent + deeply technologized project. inventions, innovations + instruments of transformation in this process include the technosocial systems of: railroads, steam engines, telegraphs, telephones, typewriters + adding machines. these technosocial systems of interconnection, communication + what will become understood as computing, establish a technological basis in the Industrial moment for the forthcoming Electronic Revolution + the subsequent Digital Revolution. the railroads + telegraph lines lay a literal groundwork for basis of the Internet backbone now based on path dependencies. the systemic + industrial design pathways of telephones, typewriters + adding machines, along w/ the screen influences of film, television + video, establish technosocial are also familar media modalities that are still traveled every day in contemporary computing + Digital Cultures. these hystories are well-investigated in the fields of Media Archeologies, Media Art Histories, New Media Studies, Cybercultural Studies, Science & Technology Studies + the other related/adjacent fields of academic study. my point here is not to retell those tales but to simply point towards them as a way of stating that these are all recent technosocial developments bringing us to the glitch && thereby to the post-glitch. these cultural positions are philosophically informed by their contentious hystories && genealogies, socially defined + determined through contested use, reuse + resistances

the above ‘nation-building’ project was brutally violent for most, deadly for many + extremely profitable for sum. the genocide of First Nations in North America, the institution/industry of slavery + the socioeconomic/industrial impacts of Civil War && Reconstruction Era are all 3 keys to understanding the basis upon which present  American cultures (including the popular media cultures referenced in this text) are based. these hystories literally set the stage for the development of the “Military-Industrial Complex” in the United States, a term introduced to the discourse not from outside but rather from the inside out via a completely authorized + initiated governmental/military insider: the President of the United States. well-known + often quoted, President Dwight D. Eisenhower (a five-star general in the US Army, who subsequently became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces + then the 1rst supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO]) warned the American citizenry against the rise of the Military-Industrial Complex in his 1961 farewell address. (22) the facts of Eisenhower’s warning have quickly became what we now know + can better identify in more complexity as an enlarged complex, i.e. a Military-Industrial-Academic-Entertainment Complex. this complex is itself part of/if not the very fabric by which we define ‘the technological’ (in the United States + in the consensual hallucination that is ‘American culture’ worldwide)

this Military-Industrial-Academic-Entertainment Complex fashions the technological in actual realizations of material powers (23) && through our conceptions of their powers/possibilities. still, these ideas, beliefs + hystories are also importantly formed out of resistances to these complexes, spectacles, technosocial systems of power + societies of control. as Fred Turner articulates (24), from an acknowledged American perspective, present day Digital Culture emerges in many fundamental ways from Countercultural Movements of the 1960’s in the United States. Lutz Dammbeck’s film Das Netz: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet (25) underscores how these prehystories are themselves complexes of decentralized networks woven together in ways that glitch expectations b/c they are human inventions && humans are, after all, imperfect, complicated, uneven, messy multitudes:

"I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman (26)

but nowww inna text on post-glitch, i mayhaps have spent too much time on Prehistories of New Media && pre-glitch:

these are only apparent malfunctions. the system itself is not actually malfunctioning. the system itself is in fact functioning as it was designed. rather, aspects of the system’s functionality are exploited by artists, in order to bring out unexpected reactions for: audiences or participants, readers or players, those receptive or responsive.

while you have a sense of surprise && even wonder, being excited about apparent glitches, which are not actually deep malfunctions, not actually preventative malfunctions, not leading down a cascading overflow towards irreversible or unrecoverable crashes into rabbit holes, but rather, get curiouser && curiouser (27) && as part of a continuous flow of signals, you are carried along these datastreams

swim in continuous signals flows: “follow the water, as the water has already found the easiest path down” (28)


"We live invested in an electric information environment that is quite as imperceptible to us as water is to fish." - Marshall McLuhan (30)

POST-1969: i am inclined to believe that “we”, the all inclusive plural pronoun invoked by McLuhan above, have become more aware of these waters. GLITCH AWARENESS signals reflection + refractions while we continue, caught in the waters in which we swim, TO: breath signal to noise ratios, inverted from times to times such as when we self-consciously value glitch from post-glitch perspectives

“Every new war necessitates new technologies.” - jonCates remixing Marshall McLuhan


GL1TCHYSTØRIES (30) include various vector-views (subjective perspectives + agendas), multiple meanings + technosocial, cultural + material hystories of glitch +/or Glitch Art.

