What’s code got to do with it?
DIY – do it yourself, but for others
How to engage with software poetically, politically, or otherwise? Is this engagement something that is so understandable that it goes without saying or does it ask for meticulous reflection? How can we interact and think with, and respond to, software? As we clutch at our electronic devices, how do we perceive its infrastructure? And what does it mean in terms of glitch? How does glitch practice alter the ways of being around and with software?
In order to unfold these questions, this year’s edition of the /’fu:bar/ festival focuses on „the practices and value of DIY – do it yourself, but for others with &//in art software | methods | archives | communities | theory and other relevant facets of our shared contemporary electronic culture.” This edition of the festival thus emphasizes the technical aspects that take place behind all those eye-catching glitch aesthetics. It is precisely the technical components of digital art, such as software, that constitute the artwork, as the code itself is what determines how it is comprehended. Moreover, the technical systems behind aesthetics determine its uses, features and designs. How does „the process of building (coding, generative art, AI, modifying (hex editing, databending, datamoshing) and re-repairing (circuitbending, device modification misuse)” 1 work within the provisional community sharing of how tos while working together? By posing these questions, /’fu:bar/ rethinks de-centralized and co-creative collaborative processes within digital networks.
The ethics (and aesthetics) of doing it ourselves/together sheds an important light on relational aspects of software. Even though software can easily be perceived as bound to objects, what triggers my curiosity are the social relations that emerge already during its design and construction. The people involved attempt to do together something that is meaningful for themselves and for others. Sometimes, the process of conceiving turns out to be more beneficial than the final result, due to the knowledge that was shared among the group that worked on it. Thus, participation is crucial, as the most valuable aspect is not so much the final result, but the whole process. When the community involved in a piece of software works well, the software has the potential to work well too, from its design and construction to its documentation and usage. Moreover, understanding software through social relations switches the focus away from the commodification of social processes and onto its production and operation. Thus, talking about relational aspects of software makes me think of FLOSS due to the way it can be used for any purpose, its source code studied and modified, the way it’s shared and distributed, as well as how it is improved and new versions of it released to the public. After all, FLOSS represents a political/ideological stance. „This political statement implies an awareness of the fact that the software is the base material of an artwork and that choice of material greatly influences the external work and its context”, as Aymeric Mansoux and Marloes de Valk wrote in the introductory text to FLOSS + Art (2008). As they continue: „This awareness often leads to the choice of open licenses for the artistic work itself, feeding developed ideas and technical implementations of ideas back into the community, enabling the reuse of code and facilitating the sharing of knowledge. The demystification of software and code is an important result of this.”
The infrastructure of /’fu:bar/ operates on the same principles . Consisting of an exhibition and a festival, /’fu:bar/ provides a space where glitch becomes a tool for thinking differently about digital ways of doing things. Be that a temporary community existing within the framework of a workshop or a session that aims to facilitate conversations between various glitch artists, or participation as part of an exhibition, it is never solely about aesthetics or the final result. The point is the process itself, exposed through the formats of the workshops, meetups, and presentations, as it explores ways of doing things with others, as well as active participation. The structure of the festival is conceived through a discursive program called Fauxbar (/’f(a)u:(x)bar/) that is „a drop-in, self-organizing online segment of the festival for those of us who can’t or won’t travel, or for those who prefer to do it at home – reflecting this year’s theme of DIY.” The point of it is to meet, talk, as well as to suggest and share ideas, experiences, and solutions, while exposing the most difficult how to, the kind that experiments with how to do things by yourself and with/for others. This ongoingness and continuity are rather difficult to capture aesthetically and for that reason the /’fu:bar/ exhibition works as their visual counterpart.
The exhibition is built in a virtual space that displays the works automatically, and each time anyone enters the space, the space generates itself and slightly changes its appearance. Walking through the hallways and various stages of this virtual infrastructure, the visitors can view more than two hundred works exploring glitch – be it around, through or inside it. Even though not all the works follow the thematic thread of do it yourself, but for others, the infrastructure of the virtual exhibition space remains open for various glitch approaches, encapsulating their aesthetics as well as the technical aspects behind them. As artists approach from very different positions, it allows us to ask who uses what, what do they use it for and who with, in order to critically think about how we engage with code.
Finally, /’fu:bar/ draws on its own inner structure, which equally involves people and technical assets, in order to expand the field of glitch. After all, glitch is never solely a matter of aesthetics, just as /’fu:bar/ is not solely bound to the presentation of artworks. Instead, there is a whole infrastructure to be explored, and even more, by following its wiki it can be reimagined, repeated, and shared.
Text by: Irena Borić
Crash-Stop. (2023) DIY culture and Glitch art. fubar.space.↩︎