READ_ME 2004
software art festival
city camp
Read_Me Software Art and Cultures Conference

Aarhus, Denmark – August 23-24


Jacob Lillemose

A Re-Declaration of Dependence – Software Art in a Cultural Context It Can’t Get out of


Taking the cultural aspect of software art as its point of departure this text re-reads software art’s relation to conceptual art through Sarah Charlesworth’s ”declaration of dependence” and Peter Weibel’s notion of Kontext Kunst. It inscribes a part of software art in the history and theory of contextual aesthetics, which focuses on the relation between the work of art and its social, cultural and economical contexts. Jack Burnham’s use of ”software as a metaphor for art” and Matthew Fuller’s term, not-just-art, are included in the argument to suggest that software artists are ”partisans of the culture of software.”


Masters Degree in Modern Culture from the University of Copenhagen. Member of the Artnode, which is a Danish collective of artists, designers, and critics working with digital culture. Editor of the forthcoming anthology We love your computer. An anthology on net art, which will be published by the Artnode and the Royal Academy of the Arts in Copenhagen. Danish translator of Behind the Blip. Essays on the Culture of Software by Matthew Fuller. Works as a freelance critic and curator.

Inke Arns

Code as performative speech act


Software art describes an artistic activity which in the medium – or rather: the material – of software allows for a critical reflection of software (and its cultural impact). It thus makes visible the aesthetic and political subtexts of seemingly neutral technical commands.

In this lecture I will argue that in the context of software art a far more interesting notion than the »generative« is that of the »performativity« of code. This notion – borrowed from the context of speech act theory – does not only comprise the ability to generate in a technical context, but also encompasses the implications and repercussions of code in the realm of the aesthetic, the political and the social. The lecture proposes the notion of performativity of the code as one of the reasons for contemporary artists’ growing interest in using software as an artistic material.


Inke Arns (*1968), PhD, independent curator, author and researcher based in Berlin, Germany. 1988–1996 studied Eastern European studies, slavistics, art history and political science in Berlin and Amsterdam. Founding member of the translocal Syndicate network (1996-2001), co-founder of mikro (Berlin 1998) as well as the mailing list Spectre (2001). Her curatorial work includes exhibitions, festivals and conferences on international media art and culture, including: Body and the East (Ljubljana 1998), Kinetographien (Berlin 2001), Social Technologies (Essen 2003), and Irwin: Retroprincip 1983-2003 (Berlin, Hagen and Belgrade 2003-2004). Publications include Netzkulturen (Hamburg 2002), Neue Slowenische Kunst (Regensburg 2002) and The Avant-Garde in the Rear-View Mirror (2004, forthcoming); and numerous articles on media art and net culture.

See also


Geoff Cox, Alex McLean, Adrian Ward

Coding Praxis: Reconsidering the Aesthetics of Code


An earlier collaborative paper 'The Aesthetics of Generative Code' (2001) drew an analogy with poetry as a form that requires both reading and live spoken performance. Like poetry, it is clear that code can have aesthetic value both in its written form and in its execution. The paper argued that any separation of code and the resultant actions would simply limit the aesthetic experience (otherwise based purely on the sense apparatus), and ultimately limit the study of these 'generative' forms (that should also engage with the technical apparatus). This paper aims to address this earlier essay, and to extend its remit in understanding code as performative: that which performs and is performed.


Geoff Cox is an artist, teacher and projects organiser as well as currently Senior Lecturer in Computing at University of Plymouth, UK, where he is part of i-DAT (Institute of Digital Art & Technology) <>. He is also a trustee of the UK Museum of Ordure <>. Further details:

Alex McLean is a Perl coder/musician originally from Coleford in the west of England, now living in London in the East of England. He helped develop and is a co-organiser of dorkbotlondon. His increasingly narrow interests include live programming of gabba techno in Perl, bicycles, rock climbing and cheese. A full-time member of the state51 conspiracy <

Arian Ward is a software artist, programmer, systems administrator and lecturer. Since 1999, his London-based company Signwave UK <> has worked for a wide range of clients and customers, and has released a variety of software products, some of which question just how far one can stretch the definition of 'commercial software'. In between earning money and making things he enjoys, he collaborates with a range of artists, musicians and educators on diverse projects that somehow defy easy categorisation.


