Open Codes. Digital Culture Techniques
The lettering »Open Codes« in magenta against a background of code.
07.04.2018 – 02.06.2018

On April 6, 2018, »Open Codes. Digital Culture Techniques« opened at the Goethe Institute/ Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai (MMB), India. The exhibition is conceived as a satellite exhibition to the exhibition »Open Codes. Living in Digital Worlds« at ZKM Karlsruhe and has been on display in India for two months. As pre-running event of the exhibition, the ZKM has organized a »Coding Culture Hackathon«, which took place on February 1–2, 2018. 

»Open Codes« is conceived as a pilot project, an experimental space for creative encounters that challenges existing exhibition formats. It disrupts predispositions and calls for different forms of knowledge creation and circulation in the sense of a free, open and unrestricted sharing of ideas. A mix between hackerspace, makerspace, exhibition and lab, the project is shaped as an open knowledge platform. As a communal space for exchange, the setting invites visitors to engage in a cross-disciplinary dialogue that fosters collaboration and creates synergies between different professions and various forms of knowledge and expertise.

»Open Codes. Digital Culture Techniques« explores the creative usages of codes as new source for creation. The exhibition brings together an array of artworks, which explore immersive technologies and negotiates different modalities of code. It transforms the exhibition space into a place of experimentation, action, and transformation through new forms of encounter. The works in the exhibition are exemplary of the new participatory formats of engaging with art and technology, in which visitors engage with artworks in new forms and themselves become participants.

As such, the works act as a starting point for discussion, challenging ways of knowing, set in an environment of interdisciplinary exchange. The exhibition project therefore includes a program of hands-on workshops and talks in partnership with local initiatives and protagonists with the objective of shedding light on the many facets and different contextual applications of coding. The exhibition project »Open Codes. Digital Culture Techniques« emphasizes the multi-layered, interconnected and non-linearity of knowledge creation. It provides an infrastructure that facilitates and fosters collaboration and co-creation, and one which invites visitors to participate in an open exchange.

The starting point of the project is an exploration of digital codes, attesting that codes have become the underlying and fundamental principles upon which the contemporary world is built upon. From a technical point of view, code is a formal language characterised by a finite set of symbols that are modified on the basis of rules (algorithms). Therefore, code exemplifies a universal representation of symbols that translate within the boundaries of mathematical logic. It is the textual artefact that constitutes a set of instructions and details the functioning process that a computer has to follow, in order to reach a certain outcome. Code constitutes the only executable and performative language, mediated through the frames of mathematical modelling.

As such, the digital code represents the most radical state of abstraction in our evolution. For hundreds of years, the objects of cultures and civilizations were mainly defined by words and images that visualized the state of these objects. Throughout the course of time, words and images became worlds of their own, and constitute the two most important evolutionary stages of abstraction. The third stage is the substitution of objects, words and images through logic. It is from here that the new digital world of codes has arisen: they have become a new digital culture technique. They constitute a new imagery as well as a new state of »imaging«, as expressed by technological media.

This leads to an additional interpretation of code that suggests it to be a generative language of thought. From a creative point of view, code provides a cognitive space for imagination which blurs boundaries and dissolves physical constraints. It is here that the digital world of codes has unveiled a new dimensionality, a realm of continuous re-creation and new formation. As such, the digital world of codes is also challenging the boundaries of what is thinkable and perceptible to the human, transforming our ability to use and understand information. Images and words become encoded and re-appropriated, opening up a space for creation and breaking up linear modes of thought, which allows for the investigation of new ontological landscapes.

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Organization / Institution
ZKM | Karlsruhe and Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai