RENEW 2013

The 5th International Conference on the Histories of Media Art, Science and Technology

Riga / October 8 – 11, 2013

"Archiving" Participants

Frieder NAKE

Recording and Recoding


Panel:Panel B



Works of art may be considered as complex signs. Works of digital art then appear as algorithmic signs. As such, they are interpreted by two agents of absolute asymmetry. One is human, the other software. Software is incapable of genuine interpretation. It has no capacity of freely incorporating the work under consideration into one context or another (which is how acts of interpretation begin). However, the semiotic approach tells us that software’s interpretation is formal interpretation only and, even more, it is the limiting case of interpretation: it is determination of the one meaning possible under the context of computability. This is the general theoretical background for the perspective of the algorithmic sign which I like to re-phrase as: the algorithmic work possesses surface and subface. The surface is visible and object of human’s experience; the subface is computable and object of software’s manipulation. To generate a work of algorithmic art (or any other kind of computer-based art as, e.g., interactive art) amounts to generating the subface. To interpret, criticize, evaluate, preserve a work of algorithmic art (or similar kind) amounts to renew, recode, or regenerate the subface. The young movement of reCode has the goal to preserve works of early computer art by reconstructing them. This is exactly the way to go because it must come up with, at least, approximations to the old programs many of which have been lost. The contribution will draw a line from 1963 and earliest machine-language coding to 2013 and Processing. It will discuss in detail some examples from fifty years ago.


Frieder Nake is a computer scientist and artist, a mathematician by training. He loves precision, beauty, contradiction, and nonsense. He is a professor in computer graphics at University of Bremen and a lecturer in Digital Media at University of the Arts Bremen. He is a pioneer of algorithmic art who has exhibited his work at many occasions since 1965. He is prime researcher of the compArt project on early digital art that runs the daDA database ( With Susan Grabowski he is currently engaged in “The algorithmic dimension of visual art”, supported by the VW Foundation.

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