Art as Problem Solving

It’s interesting to think of art as problem solving.

Art does this in many ways. And maybe it doesn’t actually ‘solve’ any problems, but kind’ve looks at them, from different angles, exposes problems, considers them, and starts conversations or critiques.

But when something like programming enters the equation (quite literally), the whole process of making becomes a process of figuring out a problem.

In a sense making a work becomes like a puzzle. You put pieces together. But I’m not sure if anyone, in any discipline that uses computer programming, would find that the scope of the work was in some ways made monotonous by computer programming.

Quite the opposite. In programming one always tries to optimise, and along the way is always learning new techniques and ways of doing things that were unknown previously.

I’m sure there are always more things to learn with programming, because every day I try and code something, I get one step further. It might only be a small step, but a step nonetheless, which then becomes part of your veritable tool box of techniques.

And this I find incredibly rewarding, personally. It’s fair to say one never hits the limit of any tool, but the thing about programming is simply being caught as you create. I’ve read or heard elsewhere that this is a blight of programming, that the creative process is halted by a bug or some error. And you get caught in this loop for hours, trying to figure out the tiniest detail.

It’s a strange challenge in the creative process. It’d be like trying to create a chorus for a song your working on on guitar, and then having to fix the guitar halfway through the writing process. I’m sure this isn’t unique to programming, building as you go, learning as you go, and solving problems as you create. But it’s something I find particularly fascinating about the medium.

That creating art becomes a kind of brain teaser. You know what you want, but how do you get there? It reminds me of John Maeda, in his book Creative Code, when talking about this process: “and in a flash of lightning it is suddenly there”.

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