RE: [-empyre-] the crisis of documentation

Dear Felix,

Thank you for your considered response. The images look great, it's a shame
I couldn't have been there. However, exploration of the relationship between
an open source software model and a collaborative art project remain

We might equally well begin by asking how we evaluate the outcomes of open
source software projects. As you outline, we might look at:
a) the product from a consumer's point of view - the functionality of the
software application;
b) the communications between the participants - the code, code comments,
c) the development of a culture of collaborative open source (free) software

The significant differences I see, and what I believe to be a revolutionary
aspect of the open source movement, lies at item c above. The secondary
artifact (the primary artifact being the software applications themselves)
is the residue of code which has been shared and worked over by many
individuals. Within this code lies an open and accessible record, and a
medium for the distribution, of methods, techniques, skills and knowledge,
which can be read and absorbed by anyone with an interest in developing
their own skills. What makes this revolutionary is the absence of an
institutional or ceremonial structure for the transmission of knowledge.

In my own work I am increasingly coming to view my activities from the
perspective of a craft endeavour. I am beginning to speculate about a "craft
aesthetic" in electronic art. The craft skills of software engineering are
being shared openly in the form of open source software. Traditionally, an
institutional framework has existed for the transmission of craft skills,
whether that be the family, an apprenticeship, or the technical college.

Ultimately, the traditional artist-craftsman might be more concerned with
the outward appearance and useability of the work. This outward appearance
however, will ultimately be determined to a large extent by the craft skills
and the environment in which those skills are absorbed by the
artist-craftsman. Perhaps this goes some way to answer your final question:

>My question now is:
>If a project like the .lounge|lab is able to support the development of
>nodes of communication and catalyse the differences between participants to
>a certain point, how much do we consider this to be part of the actual
>outcome? And, knowing we are dealing with an art space and an exhibition
>where we always want to address a public, how much care should be taken to
>translate this hidden structure into the display, the surface?

There is much more to say on this subject. That will have to suffice for the


 -----Original Message-----
[]  On Behalf Of Felix Sattler
Sent:	Friday, 7 February 2003 3:56 AM
To:	soft_skinned_space
Subject:	[-empyre-] the crisis of documentation

Dear Ian and all others,

you are right, even if we discuss this within the net being a virtual medium
of what-can-be we must not forget to look at the things actually
Unfortunately there is no complete net-based documentation available yet
which could offer to learn about all levels of the project. Most of the
material is DV which is hard to present on the net. However there exists a
photo-documentation by backup's photographer Uwe Erler, you can access it at   --->> press/news section/ gallery


These images show much of the workshop week we established prior to the
festival and exhibition which is good because they give a glimpse on how the
work-in-progress situation went on.

At the same time these images show the "crisis of documentation" such a
project must naturally encounter:
For lounge|lab, "outcomes" might be divided in three categories being

a) the results visible, audible and tangible for the visitor; (surface and
Here, we received a lot of statements from visitors of the lab who FELT the
space there being one homogenous situation rather then the usual
accumulation of individualistic works one may encounter on different
If we were able to create a whole instead of single elements how can the
still image then grasp this if it is bound to focus on the particular?
The use of time-based media is more successful in its attempt but here the
question of broadcast especially within the net is difficult.

b) the content of communication between those who participated as it exists
in written and (sometimes recorded) spoken word.
I feel the necessarity to publish these artefacts, still it remains unclear
in which way this should be done because the process of exchange is not yet
finished and may branches are created after the lab has officially ended.
There will be some net-based thing similiar to the empyre archives,
presently our mailing-list does not have this feature.
However this part is the easiest to become documented and published.

c) The establishment of nodes and meta-communication structures which made
it possible to actually act as an ensemble.
The question of the nature of source code enters here again. It is simple to
understand sources as the material created, shared, recycled, abandoned and
output: A painter's image or an algorithm for musical structure generation
are sources.  
When the painter tells the composer/programmer (and vice versa) about his
image/composition and what to do with it this discussion becomes another
Now the way the painter and the composer arrange themselves to be able to
understand each other is what? Another source? The basic one, the
environment (or programming language)?
When we had been using the IRC to introduce people to each other and we
began to explore the possibilities of collaboration we had some difficulties
in understanding each other based on the diversity of the group. I remember
a discussion about microcontrollers where suddenly some people apparently
not satisfied and not understanding the talk began to disturb the chat using
other languages than English. When everybody had come to Weimar these
problems ceased to exist.
People are continuing collaborations now even if not everybody knows about

My question now is:
If a project like the .lounge|lab is able to support the development of
nodes of communication and catalyse the differences between participants to
a certain point, how much do we consider this to be part of the actual
outcome? And, knowing we are dealing with an art space and an exhibition
where we always want to address a public, how much care should be taken to
translate this hidden structure into the display, the surface?



> Dear Felix,
> One way to gauge the characteristics of the open source model when applied
> to the production of art would be to look at the outcomes of the
> "backup.lounge|lab" project. Is there any evidence of what work was
> created, either physical or virtual?
> Regards,
> Ian Stevenson

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