Free Culture
Lawrence Lessig’s new book Free Culture is available under a Creative Commons license. I’ve just started reading it and it looks like a very good description of the history and current primacy of the cultural asset-strippers who drive our “intellectual property” law.
As you know, my art is available under a CC license. Creative Commons are working on a UK-tailored license, and a revised 2.0 license. I’m worried that the 2.0 license will take out too much boilerplate (notably any representation that the licensed work is the licensor’s own) and allow the licensing to be arbitrarily changed (the composite work section of the license). Creative Commons achievements so far have been incredible, I hope they don’t weaken their licenses to please a vocal minority of bandwagon-jumping bloggers and weekend DJs otherwise I’m going to have to stick with CC 1.0.

Literate Programming
I’ve moved my AARON -style program from Prolog to Python to Lisp to Dylan, and now I’m programming it in a literate programming style using noweb. Literate programming means combining a human-readable description of the program with the code and using a program to extract the code and well-formatted documentation from this shared source. It’s like illuminated manuscripts for code, and a technique I’d like to apply more directly to image programs (such as PostScript or MetaPost code).
Hopefully the extra effort will be worth it:
• Having to describe what I’m doing is helping me to think more clearly about what I’m doing.
• This is a long term project, so the documentation will help me to start hacking on it again after any breaks.
• I can present the program publicly, unlike with AARON.

Titled
There’s overlap between the eye of colour poetics and the eye of cognitive science. They meet in the compression schemes used by digital image systems such as computers and cable TV to squeeze pictures over networks by throwing away details the eye isn’t supposed to notice then reconstituting them later using a standard replacement scheme. In my day jobs I’ve had to learn to spot “compression artefacts” from too much information being thrown away in such images. I have trouble watching cable sometimes…
The images of “Titled” are standard colour contrast illustrations from colour theory manuals (and “zips”, but that’s another story) degraded by computer compression. The two-dimensional equivalent of Turk’s Judd cubes, only more two-sided. They look aesthetic, which says something computational about aesthetics or something aesthetic about computation. I had to make them, it was necessary.
They’re uncomfortably pretty images.

Click here to see the work.

Surgical Strike
Liberal arts and the military technology of computation make strange bedfellows. There is a danger that computer art is just the aestheticisation of military ideology, a sugar coating that makes the military-industrial-entertainment complex easier to swallow on the way to the cubicle. This serves business well, but art is not business even if there is a business of art.
These images were made using a computer language that I wrote for the project. The language was derived from military terminology, and the images were meant to be parodies of William Latham’s then-famous swirly evolved computer art. It’s no accident that artistic Darwinism was popular at the same time as social Darwinism. Replacing Latham’s spheres and textures with stealth bombers and IT logos seemed more honest. Introducing the history of software into the background and trapping the image between that and the text of the program that executed to create it in the foreground completed the work.
It’s a concrete allegory.

Click here to see the work.

San Jose
I was in San Jose for the Apple developer conference in February 2000. California in winter is different from London in winter, but it would be different anyway. It felt like being on a film set; the visual perfection and order, the feeling of everything being staged. The gas station forecourt lawns have sprinklers built into them so they don’t go brown in the heat.
My hotel was next to the technology museum and the art museum. San Jose Museum of Art’s logo was a distended red star; there was a show of conceptual art on. I eventually found a McDonalds and was served an outsized meal by someone who couldn’t understand my Briddish accent. I went into a bookshop, a grocery. The colours, packaging and smells were different. Brown paper, cinnamon. I saw offices for Bank of America and Adobe. Walking around the wide streets and sidewalks I found the old quarter, wooden houses with people who didn’t have anything to lose in the impending dot-com crash sat on the steps.
The freeway to San Jose had adverts for dot-coms on its billboards. I’d just left a company that did work for dot-coms and I was at a company that wanted to be a dot-com rather than write another hit game. I saw Steve Jobs live on stage, listened to lots of technology presentations, and negotiated an open source license with a company that wasn’t there for a product I’ve never finished.
In the evenings I talked Evie on the other side of the Atlantic, called room service and tried to work out how chicken was a vegetable, raided the minibar, watched episodes of “Xena: Warrior Princess” that hadn’t been shown in the UK yet, and beat off my jet lag.
This all worked its way into the art that I made sat on my hotel bed with my new blueberry iBook running a copy of Corel Draw! that nothing will run or read now.

Click here to see the work.

Inbetween Cities
I spend far too much of my life commuting as a passenger on mass transport systems. Looking out of the window of a fast-moving vehicle close up all you see are blurs. Further away objects rotate serenely by revealing a good two hundred and seventy degrees of their appearance to you by the time they’re gone. These works are a fairly literal record of this observation. Just with the volume turned up to eleven.

The “Spins” are based on the (in)famous futurist bust of Mussolini, just using animal silhouettes instead of Il Duce’s profile. Motorways are a fascist invention. I was first struck by how strange animals look seen from a moving vehicle on the back of an open-top four-wheel-drive vehicle driven by a madman speeding down a country lane. You tend to notice things like that when the adrenaline kicks in. The silhouettes are spun away from their centre; this maintains the fact of what is seen whilst destroying the literal record. I made a 3D kaleidoscope program of these as well but I’ve lost the source code.

The “Blurs” again started fairly literal. They are what you see in tube tunnels, in cuttings, in underpasses, whenever something is too close. Later Blurs became more Vorticist in appearance or began introducing figures (or animals again) into the landscape. I think I’m the first person to have done this sort of thing, I certainly did it differently.

Click here to see the work.

Still Alive
I changed jobs, which has been very time-consuming.
I’ve swapped from Python to Lisp for the drawing module. Hopefully if I use Lisp I won’t ever have to learn another programming language. 🙂
There was a thread about “meritocracy” in fine art on Rhizome. Anyone who is confused about this sort of thing should try The Jackdaw, which is like a Private Eye for fine art, only genuinely funny as well as informative…