By ALICE PFEIFFER
Published: September 11, 2009
PARIS — In an era when even kitchen appliances connect to the Internet, and cellphones have more memory and data processing power than a 10-year-old PC, artists are engaging ever more creatively with computers — or maybe vice versa.
As with video art in the 1960s and early digital work in the ’80s and ’90s, technological progress is providing not only an array of new tools for artistic creation, but also new sources of reflection and new subjects for social commentary. Out of it is emerging a new aesthetic inspired by YouTube and Google.
A global movement is hacking, subverting and critiquing the hardware, software, content, visuals — even the philosophy of the wired world.
Take Beige. A four-member U.S. computer programming art collective, Beige has built a reputation in the past few years by breaking into the code of old Nintendo game cartridges, and transforming them into animation artworks. Hijacked from its original purpose the famous, now-retro game platform becomes an abstract space where fluorescent squares float and bounce to the rhythms of electronic music.
Since 2000, when it first elaborated its basic technique, the collective has shown more durability than some of the technology it uses. Members have shown at prestigious events and galleries, including the Whitney Biennial for contemporary art in New York, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and the Guggenheim, New York.
Among Beige’s innovations is the exploitation of programming faults that cause a lapse in data transfer, leaving a pixellated effect known as a “residue” on the screen; this fault is used, and intentionally replicated, in several works.
“This is known as ‘glitch art,”’ said Paul Pieroni, co-curator of SEVENTEEN, a gallery in east London that has been a pioneer in showing technology-driven work in Britain. “It is essentially the aesthetization of a computer fault.”
In 2007, the gallery gave Paul B. Davis, one of Beige’s members, his first solo show. It has since held several shows for Mr. Davis as well as for other technology artists, including the New York duo John Michael Boling and Javier Morales and the Californian Eric Fensler.
“There is a new regime of aesthetics emerging out of technological practice,” Mr. Pieroni said. Datamoshing, also know as compression aesthetics, is an example: a recently developed form of glitch art, it manipulates compression frames, giving an overly pixellated appearance, he said.
Datamoshing was pioneered by Mr. Davis and two other artists, Sven Koenig and Takeshi Murata, in collaboration with Paper Rad, another influential new media collective. It has since been adopted by video directors including Nabil Elderkin, who used it in “Welcome To Heartbreak” by the rapper Kanye West.
The ubiquity of the Internet has radically changed the way we do the most basic things, Mr. Pieroni said: “Call it the ‘googlification’ of everything — YouTube is the perfect example: the sort of cultural content now readily available is simply mind-blowing and without precedent.”