Live Coding: Automated Artistic "Performances" Using Linux's Kernel

<p>Brazilian artists explore artistic potential in Linux&#8217;s Kernel through Live Coding performances.</p>

Jun 14 2011, 6:44pm

We’ve been hearing the warnings from cautious futurists for years—one day, computer automation and robots would become so advanced as to be able to produce anything, perhaps even art. Though the creative and social implications of this forecast have been explored by generative artists for years now, we have yet to see any fully automated programs emerge wherein the computer creates art completely independently of the artist (even in generative art, humans still outline the parameters for the ensuing visuals through code). What if the computer programmed itself using that same generative technique, moving the possibilities of “computer-generated art” ever further down the rabbit hole of automation? That’s the question being explored in the two projects below.

Emotional Kernel Panic and Ada.20b are live coding performances by Ricardo Brazileiro and Jeraman, respectively, based on the kernel (the bridge between the applications and the actual data processing) of their operating systems.

The first project is an attempt by Brazileiro to “sentimentalize the binary operations of the kernel and to take the weight of abstract operations to transform them into musical and rhythmic compositions with the magic of the matrix, which lies within the nucleus that contains the operating system.” The result is a kind of generative orchestra that plays images, poems, texts and sound synthesis.

The second project is a machine designed to self-program itself, leaving the human factor by the wayside almost completely. As Jeraman explains:

It's a machine's self-analysis that observes their status through the analysis of what goes into the kernel—the core of the machine’s operating system—in real-time. As the performance is happening, [it’s] taking this [data] as the basis for the creation of the Live Coding audiovisual performance, without any human intervention. As any ordinary Live Coding performance, there's a computer terminal that is used to program, a projector for the visual feedback, and a sound system for the audible feedback. The difference lies in the fact that there isn't a human programmer in the terminal, only the Ada 2.0b.

The project's name is in honor of Ada Lovelace, credited with writing the first algorithm to be implemented in computers.

It's important to note the difference between performance as it applies to a machine performance and performance as an artistic modality. Thus, it is interesting how, while Emotional Kernel Panic approaches the performance of your machine in terms of its emotional and artistic capabilities, in Ada 2.0b, the line that separates these two is erased, and the machine’s performance is presented as the artist’s own performance.