Andreas Leo Findeisen

(Mostly WestEastern-European Theoretical BlaBla-)
Lego for a Meta-Theory of Meta-Art-Forms


The history of ideas consists of THEORIES - about the psychology of the human imagination or the functions of the brain, about matter and nature, about the nature of human work, about the development of religious and secular world-views, about the rise and decline of Indian or European culture, about the interaction between people and machines, about the interaction between women and men, about the generation of space and power, etc. So every theory can to some degree be characterized by its main subject, its volatile and stable attributes as it changes in time, and the way it interacts with other theories if challenged.

If SOFTWARE or SOFTWARE ART and their perspectives on artistic and liberatory change are to become a theory´s main subject, its constituent theoretical elements of a theory of history, a theory of information, a theory of labour and culture, a theory of asthetics and, last but not least, gender theories, must experience a radical reconstellation.

I would be prepared to explain which theoreticians (+ of which historical phase, cultural contexts, methodological schools, gender, lifestyle) I would find relevant to be included into a first set of "Legos for a Meta-Theory of Meta-Artforms" and why I think so. These would include Heinz von Foerster, Gotthart Günther, George Spencer-Brown, Humberto Maturana, Niklas Luhmann, and Peter Sloterdijk.


Leo Findeisen studied classical languages, philosophy, and composition in Germany, Israel, and Austria. He received a scholarship from DAAD and has been collaborating since 1996 with the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk at the Chair of Cultural Philosophy and Media Theory, Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Findeisen primarily focuses his teaching, research, and publication on media arts, philosophy and hands-on projects. He has also been involved in collaborations throughout Europe in the fields of architecture, art, science, and open source media. Currently he is composing a dissertation on the history of artificial intelligence, planned languages and the Free Software-Movement.


Troels Degn Johansson

Mise en Abyme in Software Art: A Comment to Florian Cramer


This presentation applies the concept of mise en abyme in order to analyse software art’s exploration of representational problems in the computer medium. According to comparative literature, the use of the literary trope of mise en abyme has, in experimental fiction, tended towards the Symbolist tradition, where the limits of language are tested in an extreme self-reflexivity closed off from the reference function of language. In the study of narrative and visual representation in general, the concept has thus come to capture the instability or fragility of representation, for example by thematizing the perishable or transitory character of the material of expression (e.g. the paper of a book), an erratic structure of enunciation (e.g. an insane narrator), or that the epic depiction of a human being eventually turns out to be staged as if in a game (e.g. Peter Weirs film “The Truman Show, USA, 1998).

In my analysis I approach the figure of mise en abyme in software art in terms of how abysmal structures are established conceptually by a theoretical demonstration of the nature of software art (Florian Cramer), and by studying the interplay between the interface design, the literary expression (pictorial, literal, narrative), and the thematization of the computer medium’s various levels of virtuality (that is, from the binary code to various higher levels of program languages). Following a general exposition of various traditions in software art, I will seek to categorize the artistic strategies that I have found in my analysis. I will focus here especially on the way artists make use of the self-reflexivity and the thematization of representational problems that are usually connected to the figure of the mise en abyme.


Troels Degn Johansson (b. 1967) is an Assistant Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen (ITU), a founding member of the Centre for Computer Games Research Copenhagen, and Head of Studies of the ITU’s master studies program in Design, Communication, and Media (DKM). His Ph.D. thesis “Landscapes of Communication” (2003) maps out cybernetic geography and pictorial representation in web-based visualization of landscape and urban space. He earned his MA at the Department of Film & Media Studies at the University of Copenhagen and completed another MA in Psychoanalytic Studies in the Humanities at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK. He was a President of the Nordic Summer University 1999-2000. Author of a number of articles in the field of aesthetics, pictorial representation, and computer media; co-editor of e.g. Sense and Senses in Aesthetics (Söderström, Helsinki, 2003) and Iconicity: A Fundamental Concept in Semiotics (1999).


