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  • Writer's pictureRob George

Week 2 Research: Poetics of Software + Florian Cramer + Net.Art

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

Entering the Machine and Leaving it Again: Poetics of Software in Contemporary Art by Florian Cramer.

In this reading, Cramer focuses on the idea that digital art isn't new but "a speculative appropriation and practical cultural reflection of computing." What I got from this is digital art is not about the visuals or output a computer can create through software. It is focused around the aspect of the properties of the computer's software itself. The coding and the inner workings of a piece generated by the computer. It is basically a glorification of the technology and how it is applied to contemporary art.

Jeffrey Shaw "The Legible City"

An example of this would be the work by Jeffrey Shaw called "The Legible City" which is an interactive installation that was, of course, created with software and hardware. It consists of a 3D video being projected onto a screen of popular cities such as Manhattan, Amsterdam, and Karlsruhe where all the buildings have been replaced by 3D words and letters whose colors and textures mimic the actual buildings and where they are placed in the specified city. The video is controlled by a stationary bicycle that a user can use to pedal and steer around the city. The words and letters in each city were written by Dirk Groeneveld and tell "eight fictional storylines in the form of monologues by ex-mayor Koch, Frank Llyod Wright, Donald Trump, a tour guide, a confidence trickster, an ambassador, and a taxi driver."

Shaw's description of the piece is this: "Travelling through these cities of words is consequently a journey of reading; choosing the path one takes is a choice of texts as well as their spontaneous juxtapositions and conjunctions of meaning." Cramer's argument against this is that there is nothing spontaneous about this. The coding of the software is giving it a structure full of commands. It may seem spontaneous to the user, but the real underlying truth is the "formula" that is within the software.

Digital art in software is known as many names but it all has something in common. The coding or the "formula" within a computer that generates a visual output. This leads me into the genre of Net.Art.


A brief definition of this would be it is digital art that uses pre-made information and coding from the internet as it's material content. To expand on this, Net.Art is, according to, "a site-specific art form bound to its own presence and impact on the internet." Not only is it taking information and coding from the internet but it is also giving itself it's own space on the internet to show off. Cramer describes this form of software to be "institutional, poetic, and aesthetic at the same time" and I have to say I agree with him. Some of my favorite works in this subject are from the digital artists, Jodi.


Jodi (Joan Heemskerk and Dirk Roesmans) are a couple of artists from Dutch Belgium. Cramer talks about one of their earlier works called OSS. This software acts as a hack on the browser where "small browser windows pop up and fly around." It takes over the user's control and basically hijacks the browser like malware. It is considered to be an interactive software due to it interacting with the browser as well as getting the user to try to figure out how to fix it. I am a bit unsure if I have found this site Cramer talks about because I could not find anything related to OSS (yet). But I did check out and their site seems to be very similar to Cramer's description. It may even be what Cramer is talking about. The site is very aesthetically pleasing to explore as well. Every time someone enters the address into the web browser there's something different to explore. When you open the site it's a mix of information gathered from the internet almost as if there is a malfunction with the browser. It's fun to look at and it's as if the inner workings of the internet become visible to user in this single space.

(A video of

The second video posted below is to show the coding of this site. It is very simple and consists of links to specific sites on the web. You can also learn more about this site here.

(Video of inspected)

I had a lot of fun looking into this topic and I hop whoever is reading this post decides to explore this too.

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