PØST-GL!TȻH: traces escapes from the overcoding of glitch +/or Glitch Art as superficial aesthetics available as design styles; pØ5-ģ̶Ł̶1̶ɫ̶C̶ʮ̶: complicates the naming of glitch +/or Glitch Art as a politic; && reintroduces criticality as a necessary + needed perspective on these noisy signal flows

what happens when unexpected malfunctions or errors become expected? in sum sense, this is a normalized technosocial condition. we do not or should not assume flawless operations in our technosocial lives. && what happens when (primarily visual) signifiers for those glitches become expected? this is the state of post-glitch. inna a post-glitch condition of critical/contextual awareness, from a vector-view of criticality towards previous assumptions, this text begins again w/ an acknowledgement of this unstable terrain in order to mobilize or (@ least begin to re:) imagine points of departure, moments of reflection + a means of address if not escape


as Passnaught Vanyard once said on Facebook (31) inna group called G L I T C H: “glitches exist relative to the human-created technology that they arise w/in.” furthermore that the glitches in/of Glitch Art (which may [most often superficially] be effected rather than actual [ruptures, breakages or collapses]) indicate the existence of wild or feral glitches. thereby, these affective or effected glitches internal to art works are indicative of other systemic glitches outside of the artworks which they themselves are not (+/or are not required to be). also, Vanyard underscored how all of these glitches (internal +/or external to artworks; domesticated +/or feral; etc) + are “in fact themselves human creations”. Vanyard defines glitch, by stating that  the “reference does not equal the referent” in terms of glitches +/or Glitch Art. Vanyard continues by referencing existentialism && emptiness, writing that “glitches are not meaningless, but they are like gaps in our narratives for using technology, + are therefore some kind of empty. They cease to exist the moment after they arise + leave us w/ a residue of images, sounds, etc.” from this perspective or these vector-views then mayhaps all glitch is post-glitch, as we become aware of glitches only after their occurrences have past


“By giving a close reading of the game’s glitch graphics, noise design, and in-game activities, I argue that Memories of a Broken Dimension is a platform for the player’s enactment of a process of information access and manipulation through which computer and human are entangled in the mutual constitution of a world in which media facilitate circulatory flows of information that blend human and synthetic materialities of cognition.” - William Lockett (33)

"The first step is to find memory glitches that you can interact with." (34)


“despite all our desperate, eternal attempts to separate, contain + mend, categories always leak.” - Trinh T. Minh-ha (35)

POST-GLITCH - jonCates


MARCH 2014


0. post-glitch - jonCates (2012 - present)

1. pre-glitch - GL1TCH.US - post-glitch @ SXSW - jonCates (2013)

2. tumblr: http://systemsapproach.tumblr.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jonCates

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jonCates

Instagram: http://instagram.com/joncates
3. Error: Glitch, Noise, and Jam in New Media Cultures - Mark Nunes (2010)


Failure - Lisa Le Feuvre (2010)


The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture - Hal Foster (1983)


4. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy - Lawrence Lessig (2008)
5. the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 is widely understood as a crisis event altering international socioeconomic conditions. Slavoj Žižek writes (4A), “Two events mark the beginning and end of the first decade of the twentyfirst century: the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the financial meltdown in 2008.”

5A. It’s the Political Economy, Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory edited by Gregory Sholette & Oliver Ressler (2013)


6. 2012: THE DAZE DITHER D00M CRASHED: Patrick Quinn && Alfredo Salazar-Caro interviewed by jonCates (2012)


7. nuEvil signature file - nuEvil (2014)

8. Glitch Effect Tutorial - Kawiku (© 2013 - 2014 Kawiku)




10. “the time is now, post-glitch cometh!” - Mason Dixon (2013)


11. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartoon_Network
12. Adventure Time: A Glitch Is A Glitch - David O’Reilly for Cartoon Network (2013)

13. Welcome to Heartbreak - NABIL for Kanye West feat. Kid Cudi (2009)


14. Beware - Matthew Williams for Big Sean ft. Lil Wayne & Jhené Aiko (2013)


15. adjacent or next door neighbors to Glitch Art communities, the Seapunk scene of art/music intersections is a recent + now oft quoted example of rapid inclusion into popular forms from subcultural origin stories + truth claims

