CHArt TWENTY-FOURTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Seeing…Vision and Perception in a Digital Culture
Jussi Parikka, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
Seeing Software: The Biennale.py Net Art Virus and Visuality of Software
The presentation focuses on the Biennale virus net art piece from 2002, programmed and exhibited by the groups 0100101110101101.ORG and epidemiC. The virus as a piece of software was distributed not only in its executable form on CDs but also e.g. printed on t-shirts and promoted with various iconographic measures. In this sense it is interesting how the piece of software was framed and articulated in terms of invisibility and visibility. In itself, a piece of software remains mostly invisible to the end user especially in the context of consumer software. Software is mostly ‘seen’ or experienced only through its effects whether those are the actions it allows (word processor software as a process of visualising language) or through its undesired effects (malicious software that signals its presence through payloads). Through the Biennale.py software example, the presentation discusses the framing of software as a visibility of a sort.
Even though the primary processes of digital culture are non-representational and algorithmic, they are continuously coded into (audio) visual forms, which are very much entwined in aesthetic-political agendas of network culture. In other words, the time-based procedures of computational media are spatialised in contemporary media archives that are framed by questions of technical and commercial nature. Another, even more apt way to describe this endeavour would be to refer to the difference between the corporealities (the materialities) of computer viruses and the incorporeal transformations that interact with those materialities. A virus may be understood as a calculational process at the material level of computer circuits, but when this accident (event) is called ‘malicious software’ it connects to a whole incorporeal sphere of morals, crimes, criminals, laws and judgments, as a Deleuzian focus on incorporeal events suggests. Hence, an analysis of computer culture should not focus solely on the material event(s) of calculation or source code (the technical diagrams) nor on the discursive events, but in the constant double articulation between various semiotic regimes.
Link: epidemiC Biennale website: http://www.epidemic.ws/biannual.html
 Such ideas resonate with Félix Guattari, Chaosmosis. An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm. Transl. Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis. (Sydney: Power Press, 1995). See also Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, ‘On Software, or the Persistence of Visual Knowledge.’ Grey Room 18, Winter 2004, pp.28-51.
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