Software as Performance Art

Today in BRYTER’s Q4 2020 Inspiration Day, I ran a session entitled “Software as Performance Art”. It was my first tentative toward steps toward finding underlying harmony between my performances as a violinist and my career as a software developer.

I know performance is an essential part of my identity and the way I create community for myself. But I’m not sure I can even define performance – I am only confident stating its specific characteristics in the particular area of Western classical music: I walk on stage, sometimes alone but usually with friends, play music, receive applause, leave.

I think I know what art is – but again, I’m only confident in listing specific incarnations (music, sculpture etc).

I’m really not too sure what performance art even is! But did that stop me from asking if software can be performance art? Not at all, luckily.

Of course, what is software? And do I care about software or code? Does code exist only as a mental abstraction when the server is not currently running? Does it have physicality? How can you perceive it with your senses? Does it have emotion?

I think I am tentatively working toward an understanding of the code itself (including tests!), unrelated to a UI, as a form of performance art. Art, because it is creative and expressive (whether it should be beautiful is another question!). Performance, because it is not written to be languished in a museum but rather worked on, improved, enhanced.

We’ll see where I go with this!

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