16. #84 - But, Is It Okay To Desecrate A Digital Image Of The Flag? - GlitchingNo (2013)

17. The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology - Ray Kurzweil (2005)

18. “Noise is a type of ART witch crafted comes from Musics such as Musique concrète, Electronic, Industrial && Art Hystorical origin points such as Futurist, Dadaist, Surrealist and FLUXUS.” (via Zalgo text generator - tchouky [2009]) . (ANIMATED) GIF - jonCates (2012)


19. Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2006 23:35:34 -0600

To: kfor@anart.no

From: n2o@ggttctttat.com (0f0003 | maschinenkunst)

Subject: [kfor] \ pulafashion


20. 1337 ¥³4Γ$ øƒ D1RTY N3W M3DI∆: 2005 - 2012 CH1C∆Gø - jonCates (2012)


21. A People’s History of the United States - Howard Zinn (1980)

22. United States Presidential farewell address - President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1961)

23. my working defn of technology is the materialization power && power materialized

24. From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism - Fred Turner (2006)

25. Das Netz: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet - Lutz Dammbeck (2003)
26. Song of Myself - Walt Whitman (1855)

27. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland - Charles Lutwidge Dodgson AKA Lewis Carroll (1865)
28. k-NOO-www.#ART - jonCates (2014)

29. Alice in Wonderland - (as illustrated by) John Tenniel (1865)

30. Counterblast - Marshall McLuhan (1969)

31. in the G L I T C H Group on Facebook, in reply to a post on July 8 2013: https://www.facebook.com/groups/glitchglitch/permalink/685650031451623/

32. Memory of a Broken Dimension - datatragedy (2012)

33. Hybrid Agency and Glitch in Digital Games: revisiting the politics and aesthetics of perceptual disorientation -  William Lockett (2013)
34. Remember Me - Dontnod Entertainment (2013)

35. Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism - Trinh T. Minh-ha (1989)

In Conversation

Daniel Temkin & Pall Thayer

In Conversation is a series of ‘artist vs artist’ conversation pieces that will be a regular feature. In part one of In Conversation we invited artist and NOOART contributor Daniel Temkin to talk with Icelandic artist Pall Thayer.


DT: Your Microcodes series is written (mostly? completely?) in Perl. Perl is an interesting choice; it often reads as almost psuedo-code, perhaps making it more accessible to non-programmers who view your work. At the same time, Perl has the potential to be written in such unreadable forms that some actually consider it an esolang, out of the box. Could you talk about why you’re drawn to Perl for your work, and if you’ve experimented much with other languages for code art?

PT:  The Microcodes are presented exclusively in Perl. This choice was two-fold; first, Perl, as your comment suggests, is a highly versatile language. It maintains a flexibility that many other languages reject. One of Perl’s motto’s is “There’s More Than One Way To Do It” (TMTOWTDI; pronounced, “Timtoady”), second, I know Perl very well. Combine these two things and Perl feels to me like clay. It’s malleable. I can mold it in a number of ways and on multiple levels. That being said, many of the Microcodes contain system calls and/or terminal codes that either enhance or detract from the general readability of the code. For instance, in the case of “Seedbed”, the Unix terminal command “touch” is used to enhance the suggestive readability of the program whereas a line like ” system 'tput' , 'cup' , $the_spot,  $last_line;” (“The path to enlightenment”) doesn’t read well but enhances the performance of the program. The codes are all conceptually driven. In some cases the concept is more dependent on the readability of the code, in others the performance of the code takes precedence.

I could produce my own vocabulary (esolang) within Perl, i.e. lolcat, but that’s not my objective. I have chosen to work within the confines of Perl and the Unix terminal. It’s a bit like a painter working with a limited pallet. Of course, an esolang does that too, as we see in your own work. Especially the new color image thing but I want people to look at an existing code language and consider the fact that they aren’t as strict and formulaic as many people think. There is an element of creative flexibility involved. Programming code can “read” in a certain way and that may or may not reflect what they actually do. It’s up to the person writing the code.

