A 30-second online art project:

Peter Burr, Sunshine Monument

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Launched Sept 2002

CODeDOC is an exhibition consisting of twelve small commissioned works. The project takes a reverse look at “software art” by focusing on and comparing the “back end” of the code that drives the artwork's “front end”—the result of the code, be it visuals or a more abstract communication process. 

A dozen artists coded a specific assignment in a language of their choice and were asked to exchange the code with each other for comments. The assignment was to “connect and move three points in space,” which obviously could be interpreted in a literal or abstract way. The “core” of the code (commonly referred to as the “main”) was not to exceed 8KB, which equals a fairly short text document. The results of the programming are made visible only after the code—what visitors to this site encounter first is a text document of code from which they can launch the front end of the project. The languages in which the code is written are Java, C, Visual Basic, Lingo and Perl. Obviously, this is only a selection of scripting and programming languages. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the scripting language on which the World Wide Web is based, and Flash Script were excluded mostly for pragmatic reasons (the inclusion of these languages probably would have doubled the number of artists, making the project unwieldy). Not all of the artists originally invited were able to participate in CODeDOC due to their busy schedules.

The category of software art, commonly used for artist-written software, is a manifestation of fairly blurry terminology. Software is generally defined as formal instructions that can be executed by a computer. However, there is no digital art that doesn't have a layer of code and algorithms, a procedure of formal instructions that accomplish a "result" in a finite number of steps. Even if the physical and visual manifestations of digital art distract from the layer of data and code, any 'digital image' has ultimately been produced by instructions and the software that was used to create or manipulate it. It is precisely this layer of 'code' and instructions that constitutes a conceptual level which connects to previous artistic work such as Dada's experiments with formal variations and the conceptual pieces by Duchamp, Cage and Sol LeWitt that are based on the execution of instructions.

What distinguishes software art from other artistic practices, is that, unlike any form of visual art, it requires the artist to write a purely verbal description of their work. In traditional art forms, the 'signature' and 'voice' of an artist manifests itself in aesthetics of visuals and execution. Every medium may have its specific language but in digital art, this language has a quite literal rather than figurative manifestation. In software art, the visual results of the artwork are derived from the language of code. Languages are defined by grammar and complex rules and at the same time leave space for individual forms of creative expression. Our identity and the roles we play are expressed in our use of language. One might assume that the aesthetics of artists who write their own source code manifest themselves both in the code itself and its visual results. Artist John F. Simon, Jr. (who wasn't able to participate in the project) has talked about code as a form of creative writing. Code has also been referred to as the medium, the 'paint and canvas,' of the digital artist but it transcends this metaphor in that it even allows artists to write their own tools—to stay with the metaphor, the medium in this case also enables the artist to create the paintbrush and palette.

The projects featured as part of CODeDOC are expressions of distinct artistic signatures: the conceptual approach to the project, the way the code has been written, and the results produced by it reveal a lot about the respective artist. Some of the artists interpret the assignment in a predominantly graphic, visual way; others connect points in the global network of the Internet; one project explicitly treats the language of code as a narrative connecting three "characters"; another one creates a meta-layer for profiling the code itself, collapsing the boundaries between front end and back end; yet another project focuses on "language abuse" and illegal instructions.

Intrinsic to software art is a procedural element that allows for reconfiguration and extension, and, as way of commenting on the projects, artists started to 'remix' their work, applying their own code to other projects or combining sections of code into a new project.

One does not need to be a programmer and have an in-depth understanding of computer languages to establish a connection between the code and its respective results: even a glance at the artists' source code will reveal certain mathematical functions, and in many cases, the artists' comments on their writing clarify the functionality of a line or section of the code. In some cases, reading the source code will enhance the perception of the work; in other cases, the code doesn't necessarily add to the projects. CODeDOC is an endeavor to take a closer look at the process of this particular artistic practice, and to raise questions about the parameters of artistic creation.

