clip_8 is a strictly visual, shape‐based programming language. The program code is exclusively formulated in terms of visible graphic instructions so that each execution step can be directly observed by the user. Its radically visual approach over‐complicates even simple programs, which renders it technically useless. This I consider an essential ingredient of its paradox beauty.

Key Properties

A number of properties distinguish the project from more diagrammatic, graph-based, ‘box-and-arrow-based’ visual programming paradigms:


This program takes the form of a greeting card (for the human eye). Starting it will cause the “candles to burn down” in a loop, until the terminal instruction shines upon the scenery.
Image processing (two perspectives)
Like most programming languages, clip_8 distinguishes between program and data. During execution, the program remains static whereas the data can change. The control flow starts at • and ‘travels’ along the cables and executes the instructions in a well‐defined order. ⦿ terminates the execution.
Control flow ensures a well‐defined order for executing instructions.
size does matter
The geometric shape has an impact on how an operation will be performed. Different movement vectors modulate individual instructions.
Different movement vectors result in individual move instructions.
Numbers can be represented in different ways. Here, the heights of the bars represent the numbers 1 to 15. The program cuts them in such a way as to obtain the binary digits for each number (black=1, gray=0).
Image processing (two perspectives)
counter example
Numbers can also be represented in a (virtual) abacus.
Image processing (two perspectives)
Pseudo Random Number Generator random number generator
Random numbers have always fascinated computer scientists. “Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.” (John von Neumann, cf. wikipedia)


The display can be seen as a transition zone between real and virtual. Its surface separates the world of human experience from that of information processing. An incredibly complex arrangement of circuits and microchips operates on electrical signals so as to form an ‘image’ on an optical array. At the surface of the display, virtual space is folded into real space. As you get closer, the image breaks up into individual pixels. The media consumer's experience ends behind the surface of the display and all visual quality is lost. Instead, immaterial data streams follow the abstract logic of information processing. In other words: The mechanisms producing an illusion are not apparent themselves but work according to their own (hidden) principles.

The cubists once strived for discovering the hidden principles of pictorial representation. Their predecessor Paul Cézanne had already developed his passage which “by means of a pictorial structure of colour and form [...] dissolves the differences between figure and ground.” Picasso and Braque continued on this path “by developing an image method corresponding to the processes of perception” (Schneede, 2001, pp. 47). Their approach becomes manifest in the “unit of figure and ground, [...] the facet‐like overall structure of monochrome surfaces, the multi‐view of the objects in one image surface.“ Especially the multiplicity of viewpoints recalls J.J. Gibson. According to his Ecological Approach to Perception, both the photographic camera and the central perspective require a fixed position of a single observation point, which in turn renders them inadequate as models for human perception. On the contrary, the organism moves in space and thus actively explores the environment from different angles.

Focusing on the processes of perception, the cubists unified figure and ground into one image surface that no longer follows the illusionism of the naturalistic depiction. The clip_8 project grew out of a similar attitude in that it, so to speak, subverts the informational illusionism. By dissolving the separation between model and visualisation, between data and display, between content and form into one visible layer it reveals those aspects in digital media that typically remain hidden in the ‘black box’ or behind the display.

By unifying display and processor clip_8 undermines the fundamental principle of information processing: Aboutness. Information about the world. This view builds on the separation between the abstract information model (which can be processed by digital computers) and the application context (in which the model makes sense at all). An abstract formalism allows us to keep representation and content in strictly separate spheres. In cognitive science, a similar conception underlies the computational theory of the mind: The mind, as some immaterial, logical non‐space, is (and can not be) part of the world. The mind is a computer that reasons about the world.


clip_8 is developped as part of an arts project by Martin Brösamle. Stay tuned: Follow me on twitter.

Source code and technical background can be found on