Coding the Human Condition: An Analysis on Computational Media

Computational media has opened up new possibilities within the realm of conceptual art (Greenberg, 2007). the ability to create aesthetic pieces using techniques such as coding, instructions and translations is something that previous artists had no freedom to explore. However, this new form of expression has it’s own set of difficulties and boundaries. Code and codification come with a set of rules and borders which tangible art has the freedom to ignore (Zagrobelna, 2016), and thus, has trouble being brought forth to an external environment. This is an issue which I found myself facing on more than one occasions while I attempted to re-create the basic premise of works executed by pioneer conceptual artist Sol Lewitt in weeks one, two and three. These issues came about when playing with the ideas of variable abstraction and context. These two factors, when analysed through the lens of conceptual art show areas in which Lewitt’s art form fell through.

In order to show the issues which Sol Lewitt must have faced bringing conceptualisation in to the “Real world”, my own experiences in producing instruction based artworks must be analysed. I engaged in three conceptual art exercises over the corse of three weeks. the activities which I experimented with were: The transmission of a sentence through visual code over a long distance, breaking down and sending an image over audial code and translating a work of art based off of its aesthetic elements. Comparing the methodologies which I used in order to transmit messages without the use of basic language to the execution of computational media expressed in Tullett and Dowling’s “Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology”, a “Pure” approach to art through coding, I found that the main hurdle that I could not bound was that of the human condition.

Coding, as it stands as a computer language was an insufficient method of creating conceptual art. Both Lewitt and I addressed this matter by not creating visual art through traditional computational codes such as vector or raster (Vector-conversions.com, 2016), (two methods of abstracting visual ideas within binary language), but through playing on context and a person’s ability to move freely in a space, much in the same way that a computer can not.

vector-vs-raster-jawlensky.jpg

As I mentioned previously in this blog post, there are three ways (as far as I have researched) in which an instruction based artist such as Sol  Lewitt can create his art. Vector, Raster and Human Contextually. The third one is made up so I will talk about it last, but the first two are extremely prolific ways in which we see visual media on a daily basis. Both are computational coding strategies that turn code in to images on computers and other device screens

Using vector as your base coding technique to create images is useful when an image must be enlarged. It processes information in a “Connect the dots” fashion which greatly reduces pixilation when enlarged. However, it is only really seen when encoding simple images such as text and line art. This is where Raster style visual coding comes in to play. Raster coding takes a more detailed look at the image and splits it up in to a grid. It then decides which square of the grid (Usually by pixel) needs to be a specific colour. This style of visual computation works best for more detailed images like photos, though it looses detail as it its enlarged.

In my experiments however, attempting both of these transmission styles in order to abstract an image to another person left much to be desired. The other participants became quickly flustered when faced with vector style coding such as “Draw a straight line from A4 to M8” and found raster decoding tortuous. However, when the picture was described, in this case a minimalist depiction of three birds, using pre-existing knowledge, even when mixed with some code based transmission (Draw three birds at x, y and z with wingspans stretching v length) became much more comprehensible to the receiver. This method can be seen in most Sol Lewitt works, such as “Wall Drawing #1136”, where he uses a combination of traditional coding and contextualisation in order to abstract his artistic concepts in a way that can be easily de-coded and expressed on the wall (Tate, 2004).

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Wall Drawing #1136 2004 Sol LeWitt.

This is where Lewitt hits his main obstacle. The art pieces which people execute based on his instructions are subjective. His use of the words “Not Straight” and “Random” (Moma.org, 2016) as seen in works such as #136, It becomes extremely difficult not to Follow Lewitt’s instructions without interpretation, which is a factor that Lewitt does not appreciate, and rebuts against by handing out “Certificates of Authenticity” to those who executed his works “Correctly” (Artexpertswebsite.com, 2016).

Computational art has both liberated and refined the ideas and possibilities of conceptualism. It has been both a remedy and a poison for conceptual artists such as Sol Lewitt and in my opinion, its many nuances are yet to be exploited and properly executed by artists utilising this form. accurately expressing an ideas aesthetic and bringing computational coding in to the real world is a challenge many an artist faces in the 21st century, and it is an important art form to expand on, for what are we in a technological era without code (Rushkoff and Purvis, 2011).

 

References

Greenberg, I. (2007). Processing. Berkeley, CA: Friends of Ed, an Apress Co.

Moma.org. (2016). MoMA | Sol LeWitt and Instruction-based Art. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/conceptual-art/sol-lewitt-and-instruction-based-art [Accessed 16 Aug. 2016].

Vector-conversions.com. (2016). Raster (Bitmap) vs Vector. [online] Available at: http://vector-conversions.com/vectorizing/raster_vs_vector.html [Accessed 17 Aug. 2016].

Rushkoff, D. and Purvis, L. (2011). Program or be programmed. Berkeley, CA: Soft Skull Press.

Tate. (2004). Sol LeWitt, ‘Wall Drawing #1136’ 2004. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/lewitt-wall-drawing-1136-ar00165 [Accessed 16 Aug. 2016].

Artexpertswebsite.com. (2016). Sol LeWitt. Expert art authentication, certificates of authenticity and expert art appraisals – Art Experts. [online] Available at: https://www.artexpertswebsite.com/pages/artists/lewitt.php [Accessed 16 Aug. 2016].

Tullett, B. and Dowling, J. (2014). Typewriter art.

Zagrobelna, M. (2016). Is Digital Art “Real” Art? Facts and Myths About Digital Creating. [online] Design.tutsplus.com. Available at: http://design.tutsplus.com/articles/is-digital-art-real-art-facts-and-myths-about-digital-creating–cms-22010 [Accessed 17 Aug. 2016].

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