Why We're Loving: Zach Lieberman, artist

Why We're Loving: Zach Lieberman, artist

What did you create for the show? Play the World is essentially an instrument where, when you press a note, it finds that note in a radio station from around the world. It sounds musical but also a bit cacophonous, as if you are tuning the radio, and there are hidden connections in what you find.

Do you think coders are artists? I think code is a medium that can be used for artistic purposes like any medium – writing, drawing, video, even the mail. Code is a medium for logical expression, which means it’s suitable for logical operations such as ordering a list or calculating a sum. The key for using it artistically is to overcome that. A lot of art, I think, is about trying to express things that are inexpressible, that are not logical, that are hard to quantify – this creates a tension that I find quite interesting.

How did you get into making art with code? I was a fine-art student and I had to find a job. I weaselled my way into web design, really bluffing it, until the economy crashed (this was Web 1.0). It was then that I discovered people who were doing animation with code. From that first moment I saw something move across the screen from some equation that I had typed, I was hooked.

Of which pieces of work are you most proud? I’m proud of Drawn, which takes a drawing and brings it to life. For me, it’s really magical – having some way to take ink and bring it to life was really touching. I am proud of the EyeWriter, where we partnered with the paralysed graffiti artist Tempt One and made tools for him to draw graffiti using his eye movements. I am also proud of OpenFrameworks, which is a tool and community I helped co-found to help other artists make work using these tools. This past year, I helped start the School for Poetic Computation, where we teach and promote this kind of art-making.

Where do you get your inspiration? A lot of what I do is ask simple "what if" questions, usually around a gesture or feeling. I think finding time to ask good questions is the key to making rewarding work. My stepdaughter, who is almost five, asks a ton of questions and is reminding me to see the world in new ways.

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