For other work (besides the Microcodes), I tend to use a number of programming languages. Often, my pieces will involve scripts written in Perl, PHP, JavaScript, Processing and/or MySQL. And perhaps Pure Data. It depends on the work and the technologies it requires.

From what I’ve gathered, your chosen platform is Windows. To me, that suggests a very inflexible system and I have to admit that I don’t really understand how you do what you do in a Windows environment. Have you considered working with open-source environments and, if you have, how do you think that might affect or influence what you do?

DT:  Ha, the UNIX guy is callin’ me out on Windows in the first question!

No, but it is a conflict of sorts. You and I are both working in forms that have to be open-source to function. Code art like yours rely on the relationship between the code and its execution. Esolangs are programming languages; to let anyone else experience it means giving them the rules that define it, either to program in themselves, or at least to consider the logic that makes it function as a system.

I tend to work in Windows for one of the reasons you mentioned; it’s just how I’m used to working. It’s my background (from years of working as a programmer for my day job) and I still have easy access to its tools. When I first began creating esolangs (such as Velato, my first project), I created Windows compilers for them first, with the idea that I’d get around to making ones for other platforms. A language, again, is simply the list of rules that defines it — but the compiler allows others to actually start working with it and often exposes surprises in its behavior that aren’t apparent from just seeing a description of the language. I find compilers difficult to write, it’s the laborious task that comes at the end of designing a language; it became a hurdle I would have to overcome to put the language out.

The aha moment came when I came across Andrew Hoyer’s javascript implementation of my language entropy. Suddenly, this language was opened to everyone (and, btw, this is a great aspect of programming culture online, the way these ideas are shared and built on by others…). Now, when I meet with students who want to create esolangs, I generally encourage them to start with javascript interpreters, or to simply to create languages that extend javascript in some way, in part because particularities of different operating systems don’t become a factor.

This question of the rules of the language and the execution (the necessity of having a compiler) gets me thinking about the tension between them. I often compare esolangs — and code art — to Fluxus event scores or other performative scripts. Geoff Cox, in his Speaking Code, makes the point that code is a special type of performance, in that the machine always “performs” the same piece of code the same way: the speaking of the code and performing of it become flattened. I think of your codeworks as opening that back up, even if there is no literal performance of the code by the reader, it is still invoking an idea apart from the machine’s interpretation, which reinserts some level of creative interpretation by the reader. Maybe you could speak to how that functions in your work?

PT:  You should consider telling students about Perl for early esolang experimentation. That way they don’t need to think about a compiler. They can build it as a Perl module.

I’ve never thought about my Microcodes not being literally performed by the reader. I’ve always expected readers of them to try running them. To me, the experience is incomplete until you see what the code does. Each of the works exists on three primary levels: the code, the title and the running process. Ignoring any of these makes the experience of the work incomplete. Even in the case where the code doesn’t produce any output, the way that it runs is important. Does it loop or does it exit? Take for instance “The beginning of the end”. If you were to try running it and it were to immediately exit, it wouldn’t make any sense. But it enters a loop that may not be immediately apparent in the reading of the code. The idea here is that a person would never actually experience their own end for the end wouldn’t be reached until the person ceases to be. Therefore, a wait for “the end” will never be more than that, a wait.

What are your thoughts on the notion that we create for a very limited audience? In my case, the general public is expected to be able to read and interpret lines of code as well as running them in a terminal. In your case, they are expected to be able to write code and/or appreciate the quirkiness of an esoteric programming language. Do you think about who your audience is?

DT:  I think as more people learn how to program, art that builds on code will not just have a wider audience, but grow in sophistication. Douglas Rushkoff (in Rhizome’s Seven on Seven 2012 keynote) called for children to be taught programming in elementary school, to help train them to create content instead of becoming passive consumers. Already, programming is moving away from being a specialized skill. I visited Paul Hertz’s Artware course at School of the Art Institute recently and was blown away seeing art students, some of whom were just beginning with javascript, come up with conceptually complex scripts and getting them to work by combining existing code and rigging them together.

However, I don’t want esolangs or code art to be limited to people who can program, anymore than to have paintings built from a visual vocabulary that makes sense only to other painters. That is the hurdle with this type of esolangs; on the one hand, there are the programmers / the esolangers (who really developed this form in the first place), who will program with the language, or at least consider its strange logic. Some of the most beautiful esolangs (FRACTRAN for instance) are not easy to approach, even for seasoned programmers.

