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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Grappling with complexity, women in tech, and Leonard Nimoy: Perry Chen's Y2K

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Screenshot of Leonard Nimoy in Y2K Family Survival Guide (1999). 

In December, Perry Chen organized a panel discussion at the New Museum (copresented with Rhizome and Creative Time Reports) exploring the phenomenon and legacy of the Y2K bug, as part of his ongoing project Computers in Crisis. Along with a presentation of books and video clips from the time, he assembled three Y2K experts to share their own experiences of preparing for 1/1/00, at which point many computer systems were expected to interpret the two-digit date as "1900" rather than "2000," with harrowing results. 

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Phillip Stearns for Rhizome's Community Fundraiser

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In the final week of Rhizome's Community Fundraising Campaign, we profile seven artists hand-picked by Rhizome to generously contribute artworks, ensuring you receive compelling thank you gifts at every donation level. Give now to receive one of these works.

2012 was the Year of the Glitch for Brooklyn-based artist Phillip Stearns. Devoted to exploring the manifestations of glitches produced by electronics, Stearns posted a new image, video or sound file to his Year of the Glitch tumblr every day throughout the year.

Glitch Textile (all images courtesy of the artist)

The images on Year of the Glitch are "not of broken things, but the unlocking of other worlds latent in the technologies with which we surround ourselves. Part of what this project is about is approaching the familiar with fresh senses, to turn it into something that is unfamiliar."

Through his glitch-a-day project, Stearns developed a collection of woven and knit textiles whose patterns were generated using images taken with short circuited digital cameras. Glitch Textiles converts cold, hard digital information in to warm, soft blankets, rugs or tapestries. Stearns's textiles exposes the technology that surrounds us, and transforms it into a cozy and inviting object to wrap yourself in.

Stearns has donated five Glitch Textiles to Rhizome's Community Fundraiser. Available at the $500 level, donors will receive a Knit Glitch Blanket (40" x 60") made from machine washable 100% cotton. Donors at this level will also receive the limited edition tote bag by ReCode Project, the 56 + 10 Broken Kindle Screens (Kindle Edition) eBook, and one full year of Rhizome membership.

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Glitching on Tumblr

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From Glitch-Hop

Among the recent grop of gif-based glitch Tumblrs is Year of the Glitch, a glitch-a-day blog run by the artist Phillip Stearns featuring a totalizing glitch, where any trace of the previous media has been virtually destroyed. Meanwhile, Tumblrs Glitch Gifs, Glitch-Hop, Glitchee, and Compression Errors feature glitches gleaned from popular, recognizable sources, where amusement comes from the intrusion of a chance-like error on a recognizable piece of media. There's even Food Mosh, a glitch take on the popularity of pictures of food. These are more easily classified as utilizing datamoshing, where manipulations in digital compression produce pixel bleeding. 

Some theory about the practice is can be provided by Thomas Levin: "What is at stake in the vocabulary of such 'compression errors'—evident both in the domains of avant-garde video and in the more popular idiom of music video—is a rendering readable of 'differencing,' of what I call the 'preductive aesthetics of the absent image.'"

Studies: Dither + Flicker No. 1 from Year of the Glitch

Via Food Mosh

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Prosthetic Knowledge Picks: Television

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X1795 by Max Capacity


A collection of items from the Prosthetic Knowledge Tumblr archive, around the theme of 'Television' 

 



de/Rastra by Kyle Evans 



An old television set is converted into a live performance instrument, an oscillographic synthesizer which "... allows a performer to generate visualizations intrinsic to cathode ray tube technology while simultaneously creating the acoustic analog of the displayed imagery ... " Project Home Page  (PK

LG Plasma Arc Display Panel - Burn Baby Burn 


A burned-out Plasma television, applied with excessive voltage, displays a slow yet spectacular visual disintegration which would make Gustav Metzger proud. (PK)



fuba_recorder


Japanese automated glitch image project, running since January 2009, creates random images from mixing various Japanese television feeds and uploads the results to it's Flickr account.

"I am a robot for generating abstract-images of Japanese TV programs requested by my followers"

クッキンアイドル アイ!マイ!まいん!「特集 



Flickr / Twitter @fuba_recorder 


1001 TV Sets (End Piece) 


Installation by David Hall at the Ambika P3 Gallery, London. Using television sets of various ages, all were running up to the 18th April which was the switch-off point for analogue television signals in the UK.



Here is a video from the University of Westminster of the piece - wait till the 2 minute 19 mark (PK)  


Television Test Cards From Around The World 


A Russian Livejournal entry from 2009 features a collection of television tuning displays (unnecessary for modern televisions) from around the world, which we can now appreciate for their geometric aesthetics.






More (in Russian) here. (PK)

Other Notables:

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The Diacritics of Glitchr

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Diacritics are accent marks used to indicate the type of pronunciation a certain word infers. Diacritics are used in Latin script, but are also specific to other alphabetic systems such as the vowel pointing scripts of the Arabic harakat. In Laimonas Zakas’ project, Glitchr, a facebook page is dedicated to glitchily deforming the posting interfaces of Facebook.  Diacritical marks are emptied from their primary communicative signifiers and repurposed as formalized, aestheticized objects; accomplices in the jailbreaking of Facebook page hegemony.