—Christiane Paul, Whitney adjunct curator of new media arts

Sawad Brooks is an internationally shown artist, critic, and award winning designer working with public and information spaces. DissemiNET (1998-2001), one of his collaborations with Beth Stryker, is a telematic installation commissioned in part by the Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University. DissemiNET has been shown internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and is part of the Walker Art Center's Digital Arts Studies Collection, as is Brooks' Bowling Alley (1995), a collaboration with Beth Stryker, Christa Erickson, and Shu Lea Cheang. Invertigo (1997), a telematic video installation created in collaboration with Beth Stryker and Christa Erickson, was shown at The Banff Centre for the Arts, Alberta, Canada. Sawad’s work has also been shown at such places as the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Johannesburg Biennale; and Postmasters Gallery, New York. He has been invited to speak at numerous locations, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Banff Centre for the Arts. He is currently working with Warren Sack on "hELLO7734," a new network protocol art-research project that interrogates "translation," funded in part by the Arts Technology Center, University of New Mexico, with grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the NEA. With Goil Amornvivat and generous support from Creative Capital, he is also working on a new line of responsive architecture. Independently, he is working on a series of interactive videos addressing the themes of landscape, public space, and time. He teaches at Brown University's department of Modern Culture and Media.

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Mary Flanagan is a media practitioner/theorist who investigates the intersection of art, technology, and gender study through critical writing, artwork, and activism. An award winning media developer and artist, Flanagan has exhibited her work at such venues as the Central Fine Arts Gallery in Soho, the Guggenheim Gallery Online at Chapman University, The Physics Room,, New York Hall of Science, UCR/California Museum of Photography, and the Whitney 2002 Biennial. She is also the creator of The Adventures of Josie True, the first web-based adventure game for girls. Her projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Cultural Foundation, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Alexander R. Galloway is an artist and computer programmer. As the founding member of the Radical Software Group (RSG), he is the creator of Carnivore, a networked surveillance tool based on the notorious FBI software of the same name. Carnivore has been exhibited internationally and won a Golden Nica at Ars Electronica 2002. Alex's first book, PROTOCOL, or, How Control Exists After Decentralization, will be published in 2003 by The MIT Press.

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Ca. 1980, Brooklyn-based artist John Klima (b. 1965) attempted to code a 3D maze on a TRS-80 with 4k RAM and failed miserably, but has been obsessed with 3D graphics ever since. Contracting for companies such as Microsoft, Turner Broadcasting, and Dun & Bradstreet from 1993 to 1998, Klima honed his programming skills while continuing to make art within the flexible schedule that free-lance programming provided. In 1998, Klima discontinued activities as a commercial programmer to focus solely on the creation of art software. He has shown frequently in New York, mounting his first solo exhibition in February 2001 at Postmasters Gallery. His work has been shown at European festivals, such as VIPER (Switzerland) and EMAF (Germany). His work glasbead was included in the "New Media New Face" exhibit at the ICC in Tokyo, Japan (1999) and received the Golden Lasso Award for Art in the Web3DRoundup at SIGGRAPH 2000 in New Orleans. His work ecosystm, commissioned by Zurich Capital Markets, was shown at the Whitney Museum as part of the exhibition BitStreams (2001). Klima's latest work, EARTH--previewed at the National Library of Medicine on May 21, 2001, and at SIGGRAPH 2001 in Los Angeles--was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial. In 2002, he received a grant from the Langlois Foundation for his project Terrain Machine. Information about his work is available at

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Golan Levin’s work combines equal measures of the whimsical, the provocative, and the sublime in a wide variety of online, installation and performance media. He teaches electronic art at Carnegie Mellon University and is represented by bitforms gallery, New York.

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Kevin McCoy is an artist living in Brooklyn, New York. His collaborative work made with his partner Jennifer McCoy has been shown widely in the US and Europe. Information about their projects can be found at

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Mark Napier, a painter turned digital artist, packed up his paints in 1995 and began to create art work exclusively for the Web. He has produced a wide range of Internet projects, including The Shredder (1998), an alternative browser that dematerializes the Web; Digital Landfill (1998), an endless archive of digital debris; and ¨Bots (2000), a tool for building unique pop-culture icons from parts. Napier is noted for his innovative use of the Web as an art medium and for his open-ended evolving projects. He has created commissioned projects for the Guggenheim Museum, SFMOMA (for the exhibition, 010101), the Whitney Museum (for the exhibition, Data Dynamics) and his browser Riot was included in the Whitney Biennial 2002. He has been shown at ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie), Karlsruhe, Germany, was awarded honorable mention by Ars Electronica 99, Linz, Austria, and was chosen for the Art Entertainment Network exhibition at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Napier lives and works in New York City. His artwork is available on-line at

