(revealing mystic truths) credit & author. digital art & fine art

Why do we like a single author?

When you look at Akira Kurosawa’s films, you don’t just see a Kurosawa film – you see a film created by a team that worked together for years. That team, assembled and managed by Kurosawa, we call that team Kurosawa.

It’s easy to market and sell Kurosawa’s films. We know what that name means. That’s the branding bonus of associating a body of work, an aesthetic, with a single person.

Why do we participate in the cult of “individual genius”?

Art history likes sole authors. It fits the art history model of storytelling. Through lens of hindsight, art historians, curators, and sales people play connect the dots with inspiration-lineages. Its easier when only one person made the work.

What museum docent wants to add “attributed to” or “studio of” to almost every work of art? Art education reinforces the single-author narrative relentlessly. Moreover, museum visitors ask for that story. School groups test their students on that story. If a collective made an installation, “who led the collective?” they ask.

Historians across many disciplines distill complex created objects down to single authors. Even the Bible has its mythic, single-author source, the Q document. World War II was about Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, FDR.


Artists play the single-author game as we are taught. That game includes participating in the narcissistic illusion that every idea the viewer sees in our work is sourced only inside our mythic genius.

The gallery wants to discover & show the genius. Genius sells. Art making is incomprehensible to non-artists, anyway. Its easy, chalking it up to genius or ballsy charlatanry.


What do we do when the tools the artist uses to make the work could not be made by the artist? Wait, we’re at that place with painting and printmaking now because artists don’t make their own pigments or inks anymore, they use commercial stuff. . .

No, I’m talking about computers.

Should I give the platform credit? I do inadvertently when I say “final cut pro” or any other Apple software for digital video editing or animation. It only runs on Mac. There’s some badge of struggle, working inside of Apple’s walled garden.

Different platforms provide access to different tools. I switched to only-Mac for creative production in 2007. A toolset I used for datamoshing – Avidemux & FFMPEG, which I taught myself from a pair of YouTube tutorials – suddenly broke (in part) about eighteen months ago, even though I had retained Mac OS X 10.6.8 on a computer to keep that toolset available to me. After a bunch of troubleshooting, I adapted, retaining Avidemux with different codec approaches, and also adding bangnoise’s datamosh Quartz Composer plugin to my toolkit.


Besides spending a few hours going through videos I’ve published to the Internet, adding a ‘tech specs’ sheet to every work I’ve published there, I have another question. Does including tool-attribution in a grant proposal or show proposal interfere with curator’s perception of me as “author”?

Well, first I have to convince them the DVD isn’t broken. There’s a very small space for talking about technical tools when I’m asking them to consider video that is “damaged on purpose”. My next round of submissions may have the disclaimers stating “this video is damaged intentionally” at the lead-in, before the content. Screeners don’t seem to read the paperwork.

Where in that space is there room for discussion of authorship/tool credit?


How do I provide attribution in a gallery space?

I shipped my first multiple-room, large scale installation proposal a few weeks ago. It includes data bent and glitched work transformed into animated video installation for one of the rooms. Tool-credit was not provided in the proposal; each of the softwares used to create the glitch images are commercial softwares. Should that work become installed, I expect to wall-mount a ‘technical attribution’ plaque or wall text.

The ungun work needs a rich variety of broken images. I’ve produced well over 5,000 discrete images; I haven’t exhausted the visual vocabulary of the toolset I’m using, but I feel like its getting close. So I’m starting to use Processing, both writing some of my own sketches and using other people’s code from the community library.

Its not right to use tools provided to me without providing attribution. The ungun work is particularly ambitious in scope; if I were to re-invent the wheel for every tool I used, it wouldn’t get made.


There is a difference between credit and authorship.


There is a relationship between a toolset and the resulting aesthetic. How transparent I am with my process will communicate how intentionally I work. A significant question: “why did I choose Tom Butterworth’s (@bang_noise)’s tool”?

I tested several. His gave me the desired result, adequately replacing a process that was lost to me.

How many curators/art gallery people can ask that question – “Why did you choose this particular Quartz Composer patch?”

The choice of tools integral to my creative practice. This tool – this quartz composer patch – it’s not like an instagram or photoshop image filter. I transcode and composite my source to get to a particular starting point, then run it through QC & capture the result, then run the result through color correction and other effecting.

The choice of tools is absolutely integral to my creative practice. Incomprehensible as video codec manipulation may be to most, I couldn’t do it without tools provided by @bang_noise and, it looks like also @_vade, as I’m testing some tools from him later today.


video made using, among other things, datamosh effects with the Datamosh Kit / YouTube-instruction found here

video made using, among other things, datamosh effects with bangnoise’s Quartz Composer patch found here


Quartz Composer is a visual human interface for Quartz graphics processing in Mac OS. This means Apple made it. Quartz graphics processing happens in a layer of the OS that is closer to the machine hardware than to the user interface; (horrible analogy follows) in your car its not the steering wheel, its the cables and such that turn the tires.

As an underlying technology, it makes video effects editing possible; many of the effects used in Photoshop layer filters are taken from this programmatic toolset. I have no idea if I should include these notes in blog posts where I discuss the technical procedures related to my artwork. I think its important, though, for giving credit.

Quartz Composer as a tool has programmatic elements, called ‘patches’. To non-users they could be kites, for all they know. When I say I’m testing kites made by @_vade, or using bangnoise’s QC kite, I say that I’m downloading a kite and adding it to a library of kites that only Quartz Composer can fly. I’m trying those kites, to see if they do something interesting. That’s important, as an artist, that’s where it gets rich and interesting, sorting through that.