pixel grease by dtoumine
There’s an optical illusion in some of your pieces, especially when scrolling down, in which still images appear to animate and colors seem to blend. Can you talk about this effect and how you’re using it?
I was lucky enough to grow up just as computers were becoming more commonplace in the home and in schools… so I think having lived through a period of time in which I could differentiate each individual pixel that made up the screen of my first gameboy, console, desktop, or whatever to the 4k display I have today has led me toward the type of work I do now. I’m interested in exploring the digital display space as a medium, whether it’s through its flaws and shortcomings, or by making the viewer conscious of its strengths.
One element of the screen that I find unique is the backlight, and how adjusting brightness can affect color display. My Dad makes stained glass windows, so I think being exposed to that as a kid and developing an appreciation for glass as medium made me realize how different it is to see light emit color as opposed to having light reflect pigmented color back into your eye. It’s hard for me to imagine most of my pieces being printed. I don’t think many of them would have the same appeal. That’s also why I have an inclination to include subtle animations in my work. It’s just another gesture of like… ‘yeah, this isn’t meant to be printed’.
I think a simple vector, like scrolling down the page, provides a sort of narrative element. It also reinforces the idea that you’re looking at a screen and that screen has a limited viewport so the only way to experience the rest of it is to scroll. I’d even argue that this gesture gives the piece some tactility, as well. And depending on how you go about scrolling, you may have a different tactile experience—maybe you’re old school and you press and click the scroll bar… or you have a ribbed mouse wheel… or maybe you’re just using a touch screen—regardless, I think it adds another dimension and I’d definitely like to explore it further.
I’d say most of the effects I use that approach optical illusion are created through interference patterns using moirés, banding, transparency/alpha channels, and gifs that cycle through various hues. What I find most interesting about these interference patterns is that they are generally considered to be a mistake or a bad thing, particularly moirés. Actually, one of the few instances I found that moirés were considered a good thing was in their application in preventing bank note forgery. Many bank notes will exploit the shortcomings of digital reproduction techniques by using patterns that encourage moirés to form in the event that the bank note were to be used for reproduction.
Your works command the entire browser, with a clear awareness of how the viewer will arrive at and scroll through the page. Does your background in architecture inform the way you create work on the internet? Which of those lessons are most relevant in the online space?
I think 3D modeling programs, which don’t have a set ‘art board’ like Illustrator and Photoshop, helped me to overcome the idea that art has to fall within exact dimensions and fit within the screen. The ability to wander or expand endlessly in any direction is there. I guess you could also blame the standardization of the internet, too. And by that, I mean the internet is not nearly as weird as it used to be. Everything has to fit into contained newsfeeds that only take up a portion of the actual real estate of your screen. And I’d like to add, that’s definitely what attracted me to NewHive. This place is almost an homage to what made the early web so much more interesting and creative before the prominence of social media sharing sites like Instagram and Tumblr. I guess the next best thing would be to go back to independently hosting web domains. But that set up sort of negates the ability to create a community around an interconnected set of portals.
Architecture also taught me the importance of presentation and professionalism. I treat the internet like a giant city. Whether I’m dealing with projects IRL or URL, it’s important to be clear in your intentions and to distill the concept for initial viewing, then to provide greater substance in support. Yes it’s a matter of personal branding but it’s also important to tailor the preview so it, too, is respectable and interesting all on its own. I guess to give an example of what I mean… take my newhives, the imagery and information I use to present the work on networks outside of NewHive will have a curated ‘piece’ that’s presented almost as a sample. That’s because, much like a building, the entire artwork can’t be and wasn’t meant to be experienced as an uploaded picture on Instagram or twitter, or what have you. You actually have to go to Newhive to understand the piece in its entirety.
I also think giving the audience the ability to explore the ‘spaces’ autonomously in the x and y planes of my work is probably a hangover from architecture, too. But I’d like to go beyond that in my future work and incorporate the ‘z plane’ down the road—especially if I can get my hands on a VR headset. That’s when I’ll really have a chance to go back to my architectural roots.
Occasionally you’ve done remixes on a piece, and left both versions in your profile. Is iteration an important part of your process?
Again I feel that this may be thanks to my architectural and design background. With that said, prototyping is a big part of my process. I tend to do study after study, and learn through doing. The computer is a perfect environment for that sort of iterative process. Scripts have been useful for that and so have parametric 3D modeling tools like grasshopper for rhino. I like to explore and through exploration I find exploits. But I think there is a certain danger in the ability to endlessly create permutations. It’s sort of like repeating a word until it has absolutely no meaning to you anymore. You have to remain hyper critical.
gold pattern by dtoumine
What’s the significance of these patterns for you, and where are they sourced from?
Before I ever got into art, design, and architecture I was really into downhill mountain biking. That sport was everything to me. But it is a young person’s game and there comes a point where you have to look at what you’re riding and realize that to progress to the next level… it will suddenly become really really dangerous. It’s a matter of evaluating the risks to the rewards. I’ve suffered a couple concussions—a number of which had me knocked out cold, wiping out entire segments of the event, or leaving me with fuzzy fragments in the process. Like glimpses into a dream. I like to think the dithering and graininess I use in some of my work is inspired by that fragmentation in recalling those memories.
Anyways, so all of these years later, I’ll catch myself wondering what those concussions and a variety of other given events in my life have done to my mind, my memories, how I perceive the world, and how technology (particularly external memory) has both helped me and/ or hindered me along the way. I think a lot about consciousness, memory, and patterns. The hardest part for me is coming to terms with the fact that I will never be able to really know what has or hasn’t changed up there in my head. Since the only way to find out is through an autopsy after you’ve passed away.
My latest patterns have been inspired by hardware and circuitry as well as images of human neurons. Some were done with photographs, but in the future I’m just going to build them in Rhino or CAD from scratch so that I can have vectored files to work with. Then I can scale them to whatever sizes I may need in the future. Most of the patterns in my work are built from a bunch of layers superimposed onto each other, recycling old ideas as I go. Eventually I end up dumping too many layers into the file and it crashes my computer. Those are usually the best ones, but at the same time I question that statement because they now only exist as a memory and recollection is a tricky thing. So it at least gives me time to think and distill the concept. If it’s not recoverable… and I have to start from scratch, well that’s okay too. That’s life.