Ask Me Anything

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questions from ned carlson 04-05-2020

1. What are the main programs you use to make your digital work?

I pretty much only use programs that I create myself.  I feel that most commercially made and distributed programs I have tried out are always this awkward combination of both too limited and too bloated for what I want to acheive.  It feels hard for me to be truely creative while working within the confines of whatever feature sets some kind of top down bureaucratic design commitee has decided should be prioritized.

2. What methods do you recommend for beginner coders to get into creative coding and use of technology?

I think that there are a lot of amazing and acessible options out there for artists these days!  Processing is highly recommended; as is the javascript (and browser friendly) P5.js.  Hydra is an amazing resource for livecoding visuals!  The Book of Shaders is also a crucial introduction to working with fragment shaders and glsl in general.  Beyond that I would also recommend that folks also learn about the architecture of computers, both in terms of like how one would repair and/or rebuild computers from components and in terms of how do computers actually function?  Understanding the ways in which signals travel inside of computers is crucial to how I write and execute code.  Understanding the differences between gpus and cpus, what is RAM, what is cache, and how various data structures live and travel between these parts can drastically improve the ways in which you write code.  Also try to understand how your operating system is utilizing resources and figure out what level of control you have over that side of things as well.  If you ever have intentions on making live work that utilizes computers it can become incredibly useful to be able to diagnose and repair soft and hard  ware issues on the fly.  If you were playing guitar in a live band it would be pretty useful to be able to replace a broken string and tune it up in a matter of minutes, no?  

3. How did you first start coding creatively?

I first learned to write code on an old Commodore 64 my family had sitting in a closet when I was quite young.  I think it is very helpful to get just a basic sense of programming when one is young, I feel like just knowing that you can just type a bunch of words at a computer and the next thing you know its doing just what you asked it to is a really important bit of knowledge to have.  Everything else is just kind of details if you really think about it!  Then like a bunch of other things happened and quite a while later I ended up getting a degree in mathematics from UW Madison and sort of knew like kind of a lot more about computers and programming than just the if/then/goto/poke stuff that I had done in the Commodore Basic.  Then I moved to Chicago and a bunch of other things happened and somewhere along the lines I ended up finding out about Glitch Art and New Media Art scenes happening through events.  I think probably the biggest thing I can recall that impacted me was the first The Wrong bienalle.  I remember just like spending hours clicking through all of the online galleries and just being amazed at what folks were getting up to.   It was definitely around that time that I first started digging really heavily into Processing  and teaching myself how to design programs for real time video biz.   

4. Do you also make physical work through a similarly experimentally artistic lens that your coding is?

Video art is physical work.  When I create a video art piece or performance with digital and/or analog signals I am using physical devices to manipulate physical signals which people then experience by the physical medium of photons striking their retinas.  The percieved dichotomy between ‘physical’ art such as paint, print, photography, sculpture, performance etc and whatever one would classify as ‘non-physical’ (I guess like the sum totality of New Media art I guess?) is patently false.  As far as I can tell this distinction has nothing to do with anything relevant to art or creativity as concepts and everything to do with how the Art Industry functions.  The world of ‘physical’ art seems to be mainly those objects which can have a nondisputable Certificate Of Authenticity and thus can be sold as unique items to the class of absurdly wealthy art collectors who use them as tax free investments and/or social currency.  Contrast that with the world of ‘non-physical’ art, those pieces which exist only in terms of live performance or as easily duplicated files stored in some kind of medium.  When viewed from this perspective the distinction seems to be one mainly of commodities.  I don’t just find the basic concept of commodifying my creative works as irrelevant to my processes, I am actively antagonistic towards it.  I find these thought patterns to have only negative effects upon creativity, individuals, and communities and I would urge everyone who holds these prejudices to reflect upon what exactly they are basing this meaningless distinction upon.

5. How do you recommend young artists get exposure and develop their practice, both in general and during the age of COVID-19?

I would simply recommend avoiding thinking about the very idea of exposure.  Focus on making art that communicates something unique to your chosen medium first.  If your creative works have something to say and you share them with others who learn and/or gain something through this communication then what else could you ask for?  I think it is very important to not make “exposure’ your primary motivation because that can very easily twist your creative process into a commercial process.  The nature of how humans interact with social media in the present time (2020) seems to infect ones brains with this concept that self promotion and self commodification is like essentially a virtue to aspire to.  I would urge everyone, not just artists, to rethink the patterns of western protestant derived capitalistist individualist mythology in general and make efforts to build communities focused on sharing information and resources and true collaborative efforts instead of focusing on self promotion.

6. How do you monetize and share your work given its unique format?

Yo I essentially don’t monetize my art work at all.  My income comes mainly from doing technical consulting work for artists, building and selling video synthesizers, tutoring, and getting donations from folks who are psyched about the various open source softwares I design and all of the educational stuffs that I put up on my youtube channel.  I can’t really think of any particular path towards monetizing the actual creative work that I make that woudn’t be some combination of boring and unsavory so basically I just don’t!

If you appreciate the public domain open source software and educational materials I provide and can afford to spare some cash it is highly appreciated! The more donations I recieve the more time I have to spend on developing these resources!  Please also consider subscribing to my patreon page as small amounts of regular income are appreciated as well!