Picture of woman coding and ice art work with pyladies berlin logo

What happens when code meets art? And when art meets code?

This was the question posed at the latest PyLadies Berlin meetup, a community aimed at empowering people from marginalized genders in opensource and the Tech industry.

Creative coding is a type of programming in which the goal is to create something expressive and critical instead of something purely functional. It is used to create live visuals, netart, installation, sound, wearables — anything our creativity can produce with algorithms.

Kicking off the event was Robert Sakrowski a art curator who focuses on early forms of net art as well as artistic practices around current web phenomena. Since 2016, he has been curator of Panke Gallery. He is also a founding member of the Berlin-based net art research Zentrum für Netzkunstfrom.

robert showing on the project the netart piece wwww.jodi.org
Robert Sakrowski presenting wwww.jodi.org

Speaking about netart, he showed examples of poignant pieces starting with the thought provoking wwww.jodi.org the website has archived it’s art progression through sub-domains accessed by adding extra ‘w’s’ before the first dot. The piece plays with the concept of what makes up an image, we can explore the piece by inspecting it’s source code to see ASCII images of the H-Bomb, the spaces in this image are then removed for the version the viewer sees in the browser.

Sakrowski continues to take us on a tour of some of his favourite pieces of Netart. In Agatha appears from Olia Lialina characters come to life and their story is told led by user clicks. As they jump across the screen into new browser windows and across servers the magic of the web is revealed.

still from art piece agatha appears, woman and man made digital rendered from text and digits
Still from Olia Lialina’s Agatha appears

Other pieces included Alexei shulgin’s form an interactive piece which plays upon the idea of user input and the creation of art as a group activity with participation from both artist and audience. Constantdullart’s http://defaultism.com/, Sebastian Schmeig’s alljqueryeffects and Holge Friese’s ‘Unendlich fast’ (a word play on lasting for infinity while being fast) all play on the building blocks of web development and UI design. Putting functional elements and defaults under the microscope.

Yidi Tsao talks about open source and art
Yidi Tsao talking about an open collaborative internet

Next Yidi Tsao a multi-disciplinary art & culture professional currently based in Berlin and Hong Kong. Well versed in both European and Chinese contemporary culture & society, arts & technology, design and creative industries at large with a focus on the creative application of technology. She shared with us her thoughts on ownership of art and what this means in a digital world, when there is no physical object to be owned. She also spoke about open source, art patronage and the collaborative element of art. Opening the website Fffff.at she shared with us the concepts of a free, private and open web. The Free Art and Technology (F.A.T.) Lab was an organisation dedicated to enriching the public domain through the research and development of technologies and media. They closed the project in 2015, declaring “we lost” on the website.

You can follow Yidi’s work at http://www.tsaoyidi.com/

Artist shows the crowd a piece which has ice suspended above a platform which it drips on to create sound
Peggy Sylopp presenting her piece which collected data from dripping ice to create sound

After a break the event continued Peggy Sylopp, a multimedia artist, computer scientist, and project manager took to the stage to share with us her work combining code and natural occurrences such as ice melting. Peggy has set up ideas, concepts and raised funds for citizen science projects including technologies and applied arts. The projects emphasise on sharing open technologies, open data and democratisation of technology access.

A special moment was when she share her attempts at getting ice from the natural environment. She bought a chain saw for such purpose and went about cutting a block of ice from a frozen over river. When this did not work as planned she took a chisel and hammer instead to pry out her block of clear ice. Find out more about Peggy’s projects at http://peggy-sylopp.net/

Alexandra talks to the crowd about live coding

To wrap up the afternoon Alexandra Cardenas a Colombian composer/programmer/improviser/live coder based in Berlin, gave a workshop about FoxDot a python library for creating music with live coding.

Live coding is a technique for writing and performing music in real time through creation and manipulation of algorithms.

Created in 2015 FoxDot it’s purpose is to open the pathways to Live Coding for users who may be new to programming and want to use it create music quickly and easily. FoxDot provides a interactive programming environment which sends messages to the powerful sound synthesis engine, called SuperCollider to make music. As it’s written in Python you have full access to regular python control to create patterns and loops which can be used within a live coding piece.

For the rest of the afternoon attendees experimented with their own pieces and some showcased what they had discovered before the meetup moved to the bar next door for a more relaxed session where all excitedly share what they had learnt and discovered!

I really enjoyed playing with this, it reminded me of when I programmed my first Nokia phone to play various songs as ring tunes. Below is an example piece of code for FoxDot to demonstrate how simple it can be, if you play it you may realise it sounds quite familiar ;)

Example code

p1 >> pluck([5,4,5,2,0,2,5,5,4,5,2,0,2,5,5,6,0,6,0,0,5,6,5,6,6,4,5,4,3,4,5], dur=[1/2], oct=[5,5,5,5,5,5,4,5,5,5,5,5,5,4,5,5,6,5,6,6,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5,5], bpm=140)p1.stop()

A huge thank you to all the speakers, organisers and attendees. Personally the days events brought back some memories of when I first made websites and played around with user interactions while at art college. My final art foundation piece was a running website which depicted a living room scene photographed with model furniture. User clicks would animate certain areas including a cupboard door opening and a toy train coming out making a round of the room before returning into the cupboard and the door shutting firmly behind it.

Alexandra’s work can be found at https://cargocollective.com/tiemposdelruido/ and the pieces produced during the workshop will be exhibited for a month at the Zentrum für Netzkunst.

You can find out about and sign up for future PyLadies Berlin events on the Meetup page, come say hi if you make it to one :)

Backend Developer @Ecosia 🌳 interested in IoT, ML, GO, Python, JS, data visualisation Co-organiser @PyLadiesBer ❤ she/her Previously Roaster @THEBARNBERLIN ☕

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