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W. Bradford Paley is an artist and interaction designer whose focus in both worlds is the visual interpretation of patterns hidden in information. His work has three primary goals: to create visual filters which let different subjects express their differences; to make the work readable enough that the viewer can gain specific insights; and to reveal complexity in a way that's matched to human perceptual abilities. His visual representations are inspired by the calm but richly layered information in natural scenes. He tries to build with the simplest filters, as if to say "look how little the filter is doing—the beauty must be in the subject itself." He did his first photography in 1968, his first computer imagery in 1973, and founded Digital Image Design Incorporated in 1982. He has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art; he created; and his designs are at work every day in the hands of brokers on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. He is frequently asked to speak on the subject of interaction design, and pursues an integrated career where design jobs inspire art and art techniques inform design.

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Scott Snibbe explores direct physical perception and the nature of the self using electronic media. His work ranges from large-scale body-centric physical installations to interactive sculpture and screen- and web-based works. His work is noted for being radically interactive—i.e. the artwork consists of experiences that cannot be perceived or understood without direct human interaction. Snibbe's work has been shown internationally at venues including the InterCommunications Center, Tokyo; Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria; Eyebeam, New York City; New Langton Arts, San Francisco; ICA, London; and The Kitchen, New York City. Well known among Snibbe's work are Boundary Functions (1998), a projection of personal space where one realizes that such space is merely a social construction, and Motion Phone (1995), a networked system for abstract visual communication based on human movement. Snibbe's background in technological research has included positions at Adobe Systems, Interval Research, Brown University and UC Berkeley. These experiences have informed his art practice as both cultural production and research activity. Snibbe currently lives and works in San Francisco.

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Camille Utterback is a pioneering artist and programmer in the field of interactive installation. In 2002, Utterback was one of six artists awarded a Rockefeller Foundation New Media Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited at festivals and galleries internationally including Caren Golden Fine Arts, Cynthia Broan Gallery, and Postmasters Gallery, New York; The NTT InterCommunication Center, Tokyo; The Seoul Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Netherlands Institute for Media Art; The Taipei Museum of Contemporary Art; The Center for Contemporary Art, Kiev, Ukraine; the Ars Electronica Center, Austria. While working as a research fellow at New York University, Utterback developed a video tracking system for which NYU has filed a U.S. patent. She was selected as a member of the 'TR10, the top 100 innovators of the year under 35' by MIT's Technology Review (2002). Utterback holds a BA in Art from Williams College, and a Masters degree from The Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. In addition to creating her own artwork, Utterback develops installations for commercial and museum settings via her company Creative Nerve, and teaches at the Parsons School of Design. More information about her work can be found at

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Martin Wattenberg is a digital artist and computer scientist. His work focuses on visual investigations of data masses: communities, conversations, and other conceptual collections. His projects range from artistic explorations such as Fleshmap (with Fernanda Viegas, 2008) and Apartment (with Marek Walczak, 2001), to tools for democratizing data visualization (Many Eyes, 2007, with Fernanda Viegas et al.) Wattenberg holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley (1996).

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Maciej Wisniewski is an artist and programmer whose work focuses on the underlying social implications of technology and the Internet. netomatTM and his earlier projects—metaView (1998), Turnstile Part I and II (1998), ScanLink (1998), Jackpot (1996), and Tele-Touch (1996)—have been featured in online and offline exhibitions at Postmasters Gallery, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art; ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, Germany; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Guggenheim Museum SoHo, New York; Johannesburg Biennale; and Benjamin Weil's äda'web. Wisniewski received an MFA from Hunter College, New York, and studied toward a Ph.D. at the Institute for General Linguistics and Computational Linguistics at the University of Stockholm, Sweden.

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