Art in Your Pocket 4: Net Art and Abstraction for the Small Screen

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"The Facets of Obama" created by Jonah Brucker­-Cohen using the Fracture application by James Alliban, 2011

The devices we carry with us can do much more than simply act as communication tools and entertainment appendages. They can also bring us into a growing world of artistic projects that could have never been imagined without their existence.

The recent boom in creative software for the iPhone and iPad now enables artists to remake existing web projects as iOS apps or use the physical world as a canvas for augmented reality, reimagining our physical surroundings through painting and rendering. In this article, the fourth one in a series that I've written over the past six years of reviews surveying art for the iPhone and iPad, I cover projects that both revive net art pieces that were once only possible on traditional computer systems or in browsers, as well as those that use the iPhone and iPad's sound and camera capabilities to their fullest.

 

Thicket

Thicket:Classic (Hairy Circles mode), 2011, Interval Studios (aka Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard)

Beginning with abstraction and sound, two works examine methods of sound production through algorithmic composition. Thicket (2011) by Interval Studios (programmer and artist Joshue Ott and composer Morgan Packard) is an amalgam of abstract shapes and patterns that engage with touch-based interaction, visual stimulation, generative pattern creation, and mesmerizing sound transference. The original version of Thicket, or Thicket:Classic, feels like a musical masterpiece on the edge of a high precipice. As a user changes the orientation of their phone in four directions (up, down, right, left) the onscreen graphics shift to new modes.

Thicket 3.11 Video, Joshue Ott and Morgan Packard, Interval Studios.

My favorite mode in Thicket:Classic is "Hairy Circles," which features menacing yellow-orangish circles of tangled lines that correspond to each finger's touch and shift when dragged around, creating a machine-like beat that evokes an industrial assembly line. Ott explains, "Thicket uses a bunch of different algorithms—for both audio and visuals. The aesthetic came from repeated experimentation and rapid prototyping of modes. Sometimes we would start with the visuals, sometimes with the audio, but there was often a back and forth process of each of us adjusting our part until we both liked the results."

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Artist Profile: Michael Staniak

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The latest in a series of interviews with artists who have a significant body of work that makes use of or responds to network culture and digital technologies.

Michael Staniak, IMG_800 (2014; image courtesy the artist and Steve Turner, Los Angeles)

Can you describe your process? Specifically, how do you simulate the appearance of inkjet printing that is evident in works like IMG_800, where, encountering a work like this in person, we discover that what at first appeared to be a flat, printed surface is in fact a textured, pigmented one.

Using industrial spray guns, I layer many fine coats of atomised acrylic paint onto my textured surfaces. The stippling of the spray imitates the print dots created by an inkjet printer. To further enhance the effect of a flat print, several layers of paint are applied directionally, causing the texture to seem flat when viewed in person.

Do you find the process to be more important than the object? What is the role of the finished, discrete object for you? In a way, looking you up on artsy and getting a grid of jpegs of works in monochrome, gradient, and stone pattern styles might be the way that many people encounter and become familiar with your paintings.

It is also how I mostly encounter paintings and images in general - on Instagram, Google image search, etc. Seeing a work in person can be a different experience. Often, if I respond to a work, I will take a picture and view it on my device, to get a more realistic impression. As a consequence of the materials and methods I choose, my work consciously engages the viewer in a totally different way in person than on the screen, even though everything will eventually end up on a screen or online.

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Live Action Role Painting

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There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.

— Mark Rothko

This chat took place on Facebook between Jaakko Pallasvuo and Sofia Leiby on February 7th, 2015. It appears here in edited form.

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Artist Profile: Michael Manning

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Animated GIF via dump.fm

LH: For as long as I've been familiar with your work—starting on dump.fm in 2010—you've been incredibly prolific. Back then, you were creating and sharing abstract animated GIFs. I remember you would post hundreds of variations on a single shape. I see that kind of preoccupation, or obsession, come up again and again in your work, with the Phone Arts series, the Microsoft Store Paintings, and most recently, the Sheryl Crow Pandora Paintings. These expansive projects create a sense of repetition, ultimately a smooth rhythm, which appears to be so continuous as to not have a beginning or an end. Can you describe the process for coming up with these projects? How do you distinguish the individual pieces?

MM: I don't like to take any single piece too seriously, I want to work on something without the pressure of it being perfect. I think people discount producing a lot of work because they connect it to feed culture like it's more important to produce massive amounts of content for tumblr or instagram or w/e but that's not really what I'm trying to do. I think it's more interesting to like shit out a bunch of work in a natural way whether it's through a rhythm that you just stumble upon or if you see a jpeg on dump and you're like "loloolllollll pssssssh what in the even fuck ommmmmg" so you have to like rework it 50 times because you're obsessed with it, and then step back after you make this massive body of work and say to yourself "what is all that about dude?", than if you try and distill an idea into one perfect piece you've over thought to death. When you try and make a piece fit a preconceived concept it feels like graphic design, you have the message and the content you're just trying to solve how to effectively communicate that through the work and I don't want to work like that.

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