Vocable Code

Vocable Code @ WRO 2019 Biennale

Vocable Code @ Rainbows End, photo by Freek van Sluijs

Performance Lecture by Winnie Soon and Geoff Cox


Run the educational version here to get a sense of the work.

Vocable Code is both a work of “software art” (software as artwork, not software to make an artwork) and a “codework” (where the source code and critical writing operate together) produced to embody “queer code”, examining the notion of queerness in computer coding through the interplay of different human and nonhuman voices. Collective statements and voices complete the phrase “Queer is…” and together make a computational and poetic composition. Through running Vocable Code on a browser, the texts and voices are repeated and disrupted by mathematical chaos, creating a dynamic audio-visual literature and exploring the performativity of code, subjectivity and language. Behind but next to the executed web interface of Vocable Code (13082018), the code itself is deliberately written as a codework, a mix of a computer programming language and human language, exploring the material and linguistic tensions of writing and reading within the context of (non)binary poetry and computer programming.

Vocable Code was first released in Nov, 2017 as part of the Feminist Coding Workshop organised by !=null. Conceptually, the artwork was, in part, inspired by Geoff Cox’s book titled Speaking Code: Coding as Aesthetic and Political Expression. In the early 2018, Winnie Soon has collaborated with Geoff Cox to produce a lecture-performance on Vocable Code as part of the International Conference on Artistic Research: Artistic Research Will Eat Itself, where both the source code and concepts were read aloud to exemplify the speech-like qualities of a computer program. Vocable Code (13082018) expands with the web version and the book in collaboration with Anders Visti from ‡ DobbeltDagger.

Check out the interviews for additional information: Asymptote (interview by Eva Heisler) and Esoteric Codes (interview by Daniel Temkin)

*Check out the extended writing of Vocable Code here

Voices’ contributor

Polly Poon, Søren Pold, Magda Tyzlik Carver, Sarah Schorr, Elyzabeth Holford, Gabriel Pereira, Annette Markham, Anna Brynskov, Geoff Cox, Lone Koefoed Hansen, Sabrina Recoules, Tobias Stenberg Christensen, Sall Lam Toro, Anders Visti, Google Algorithm, AhTong, Melissa Palermo, Joana Chicau, Erin Gee, Vasudevan Roopa, Winnie Soon

I am continuously looking for contributors, please see the instruction for voice donation and get in touch if you would like your voice to be part of this work.

More about the background:

With the initial aim of having ‘Vocable code’ in the context of a feminist coding workshop, it is designed to be simple and legible enough for code reading that incorporates basic coding concepts, such as functions, conditions, textual effects, data import, etc to facilitate code learning and discussion in a workshop setting. The workshop was first conducted in 2017 at Aarhus, which was called “Feminist Coding in p5.js | Can Software be Feminist?”, and it was primarily for women, queers, LGBT and non-binaries who were interested in learning and discussing programming. The workshop addressed computer code as a language that is designed for both human and machine reading. While participants would base on the artwork ‘Vocable Code’ to learn basic coding concepts, they would also explore code as expressive and aesthetic materials, such as computer code as poetic text that is performative and executable. Through thinking and discussing about code and (non)binary logics, participants would incorporate textual materials, visual effects and audio elements/recording voices to produce their own algorithmic vocable code (in the form of both software and webpages) that addresses the border theme of feminism.

More about the workshop and the source code can be found here


  • Year of Production: original 2017
  • Medium: Installation / Online web
  • Technical Production: p5.js (download the source here) -Installation Instruction
    • Basic requirement: Internet connection, two headphones, two computers, two vertical screens (best size: 43 inch or above), facing slightly inward to each other.
    • Vertical screen 1. For 43″ screen links to here (or download the local version here) (full screen mode on a web browser – without the browser menu bar and address bar, and hide the mouse cursor. It requires a headphone to listen to the voices)
    • Vertical screen 2. Sample static image in full screen mode – download the image here
    • Additional print information: Print this out and put near to the work.
  • Acknowledgements: This work and its’ ongoing conceptual thinking are inspired by Geoff Cox, Magda Tyzlik Carver, Ian Hatcher and The Feminist Software Foundations. I would like to thanks all the voice contributors.


Turn on your speaker, click here: https://dobbeltdagger.net/VocableCode_Educational/


  • 2023, Break the Binaries, Science Gallery, Australia
  • 2021, Rainbow Ends, Creative Coding Utrecht, Netherlands, curated by Zaiba Jabbar of Hervisions and Fabian van Sluijs
  • 2020, "Vocable Code" in Aesthetic Programming: A Handbook of Software Studies. London: Open Humanities Press (w/ Geoff Cox)
  • 2020, Queering Vocable Code (workshop), as part of Uroboros design-art festival (online)
  • 2019, Unfinished Code (workshop) as part of unfinished club, Austria, curated by Shu Lea Cheang
  • 2019, Wilful Technologies (Publication in zines) curated by Madeline Balaam & Lone Koefoed Hansen
  • 2019, “Literature in Digital Transformation” (web live-interface exhibition), Biblioteket Kulturværftet, Denmark
  • 2019, “Literature in Digital Transformation” (web live-interface exhibition), Roskilde Library , Denmark
  • 2019, “18th Media Art Biennale WRO: Human Aspects” (installation ver), Wroclaw, Poland
  • 2019, “Litteratur i digital transformation” (performance-lecture w/ Geoff Cox), DOKK1 library, Denmark
  • 2019, Processing Community Day (web live-interface exhibition) @ Aarhus
  • 2018, Vocable Code (13082018), published by ‡ DobbeltDagger (with Geoff Cox)
  • 2018, Electronic Literature Festival (installation ver), Montreal, Canada
  • 2018, MAI: Feminism and Visual Culture, Online Journal
  • 2018, International Conference on Artistic Research, University of Plymouth, UK (with Geoff Cox)
  • 2017, Feminist Coding Workshop


Vocable Code is a clever play on code’s binary system, and its queer disruptions are both thought provoking and poignant. Playing with code in novel ways, this work foregrounds computer syntaxes and functions, while it also designs a code structure where the code can be spoken/performed. Collecting statements from participants with given constraints, the voices are repeated and disrupted by mathematical chaos, creating a dynamic audio-visual literature. Vocable Code underscores criticality when designing constraints (which is part of the code writing process). It also features a participatory context for coding that yields a new aesthetic. In this way, the piece reveals processes that might hem us in, as it also points to ways we might break free. – Electronic Literature Collection’s editorial statement

Vocable Code was really cool. The queering of operations was innovative, and the reading of the script added a surprising intimacy. – Kathi Inman Berens, Assistant Professor at Portland State University

Cite this work:

Soon, W., 2018. “Vocable Code“. MAI: Feminism & Visual Culture (2). (Open Access)