Hello, World in Piet by Thomas Schoch

Other esolangs can be understood by viewing the code itself (or presented, as you do, alongside its output). Piet for instance, the visual programming language, is like a reverse generative art, where the rules of the language shape the visual work, but it’s the programmer who designs it according to those rules. In my own esolang work, I’m interested in the tension between how we communicate with the machine verse with each other — I see it as inevitable that at some level, human expression overflows the denotative nature of programming. Making this clear to non-programmers can be challenging. In Light Pattern, I pair the camera and the computer as two apparati, each of which has no concern for what is meaningful or expressive to us. It’s a programming language that uses technical changes between successive photographs to determine commands. But as an installation, I add a camera controlled by an Arduino, programmed to take photos that create a working program in the Light Pattern language. People read a narrative thread in the photographs, even though the photos are taken by a machine for reasons wholly apart from the content of those images. This is done to make the project more clear to non-programmers, people who will not set out with a camera in order to make a Light Pattern program itself.

I mentioned my language Entropy earlier; it was made to comment on the compulsiveness of programming. In it, all data decays over time, so programmers have to give up on perfection and write code that can get a message across to the user before their program falls apart. I realized that the best way to show this language to an audience of non-programmers was to write code in it that somehow got across that conecpt in its execution. So I took the first chatbot, Eliza; I chose Eliza because people see her as a person with a distinct personality even though her code is very simple. I was curious what personality she would have in Entropy, and I ended up with Drunk Eliza. When I put Drunk Eliza on my website, I was surprised by the response; people tended to write the way she did; as she became less coherent, people talking to her would tend to mimic that behavior. The flipside was that there were a lot of guys who seemed to be there just to hit on her, which seemed odd and surprising to me…

Who do you see as your forerunners in code art? From where did this form evolve, or who were the important influences for you?

Still From Pall Thayer’s Self-Portrait

PT: That’s an interesting question without a short answer. I can jump to the middle of the story (but it’s still going to be long). First of all, I was originally heavily invested in painting and drawing. Those were my strong points through much of my early art education. I was very involved with computers early on but they didn’t figure into my visual art until much later in life. About midway through college, I went to The Helsinki Academy of Art in Finland as a guest student. There I was introduced to a group called MUU Media and that was the first time I saw artists using computers in ways that intrigued me. I haven’t painted since. However, in those early years, I was still heavily invested in the visual aspect of things and as my knowledge of contemporary computer programming grew, I veered further and further towards “painting with code”. My “Self-Portrait” experiments are a good example of the aesthetic I developed through that practice. By that time, I had been heavily influenced by the likes of Mark Napier and casey reas. Especially through their work with The Whitney Artport that I believe was curated by Christiane Paul at the time. The Whitney’s CodeDOC project was especially influential because it made you scroll through all of the code to find the link to the running process at the end. To me, this really accentuated the concept of code being more than a method, it became a medium. The idea of manipulating code became synonymous with shaping clay or manipulating paint with a brush. Around this time, I ceased writing “artist’s statements” to go with my work and released the source code as documentation instead. My idea was that anything anyone might want to know about the work is embedded in the code, in one form or another. The code was often sloppy, with many lines that had been commented out. To me, this suggested the thought processes of the artist. They displayed the failed attempts and highlighted the successes. If anyone cared enough, they could view the code and glean the creative process from start to finish. The real turning point though, was a piece I did while in grad school at Concordia University in Montreal titled “On Everything”. This piece went, systematically, through the public collection of photographs on Flickr.com and reprocessed them in much the same way as my “Self-Portrait” experiments. At the same time, it pulled recent blog posts from Blogger.com and read them out with a very computerized voice. The piece was displayed on a website and received some good reviews. However, the reviewers consistently claimed that the material was randomly chosen while it was an important aspect of the piece, to me, that the images were not chosen at random. The piece was in fact going through the Flickr images in the order that they were uploaded to the site. I felt this was important because of the title, “On Everything”. You can’t approach “everything” by jumping through a collection in random order. It needs to be organized. The only documentation for the work was the source code but for anyone who understands code, it should have been quite clear that this was the case. Obviously, people didn’t really care about the code and weren’t paying any attention to it. This is basically what lead me to start producing work as code first and foremost. I felt that people needed to be “forced” to engage with the code side of this type of work.

