Experimental; Iterative; Playful; Pushing boundaries; Open to mistake while seeking discovery rather than efficiency. This is how CCU describes its activity. Based in Utrecht, CCU is a platform for a community of makers who have one thing in common: exploring creative programming to try to understand our society through the digital world.
Hello World! refers to the first program you make to learn how to code. This programme illustrates the syntax of a programming language. CCU plays with this term to introduce the diversity of works of the artists active in the local community. This exhibition showcases diverse experiments with creative coding, representing the core of CCU research. Hello World! is a first step to present the work of this dynamic community to a larger audience, inspiring the visitors to engage with digital technologies in novel and experimental ways.
Creative coding is an interdisciplinary field exploring digital technologies as material for creative practice. From artists to designers, programmers to performers, musicians to scientists and craftsmen, media and techniques range from the use of steel to replicate digitally-modeled sculptures, to the use of wood to create laser-cut algorithmically designed geometric pieces. Creative coding practices are not only an evolving artistic practice, but also a way to explore our relationship to digital technologies in this ever-growing digtalisation.
A side parte of the exhibition was called Cabinet of Curiosities. Inspired by the Wunderkammer of anthropologic museums, in this spin-off tools and programme were presented as artifacts to visualize for the audience the creative process of the artworks.
From Hello World! exhibition catalogue (by Axelle van Wynsberghe)
Making, Together: Redefining the ‘User’ and ‘Amateur’ in a Community of Makers
The internet is not only the product of the work of particular inventors; it also exists due to the user culture that developed around it. These users, without user guides or professional software, created their own folklore and internet culture. They do not only use new digital technologies for what they’re made for, nor are they always the users for which these technologies are made. Creative Coders redefine how we use technology and for what purpose. They seek to expand our understanding not only of what technologies do, but what they can do. Their mediums and practices range from the use of steel to replicate digitally-modeled sculptures, and the use of wood to create laser-cut algorithmically designed geometric pieces. What seems to bring this interdisciplinary community together is a particular emphasis on experimentation and play. The user has often been seen as a ‘consumer’, but needs to be re-situated as ‘citizen’ and ‘craftsman’. This exhibition aims to ask: How can users regain agency in how they use everyday technologies? In regaining this agency, Creative Coders also reveal the ‘gap’ between what digital technologies state they do (offer us a more efficient and rational view of the world), and what they really do (offer us a distorted perception of reality from the point of view of particular algorithms). Creative coding practices allow this gap to be explored and play with, offering new aesthetics through which to understand and view the world.
‘Critical Making’: Discovering Underlying Processes and Systems
Creative coders desire to uncover the underlying processes and systems of digital technologies, and the ways in which they affect our lives. In this way, Creative Coding extends upon ‘critical making’ practices which aim to find unconventional or subversive uses of digital technologies. However, this approach to digital technologies has allowed not only for artists to subvert, intervene and co-opt corporate uses of digital technologies, but has also allowed further innovation to take place within the commercial sector, as it feeds on these new ideas. To what extent, then, can Creative Coding stay ‘critical’ in the ways it ‘makes’? How can artist-programmers continue to push the boundaries of digital technologies in ways that expand our understanding of what technology can do for society? This exhibition aims to look into the making practices of Creative Coding—and its politics—in detail in order to understand the creative process, and the ways in which aesthetics are inextricably linked with political issues in contemporary society. Creating through coding showcases that creativity is not a faculty through which artists make ‘ready-made’ artworks, but rather a never-ending experimental, generative, and iterative process.
Artistic Agency: Experimenting with Control and Randomness
Creative Coding practices often involve both control and randomness. Artist-programmers describe the ways in which glitches, false categorizations, but also the technology’s own limitations create inputs or outputs. Their work is often an iterative process of refining the algorithms and machines that they work with in order to get a desired result. A process of translation often takes place, in which the artist must make their work machine-readable, and vice versa. The ‘art object’, within the Creative Coding field, is therefore not only composed of the physical or virtual product, but also the algorithmic processes that are constantly refined to render the work more meaningful and effective. Creative coding showcases the ways in which ‘knowing’ and ‘making’ are the outcome of both asymmetric and symmetric logic, and the ways in which human consciousness has always depended on, but also always sought ways to surmount, the very structures of society.
Fabian van Sluijs – founder & curator
Axelle van Wynsberghe – researcher & co-curator cabinet of curiosities
Costanza Tagliaferri – assistant researcher
Bram Snijders – technical producer
Iris Jansen – producer
Tanja van Zoest – communication coordinator
Benjamin van Vliet – pr advisor & editor
Sietse van der Meer – social media manager
Carolien Teunisse – co-founder and producer