Open Source for Artists by Chris Csikszentmihalyi

Date: 27 July 2008
Venue: Nanyang Technological University, School of Art, Design & Media, 2-26
Time: 9.00am – 6.00pm
Workshop Capacity: 15 persons
Registration Fee: Non-delegates - S$120 per person; For ISEA2008 Delegates - S$40 per person


Open Source for Artists is an intensive 12-hour tutorial on discovering and using open source tools. Centered around the flexible and popular Python programming language, OSfA introduces participants to alternatives to closed, corporate produced, or artist-oriented tools. Why? First, open source tools are among the best in the world. They are often the most cutting edge, and offer a huge community of fellow users. Second, they are tools that are free: they are free to download, may be taken apart, copied, contributed to, or modified. Finally, the open source community offers a strong model of international collaboration, and many of the work patterns and techniques it uses are important for artists to understand and appropriate.

The workshop style will alternate short lecture sections with longer “screencast” sections, where the workshop leader will interactively code on a projector and participants will follow along. Much of the work will be based in the command-line environment in unix/linux/osx/cygqin. Participants will learn about the shell, about source control systems, and about programming and windowing environments. Throughout the session, video examples of how artists have used open source tools will be presented. Alternatives to the chosen tools will be discussed, along with criteria and techniques for evaluation.

The bulk of the session will focus on various aspects of and extensions to the Python programming language. Python is an unusually flexible language, allowing it to be used in many situations, from multimedia and game design, to scientific research and modeling, to serving complicated dynamic web sites. The workshop will dip into several different ways in which Python may be used, from creating stand-alone applications to working as a back-end server.

Workshop Participants Requirements

This workshop is for artists who already use the computer extensively, and who should have some programming or scripting experience.


Chris Csikszentmihályi directs the Media Lab's Computing Culture group, which works to create unique media technologies for cultural applications. He has worked in the intersection of new technologies, media, and the arts for 13 years, lecturing, showing new media work, and presenting installations in both Europe and North America. He is a 2005 Rockefeller New Media Fellow, and recently finished a solo exhibition at the Location One Gallery in New York's Soho. Csikszentmihályi has taught at the University of California at San Diego, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and at Turku University. He toured museums and nightclubs with his mechanical hip hop device, DJ I, Robot, which was nominated for the Best Artistic Software award at Berlin's Transmediale, while a previous piece, Natural Language Processor, was commissioned by the KIASMA Museum in Helsinki, Finland. The catalog for his installations Skin and Control is published by Charta and distributed by DAP, and he served on the National Academy of Science's IT and Creativity panel. Csikszentmihályi received an MFA from the University of California at San Diego, and a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Csikszentmihályi is currently David and Roberta Loge Fellow at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

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