Just as the primary representational property of the movie camera is the photographic rendering of action over time, the primary representational property of the computer is the coded rendering of responsive behaviour.
-Janet H Murray
All digital media rely, to some degree, on a computational device in order to function. This is particularly true of media native to the computer; relying on a computational device for its operation, distribution and storage. This kind of digital media employs rule-based operations as its primary form of representation. Underlying every computer display is code and algorithms that construct the image a viewer interacts with on screen.
Code is here both a drawing tool and the paper. Drawing with code offers a very different way of representing process from that of depiction via images or description via written words; code is used to write rule-based procedures that can imitate process with process. Reducing a subject to a set of rules that can be programmed into a computer, an artist can take some aspect of the world and simulate that things behaviour and logic.
This form of representation is further complicated when exported into cyberspace. The Internets coded reality allows for a new ‘possibility space’ in which we can express ourselves without the constraints of time and space. Freed from real world physics, we can now be present (albeit virtually), to any one, at any time, in any place. This creates new contexts in which to create and experience art outside of existing art institutions.
Francesco Soave's Gone utilises many of the properties described. Gone is a coloured web page that gradually changes from yellow to red over the course of a month (re-thought for SKELF, the work originally changed over the course of a year) - after one month has passed, the cycle will start again. This change is imperceptible in real time, only becoming apparent over days and weeks. On the surface, Gone looks like it shares more qualities with abstract painting; with its emotional content and abstract imagery. But this is complexity disguised as simplicity. Behind the image is a rule-based operation that is under constant reorganisation.
Soave describes Gone as representing a ‘tricky year’ in his life and has dedicated the work to a close friend, Soa. The work acts as a personal reminder, representing each day of the year and time by way of subtle colour changes. Consequently, it does not reveal itself at a glance - no one colour variation is more significant than another. So instead of a simple path from a to b, the work is more concerned with process and the in-between space. Once set in motion, code acts like an autonomous, biomorphic being and changes without prompt from the artist. Additionally, Gone's online existence allows it to be seen anywhere with an internet connection, providing a vehicle for the work that extends its emotional power as a memorial.
Benjamin Davies, 2017
Francesco Soave is a digital artist currently based in Brighton. He works with sound, interactive installation and visual arts.
Benjamin Davies is an artist based at Rogue Studios in Manchester and is the co-founder of A Small View gallery in Liverpool.