Thursday, March 06, 2008

Merce Cunningham and Open-Source Software for the Arts

Some exciting news from the arts . . . our colleagues over at the Dance Notation Bureau have alerted us to the fact that Merce Cunningham and colleagues at The OpenEnded Group have released Loops, an "abstract digital portrait of Merce Cunningham that runs in real time and never repeats," as open source. Specifically, 3D representations of the choreography are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License, and the authoring source code, Field (and some related components), will (most likely) be licensed under GPL3 in November.

The motivation for the open-source release is eloquently discussed in the context of the "Cultural Ecology" of Loops and Field:
It is a convenient fiction that completed artworks exist in perfect and isolated purity, framed for eternity. But the truth is more entangled than that, for artworks both grow from, and survive within, what you might call a CULTURAL ECOLOGY. . . . The cultural ecology for Loops is a good case in point for it is under constant threat. As a dance, can it outlive the now-88-year-old who is its sole performer? As a digital artwork, can it survive the rapid obsolescence of its hardware and software?
More specifically,

By releasing our code as open source, we seek to share it with others in hopes that they will become invested in using the same tools that we do — and indeed to expanding and refining those tools. If a broad community takes up our approach, then the likelihood of Loops' survival and evolution becomes far greater than if we were to try safeguarding it exclusively.


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