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File Type

Friday, June 17, 2011–Saturday, July 30, 2011

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Artists: Mike Andrews, Jon Cates, Channel TWo, Anthony Discenza, Constant Dullaart, Eric Fleischauer, Patrick Lichty, Ei Jane Janet Lin and Miao Jiaxin, Kristin Lucas, Todd Mattei, Jesse McLean, Chris Meerdo, Casey Reas, Steve Ruiz, and Siebren Versteeg

The specificity of work in electronic media warrants investigations that refine categories past “the digital” or “the internet.” File Type is an exhibition that analyzes the cultural character of digital file formats such as the .pdf, .tiff, .jpeg, etc. These and many other file types contain narratives that give specific bodies to the often invisible entities that construct electronic culture. Formats and file types represent ways that artworks in digital or internet media create particular standards of representation. What is often regarded as the minutiae of computer science have now become the parameters given to cultural agents. Or, to put it in different terms, computer science is now a direct player in the construction of cultural identity, intentionally or not.

File Type explores the kinetic relationships that construct a network of electronic exchange. How have file types worked their way into, or in many cases, have become our cultural metaphors? What are the politics of implied aesthetics hidden within file formats that are regarded as transparent? What are the effects of expediency in using different formats in communication and exchange? Or perhaps, most importantly, what is the relationship between electronic formats and artistic practices, electronic or otherwise? Are these adjuncts and extensions of artistic practice necessarily a breakage from non-electronic media, or are they possibly fluid and interchangeable?

PRINT COLLATERAL

Postcard: File Type

Poster: File Type

MEDIA COVERAGE

O’Brien, Nicholas. “Center Field: Talking with File Type curators Chaz Evans and Lorelei Stewart.” art21.org, June 28, 2011.

Nalbantyan, Jennifer. “File Types: An Interview with Chaz Evans and Lorelei Stewart.” sixtyinchesfromcenter.org, July 11, 2011.

Pancake, Catherine. “F Gallery Visits: File Type.” fnewsmagazine.com, July 20, 2011.

Weinberg, Lauren. “File Type at Gallery 400.” TimeOut Chicago, July 20, 2011.

CURATORS BIOGRAPHIES

Chaz Evans Head Shot 2Chaz Evans has worked at Gallery 400 as a graduate assistant since 2008 and is a founding member and artistic director of parker, a performance collective based in Chicago. Evans has exhibited his work at several Chicago-based venues, including Eastern Expansion Gallery; Chopin Theatre; and the Hyde Park Art Center. He completed an MA in Art History and is currently working towards an MFA in New Media Arts at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Lorelei Steart Headshot1Lorelei Stewart, Director of Gallery 400 since 2000, has organized over 40 exhibitions, including the Joyce Award-winning exhibition Edgar Arceneaux: The Alchemy of Comedy…Stupid (2006). In 2002, she initiated the acclaimed At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago series, a commissioning program that encouraged Chicago area artists’ experimental practices. Stewart currently serves as Interim Director of the Master of Arts in Museum and Exhibition Studies program at University of Illinois at Chicago. She holds a BA from Smith College, a BFA from Corcoran College of Art and Design, and an MA in Curatorial Studies from Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.

EXHIBITION CHECKLIST (EXPANDED)

Mike Andrews

Important Projects: Postscript, 2011
Prints, pencil, gallery shots, screen grabs, emails between gallery director and artist
.pdf from .jpg files

Postscript repackages Andrews ’ exhibition of tests, research, and related material at Important Projects (Oakland, CA), exhibited earlier in 2011.

Jon Cates

HUMAN/COMPUTER sez STEAL_ART.GIF b/c, 2010
.gif

Channel TWo (Adam Trowbridge, Oscar Trowbridge, and Jessica Westbrook)

Play, 2010–11
Drop box and custom file-mixing software made in max-msp
Variety of file types

Anthony Discenza

Dream Homes, 2005

Digital video, ed. 1/5
.mov

Discenza constructed the video from still .jpg and .tiff files he manipulated in Final Cut Pro using digital tape artifacts and some manual playback tricks.

