Hacking vs Defaults, an argument about types of Internet art in table form by Guthrie Lonergan. The blog you are reading is proud, yet...humble to be included in the scheme. For more Defaults than you can possibly consume at one sitting see the Year in the Internet 2006, which includes Lonergan as curator and also Travis Hallenbeck, whose exquisite taste in the Internet is a constant inspiration.

For example, handmade plastic models of Rick Wakeman's keyboards, this Google video documenting a slow-playing cassette deck, and these great, perfectly centered photos of food.

- tom moody 1-14-2007 11:00 pm

- 20040907-23:43 (guest) 1-15-2007 1:08 am

sorry to make you the guts of my scheme without permission!.. Travis is indeed another perfect example of this whole thing, major props to him as well

ooooh, morphing :)
- guthrie (guest) 1-15-2007 1:43 am

You never have to ask permission to make someone a key figure in a movement.

--signed, Dot Man (in his dreams)
- tom moody 1-15-2007 2:06 am

Just noticed that John Michael reblogged Defaults vs Hacking on Rhizome.

Lots of people stepped forward to denounce it, right?
- tom moody 1-15-2007 3:42 am

i wish! thatd be fun
- guthrie (guest) 1-15-2007 6:08 am

I just checked rhizome.org RAW and there didn't seem to be anyone crying foul. There is a thread entitled "new media meltdown" going but it doesn't seem to directly address Guthrie's table. There should be a more concrete forum on Rhizome for critiquing its content.
- jmb (guest) 1-15-2007 6:18 am

Well, don't get me started, but Rhizome should have blogs to discuss this now instead of that damn listServ.
As in--comments appended to where you posted it.
I was mostly kidding about the denunciation--I think when someone is attacked the response is usually to go horribly silent.
It's not really an attack but the polemic polarizes by design.
Sally McKay likes to ask impossible binaries--which are you, milk or fish?--but here we're talking meat eaters vs vegans, atheists vs end-timers.
There should be a fight.
- tom moody 1-15-2007 7:40 am

I would fall into the 'default' side of that graph for sure. But I still think the graph is smart and instructional and I wouldn't spend lots of time mounting a denouncement of it. That said, I agree there's room in this big electronic world for grey areas. There is a fetishistic aspect to the "Hacker" (wince) mode that is simply not shared by everyone. Reminds me of folks who take bicycles apart and put them back together all day everyday and then look down their noses at folks who just ride their bikes all over town doing stuff. Also, I've always found the jodi stuff kind of tediously impenetrable and self-referential. Get yourself too engrossed in sets of rules and pure paradigms and you're making art for art's sake before you know it (yawn).
- sally mckay 1-15-2007 6:53 pm

hiya tom i'll denounce it if you want me to. got about 30 minutes to kill before emma gets home and i have to cook dinner, just let me know.
- p.d. (guest) 1-15-2007 9:03 pm

Your offer to denounce is duly noted.
- tom moody 1-15-2007 10:05 pm

banana_1 banana_1banana_1
Did someone suggest that this isn't fucking brilliant?

- L.M. 1-15-2007 10:20 pm

Did you write the code for that banana?

The Adverlicious Lower My Bills archive has just added the "click the babies and make them turn cyan" graphic!
- tom moody 1-15-2007 10:29 pm

yes I did add the incredibly difficult marquis tag to that banana GIF.

Adverlicous is in flash, I did a good game a few years ago for TVO that made little kids gradually turn magenta and burn up from sun exposure. Taught those kids a lesson!
- L.M. 1-15-2007 10:37 pm

p.d., id love to hear your thoughts! BEIGE & you are mixing hacking and defaults.. "grey area" as sally said..

Tom, great news about that baby banner ad... hopefully next they'll uncover my favorite stretched out deer one -- "The Wienermoose"
- guthrie (guest) 1-15-2007 11:39 pm

hackers: typically, do not speak in phonemes
defaultists: typically, do not speak in pure jargon

hackers: wear ugly sweaters to stand out
defaultists: wear ugly sweaters to fit in

hackers: are so concerned about The Man that they hungrily pursue the recognition of tobacco-sponsored monoliths
defaultists: are so concerned about The Man that they merge art + politic until they are inseperable

hackers: demystifiers
defaultists: remystifiers

hackers: commodore 64
defaultists: slide rule

hackers: binary objectification ritual
defaultists: discourse

colon close parentheses

- j in jc (guest) 1-16-2007 2:15 am

im too sleepy from dinner + CSI dvds to denounce anything but maybe a couple ideas if you lot dont mind...

for a long time i considered things like javascript and lingo to be defaults...like everything you can do has already been predicted. whats the point of wondering "how do i..??" when working within a scripting "language"? im not 100% sure about this anymore tho.

