This study focuses on the emerging field of software art. Rather than imagining the naturalness of this field, my concern is with problems that confront any effort to think software in terms of art and art in terms of software. Software production appears conventionally as a form of engineering – perhaps more abstract than the engineering of bridges, buildings and ships, but involving a similar concern with issues of logic, efficiency and functioning. Although art as a form of making also partakes of these concerns, its fundamental interests appear different, even antithetical. Instead of logic there is imagination and beauty. Instead of efficiency there is expression, gesture and ‘non-productive expenditure’ (Bataille, 1985: 117). Instead of functional utility there is the aesthetic, reflective regard for the non-instrumental, material-sensible thing. In its engagement then with the language and institution of software – especially in the necessity that software art literally function, that it operate – art is compelled to reevaluate its sense of cultural identity. This encounter between two distinct modes of making takes shape not only as a set of dilemmas – of position, of association, of orientation and of delineation – but also, in an integral manner, as a field of creative possibility. Software programming discovers a ‘speculative’ (Fuller, 2003: 29) aesthetic dimension and art discovers a mode of practice that cannot be reduced to the twin removes of rarefied formalism or autonomous critique.
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