Author:
SAMANTHA WITTCHEN
Date:
FEBRUARY 24, 2015

School for Poetic Computation - Fall 2014

Photo courtesy of SFPC

Last Spring, when The Hacktory was planning for its Unknown Territory residency program, the New York City-based School for Poetic Computation (SFPC) announced that it would be offering a two-week intensive class that focuses on the nexus of art and technology.  This wasn’t the first time that The Hacktory’s Executive Director, Georgia Guthrie, had heard of SFPC.  She had been following the work of a number of the school’s founders, many of whom were doing interesting hardware projects in the world of design and computing, for several years.  When the school launched two years ago, Guthrie had been interested in attending its inaugural class, but it was a ten-week session, and it was expensive.

So when SFPC announced it was offering a shorter two-week session last Spring, it dovetailed nicely with The Hacktory’s hiring of Lee Tusman as Creative Director.  Tusman expressed interest in attending the class, and with help from a grant, The Hacktory was able to send him to attend.  Guthrie says it was a really good experience for Tusman, and when another ten-week session was announced for this Spring, Tusman encouraged Guthrie to apply.

Guthrie doesn’t often have the luxury to take time off from her job running The Hacktory, but the timing of this class, which begins March 16th and runs through May 22nd, turned out to be relatively convenient, so she decided to apply.  She was accepted.

The school’s self-described mission is to explore “the creative and expressive nature of computational approaches to art and design. The school approaches writing code like creative writing — focusing on the mechanics of programming, the demystification of tools, and hacking the conventions of art-making with computation.”

SFPC stresses that they are neither a technical bootcamp nor a vocational program, and what Guthrie hopes to get out of it is a deeper understanding of creative programming (and the tools used to facilitate it) that she can bring back to The Hacktory and share with others.  ”I’m excited to have a strong foundation myself that I can use to come up with more projects to bring back to Philly and expand the work we do,” she says.

In addition to having time to devote solely to learning the programs and programming languages that form the backbone of creative programming, Guthrie is also looking forward to making more contacts in New York.  She thinks it can only benefit The Hacktory and DM+D for more people in New York to know about the good work that’s happening in Philly.  ”It’ll strengthen our residency,” says Guthrie.  ”There’s been a lot in the news about Philly lately, and it seems like a good time for people to want to come and check Philly out.”

The teaching roster includes some big names in the creative programming space.  Guthrie says that Zach Lieberman, one of SFCP’s founders and a teacher at the class she’ll be attending, was one of the first people she knew doing work in this area.  Lieberman built an eye tracking mechanism for a graffiti artist who had been diagnosed with ALS, which left him almost completely paralyzed, and this mechanism allowed him to continue working by using just his eyes to control the creation of his work.  Guthrie is excited to have the opportunity to work with teachers like Lieberman.

Ultimately, though, she hopes that the experience at SFCP will be a way to jumpstart further creative programming work at The Hacktory.

“The more I’ve done work at The Hacktory, the more I’ve discovered that what it takes to get people to make stuff is to get them excited about it.  And I’m looking forward to finding some of that excitement for myself.”