Simon Yuill

Code Art Brutalism: Low-Level Systems and Simple Programs


An exploration of assembly based code and microchip projects, including the work of ap. These are discussed in relation to the Brutalist movement in 20th Century architecture, which emphasized the exposure of the raw materials of construction, and Stephen Wolfram's concept of 'simple programs'.


Simon Yuill is an artist and programmer. He is interested in coding both in terms of its low-level formal mechanisms and aesthetics and in terms of its higher level relationship to social structures and systems. His current main project is spring_alpha, a work using an open source game development as an exploration of software and social governance, and he has also contributed to projects by Slateford, including os_anm



Amy Alexander, Nick Collins, Dave Griffiths, Alex McLean, Fredrik

Olofsson, Julian Rohrhuber, Adrian Ward

Live Algorithm Programming and a Temporary Organisation for its Promotion


"Why, his hands move so fluidly that they almost make music" (Ba.Ch creates a chess program for Crab, Hofstader, 2000 p729). We can do better than almost.

Live computer music and visual performance can now involve interactive control of algorithmic processes. In normal practise, the interface for such activity is determined before the concert. In a new discipline of live coding or on-the-fly programming the control structures of the algorithms themselves are malleable at run-time. Such algorithmic fine detail is most naturally explored through a textual interpreted programming language. A number of practitioners are already involved with these possibilities using a variety of platforms and languages, in a context of both public exhibition and private exploration.

An international organisation, TOPLAP, has recently been established to promote the diffusion of these issues and provide a seal of quality for the audiogrammers, viders, progisicians and codeductors exploring the art of live coding. Practitioners provide descriptions of their work in later sections of the paper. For the act of performance, a manifesto, Lubeck 04, presented herein, attempts to qualify the expertise required in live programming for an acceptable contribution to this new field.


Adrian Ward is a software artist, programmer, systems administrator and lecturer. Since 1999, his London-based company Signwave UK has worked for a wide range of clients and customers, and has released a variety of software products, some of which question just how far one can stretch the definition of "commercial software". In between earning money and making things he enjoys, he collaborates with a range of artists, musicians and educators on diverse projects that also defy easy categorisation.

Dave Griffiths is a tinkerer, programmer and artist residing in London where he writes free audio and visual software, and makes quite a lot of music under the moniker nebogeo ( He earns his daily crust writing visual effects software for film, and recently wrote half of the crowd rendering system used on Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy".

Amy Alexander (VJ Übergeek) has worked in film, video, music and digital media. She is currently Assistant Professor in Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego. She got her start in real-time video in the early 1990s using analog video synthesizers from the 1970s. Since 1996 she has been working primarily in net art and software art. Her recent work has been primarily in live visual performance and software art (frequently at the same time). Her Internet projects include,, theBot and the Multi-Cultural Recycler, and, as VJ Übergeek, the live performance/VJ projects CyberSpaceLand, b0timati0n and extreme whitespace. She's one of the developers of the software art repository. Her work has been exhibited on the Internet and various live venues. She is a recovering Unix systems administrator.

Fredrik Olofsson ( is an in-demand installation artist in Scandinavia. This demand was too much for him in fact, so he left for Berlin, where he pursues interests in visual and audio art, programming, secret intelligent agents, and cafes. Fredrik is the more important and generally better turned out half of klipp av, an audiovisual breakbeat cutting duo (

Nick Collins ( is a hard working music researcher with a family of two computers to support. He plays piano between bouts of indifference to the arbitrary traditions of music history and is particularly fond of Bach and Nancarrow, so much so, that he likes to listen to both at the same time. Nick is the more important and generally better turned out half of klipp av, an audiovisual breakbeat cutting duo (

Julian Rohrhuber is an active researcher and practitioner, with interests spanning the fields of computer music, the fine art of conversation and language, and film. Based in Hamburg at the Academy of Fine Arts (HfbK), he has performed and presented through Europe and beyond. Collaborations with Alberto de Campo and Bill Fontana in sound sonification and spatialisation attest to his skills, as does the JITLib extension library to SuperCollider (, devised to support explorations in live coding.

