Designing the Corrosive Moment – MFA Exhibition

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, fragmentation of postmodern psyche, 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 challenge at the start, but when the set-up was done, all the walls (and some of the floor) were covered!

Since I am the first graduate student in this program, there was much attention directed at the show from the local media:

Article in the Lethbridge Herald

Article in LA Beat

The images below document the set-up, and showcase some sample work from the exhibition, indicating which pieces are still for sale.

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To promote the exhibition I came up with 4 poster versions (interchangeable images) and put them up wherever I could.  People liked the image below the most out of the bunch.

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:

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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.

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I also made sure to send out an invitation 2 weeks prior to the show to remind the university community to attend.

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 in total close to 14 hours in the gallery with just a break to eat some dinner.

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).

Distorted Digital TV signal – 3-video composition.

This was the ‘natural glitch’ space of the gallery and it showcased screen captures of desktop crashes, accidentally corrupted images, and two more video pieces: one documenting VHS tape glitches from a home video from 1990, and the other showing a broken digital sign at a parking lot booth at the stampede grounds in Calgary.

Home Video

Cash or Credit

During the set up Bram took some photos with his phone of what went on at the gallery.

Below: painting, laying out the works, being interviewed by Richard from LA Beat.

Below: Lethbridge Herald photos, catalogue snapshot, vinyl hell.

Last minute I decided to include an interactive piece in the exhibition. It was a little webcam based, processing script that loaded 20 different images randomly from a folder every 45 seconds, and the movement captured by the camera changed the black and white value of the pixels randomly destroying the original photo realism of the image and its pictorial contents. 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 way without damaging any code.

The university also made sure to do a photoshoot to get images for any future promotional materials for the MFA program. That’s Jamie Vedres on the floor.

So here is a sample of printed work. The image below was produced by combining two corrupt BMP files in Photoshop (assimilated glitch), and it’s called ‘Entropy Rising.’ It’s a 6 x 4 ft glossy print mounted on an aluminum panel and covered with glossy laminate, ready to hang. The price is $1250.

This image is titled ‘Descent into Noise’ and it was produced by corrupting a JPG image. The size and material is the same as the above image and the price is also $1250.

This image is titled ‘Elemental’ and it is a detail of a databent LAB mode RAW file. The material and size are the same as above and it is ready to hang. Price is also $1250. This work is an example of the stimulated glitch category because it was produced by provoking the glitch to occur through intentional misinterpretation (and in other cases – damage) of the original image data.

This work below is called ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’, and it was produced with stimulated and layered data corruptions of TIFF and IFF image file formats. Its size is 48 x 32 inches, it is ready to hang, and the material is the same as above. This work is priced at $500.

The two images below are metallic, unmounted and unframed prints, 26 x 36 inches in size and priced at $160 each.

One of the 3D pieces – an old chair covered in strips of paper from beauty magazines. It is an example of an assimilated glitch – the aesthetic resembles the one of a corrupt JPG image. This chair has no seat.

This cube of crushed cans was found at a salvage yard, and it is an example of an assimilated glitch because it was intentionally and conventionally produced by a machine in order to keep the scrap tin together. In the process the original form of the individual cans became disrupted, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing display of brokenness.

The video below, which was composed of broken sequence of the same TIFF image with a soundtrack made from one of those TIFFs, is another example of the assimilated glitch category.

Phase

Image below: ‘Screen,’ 48 by 32 inches, glossy print on aluminum panel, gloss laminate, ready to hang, $500, assimilated glitch.

Image below: ‘Damaged Promises,’ same size and material as above, ready to hang, $500, assimilated glitch.

Below, starting from the right: ‘Life in Technicolor’, ‘Death in Technicolor’, metallic prints, untrimmed, unmounted, unframed, 32 x 24 inches, $180 each,

Below: ‘Point of no Return II’ (SOLD)!

Here are some more,  smaller images ‘Last Four Frames’, Epson Lustre print, 52 x 19 inches, unframed, $80, and ‘Falling Under’ (SOLD).

Two images below: ‘Entropy Rising II’, 24 x 36 inches, glossy print mounted on aluminum panel with glossy laminate, ready to hang, $350.

Two images below: ‘Warp Speed into Oblivion’, 72 x 24 inches, glossy print mounted on aluminum panel with glossy laminate, ready to hang, $500.

Some more smaller prints (SOLD).

Here is the 60 page catalogue, containing all the works exhibited, a bio page, and the exhibition background; priced at $30. Get it while there are still a few left!

If you are interested in purchasing any of the works mentioned above, or the exhibition catalogue, or you want to see more examples of works for sale please contact me via email: m(dot)blicharz(at)uleth(dot)ca.

Thanks!

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