Constant Dullart

Translated Phaedrus (pdf), 2011
Laser prints, Socrates quotation taken from Plato ’s Phaedrus, unlimited ed.
.pdf

This work represents a sequence of translations from Ancient Greek, to professional English translation, to personal handwriting, to optical character recognition software interpretation, to personal speech, to speech to text software interpretation, to free online Chinese translation, to free online English translation, to free online Binary Code conversion, and ultimately to free online Decimal Code conversion.

http://wavingocean.com, 2010
Courtesy collection Pieter Sanders and Gabriella Sancisi
.gif

This animation is an applied Photoshop wave effect to a found .jpg of a straight sea horizon.

File Suffix Pun, 2009
Two .tit files, one .ass file, and an .mp3 file, all found online, ed. 1/10

Eric Fleischauer

Stashbook, 2010
Laser print and set of three books

Patrick Lichty

Criswell was Right (About your Incredible Future), 2009
Sound, 13:10 min.
.mp3

This audio track was taken from the Amazing Criswell ’s prophetic recording “Criswell Predicts Your Incredible Future.” It has been re-edited and the non-prescient declarations of the future have been omitted.

Ei Jane Janet Lin and Miao Jiaxin

Collaboration #1, 2, 3, and 6, 2010
Digital video
.mov

Jiaxin and Lin produced interventions and performances that originally took place as interactive chat streaming broadcasts. In this work, the broadcasts are reformatted as high definition .mov files.

Kristin Lucas

Refresh, 2007
six laser prints: one newspaper announcement, two pencil drawings by Joe McKay, two court transcripts, and one decree-changing name
.pdf

On October 5, 2007, Lucas became the most current version of herself when she succeeded in legally changing her name from Kristin Sue Lucas to Kristin Sue Lucas in a Superior Court of California courtroom.

Refresh, 2011
Book, saddle-stitched, black and white, 16 pages, published by Soberscove Press

For sale in gallery during the run of the exhibition for $7.00 each.

Background Story, 2010
Digital video, 2:12 min. loop, no sound
.mov

Lucas arranged a sequence of fair use background images (.jpg and .ppt), which she overlayed with a short story assignment generated through Amazon ’s Mechanical Turk in response to the sequence.

Todd Mattei and Wes Kline

baltimore.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print
.jpg converted to .psd and back to .jpg

magenta window.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print
RAW converted to .jpg

Italyhead.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print
.jpg converted to .psd and back to .jpg

halfshadow.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print
RAW converted to .jpg

Curtainscopy.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print
.jpg converted to .psd and back to .jpg

semiunrest.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print
RAW converted to .jpg

Via emailing .jpg files Kline and Mattei responded to one another ’s images.

Jesse McLean

Rosetta, 2011
Digital print on masonite
.jpg

Rosetta is a low-res image of the Rosetta Stone printed to the scale of the original object.

Chris Meerdo

Cipher, 2011
Ink on seamless paper
.aes256

In mid-2010, the organization WikiLeaks released an encrypted 1.5 GB file (insurance.aes256) on its website to a limited number of people. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange declared the file a “thermo-nuclear device,” which would be detonated by releasing the file ’s password should anything happen to Assange or the Wikileaks organization. Presently, the contents of this “insurance” document are unknown and its larger file structure is only speculative. In Cipher, the file has been visualized through a script that turns the raw binary data of the encrypted file into a field of black and white pixels.

Casey Reas

Pre-process Hex, 2005
Unique artist ’s book
.exe

This book contains the entire code of an executable program printed out in hexadecimal and bound.

Casey Reas
In collaboration with Ben Fry

Pre-process Execution, 2005
Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
ed. 3/5, one artist’s proof
.exe

This printed visualization displays how static lines of code become dynamic when the code is converted to an .exe and run.

Steve Ruiz

Collection, 2011
Personal computer, downloaded images
.jpg, .png, .gif

Siebren Versteeg

Inexhaustible Nuclear Joy Kernel (Black), 2009
64 prints generated from executable program on CD-ROM
.exe

Inexhaustible Nuclear Joy Kernel (White), 2009
64 prints generated from executable program on CD-ROM
.exe

Versteeg wrote a program that generates a unique drawing and then prints it out in tiled format to sixty-four sheets of paper. The sheets were tiled back together to represent the full drawing. Each generated drawing is unique and not archived in any way other than the printout.

