Hackerspace at Pumping Station 1: Will the Arts Go Open Source?

From the archives of when Chicago Art Magazine’s Founder and Publisher Kathryn Born was at the helm of the Chicago Now blog. This post was originally published on September 29th, 2009.

Kathryn Born

Do you want to know how copyright issues will resolve themselves in the future? Then start looking at GNU and the Open Source community. The art world can learn a lot and save itself a lot of wasted time if it just learned the lesson these guys did 30 years ago. Even Microsoft is on board with open source now (a little bit).

Or, you know what? We can hold on like Apple, or make a complete ass of ourselves like Damien Hirst did by trying to sue a teenager and thus launching his new brand “Crotchety Old Man.”

Open Source is the name for what used to be called the Free Software Movement. Their motto was free as in “freedom,” not free as in “beer.” It was a revolution in grassroots collaboration — together, as a team, sharing what they knew and building upon the work of their fellows, they created a computer operating system called Linux. The idea of the GNU license is that you can have it for free, use it, build on it, and even sell it, but you can’t turn around and be all proprietary about it. You, in turn, have to allow your work to be freely built upon.

Doesn’t that sound goddamn beautiful? Why don’t we do that? All art is built upon other people’s art, right? Why don’t we share and have a little faith that what goes around, comes around?

And speaking of working as a group and giving freely, check out Hackerspace. This is a (501c3) group that has locations around the U.S. They just opened a local spot called Pumping Station 1, and it’s a workspace for hackers, artists, and normal people to share ideas and work on projects together. They’ve got Eli making clothes with LED lights, and others are working on a machine that can build a machine just like itself. And when they’re done, and robots can build robots all by themselves, the singularity will be near.

Josh, the guy who let us in and showed us around, said they were working on a full-wall-Tetris video game. I asked, “What are you going to do with it when you’re done?”

He looked at me strangely for a moment and said, “Um … play Tetris on it?”

That’s funny, it the art world, we’d never play it. We would tour it around the art fairs and try to sue the pants off anyone making art with interlocking block shapes.

They meet every Tuesday night at 7 PM, 3354 N. Elston. The meeting is free and open to the public to check out. No sign outside, just ring the doorbell.