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  • Æther Cavendish

Code as Poetry: A Dialogue with Ara on ‘inside window’

Updated: Apr 1


Konnichiwa Ara-san, I would love to know a little bit more about your artistic background and how you came to devise the fascinating concept of ‘code poetry’?

Since childhood, I've been drawn to various forms of expression, from crafting and drawing to creating comics. It was when I discovered BASIC and C programming languages that I first developed a passion for coding. Over the past decade, I've been working as a software engineer. However, my heart has always leaned towards the exploration of poetic code rather than strictly commercially driven projects.

I've been engaged in many different creative pursuits, ranging from media art to designing fonts and coding unconventional programs. My interests span across the domains of code art, typography, folklore, museology, the beauty of specimens, fantasy, and surrealism.

This April marks a new chapter for me as I embark on doctoral research in my own discipline of ‘code poetry’, all while continuing my journey as a software engineer.

Congratulations on this new chapter! Would you please tell me about the conceptual foundation of ‘inside window’, the generative art project you are contributing to Atelier’s ‘Visual Poetry’ group exhibition?

At the core of my creative pursuit lies ‘code poetry’, a term I've adopted for myself. Code poetry, quite literally, involves crafting poetry through code, utilizing programming languages as the medium. While generative art, borne from computers, often utilizes program code in its creation, have you ever paused to consider where and how this code comes to life? For me, generative art embodies algorithms, logic, and also thought. Through code poetry, I aim to visually articulate these intrinsic elements.

In what ways does ‘inside window’ challenge conventional interpretations of poetry, and what new perspectives do you hope to offer through this series?

In my artistic endeavors, my aim is to offer a fresh perspective on poetry through harnessing the inherent duality of code. This duality manifests in code's ability to be executed precisely and mechanically by computers while also harboring potential for open-ended interpretation by humans. My approach often involves incorporating elements like non-executing comment lines, redundant code, indentations, unused function definitions, or unexecuted conditional branches—collectively referred to as "code work."

In my artwork, various components come into play, such as strings of code evolving over time, segments of code that are erased, their execution, and the ensuing responses. This setup enables dual engagement, inviting both computer execution and human interpretation. I aspire for the viewer not only to witness the generated results but also to directly engage in the execution process by actively pressing the 'run' button.

This approach, I believe, embodies an elevated expression of the code's duality, made feasible through the medium of generative art. Moreover, the outcomes of this code poetry may vary, contingent upon the browser environment and timing of execution. The interpretative nuances by computers introduce a realm of multifaceted dimensions very distinct from traditional poetry.

In earlier exchanges we discovered that we both share a love for the poetry of Seiichi Niikuni (1925 - 1877). Please say more!

My admiration for poet Seiichi Niikuni (新國誠一) knows no bounds! A luminary within Japan's concrete poetry movement, Niikuni-san crafted a plethora of remarkable, polysemous, and profound works predominantly utilizing Japanese kanji. His artistic prowess extended beyond borders as he collaborated with French poet Pierre Garnier, weaving together the linguistic tapestries of both Japanese and French—a groundbreaking endeavor that showcased the nuances between languages in an unprecedented light.

If I may interject, I find it unbelievable that the two poets never had the chance to meet, did not share a common language, and somehow created a deeply thought-provoking collaboration of interlingual language-based art! 

I agree! I think it has to do with the openness of Niikuni-san’s mind! For example, what captivates me is his embrace of phototypesetting technology, a cutting-edge innovation of his time. His keen utilization of this technology not only underscored his avant-garde spirit but also propelled his artistic vision to new heights.

Yet, what truly resonates with me is Niikuni-san's unwavering commitment to language as the paramount mode of expression. Despite the allure of visual poetry straddling the border between art forms, he staunchly advocated for the purity of linguistic expression. In essence, Niikuni-san's work stands as testament to the power of language, unadulterated by the trappings of any medium.

Does ‘inside window’ follow or evoke a specific narrative? 

In ‘inside window,’ I explore the very essence of a fundamental element: the "window" as object. This object holds immense significance in the world of generative art, serving as a cornerstone without which much contemporary generative art would remain unseen.

Upon execution, this artwork examines all functions within the window object of the browser environment, selecting and invoking a singular function from this array. This process unfolds as a profound introspection, allowing generative art to peer into its own inner workings. 

The response elicited by this function call echoes from the depths, akin to a message from the subconscious—a message that often manifests as an error message, unveiling vast and uncharted landscapes of possibility. In this way, my work embodies a novel form of generative poetry, revealing layers of meaning and exploration previously untapped.

Through ‘inside window,’ my aspiration is to convey the profound complexity and depth inherent within the code that serves as the lifeblood of generative art.

Thank you, Ara-san, for dedicating your time to explain this to me. I've mentioned to others that I consider you 'a coder's coder,' someone deeply immersed in coding intricacies, yet also possessing a poet's sensibility. I truly appreciate your skill in unraveling the complexities behind 'inside window' for those of us who may not be proficient coders.

You're very welcome! I'm glad I could provide some clarity. It's my pleasure to delve into these intricacies and share insights with others, regardless of their coding expertise. Your kind words mean a lot to me—thank you for the appreciation! 

This was a conversation between Ara and Æther Cavendish.


Release information:

'inside window' on FXHash | Ara x Atelier

April, 2024

100 editions


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