My New Media MFA exhibition ‘Designing the Corrosive Moment’ took place on April 26-30, 2012 at the U of L Downtown Penny Building in Lethbridge and it featured themes of digital disruption, collapsed photographic realities, postmodern fragmentation, “apocalyptic” descent into noise and designing with digital error. The show included 47 works in print, video, interactive and two 3D pieces. The opening reception took place on Friday, April 27th, and I am grateful for all the support and kind words I received from everyone who attended.
It was intimidating to work with such a large space, and filling it with work seemed like a major challenge. However, when the set-up was done, all the walls (and some of the floor) were covered!
Being the first graduate student in the program, i got interviewed by some local media:
This student success story was written later by the U of L:
The images below document the set-up, and showcase some work from the exhibition.
To promote the exhibition I came up with 4 poster versions (interchangeable images) and put them up wherever I could. People liked the first version the most.
Here is the show write up, which appeared in shortened version in vinyl lettering on the wall, and in this full version in the catalog:
Regardless of what we think the year 2012 will bring, now is a good time to stop and think about the world we live in. Are we all aware that our civilization is supported by fragile, man-made, digital structures that exist among untamed forces of nature?
What would it look like if the visible world suddenly and unexpectedly disintegrated before our eyes? Would it be digital?
‘Designing the Corrosive Moment’ explores digital glitch as a disruptive force, an aesthetic agent, and investigates its role in designing a digital catastrophe. Although identifying the ‘natural’ and unpredictable glitch with intentional design is a paradox, much is to be learned from this phenomenon.
First of all, this collection of works attempts to portray what happens when undetermined and incorrect processes operating underneath the surface, accumulate and reach critical mass, causing the photographic reality to collapse under the vandalizing force of the glitch. This looming threat constitutes a catastrophic force of destruction, much like an earthquake. It is a moment of corrosion when represented reality, and all its presumed truths become dissolved by the entropic force of digital corruption in a colorful, acidic path of pixels and absurdity. It is an apocalyptic moment, because it is both a failure and a revelation of a system our civilization depends on.
It is also a moment of awareness since the destructive potential of the glitch exposes our illusion of control, our reliance on flawed structures and our false sense of stability.
Glitch is a nihilistic force that reveals the postmodern fragmentation of consumer psyche, causes disruption in communication, and engulfs the world in the apocalyptic noise where form, control and meaning are denied their operations. Just as the early punk culture embraced anarchy to bring attention to the meaninglessness of life, so does the glitch destroy or deny the authority of structures. But what if we accept it, and use it to decorate? This is how punk became popular while at the same time it ‘unbecame’ punk.
The imagery here oscillates between chaos and order, accident and intention, by harvesting glitches from their natural occurrences, stimulating them in digital files, and assimilating them aesthetically into visual content through intentional design.
As a result the corrosive glitch moves on a sliding scale from being an active ingredient in the process, to being an aesthetic shell where the visuals are only a faint echo of the original moment of disturbance.
So is this a show about the end of the world or the end of glitch? Both are the destroyer and the destroyed, a serious threat and an assimilated effect.
Everything started with a trip to Calgary to pick up my large pieces (ABL Imaging) and my exhibition catalogue (ARC). Thanks to Bram Timmer and my parents van, we got those safely to the gallery for the next-day set up. It took us two days in total to: paint the walls, unpack the works, plan out their layout, hang them, set up the projectors and TVs (Matt Fulton – New Media Tech Specialist at the university was tremendously helpful!), mount the titles and vinyl, set up the lights, and clean up. There were some obstacles along the way like crashing computers and finicky vinyl signage, but we managed to do everything just in time. On day two we spent 14 hours in the gallery with just a small break to eat dinner. Yup, exhausting.
The space and the exhibition was divided more or less into 3 parts based on the different kinds of processes that went into producing the content: natural glitch, stimulated glitch, and assimilated glitch, starting from the front entrance.
An example of one of the natural glitch works was this medley of distorted digital TV signals, which I caught on video sometime ago as part of my ‘glitch diary’ (documenting found glitches).
The ‘natural glitch’ space of the gallery showcased screen captures of desktop crashes, accidentally corrupted images, and two more video pieces: one documenting VHS tape distortions from a home video from 1990, and the other showing a broken digital sign at a parking lot entrance at the Stampede grounds in Calgary. Collecting these was fun.
Last minute I decided to include an interactive piece in the exhibition. It was a little webcam-based processing script that loaded 20 pre-selected images in random order every 45 seconds, and the movement captured by the camera randomly altered the black and white values of the pixels, obliterating photorealistic content of the images. This was an example of work from the “assimilated glitch” category, since the idea of brokenness, and the aesthetic of disruption was taken out of the original glitch context, modified and applied in a more conventional and systematic way without random error as the culprit.
Here’s a more detailed overview of the space. Among the large, mounted glossy prints, and small, unmounted metallic prints, there were also “sculptural” pieces, created or acquired based on the glitch or “trash” aesthetic explored in the images. The basic underlying idea was to display the disturbance of form, and make that disturbance a focus and an aesthetic detail.
Among the works above, the “stimulated” glitch category was also represented. In these large and small works, the errors were intentionally inserted into the images, but the final result was left as is, without any further “editing” or cropping to amplify the effect. I suppose, you could say the glitch was called or forced out of these digital spaces by intention, while the outcome was always a fascinating surprise.
The University set up a photoshoot for some promo materials for the MFA program. This is how a few months later – to my surprise – I ended up on a bus stop ad. In the picture on the left, photographer Jamie Vedres tries to get a good angle. On the right, it’s time for some gallery-sitting.
One of the last things to share – the video below is composed of a sequence of the same TIFF image progressively “mistreated” and set to a soundtrack made from the data of one of those TIFFs. A bit of a jarring experience, if you watch it.
I suppose by being so thorough, I couldn’t avoid creating a 60 page catalogue with all the works exhibited, and some background info, and which I happily parted with on donation basis (hey it helped me cover some exhibition costs!).
Make sure to check out the Work section of this website for more details on some of the pieces shown here. Thanks for reading!