TOOLS OF DISTORTED CREATIVITY Transmediale 2013 BWPWAP Berlin/DE:29.01-03.02.2013

2013 BWPWAP /DE:29.01-03.02.2013


To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. – Mark TwainSoftware is mind control—get some. – i/o/d

Through a selection of 13 artists, Tools of Distorted Creativity questions the notion of creativity that has been instrumental to the development of the personal computer, from its first stationary instantiations in the 1980s to today’s mobile devices. Since its introduction, the personal computer has embodied the dream of the creative machine that allows the user to expand and explore her creative potential, rather than making her a slave of the machine. The personal computer itself is, however, only half of this story about machine-aided creativity. The other and equally important half of the story are the software tools at the user’s disposal within the machine environment. Each of these hundreds of thousands of tools presents certain forms of perception, ways of thinking and modes of acting, that in turn activate certain kinds of creativity. So rather than being a general notion, creativity needs to be recognized as a multiplicative and diverse form of practice. Creativity also needs recognition as the source of open potential for tools yet to be invented.


Tools of Distorted Creativity investigates how artists have challenged the paradigmatic notion of creativity introduced by the user-friendly personal computer revolution. The artists present their challenge by producing entirely new tools and modifying or “misusing” tools that are already around. Beyond the normative credo to be creative, the artists in the exhibition rediscover the original rebelliousness associated with the notion of creativity offered by the personal computer and its tools. They explore creativity as an unexpected and disruptive act opposing its assimilation into the creative industries’ processes of cultural smoothening, conformism and standardization. Discarding the prescribed and conventional use (and understanding) of tools, the works engage in an investigative and speculative reflection on the tools and their implied cultural order. The works encourage users to engage in a more undisciplined kind of tool use, turning creativity into a critical techno-cultural language. It is a language that refuses the logic of office-speak and rather, like Jimi Hendrix and his handling of the electric guitar, takes its point of departure in experimental sensibilities and intelligences that reinvent the notion and use of the tool for other disobedient expressions and purposes.


In its classroom setting, Tools of Distorted Creativity can be seen as a toolbox in the form of an educational chart, offering visitors the chance to experience the tools first hand and expand the contextualized understanding of them. In the Extracurricular Material section, visitors can sit down and browse through videos, texts and images that relate to and expand on the exhibition’s theme. At the blackboards next to this section, twice a day, artists and special guests will give a “lecture” for the PowerPoint-less mind.







“Interface hack” of Mac OS X Snow Leopard and Ubuntu desktop version. Presentation format: Promotional poster, promotional video, CD box, and code graffiti.


X-Devian is centered on the fictive operating system X-Devian, which is in fact the conceptual repackaging of Ubuntu’s latest desktop version (based on Debian GNU/Linux). However, while the work literally distributes an actual piece of free software, it does not simply distribute the source code and functionalities ofX-Devian as much as the cultural vocabulary, discourses and ideas of free software, operating systems in particular, and free software in general. The “front end” of X-Devian looks like your standard commercial proprietary software—the entire design is an appropriation of Mac OSX Leopard—but behind the seductive surface the content of the system is involved with economics of a rather different kind, namely that of a collective creativity resistant to pre-packaged product thinking and open to all sorts of hacks, continuous speculation and processes of experimentation. As such, the work suggests that the development of aesthetics or even poetics of free software is inherent to an understanding and development of its unique form of creativity and resistance.

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