[-empyre-] The machine that makes art. FORM+CODE in art, design and architecture

Redazione Digicult redazione at digicult.it
Thu Jan 20 03:08:57 EST 2011

Sorry for any crosspostings

Digicult presents:


by Sabina Barcucci and Bertram Niessen

Digimag 60 - January 2011

FORM + CODE is the new book by Casey Reas, Chandler McWilliams and LUST, 
recently published by Princeton Architectural Press. Contents are clearly 
expressed through an historical overview on the code development in 
electronic art, and in some of its conceptual art "natural language 
programming" forerunners (based on instructions series set up not for the 
machines but for the public). The graphic layout is a well-kept and an 
inseparable part of the publishing project, including a selection of pieces 
of work and breathtaking images (at a very reasonable price, it must be 

Primarily designed as a book for students, FORM + CODE is also an important 
volume for another reason. The simplicity of its technological advancement 
explanation let emerge one of the most important messages concerning 
programming in art and design: its accessibility. We come then to question 
if authors intention is to inculcate a kind of awareness regarding everybody's 
ability to think about its complexity.

It's impressive to think how programming has changed the nature of 
electronic art in recent years. Practices such as live coding, generative 
design, and real time parametric visualization have quickly become popular 
and accessible assets. As generally happens in rapid transformation phases, 
however, this usage is often accompanied by a substantial lack of awareness 
about what goes beyond the merely technical issues. And we're not thinking 
about the examples given by FORM + CODE, which gives in 176 pages an 
overview on the most interesting, exciting and revolutionary examples in the 

However, if we need to find a limit to this text, it is precisely the 
hesitance in dealing with the critical and problematic elements in the 
relationship between art and code. A renunciation, which, as Casey Reas and 
Chandler McWilliams have explained in the interview that concludes this 
article, is absolutely justified and planned. However, many of the issues at 
play are precisely structured around this point. What are the limits of 
author intervention in generative art? Do the complex data visualizations, 
beyond any appealing aesthetics, always have something interesting to say? 
What is the real added value of certain programming solutions in interactive 

Complete article & interview to Casey Reas and Chandler McWilliams

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