Artist(s): Daniel Temkin
Date Created: 2015
Some artists are not only wildly talented but also are just supremely kind and thoughtful. Daniel Temkin’s is both. Esoteric.Codes covers self-expression in the text of code.
It began in 2011 as an interview series with esolangers, those who make unconventional programming languages. Esolangs are often created as challenges to programmers, who experience the language by figuring out how to write practical code in strange syntaxes and twisted logic. Others constitute an avant-garde of computer science, challenging accepted definitions of code, language, and computer.
At the time esoteric.codes began, there was little writing on the history of esolangs as a medium, or critical analysis of its aesthetic. Discussions often failed to engage with esolangs that had more interesting premises — because they lacked the context to understand them — instead opting to discuss LOLCATS or one of the lesser emoji languages. While for some people, these languages opened the door to programming language design as self-expression, they were not much more than provocations.
As a novice, I wanted to find out what esolangers cared about and what they saw as the stakes in their work. I reached out to esolang pioneers like Chris Pressey, who patiently explained how the culture around it developed as it did. I tried to focus the interviews on concepts, and break away from technical descriptions of the languages which dominated existing writing.
The work is part of his Glitchometry series.
Each image begins as one or a few black squares or circles. They are sonified — imported into an audio editor. Sound effects are added to individual color channels, as if they were sound, transforming the image. Because the tool is used in an unconventional way, there is no immediate way to monitor the effect. The image manipulator has a sense of what each effect does, but no precise control over the result. It is a wrestling with the computer, the results of which are these images. As Curt Cloninger describes databending, “like painting with a very blunt brush that has a mind of its own.”