also not really sure if the nintendo stuff is hacking? i mean, yes the cart has had a chip or two replaced but if you look at the work, it's mostly created using other people's tools, they just happen to be tools made outside of the microsoft system. or if you'd want to check the source code, sometimes big chunks are lifted from other people's code - the real hackers of the NES who you can find on nesdev.parodius.com. to me the only "hack" i might have done was the idea...chilling in my dorm room one day and realized that the guts of a nintendo deck are just a computer and there must be a way to reprogram it and make it into an art practice.
its kinda like with the electronic musicians of 40 years ago, there was a real divide between the instrument builders and the composer/musicians/artists. when one crossed into the other practice...well...to make a contemporary parallel i'll just pull a name of out a hat here and say john maeda - the work doesn't really go from strength to strength does it? it was only with rare birds like david tudor [a constant source of inspiration for me] that both practices were synthesized...maybe that's "hacking"??

sally's point is well-taken, altho i still wonder what artists have to do with the "Hacker" stereotype. i might say your complaint is with "fake-hackers" [fackers??]...people who use some random knowledge of a technical system to exert control. maybe a good example was in around 2000/01 when that real-time video stuff NATO came out for max/msp [before jitter - sorry about the lingo...ouch did it again] and i noticed that everyone i met who was actually into using NATO was A. male and B. a complete dickhead...and they were into using it mostly because they thought they were only ones who could. this kind of behavior is what i can find amongst techy artists [like the bike thing] and, altho found in plenty of so-called hackers, is actually something else. i mean, there is something that make you roll your eyes with elements of the tech nerd/slashdot/IT/crowd. but i love hackers because i think lots of what they do is retarded/amazing and often inspirational.

- p.d. (guest) 1-16-2007 3:20 am

Yes, I think the use of the term hacker is a little embarrassing and somewhat nostalgic wannabe-ish in this context (hence my 'wince' above). I do love trying to follow all the tech-exposition that folks who are so inclined have been up to, and I'm not too concerned with what gets called 'art' and what doesn't - I'd say it's not so relevant really in this context, what matters more is the fun of it, the generative possibilities, and the intriguing surprising (retarted/amazing) results.
- sally mckay 1-16-2007 5:12 am

However, I am doing an artist-talk in a class on digital art tomorrow, and I will show them Guthrie's graph for sure! It lays out the groundwork pretty nicely.
- sally mckay 1-16-2007 5:40 am

i think what i mean tho is hacker culture has been aestheticized, had its terminology borrowed and appreciated in a new [post-ironic?] way by some artists but thats about it. because in reality ppl are still making programming languages - processing, PD - just for artists much in the same mold as Macromedia Director in the late 80's/early 90's.

i cant really think of a single artist i know who i'd consider a real hacker, or many that do much "sophisticated breaking of technology". there's a lot of ham-fisted breaking of technology [yours truly] which is lovely but i'm just making the argument that this stuff mostly sits next to you in the default category. and i'm wondering if the two categories - hacking/default - are more simply aesthetic choices than anything else??
- p.d. (guest) 1-16-2007 6:06 am

I think "defaults" is a reaction to that John Maeda "only programmers can make computer art" absolutism, which is still rampant in the new media world.
It's saying "Oh yeah, watch me enjoy Flash."
I liked it when the Beigers called out Marcus Popp years ago for being avant garde with well-known avant garde software.
But I don't like Maeda showing in the Fondation Cartier because he's buffaloed art world curators with all that codespeak.

- tom moody 1-16-2007 6:20 am

the difference between "defaults" and "hacking" is subtle, theyre usually quite similar in their lofi-ness, and opposition to maeda/processing/etc ..

the table is more JODI vrs. Tom Moody, and the difference there is way more than aesthetic -- JODI is about the anxiety of dealing with the technology, while Tom is the banality of it being everywhere used by everyone.

"sophisticated" is perhaps the wrong word, but it was sort of a joke/oxymoron.. sophisticated breaking.. something like circuit bending is definitely ham-fisted and fun, poking random wires around.. but its still light years ahead of making a doodle in MS Paint, which is purposefully blind/naive that the technology is even there.. "default" work tends to focus more on the people using the technology rather than the technology itself

p.d. i definitely understand what you mean about the nintendo stuff being a naive kind of hacking, still not completely aware of what exactly the technology is doing
- guthrie (guest) 1-16-2007 9:59 am

From jmb via email:


I might spread them a little further apart just to preserve the air of vital antagonism.

- tom moody 1-16-2007 10:32 am

oooh, venn diagrammed, nice
- guthrie (guest) 1-16-2007 10:40 am

yeah i like that merged table a lot, i really think that what passes for hacking amongst artists is the same as defaults. but thats kinda the point...like with beige stuff a lot of it is about saying "hey check this out...we're really crap at programming".

who has time to make all their own tools anyway?? i guess thats why it doesn't bug me if maeda shows at fondation cartier because to me he's just a modern-day instrument builder and the work will speak [or rather, not speak] for itself.

