Dan Hays in conversation.
."What will happen will never again be the explosion, but the implosion? No more energy in its spectacular and pathetic form-- all the romanticism of the explosion, which had so much charm, being at the same time that of revolution-- but the cold energy of the simulacrum and its distillation in homeopathic doses in the cold systems of information.”
MS Beyond the cold systems of mass communication, how relevant is painting today, can it still activate the senses?
DH As the screen takes over our perception of the world, combining immediacy and hypermediacy – sensory immersion and overlaid registers of information – painting, I would argue, has more relevance today than it ever has. It is a warm system of individual communion with the intrinsically unknowable, to paraphrase Baudrillard and Richter. It activates the eye’s sense of touch – of substance deposited over time, like the formation of memory.
Painting is something that is made – an image-object. If - as an image-object - a painting arrests the viewer and reminds them of something half-forgotten – then painting is a hot system. The information flow on the Internet is a cold system, to paraphrase from Sadie Plant, the peripheries and backwaters consume the centres, cores are eroded by their skin.
An exchange with James Elkins
MS Is human intervention and of making (i.e. painting) in an age of digital functionality and reproducibility of more relevance/ important or does it make it obsolete? I am focusing my attention around concepts regarding units of colour (visible through screen light) and modulated colour (possible with blended colour in painting.) I also conscious of the scrutiny of criticisms towards the virtuoso, the brush mark and the subject of author, to a great extent my current practice tackles these issues through digital image making that involves processes that are orchestrated by me, but generated by the computer (There is a lot of messing about with programs that is a little hard to explain here); but by using image, sound and code my practice travels through computer generated abstraction, including compressed monochrome images and cropped digital images that I return back to the analogue and materially with modulated blended paintings. (that is to say not a perfect transcription but a development from digital to analogue - humanness ) am thinking in terms of the backlit light of the computer monitor, the computer as a function or tool and the immediacy and hypermediacy and cacophony of sensory immersion overlaying cold information over lived experience... The cold systems I refer to are the digital images manifest as photophoresing pixels with less claim as tangible objects, maybe they have a quasi - material quality. I hope this makes sense, I am trying to place painting in this context as a warmer system, to establish painting in relationship to digital aesthetics and their relationships and function today?
JE What makes the digital cold? Mark, I guess I can understand that: but there are plenty of cold paintings, from Mondrian to Salle, and plenty of warm computer images. Maybe "cold" = immaterial?
MS Perhaps that is a better phrase. But when you say Mondrian is cold, his paintings still can't shake of a humaness can they?... the pigment I mean, The computer image is still trapped inside a watery grid of information to paraphrase from the artist Dan Hays, Mondrian's grid still has the presence of potential by its limitations, by its nature as a painting? Any painting, no matter how mechanical, is the mechanical human hand, a warm system?
"... Large programs-- say, Microsoft Word—are made by many programmers and portions of the code are recycled from one version to the next, no living person understands the programs in their
totality. Indeed, the number of persons now necessary to comprehend a large programme suite such as Microsoft office exceeds a working lifetime. In the case of evolutionary algorithms where the code is not directly written by human but evolves through variation and selection procedures carried out by machine.”
6.) If the computer screen interface is only a thin surface compared to
the complexity and speed of the unseen algorithms behind it, how does painting correspond your overall thinking of digital aesthetics?
DH To paraphrase Hayles, no living person understands the workings of the visual cortex in combination with memory, and how evolution has recycled portions of the code from one life form to the next. Digital aesthetics apes human aesthetics – to the point where these categories might
become indistinguishable. My paintings celebrate a brief moment when the digital offered something strange and new, yet uncannily familiar – where pixilation, noise, glitches, and compression harboured metaphors for loss and estrangement, not simulated or augmented reality.
The metaphor of loss through the constant replication of information and its distribution (on the internet) is at the core of my practice; this glitch occurring is the rest bite that, for me, establishes some in between state of quasi materiality, it is free of the unperceivable speeds in the otherwise uninterrupted exchange of information. The Internet itself has given rise to the phenomenon of glitch-based ‘proto-paintings’ (a leading theorist being Rosa Menkman) these images remain online or as digital prints, but they feels like a kind-of cheat, anybody can produce them and they become some sort of demonstration. I suppose that it has become a punk art movement where the exchange and production and replication of these glitch images is free flowing. In any attempted movement of this nature the inevitable is that it becomes a gimmick and mainstream, my criticism of wholesale generation of glitch art is that it undermines the clarity and rigour of genuine research...anyone can do it. In my methodology section I do go into how I have used these techniques as the starting point of an idea; but I feel something happens with the care and attention bestowed upon the image through the agency of the hand, paintbrush and pigment, particularly if it is in some kind of mechanised way. The mechanised process of the hand is a deliberate dialectical response to the mechanised process of the digital image, a response that is intended as the uncanny. This is clearly evidenced in Dan Hays paintings, but another artist I have researched is Kron Trubkovich. His paintings have the appearance of something they are not; as mechanical process paintings they explore the uncanny by appearing to be a digital and low level throw away images. In truth the making process involves many hours and a high level of accuracy, what engages me with painting and the digital to paraphrase Jean Baudrillard, is the production of an aristocratic image of illusion, that of the painting, in contrast to the democratic throw away image of the digital glitch captured in a brief moment of time.
Kron Trubkovich, Untitled, water colour on paper, 27.9cm x 27.9 cm, 2005
Dan Hays, Vail Pass, 137 x 183cm, oil on canvas, 2009.
“Monitors are merely avatars of this net, an extraordinary technological clothing is backlit screens compose a pixelated interface with the digital undergrowth, triggering a dim awareness of some kind of actual space behind the screen, someplace you can't see but you know it's there.”
