The aim of this workshop was to present software as a process for creative exploration of physical (‘analog’) materials and realities. At the same time, participants were invited to think critically about the ‘invisible hand’ of software in shaping the world. The workshop was targeted at anyone interested in art in technology , but absolutely no computer skills were required!
The plan and the expectations
As presented during the FuturePlaces Labs introduction a day earlier, this workshop was to have two very distinct moments. In the morning session there would be a presentation of the basic concepts and some illustrative collective exercises would be carried out. A two-hour lunchtime would then provide participants with enough time to reflect on their work for the afternoon, for which there was no clear plan or directive. Still, the overall plan was devised while supposing that participants would choose to work individually, and that the most probable output would consist of procedural ‘recipes’ for drawings and some accompanying sketches.
Oct. 17 morning session: What is digital? What is software?
The workshop’s morning session followed the plan that was set. Short moments of exposition on the nature of digital information and on the relationship between software and the work of conceptual artists (greatly inspired by Casey Reas’ analysis of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings in Software Structures) were blended with some practical exercises. Participants got to know each other’s name by playing Stan’s Café Simple Maths game, and were asked to reflect on whether they felt like a software ‘object’ while playing.
Later, participants were asked to represent a series of eight coin tosses as a series of eight bits, and from those bits each participant filled his own QR-like ‘bitmap card’, and was invited to find the corresponding number (for technical or picky readers, considering a decimal unsigned big-endian integer) and ASCII character.
Oct. 17 afternoon session: A collective turn toward behavioral software
After a lunchtime discussion on the societal role of software structures, participants had collectively decided to abandon the idea of individually devising procedural instructions and some accompanying sketches. Considering the exhibition to occur the following day, participants chose instead to devise a collective work highlighting software’s ‘invisible hand’. The idea arose that visitors to Passos Manuel would be challenged to ‘execute’ software code presented to them, perhaps nudged by lab participants acting as ‘agent provocateurs’ – thus the lab strayed onto the territories of performance art!