Alex McLean. A Perl coder/musician originally from Coleford in the west of England, now living in London in the East of England. He helped develop and is a co-organiser of dorkbotlondon. His increasingly narrow interests include live programming of gabba techno in Perl, bicycles, rock climbing and cheese. A full-time member of the state51 conspiracy (


Casey Reas

{Software} Structures


Exploring the relations between software and the work of Sol Lewitt with an emphasis of separating concept from programmed implementation. Focusing on LeWitt’s wall drawings, text descriptions for compositions on walls, reveals potential for programming with natural language and exposes the potential of software. A software structure develops in the vague domain of image and then matures in the more defined structures of natural language before any thought is given to a specific machine implementation. Twenty-six pieces of software derived from three distinct structures were written to isolate different components of software structures including interpretation, material, and process.


Casey Reas is an artist and educator exploring abstract kinetic systems through diverse digital media including software, animation, and digital prints. Reas has exhibited and lectured in Europe, Asia, and the United States and his work has recently been shown at Ars Electronica (Linz), Kunstlerhaus (Vienna), P.S.1 (Queens), Sónar (Barcelona), Bitforms (New York), Chromosome (Berlin), and Uijeongbu City (Korea). Reas received his MS degree in Media Arts and Sciences from MIT where he was a member of the Aesthetics and Computation Group. He is currently a visiting professor in the Design|Media Arts department at UCLA.


Brad Borevitz

Super-Abstract: Software Art and the Redefinition of Abstraction


Abstraction is a prevalent tendency in software art and might be understood as an anachronistic return to the forms of high modernism, or alternatively, as a phenomenon that has its roots within the nature of software itself. Through an examination of both the code and display of some contemporary software works, shared homologous structures are shown to suggest specific reading and viewing practices. It is possible to argue for a neo-Greenbergian notion of “truth-to-materials” within software art, or to assert that abstract software aims at a kind of self-critique. The observation that the visual abstraction of this work is related to notions of abstraction embedded within the language and culture of software itself is significant in properly assigning a relationship to art historical precedent, and in understanding questions regarding abstraction's opposition to representation or instrumentality. Software ultimately exists under a regime of multiple levels of abstraction: it is Super-Abstract.


Brad Borevitz is an artist and writer whose focus is the nexus of possibility surrounding the intersection of: exhausted modernist traditions of abstraction; (post)structuralist paradigms of language and culture; contemporary theories of sexuality; and the now ubiquitous techniques of information technology. He holds a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago and is currently studying for a Master of Fine Arts at the University of California San Diego, Department of Visual Arts.


Matthew Fuller

Digital Objects


This talk presents an analysis of a group of social software projects including Nine(9) by Harwood for Mongrel, OPUS Commons by Raqs Media Collective, and Spring_Alpha by a team lead by Simon Yuill alongside a number of other projects. These are all network-based applications that are aimed at use in workshop situations, and all to some degree or other involve reflexive work on the nature of software. The position of software development and versioning in art activity; the potentials and myths of critical, collaborative data structures; isomorphisms and contradictions between production, composition and use; the relative effectivity of art as a mode for introducing 'supplementary' tensions and potentials in social software are among themes considered here.


Matthew Fuller is Reader in Media Design at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam. He is the author of Behind the Blip, essays on the culture of software, Autonomedia, 2003 and of the forthcoming, Media Ecologies, materialist energies in art and technoculture, MIT Press, 2005.


