Glum With Software?
Fun with Software, Arnolfini, Bristol
Helen Kennedy, Tom Rawlings & Jon Dovey led a gallery talk on Oct 16 for the Arnolfini’s current show ‘Fun with Software’.
Quite a few UWE students turned from the current level 3 Games & Software module turned up so it was good to see teaching+research in action. Tom’s already posted a preview of the event over on his ‘Great Becoming’ blog (BTW congratulations on the publication Tom!)
A few other themes emerged from the conversation. One was about the ways that works like Open Circuit and Tempest for Eliza both remind us how our world is criss crossed with invisible waves of all kinds that carry our data, media and information. Open Circuit is a literal version of this idea where the materiality of circuit boards and sound are made visible. Tempest for Eliza is an interesting piece based on some research into how to cloak electronic devices from the radio waves they emanate which might allow people to decode what the device was doing.
A second set of thematics concerned the ways ideas about post humanism floated around the whole show. Especially the ways works in the show forces us to think about human and software processes – or the relationships between organic and nonorganic beings. Graham Harwood’s London.pl for instance directly confronts this by trying to put the political calculus behind Blakes poem 1791 ‘London’ into a Perl routine. The big centre piece of the show,David Link’s LoveLetters 1.0 has some of this too – it’s a wonderfully dedicated reconstruction of both the Ferranti Mk 1 (the first UK computer 1948) and the work of an inspired programmer (Christopher Strachey) who programmed the machine in 1953 to generate love poems. Some of them are quite good. Not quite sure why they’re not being tweeted ! But my point was that the idea of ‘feeling in the machine’ and therefore the human subject was what this early hack was getting at.
We also recreated the earliest use of the word ‘computer’ through Helen’s brilliant mastery of the Ferranti beast – she had managed to master its programming (five switches for each letter) and got the machine to play God Save the Queen in a reproduction of the earliest known form of computer music. The letter below was 'written' by the Ferranti reconsruction.
YOU ARE MY EAGER INFATUATION.. MY WISTFUL INFATUATION. YOU ARE MY FOND CHARM.. MY DEAR FANCY. MY CRAVING ENTHUSIASM
SIGHS FOR YOUR LOVING ARDOUR.