writes about Jimpunk and Josh Larios
The word "network," at
least in a social sense, seems to have a connotation of closedness. Think
of the term "networking" - it refers to making connections with people
within a fairly tightly defined circuit. A network can be a "community" -
and that's a Good Thing. But it can also become a clique, sometimes
missing ties to other networks with interesting commonalities.
I have a somewhat
mixed/mixed-up professional background, possibly due to my short attention
span. Maybe that's why blurry taxonomies always made more sense to me than
crisp ones. Art and programming always seemed to me to make sense together
- both somehow teeter on the edge of verbal and non-verbal subjective
expression. But the combination of the two has
proved in some cases to
result in something much different than the sum of its parts - leading us
to something that's come to be called "software art."
A nice thing about
software art is that it's experiencing an identity crisis - sometimes it
goes by the name "software art," at other times it's called "artistic
software." Which word to put first? It can also sometimes be found under
even more puzzling labels like "interesting software," "strange software"
or "Hey, check this out!" The point is that it's both art (if you like
that term) and software (fewer complaints about that one, somehow) - and
that it's made by self-described artists, self-described programmers, self
described none-of-the-aboves, and self-described
So, to get to the
point: when Eduardo asked me to invite two people to this project from my
"network," I decided to invite two people I didn't know, but whose work I
find interesting - so as to try to extend out the network a bit. I invited
Jimpunk and Josh Larios, who both create software projects in which
algorithms exude strong "personalities," at the same time revealing
something about contemporary culture.
Jimpunk works in the
explicitly "art" side of software art. His projects, including "Gogolchat"
(with Christophe Bruno) and "d2b vs. Jimpunk" use text, images and sound
from the Internet as their data material. But software is algorithms as
well as data, and it's Jimpunk's algorithms that distinguish and
personalize his work. Through deliberate algorithmic sequencing,
juxtaposition, and timing, net data a la Jimpunk becomes choreographed
net-cinema narrative, rather than what could otherwise turn out to be a
nihilistic, random, data-overload mush.
Josh Larios comes from
the "software" side of things - my favorite works of Josh's are his
algorithmic text generators: Turing tests with a twist. Traditional
artificial intelligence algorithms try to convince the audience that
computers "think" coherently - which presupposes that humans think
coherently as well. But projects like Josh's "The Adolescent Poetry
Generator" are more modest regarding their assumptions about both
computers and humans - they admit that computers don't make much sense
and often, neither do humans. In the case of The Adolescent Poetry
Generator, random bits of angst-filled text flow into one another
not-quite-seamlessly. The fun is not in the algorithm's transparency, but
in its opaqueness - instead of an AI bot amazing us with how much it acts
like a "smart" human, we're reminded that humans can often amaze us with
their disturbing similarity to AI bots.
So, while Josh and
Jimpunk work with different content and have different approaches to
software, both work with the subjectivity of algorithms in a cultural
context. Hopefully their combined presence in the P2P network will somehow
spawn even more strange and exotic things... perhaps an adolescent net
image generator - oops, no, better strike that - we don't want any
algorithms winding up behind bars...