In all honesty, when I began to produce the “Microcodes”, I thought to myself, “This is probably going to mark the end of my career as an artist.” But I think it’s received more attention than any of my previous work. Which seems odd to me because I’m not convinced that people really get it. Maybe they get the concept. I’m not sure. But there are other influences that have emerged since my focus shifted to code. The first is one that Casey Reas has based work on, Sol LeWitt and another is Lawrence Weiner. Both of these artists created instructional pieces. It’s interesting to explore the relationship between early Conceptual, instructional work and computer programming code. But I think code takes things further. It gets interpreted by a strictly logical machine. LeWitt and Weiner’s work wasn’t intended for machines. There’s something else going on here.

I’ve always been very sure of my progression towards this type of art. I can easily trace the steps and see what led from one point to another. How would you describe your progression? I know that your educational background is in photography. How do you go from photography to writing compilers and who or what influenced it? What was the initial spark and how does it relate to your background?

Still from Drunk Eliza by Daniel Temkin

DT:  When I first discovered esolangs, I just thought they were really cool and wanted to experiment with them myself; I didn’t know you could do such things with programming languages. At that point, I didn’t think of them in an art context, it was more of a way to work off the frustration of thinking in the orderly, compulsive way I wrote code at my day job. When I decided to go back to art school, I picked a photography program; I love photography and I think I wanted to an escape from from programming, which was starting to feel kind of oppressive. But I found that ended up using photography to explore the very same issues I began exploring with esolangs; it just took art school to help me figure out what I was doing with esolangs and how to articulate it…

Esolangers are what Jon Cates calls an “expert culture,” people who make work as a community, each building on the work of others, but without institutional support that legitimizes it (sort of like fan fiction). The more research I did on esolangs, the more I was surprised by the conceptual complexity of the work; built by people who were not explicitly thinking of it in an art context and didn’t necessarily have access to or any interest in art history. It showed me that, as important as that history is, the playfulness and the urge to take systems apart to reinvent them to express things they hadn’t seemed possible to express before is an instinct that comes as naturally to hackers as to artists. The language Unnecessary, for instance, takes compilation apart to use the compiler as an all-rejecting system—the only true Unnecessary program is one which doesn’t exist, and when compiled, it prints its own source code (which is nothing). I found this brilliant, and when I show it to non-technical art audiences, they get it right away. That was really exciting for me.

So, the esolangers themselves were my big influence, but Sol LeWitt and Gerhard Richter, who I see as personifying two strategies for sublimating one’s agency into a system, are huge influences. I looked quite a bit at Fluxus event scores, especially the ones which annihilate distinctions between artist, performer, and audience; and considered how esolangs similarly blend the roles of language designer, programmer, and audience.

One final question: what do you see as the future for code-based art?

PT:  Before I answer the question, I would like to mention that I find it interesting that Sol LeWitt’s name comes up so often in these sorts of discussions. I would venture to say that it’s quite obvious that he is one of the prime figures that justifies tying this sort of work to the visual arts.

My dream for the future of code-based art is quite simple. I foresee a greater general understanding of code in the near future. How long it’s going to take for the general “art world” to comprehend this new language of creativity is anyone’s guess but it’s something that has happened over and over again throughout art history. I have a hard time believing that it will eventually be dismissed as our interactions with code in our daily lives continue to grow.

Eventually, people are going to figure out that compiled code doesn’t live forever. In fact, as works of art, they have a very limited life-span. When this happens, some person, more prominent than I, is going to point out that making the source code public, will prolong the life of this kind of work. The code will become a map, or notation, for recreating the piece on later technology for the sake of cultural preservation.


Daniel Temkin studies the clash between human compulsiveness and the irrationality of the machine through images, programming languages, and interactive pieces. His writing on esoteric programming (esolangs) and glitch art have been taught and presented widely.

Pall Thayer is an Icelandic/American artist working primarily with computers and the Internet. He is a devout follower of open-source culture. His work is developed using open-source tools and source-code for his projects is released under a GPL license. His work has been exhibited at galleries and festivals around the world.