7.) What is becoming increasingly significant to me are the brief moments when the
well working interface to information is disrupted. My focus is a break when the flow of systems is interrupted (for instance and electricity surge) this unforeseen, unknowable language is how I feel about painting, do you have any thoughts on this?
DH These moments are becoming more infrequent – although it is said to be timely for a solar flare to hit the Earth… I like to make an analogy between the watery flows of information and the fluidity of paint; the screen’s icy crystalline matrix and the weave of canvas; and the noise or ‘snow’ on an un-tuned screen and atmospherics in a represented landscape. These are somewhat fanciful ponderings, but I agree with you in that painting always offers unforeseen consequences, even when controlled and predetermined as it is with my work. I like to think that by controlling things to the extent I do, the more the viewer is made aware of paint’s proximity to life – the prima materia,
an oily primordial soup of potentialities, eager to break free of the grid and misbehave…
The dim awareness of something in the background, through and beyond the screen is becoming less and less the pc, laptop or mobile phone and other such gadgets have assimilated into consciousness, It is Marshall McLuhan that tells us that these electronic devices are extensions of the body, however more recently Sadie Plant contests that view, expressing these electronic devices as intrusive, hijacking the body. The occurring glitch shifts the users attention from a "dim awareness" of something beyond the back lit light to an acute awareness, it disrupts her/his interactions with information causing a brief shudder; the object hood of the plastic carcass of the screen seeps into view. As Hays says it is the unforeseen consequences, even in a highly controlled painting process, that is provided by the metaphor in the temporal moment of the glitch occurring and almost immediately on the point of its own collapse.
In a conversation with Sean Cubitt I asked about the relationship between user and the presence of the screen;
MS In the book you discuss a mythological state ( p 83 ) in which the users that enter the (matrix) world of the internet are offered liberation. Can you expand on this allure of liberation?
You might describe the internet as in constant flow of information exchange, would you say that the medium, the physical presence computer terminal, is becoming increasingly detuned out of our
consciousness? Do you think there is currency, in contemporary art practice, to investigate the computer device as a medium, for example glitch events, rather than experiential events of internet interactions? I have recently been investigating the aesthetic of the glitch. I wonder if you could explain in technical terms how a spike or glitch might occur?
SC Hi Mark "Mythic" isn't necessarily bad: we wouldn't be able to survive without myths of liberation. But it is important to be wary of the shaping of myth by its storytellers: ours promises a hyper-individualised salvation, a freedom from rather than a freedom to, a freedom from others. On detuning: certainly - screens are there to hide things, most importantly their own existence and its conditions. We are not supposed to enquire into the horrors of resource extraction in the Congo or the high Andes, the conditions in offshore sweatshops, the gargantuan energy appetite of internet, or the cesspools of child cancer in recycling villages from Ghana to Guangzhou. Re glitch: I have a post on Slideshare. Glitching typically works at the software level, though analogue video glitching was more truly mechanical and some artists do interfere in the hardware, though usually at the interface with image/sound generation (Cory Arcangel's Super Mario Cluds for ex). To make a glitch is easy: open a jpeg file in a text editor and start rewriting the code (leaving the header intact to ensure it still reads as an image file). Simply removing a section – which is what happens in archived files – will do the trick. I wonder whether hardware glitching is really a way of
conceiving of hard objects as if they too were made of code . . .
Some excellent points made by Sean, especially this idea of the mythic and its storytellers, this is becoming more problematic with the endless source of new storytellers, un-vetted through the communion of the web.He also comments on the very real poverty caused by the energy supply used by the consumer world of connectivity, largely an overlooked subject where cars and transport are considered the main culprits.
 Jean Baudrillard (1994) Simulacra and Simulation, The University of Michigan Press, Michigan,
 Katheryn Hayles (2010) Traumas of Code in Bryant, Anthony and Pollock, Griselda, Digital and
Other Virtualities: renegotiating the image, I.B. Tauris, London, p. 24.
 Sadie Plant (1998) Zeros and Ones, Digital women and the technoculture, Fourth Estate, London, p.185.
Thin walls of metal and plastic seal off the digital dimension from the sticky tangle of our contaminated world. In this quasi-dimension physical space is collapsed and a different order of space fills the void – discrete, efficient, precise, finite, airless. The digital dimension is a clean shadowless place lit by a treacherous light. Bathed in its insubstantial glow we absorb its pale agitation daily. Even though the tick of its binary pulse is out of sync with our own, we are addicted to the giddy rush of its fevered indifference. Yet behind the slippery surface of its chilled deliveries is an underlying emptiness, a sense of something not wholly
Tim Head, statement.
Tim head's work is a questioning of the digital medium's ever adapting role as an entity. Ignoring the functioning task representing images and texts, his work examines the pixel in operation at super high speeds. At the core of his practise is exposing the medium within the digital screen and how it occupies human time and physical space.
He generates unique events in real time by means of computer programmes. Head's work overlaps with my ideas, perhaps most directly in his position about speeds of transmission and how that affects reception of information.
Tim Head, Scent, 360cm x 480cm, real time computer programme, 2009
Fiona Banner, Break Point, screen print on paper, 71 x 97 inches, screen, 1998
Break Point by Fiona Banner is a single chase sequence from the movie Break Point ( 1994) Banner's image is arrangements of red text interpreting the actions of the moving image and a deciphering of the sequence in the movie in Banner's own words across the image, the scale is a nod to the cinema screen, and the medium is relevant as older type of screen, that of the screen print. I like the simple use of a reversion to words, often books are made into movies, in this work we see it in reverse, where text becomes a sign of the motion picture; the impactful text turns into image as the plot line of the movie becomes the plot lines of the drawing. What draws me to Banners' work is its theme of re- creation of something in a different language or medium.