- p.d. (guest) 1-16-2007 2:37 pm

I don't think it's hacking, and it's not exactly default either, but Pure Data (Pd) is super cool!!!! And it is not all that hard to learn a little bit and start having fun with it.
- Thor Johnson (guest) 1-16-2007 6:31 pm

Pure Data wiki entry. I haven't used it. I like this score, though.
- tom moody 1-16-2007 6:37 pm

I like the term ham-fisted.
- Travis (guest) 1-16-2007 9:58 pm

how many comments is too many/too late?? this default stuff is my favorite topic.
tom you'd like pd, or i recommend a cracked copy of max/msp and jitter that i've seen....somewhere...
- p.d. (guest) 1-17-2007 8:26 pm

Not too late--before I forget, two quick comments:
1. The instrument maker/player distinction is good. (40 years is about the number of years the art world--on digital stuff--lags behind the electronic music battles of yore.) Who would be some examples of the former who were celebrated as musicians? My (contrary) analogy would be "ELP played the Garden, not Bob Moog."
2. Re: Maeda in the FC--someone is seriously putting their thumb on the scale there. "It will all be sorted out in time" only works if you have no stake in it.
- tom moody 1-17-2007 9:02 pm

#1 is hard, actually, cos there really aren't many [twas my point]. maybe luigi russolo? harry partch? in more popular music maybe arnold dolmetsch, bruce haack, les paul [yikes!], raymond scott...altho doubtful if they really started as builders before composers. there was a 17th century guy i remember from music school called werckmeister who wrote theory treatieses and a book on organ building and later composed, you probably have an option for the "Werckmeister I/II/III" tunings in some of your vst synths. i'msure there are obvious ones im missing but it seems the best crossover stuff seems to go the other way - creative first, nerd later.

#2 also hard i think - whats the difference between an artist "buffaloeing" [great word, btw] a curator vs. the usual techniques: sleeping with them, getting them a job, having their gallerist sleep with them, etc? gotta have an angle. you new york lot are thick like congressional republicans anyway - always writing about and curating each other for no good reason :P

guthrie i'd have to go opposites on this one, JODI blog: definately default - nothin anxiety-inducing about html in 2007, T.M. blog: slightly hacking cos we all get to take things apart and put them back together again.

- p.d. (guest) 1-18-2007 1:03 am

In the interest of taking things apart--

I don't know Maeda's story vis a vis the ICA and Fondation Cartier. I know his shows in New York did not go over with the art-erati. (As in critics, gallerists) He's an admitted outsider to the "discourse."

But he has this mystique which I believe is separate and apart from all the routine schmoozing you're talking about. And I believe it's rooted in the ignorance/anxiety of museum curators. He talks the code talk and they can't check him on it but they need an example of a "cyber artist" to stay current.

They should be picking from the pool that likes the skanky default side, not this scientistic bullshit. The only way that happens is by shaming them that they're picking a square, instead of saying "la de da it all comes out in the wash." (Update: by square I'm referrring to things like putting junk food on a scanner to make a "food landscape" or making a mouse sculpture or digitally "averaging" all the Warhol soup cans--all of which Maeda has done, and they're just hokey ideas, I'm sorry. I try to backbite for a reason.)

This is definitely a case of nerd first, creative later. And I'm just picking on Maeda as the point person--there are others. It's a trend.
- tom moody 1-18-2007 1:40 am

i'll try to put my end back together cos i see what you mean, but to be honest i can't diss that side of the maeda/curator relationship without being a hypocrite.

when we [beige] were in school it was one of the first things i noticed - that dropping a lot of contextualized code lingo would make all the actual art and curatorial students' eyes glaze over and kinda put them into this hypnotic trance. i remember a bunch of discussions about the phenomenon; we decided to treat it like a "hole in the market" - see what're the dumbest computer projects we could get away with. a lot of this is was college humour that we grew out of, but i think deep down there some of it sticks - a big part of the reason i went to art grad school was to not feel so disingenuous about what was going on.

my experience is tiny compared to what you're discussing, but even so i cant fault maeda's method for speaking code [that IS our routine schmoozing, nerds aren't so good at the regular kind] and i also can't really fault curators for falling under it's spell - it's part of the attraction we all feel towards computers and in this situation they are extremely vulnerable. i dunno what the answer is but shame sounds a little unfair and in some ways this problem actually pushed me towards being an artist.
- p.d. (guest) 1-18-2007 3:33 am

thanks for that uber-honest comment p.d.! As an art practitioner of many stripes, sometimes curatorial, I'm pretty well always wow-ed first, ask questions later.
- sally mckay 1-18-2007 4:00 am

All's I'm sayin is if someone's going to exploit the hole in the market it should be someone with an awareness of the issues we're talking about. (hackers vs defaults, etc)
BEIGE? JODI? would get my vote over that guy.
- tom moody 1-18-2007 4:14 am

wow, thanks very much. i think i speak for us both then:

DiS G0eZ 0uT 2 aLL U CoMPuTeR aRT PReTeNDeRZ- GeT iN WHeRe U FiT iN. U KNoW WHo iM TaLKiN aBouT.
- p.d. (guest) 1-18-2007 2:17 pm

I have closed this comment thread to deter unwanted solicitation. If anyone has any follow-up to this please email me and we'll start a new topic.
- tom moody 2-25-2007 8:09 pm