Peter Wildman is an artist based in Sydney, Australia. He has been working with computer coding languages, electronics and other materials for the past five years. During this time he has also been an enthusiastic teacher, lecturing at a number of Sydney’s Universities. He is currently completing a postgraduate practice based research degree at UNSW Art and Design. His research is concerned with deconstructing binaries that exist in the field of computation. Situating his work in the field of codeworks, he is interested in how computer coding languages as literature can be used to erase binaries embedded in the discourse around computation and language: codepomofo is a collection of his code poems (for viewing on PC). Here, in the second of this special DWIR interview series, Peter boldly explains the concepts underlying his creative work.
1. Could you give a brief history of your creative practice?
My creative practice began when I realised that a question I had asked my high school careers advisor had come to fruition without any direct planning. When I was 17 I wanted to be an interior designer, psychologist and an accountant. The advisor told me that these three careers were so different and I would need to choose one. After some years of wandering I realised that writing computer code in an arts field actually satisfied the motivation behind all of these aspirations. My creative practice became clear; through computer code I realised I could create aesthetic work using logic that explored concepts. Since this realisation I have been using computer code and electronics to explore concepts that interest me – communal music making, meditation and now computer coding language as a literary medium. As my practice has matured I have also started to work with concepts embedded in the medium itself.
2. How have digital media helped you communicate the intent/s behind your work?
I understand digital media in a very broad sense, as a defining term, as a method of sensing and actuating materials that are seemingly different from the analogue method. The digital, referring to a series of on and off states, and the analogue as a series of waveforms are different, but so is one analogue medium from another, or even one analogue medium from another use of that same analogue medium. For example a person writing in a word processor of a computer who then prints their prose is working digitally, where a person who writes onto paper with a pen is working in an analogue medium. There will be a difference between the person who writes with a pencil on a wall or the person who uses a branding iron to burn their words into their own body. Defining my work as digital does not help my work and I do not use this framework when considering how to communicate. If my work seems to use digital as a driving force, potentially it is just the dominance of the medium itself in our current times reflecting back upon my use of its elements. Or maybe it is the new church and I am not so into organised religion.
3. Is there a marked correlation between your creative practice and your personal beliefs?
When I started out in my creative practice the personal was a very strong reason for creating. I believe this came from a need to create a stronger self or person. I have recently overcome a lot of personal traumas and now find it much easier to create as a process further separated from the self. I am hoping that over time I will be able to fully lend my critical and creative abilities to what is eminent in my culture and the mediums I am using. Yet I will always be there as a space through which this critique and creation manifests.
4. What appeals to you about collaborative practice? Do digital media lend themselves to collaboration more than traditional media?
I have done a very small amount of collaboration in my practice. I feel that collaboration brings different interests together that broaden and enrich work. Collaboration also enables different time frames to influence the production of a work. I don’t believe any medium would lend itself more to the collaborative process, rather each medium and mode of transmission would eventuate in a different work. For example Cosmic Poem by Tomomi Adachi and Akihiro Kubota, a series of poems being generated and sent from ARTSAT, a satellite deployed in outer space orbiting the earth, is dependent on the collaborative nature of radio signal retrieval and subsequent ‘reunification’ of these transmissions received on earth in fragments. Whilst Candy Chang’s work Before I Die transforms public spaces into walls where people can use chalk to complete the sentence Before I die I want to…
These works are public collaborations that are made in very different ways when viewing them from the perspective of digital and traditional mediums, yet neither one lends themselves more so than the other as artworks of collaboration.
5. How does digital media succeed as a method of reflecting different realities where traditional methods might not?
My interest in mediums are more idiosyncratic and attempt to cross and collapse divides of broader definitions. This is important to me because to keep a medium confined within a binary structure is to restrict it to a dominant conversation and restrain it from being a multiplicity of things in different contexts. For example I am currently interested in computer coding languages. But I have read these aloud on stage, written computer code on paper with a pencil, executed computer code by sewing graphics by hand. Each of these interactions with computer code are outside of the digital and able to exist in different ways because they are transient and defiant. This is why you will see a mix of mediums in my work and a range of influences. In my current work I am interested in how language systems, looking at one computer coding language in particular, execute or generate something. But through this I am interested in constraints, instructions, ordered processes and translation. And because of these interests I am inspired by Sol LeWitt and his series of instructions for wall drawings; Dada poetry; Fluxes actions; Oulipo constrained writing techniques; Multiples, edited by Adam Thirwell and contributed to by 61 authors; or Ramsey Nasser and his arabic programming language قلب.