One and Three Quines

This is a continuation of thoughts and ideas I wrote about in Digital Kosuth. In order to understand Digital Art, we have to first understand what it means to be digital, this is an exploration into the idea of the digital medium.

One of the key points of Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs is that the piece itself is pure concept. When the piece is to be displayed, a museum receives a piece of data (Kosuth’s dictionary definition of a chair) and a set of instructions on how to use the data. If this sounds familiar, it should. It is the same stuff that software is made from.

When we have something digital, what we actually have is a piece of data and a set of instructions for how to interpret that data. The digital photo of your kitty doing something completely adorable is nothing but a set of discreet states, completely worthless without the instructions provided by your image viewing software.

Now consider the quine. A quine is a special type of software, sometimes called a self-replicating program, that reproduces itself. It is a program that writes its own software. A short example in python would look like this:

s=’s=%r\ print (s%%s)’ print (s%s)

All this does is print itself. If you ran that program through a python interpreter and redirected the output to a file, the files would be the same.

This gives us two points to consider. First we have intermingled data and instruction, showing that instruction is itself also data and that data can be interpreted as instruction. Secondly, there is something strangely beautiful about a closed loop like this. It’s a pure concept, almost as if it is its own little universe.

With that in mind, I created a gif file that builds off of the idea of the quine. You can download the file over here on my website.

Technically speaking, this plays with the quine idea more than being a strict quine. There is more software embedded in the gif to help move things along. I believe it still adheres to the broader understanding of what a quine does, as it certainly recreates itself and the software (even the embedded software) reads very quiney in a number of places.

There are three different chairs in the piece in homage to One and Three Chairs.

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