Abstract- Geoff Cox

(full paper) http://hdl.handle.net/10002/437

Software Art Has No History *

In the 1970s, and in parallel to the increasing visibility of computer technologies in culture, the term software was employed as a cultural metaphor to indicate a shift away from an emphasis on the (hardware) object of art. In a similar way, contemporary ‘software art’ practice places emphasis on source code (as well as its execution), just as conceptual art's articulation of the 'dematerialisation' of the art object previously threw emphasis on the ideas and process of the artwork. Nowadays, technical, cultural and political processes increasingly utilise software but also can be seen to ‘act’ like software. The paper investigates this line of thinking through an engagement with systems theory, software art and culture, immaterial labour and human action - ultimately applying a theoretical framework based on a historical (im)materialist approach in order to emphasise the possibility of ‘transformative praxis’ under current conditions. Two key issues are highlighted with relevance to the ‘re:place’ conference and the purpose of historical work in general: firstly, that an analogy can be drawn between the operations of software and historical processes; and secondly (and as a consequence), a term like software art (as a contingent description of practice) should not represent a further art historical genre but more productively offer a means of breaking the continuum that much (media) art historical work seeks to establish. (* Note: The title is ironic: borrowing from John Roberts’s ‘Art has no History’, in turn based on Althusser’s ‘Ideology has no History’, that itself is a reference to Marx’s The German Ideology in which he proposes that ideology is an illusion produced by those in power, but also its sense of history is a mere reflection of 'real history' - it has no history of its own.)