PBS's Off-Book series recently released a digital short on an art movement involving the creative use of computer programming. Off-Book is a bi-weekly web series all about exploring new art movements that are pushing the boundaries of our creative potential with the onset of new-age media. Just to name a few of these movements, previous episodes touch upon typography, animated GIFs, Lego art, web design, and Internet cultures that have greatly influenced and provided new forms of creative expression to artists all around. These new forms of media are enabling all of us to openly express ourselves in ways that continue to push our human capability forward.
This week's episode, dubbed “The Art of Creative Coding,” covers three sets of software communities that aim to provide their respective members with tools that far exceed the limiting potential of paint and a brush. Daniel Schiffman sits and talks about Processing, a community of online software enthusiasts. The community is a great source for artists to use simplified code in order to create visuals that operate on algorithms and processes. Schiffman goes on to point out the limiting factor that is broken by our ability to learn how to program our own software. Think about what you're capable of accomplishing on your smartphone, thanks to the development of apps -- a whole lot, perhaps. Yet, we're still limited to the apps that are there for us to choose. Nevertheless, with the ability to create things for ourselves, we not only benefit from our own creations but also provide others with that same opportunity. Art is no different in the way it allows anyone to pick something up and creatively express themselves.
Keith Butters, of Barbarian Group, later presents the evolution of the Cinders program. The re-mastered code used to develop the iTunes visualizer was given new life in the form of Cinders; a library of code designed to provide artists the necessities to focus on their creations more so than the coding itself. This toolbox of audio, video, and graphics code also operates as an open-source project: the users are free to use the software and often contribute back by writing new code for others to use. This is another great example of the wonders that can come from open-source projects -- how many times do you give Wikipedia a visit when doing a little research?
The home stretch of the PBS short has Jonathan Minard and James George talking about the Frameworks community and their RGBD Toolkit. The toolkit was created by the pairing of an Xbox Kinect with DSLR cameras to experiment with the possibility of new forms of cinema. This kit is also unique in the way it allows users to engage with their work in real-time and make adjustments on the fly. The Frameworks coding environment is used simply for its philosophy of sharing, and the positive effects of the move are self-evident in its success. The guys wrap the video up by pointing to the coding art movement as unique in the way that these particular artists share their tools and help each other out along the way, ensuring the growth and success of the community.
Creativity has now established a community of coders and artists alike that continue to experiment, push the boundaries of new technologies, and create new forms of expression. It is no coincidence that most of these movements are sparked by open-source availability, as art shares many similar characteristics with these kinds of projects, allowing anyone to participate and contribute. So, if you feel like expressing yourself, give coding a try. You might just spark some new ideas and kickstart a completely new community of creators.
Yes, Cabe, I think it's wonderful to learn a spoken language--and increasingly necessary, almost, these days (especially if one is an American in Europe!). But learning a programming language without utility seems an exercise in futility...unless, of course, you were really into that sort of thing! Coders probably do it for fun, but it's not in my nature. For a job, however--that's a different story.
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