Fátima Lasay

No Carrier and Other Stories from Philippine BBS Culture


In my talk, I will discuss the development of a very small but significant networked culture of electronic bulleting board systems or BBSs in the Philippines - from its US military origins to the first euphoric gateways to the Internet. The story of the near total demise of BBSs in the country represents a crisis in the cultural use of technologies where there is a marginalization and detachment from local, more pressing concerns brought about by a cultural production using technologies and material controlled and owned by foreign capitalists. This situation cultivates a dependence on initiatives coming from foreign countries, making artists and cultural workers dealing with technologies mere consumers of non self-sustainable resources. A theoretical solution will also be proposed in this presentation based on geopolitical and ecological systems, in particular those that were in place within ancient Philippine society.


Fátima Lasay is an artist, independent curator and educator of digital media. Lasay's research, creative and theoretical concerns include a cultural definition for technology-based art. As independent curator, she takes much interest in Asian mythologies, spirituality, and the intersection of electronic literature, visual art and sound. As an artist, she is interested in mythical ways of thinking in and about technologies to come to terms with a race and identity alienated by the violence of colonial past and the spectacles of the neocolonial present. Fátima Lasay obtained her degree in Industrial Design (1991) and Master of Fine Arts (2002) at the University of the Philippines, College of Fine Arts.


Christophe Bruno

A Glimpse Beyond Search Engines

thou art, and unto verb shalt thou return”


In this introductory talk, I imagine some global software (or would-be pieces subverting this new kind of global software) that go beyond the traditional search engines and deal with the large-scale structure of the Web seen as a Global Text: Topological mining engine, Dreamlog, Slip-of–the-tongue engine, Latency engine. These examples of global structures are conceptually linked to what I call the Total Information Awareness engine. The latter is a utopian engine that would achieve the projects imagined by J. Bentham, G. Orwell, P.K. Dick, Google, IBM or the Pentagon, by storing any human act and analyse the data so as to try to predict our behaviour as consumers-citizens. Finally, I evoke the purloined letter by E.A. Poe later commented by J. Lacan in his article about Logical Time and the Imitation Game of A. Turing, as possible clues on how to prevent the mithridatization of human speech by pervasive science and Total Information Awareness.


Net artist, born in 1964, lives and works in Paris. Awarded with an Honorary Mention at the Prix Ars Electronica 2003 for his piece « The Google Adwords Happening », his work has been shown internationaly at many festivals and museums (ReJoyce Festival in Dublin, p0es1s digitale poesie in Berlin, Tirana Biennale of Contemporary Art, Microwave International Media Art Festival in Honk-Kong, Readme2.3 Festival in Helsinki, Vidarte 2002 in Mexico City, FreeManifesta in Frankfurt, in New-York) as well as on-line (,,,,,,,,, etc.).

He divides his time between his artistic activity, teaching, lectures and publications.


Douwe Osinga & Ernst Wit

The World According to the Web


It is conventional wisdom that the Web consists of information streams. However, rather than a mere tool, such as a phone directory, it has begun to embody information as such. It has generated its own discourse with its own rules. The decentralization of speech may have appeared to fragment this discourse in numerous pieces. However, within this mosaic of words, phrases and prose, structures emerge, which reconstruct the world in which we live. This reconstruction has its own emphasis and order, but as such it is both a generative process of our world as much as it is a reflection thereof. The aim of this paper is to visualize the World according to the Web by means of simple two-dimensional maps. Technical issues such as dimension reduction and residual information are important factors in this discussion.


Ernst Wit did his undergraduate degree (1994) in the Netherlands before obtaining a Ph.D. in Philosophy at PennState University (1997). His philosophical interests relate to issues of uncertainty. Afterwards he studied at the University of Chicago where he obtained another Ph.D. in Statistics (2000). Currently he is working at the University of Glasgow on statistical genetics and is the author of a book on microarray analysis (Statistics for  Microarrays, 2004)

Douwe Osinga was born in Haarlem, The Netherlands and moved to Amsterdam where he became a serial entrepeneur and some time net artist. The more creative online parts of his work can be viewed at Douwe is currently working for Google as a software engineer.