Rather then its users shaping and determining its network, Facebook is known—amongst other things—for creating quite the opposite for users: a loss of control, of malleability and the continued reiteration of a standardized user conduct.  Glitchr then, in such a world, becomes a refreshing, if not odd spectacle: gifs become enabled, symbols and text float around up and down the page never adhering to the coded structure within.   

Though Glitchr to some degree interrupts the normativity of the Facebook structure revealing what one can safetly get away with, its subversive aesthetics survive only as mirage in the desert of the Zuckerberg empire.

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Jim Punk: exq=.s.te =n.c&de/s

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Jim Punk is prolific and anonymous. 

His website is encased largely in a cryptic vernacular predominately of his own design: A laptop is rendered in ‘Oldskool’ ASCII style illustration graphics with the ‘keyboard’ displaying letters and symbols (such as “&” or “n”) arranged in no particular order—as if Punk had button smashed his keyboard and left the results to exist as is.  There are no direct title links, or any kind of straightforward archive list of projects, instead it’s these arranged letters and symbols that when painstakingly, individually clicked on, lead the viewer down into a further maze of Punk’s own glitchy, early net art based work. 

&é'(-è_çà)#+           

azertyuiop^$¨£           

qsdfghjklmù%*µ!§          

<>wxcvbn,?;.:/~"{@ 

It’s this jumbled arrangement of symbols and navigation confusion that has come to define Punk’s work over the years.  Responding to blog comments, tweets and even emails with this seemingly incomprehensible employment of language, Punk avoids a certain communicative regularity; rejecting the comprehensibility and clarity that often lends itself to distinct individual recognition.  Instead, Punk’s non-linear, schizophrenic performance draws attention to the form language and communication take, all the while disrupting standardized information flow and producing an irregularity in the way we expect to approach and access content.

Punk's latest user generated project, exq=.s.te =n.c&de/s, is a glitched out Twitter feed that anyone can post to. Utilizing a customized keyboard, comprised solely of unicode symbols, users can easily create and tweet glitchy status updates.  With currently more than 600 tweets, Punk’s project works within the hyper consumptive pace of Twitter and utilizes it as an alternative platform for ...

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Distorted Scans in Google Books

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"Could there be a fitter representation of copyright's contemporary plight than the fingers of a Google technician obscuring Kant's defense of writer's rights? An author's consent, Kant cautions in a footnote, 'can by no means be presumed because he has already given it exclusively to another', yet Google is struggling to effect exactly this sort of transfer of consent today, as it attempts to win approval for a legal settlement in the United States that will allow it to republish works whose copyright owners have not come forward. I couldn't have read Kant's essay so easily without the Google technician's labour - in fact, without Google, I might not have got around to reading it at all - but her fingers were nonetheless in the way. The internet's attitude toward Kant's words is ambiguous, combining respect, appropriation, liberation and accidental vandalism," Caleb Crain once wrote, having discovered a spectral-seeming hand, while conducting research for his review of Adrian Johns's Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates. (The page has been rescanned, but the image is still on Nicholas Carr's blog.)

Wohlgemeynte Gedanken über den Dannemarks-Gesundbrunnen by Johan Gottschalk Wallerius is scarcely recognizable as a book with hundreds of distorted pages. (via Waxy.)

 

 

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Glitch Studies Manifesto by Rosa Menkman

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Rosa Menkman meditates on the occurrence and aesthetics of the glitch amidst software and hardware obseletion in her essay Glitch Studies Manifesto. This essay was part of the Institute of Network Culture's second collection of texts titled Video Vortex Reader II that critically explores the shifting dynamics and expanding field of online video. See below for an excerpt, full essay here.

Technological Progress is an Ill-Fated Dogma

In the beginning it was calm... Then humans built technologies and the first forms of mechanical noise were born. Since that time, artists migrated from the grain, the scratching and burning of celluloid (A Colour Box by Len Lye, 1937) to the magnetic distortion and scanning lines of the cathode ray tube (as explored by Nam June Paik in MagnetTV in 1965). Subsequently digital noise materialized and artists wandered the planes of phosphor burnin, as Cory Arcangel did so wittily in Panasonic TH-42PWD8UK Plasma Screen Burn, in 2007. With the arrival of LCD (liquid crystal display) technologies, dead pixels were rubbed, bugs were trapped between liquid crystals or plastic displays and violent screen crack LCDperformances took place (of which my favorite is %SCR2, by Jodi / webcrash2800 in 2009). Today artists even surf eBay to buy readymade LCDs with T-con board failure or photo cameras with loose CCD (charged coupled device) chips (the latter I too exploited in The Collapse of PAL, 2010).

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The New Aesthetic

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The label reads: =if(Label=”“,”RMA”,”?”)

This is an Excel function. It also would work in Microsoft Access. The factory is using Excel or Access to store all the logos for the different jeans they make and then print them onto leather. This is what happens when there is a bug in their software. (broken counterfeit jeans on Flickr.)

Why do we enjoy 8-bit, glitch, and other technological imagery revealing the seams of its construction? "For a while now, I’ve been collecting images and things that seem to approach a new aesthetic of the future, which sounds more portentous than I mean. What I mean is that we’ve got frustrated with the NASA extropianism space-future, the failure of jetpacks, and we need to see the technologies we actually have with a new wonder." says James Bridle about his tumblr, The New Aesthetic. "It’s an aesthetic born of the grain of seeing/computation... the viewpoint of that other next nature, the robot-readable world," comments Matt Jones at BERG.

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