Y We NTK 2

A conversation with Dave Green of NTK at the EVNT workshop earlier this week at SPACE Media Lab started like this....

Me : So you have this conference coming up in July. Would it be appropriate for artists to come along to talk to programmers?

Dave: [---giggles-->
[---giggles more-->

The giggling kept going throughout our conversation. Perhaps it was because I kept making statements and asking questions that generalised programmers into a herd- comments about how they think, behave, communicate. It may also be that I falsely assumed that everyone has the same question as me perpetually ringing in their heads.

- Why don't artists in London work more closely with the programming community?-

A couple of months ago at the Server Collective day at HTTP, an open source programmer called Ram, who worked at a community project in South London, complained loudly about the attitude of artists, towards him and other programmers. He said that he was referred to as a 'geek', as though he had nothing to contribute to the creative process. He said that there are lots of people out there (in London) with coding skills who would be interested in working on art projects just for the love of new ideas and innovation, but that artists' arrogance was a barrier.

I was bowled over. As a perpetual tech-beginner with interests too broad to have (so far) made any real inroads into practical coding, my instinct is to grovel and cringe at the feet of programmers. Especially those who are prepared to work with me on art projects for little or no money. I'd love to be that useful. The ones I've worked with have always informed and extended the creative reach of the project- these projects then become collaborative projects. Communication can be difficult at times because of the lack of shared vocabulary. But from my mouth, 'Geek' is a term of awed appreciation.

Between the giggles Dave also talked about how artists would surely want to claim credit for everything themselves.

I finish his sentences for him...

". . . more interested in promoting the big I AM"

". . . and you're just the paid hand [whether you're paid or not]"

...only to dispute them.

I get a little bit over enthusiastic trying to convince him that we British Artists are not all Saatchi's gimps, and that there are hoards of London artists working collaboratively, sharing the credit, contributing to the cultural commons and just too damned shy and respectful to even ask for the advice of programmers unless they have a wadge of cash in their pockets. Dave's quizzical expression is helpful in having me moderate my ideas - but too late. Before I know it we are discussing the possibilities of running a workshop where artists and programmers can get over their anxieties/distaste and shyness/arrogance in order to find a way to collaborate on new projects.

On reflection perhaps Ram and I are both deluded by some personal ideological commitment to collaborative process, into thinking that a fusion of artistic and programming expertise is waiting to explode in London. I just keep thinking of obvious shared motivations: to make great things happen and to transform the stuff of the world.

The NTK Conference takes place on 23rd July, 2005, in Hammersmith, London, the line-up currently features:

* Ted Nelson, inventor of hypertext, on where the web went wrong
* The official launch of the backstage.bbc.co.uk developer network, opening up BBC content for you to play with
* Plus: able to record an entire week of all Freeview TV and radio channels, probably the UK's largest (fridge-sized) PVR

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