Alessandro Ludovico

The Sequencer Paradigm


The interfaces of the music sequencing programs are developing their own peculiarities, stimulating the artists to give their own interpretations of a well-consolidated paradigm. The recursive flow of the sounds, marked by their elements enclosed in the loops, has been reconfigured with very different parameters and perspectives which have exploited the aesthetical possibilities of their representation. Juxtaposing information and playing it continuously is an inspiring method that stimulates the creation of multiple metaphors and different interfaces that perfectly illustrates the potential of the musical interface, ready to guide the user into the cultural stimulation he wants. I will show and comment some web/software music sequencer, trying to prove that their metaphor is now a cultural archetype.


Alessandro Ludovico is the editor in chief of Neural magazine from 1993. He has written: 'Virtual Reality Handbook' (1992), 'Internet Underground.Guide' (1995), 'Suoni Futuri Digitali' (Future Digital Sounds, 2000). He's one of the founding contributors of the Nettime community and one of the founding members of the Mag.Net (European Cultural Publishers) organization. He writes for various international magazines (Springerin, Mute, RTSI). He's also an expert in the board, a collaborator of the Digitalkraft group, and has curated different new media art events ('Liberation Technologies', 'Nordigital'). Weekly he conducts 'Neural Station' a radio show on electronic music and digital culture and is part of the n.a.m.e. (normal audio media environment) group.


Mirko Schaefer

Made by Users.

How Users Improve Things, Provide Innovation and Change Our Idea of Culture. Problems and Perspectives.


Software based products are able to get copied, modified or developed further. Competent users have the necessary skills, tools and networks to develop modified products which are originally invented by corporate companies. The collaborative work of competent users is providing innovation and this could create an interactive market, where product definitions are possible only for a moment before these artefacts become modified or reshaped and that this raises questions concerning copyrights and democracy. Modifying and redesigning of products is a cultural practice in digital age.

In conclusion I argue that an interdisciplinary action between social sciences and computer sciences will be necessary to understand the cultural practices in the digital age. Further more a society wide discourse on copyright, software patents, access to information and the distribution of information will help to formulate terms, models and a theoretical framework for transferring a valuable concept of cultural freedom into the 21st century.


Mirko studied theatre, film and media studies and communication studies at Vienna University (A) and digital culture at Utrecht University (NL).

He was organizer and curator of [d]vision - Vienna Festival For Digital Culture. Mirko received a master in philosophy from the University of Vienna. Since February 2003 he is working as a junior teacher/researcher at the University of Utrecht at the Institute for Media and Re/presentation.

Currently he is writing his dissertation on "Bastard Culture! Competent Users, Networks and Cultural Industries". Mirko lives in Rotterdam (NL) and Vienna (A).


Pau David Alsina Gonzalez

Software Art and Political Implications in Algorithms


Nowadays we can find that behind Software there is a particular mental model structuring a range of possible actions within the functionalities of each particular piece of software. In order to accomplish a task a computer must perform an algorithm, a finite list of instructions. Therefore as the main categories of software (operating systems, utilities and applications) with their pre-defined algorithmic structure pre-configure our relationship with the information, they also establish a range of possibilities of thought, perception and knowledge in the so-called “Digital revolution”.

Software art in general or Database art in particular encourage us to create new algorithms that make us able to engage into different relationships, new possibilities to manage information, experience reality and explain the world to ourselves. Deep political and aesthetic implications behind the selection and creation of algorithms and software functionalities should encourage us to take part in the creation of software, to understand its implications, to observe its development and to get rid of its assumed innocence.

In my talk I would like to explore these ideas and propose examples of software political innocence being broken through software art practice.


Pau Alsina is Professor at the Department of Humanities in the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) -a Virtual University held in Barcelona-, Researcher in Digital Art at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and Director of #ArtNodes, a forum for Art, Science and Technology intersections.