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Peter Freund

Performatic Code



Amidst the proliferating denunciations of digital capitalism, the retracted life under the current pandemic has only made more urgent the call to radically rethink the space and performativity of the digital. A synthetic twist on Sol LeWitt (1967) and Douglas Crimp (1979) distills the problem of how the digital performs. The digital machine that makes the art unfurls an infinite regress: Underneath every algorithm always lies another algorithm. The fantasy of the algorithm is that it performs by executing an operational task. Yet based on its inherent computational structure, the digital performance fails to live up to its instrumental promise. It inevitably faces the «halting problem», which reveals an incompleteness, hole and blindspot at the structural core of its apparently self-enclosed instruction-set. In this intractable feature we find the fulcrum for rethinking the digital in terms of a productive impossibility that we will call «performatic space». The presentation will sketch this central question in theoretical terms, distinguishing the ideas of «performance», «performativity», and the «performatic». «Performatic code» will name the artistic mobilization of the digital based on a problematizing embrace of the non-instrumental (entropy) in the instrumental. (Beyond the strictly digital, the «performatic» will further be proposed as a possible analogy and model for artistic collaboration.) Two related artworks (on video) produced by the presenter will be screened and yoked to the talk. The first brings code to performance, presenting an excerpt of a recitation of a 500+ page book of printed hexadecimal code. The second brings performance to code, presenting a «live performance» of an algorithmic film.


Performatic, Codeart, Digitalhumanities, Artisticresearch, Performativity, Postdigital






Peter Freund is an artist and writer, living in Barcelona. He is Professor of Art at Saint Mary's College of California (on leave). He has been a visiting artist with the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Barcelona since 2018 and is co-founder of the artist collective Adversorecto.