EXHIBITION SUPPORT

File Type is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago; and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

EXHIBITION CHECKLIST

Mike Andrews

Important Projects: Postscript, 2011
Prints, pencil, gallery shots, screen grabs, emails between gallery director and artist

Jon Cates

HUMAN/COMPUTER sez STEAL_ART.GIF b/c, 2010
Animated .gif

Channel TWo (Adam Trowbridge, Oscar Trowbridge, and Jessica Westbrook)

Play, 2010–11
Drop box and custom file-mixing software made in max-msp

Anthony Discenza

Dream Homes, 2005
Digital video, ed. 1/5

Constant Dullart

Translated Phaedrus (pdf), 2011
Laser prints, Socrates quotation taken from Plato ’s Phaedrus, unlimited ed.

http://wavingocean.com, 2010
Animated .gif

File Suffix Pun, 2009
Two .tit files, one .ass file, and an .mp3 file, all found online, ed. 1/10

Eric Fleischauer

Stashbook, 2010
Laser print and set of three books

Patrick Lichty

Criswell was Right (About your Incredible Future), 2009
Sound, 13:10 min.

Ei Jane Janet Lin and Miao Jiaxin

Collaboration #1, 2, 3, and 6, 2010
Digital video

Kristin Lucas

Refresh, 2007
six laser prints: one newspaper announcement, two pencil drawings by Joe McKay, two court transcripts, and one decree-changing name

Refresh, 2011
Book, saddle-stitched, black and white, 16 pages, published by Soberscove Press

Background Story, 2010
Digital video, 2:12 min. loop, no sound

Todd Mattei and Wes Kline

baltimore.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print

magenta window.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print

Italyhead.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print

halfshadow.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print

Curtainscopy.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print

semiunrest.jpg, 2011
Archival inkjet print

Jesse McLean

Rosetta, 2011
Digital print on masonite

Chris Meerdo

Cipher, 2011
Ink on seamless paper

Casey Reas

Pre-process Hex, 2005
unique artist ’s book

Casey Reas
In collaboration with Ben Fry

Pre-process Execution, 2005
Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag
ed. 3/5, one artist’s proof

Steve Ruiz

Collection, 2011
Personal computer, downloaded images

Siebren Versteeg

Inexaustible Nuclear Joy Kernel (Black), 2009
64 prints generated from executable program on CD-ROM

Inexaustible Nuclear Joy Kernel (White), 2009
64 prints generated from executable program on CD-ROM

INTERVIEW: CHAZ EVANS, LORELEI STEWART, JENNIFER NALBANTYAN.

Jennifer Nalbantyan: First, can you both tell me a little bit of your background with Gallery 400 and how long you ’ve been curating?

Chaz Evans: This will be the first show that I ’ve been able to participate in in a curatorial capacity at Gallery 400. I got my MA in Art History and I ’m currently in the MFA program [at UIC] for New Media Art –I have one year left. I also work for Gallery 400.

Lorelei Stewart: I ’m the Director of Gallery 400 and I ’ve been here for 11 years.

JN: What makes file types unique from generalized “digital” or “electronic” media. What is their “cultural character” as you coin it?

CE: The idea was to append that kind of information– a file type alongside any kind of material list of an artwork. To start shifting perspectives in terms of materials of how a thing comes into being – the shapes, how it is represented and also to extract the exchanges or conversions. In the descriptions, we talk about the conversions of one file type to another file type, so even though we have static gallery objects, some of these are only one iteration of the process of how it ’s developed.

For example, in the Todd Mattei and Wes Cline piece, the photo is only a record of the relationship and that relationship can be explained through the conversions of the file types. That ’s only one example of how, when you start shaping the work with this perspective of how file types form, you get this other kind of information out of the object.

LS: I think, certainly we ’re interested in the specificity of the file type—so if digital art is a big basket, we ’re thinking, OK, here ’s a particular question we ’re interested in and thinking about whether we ’re paying attention to the file type. What are the conditions around the file type, how is it being used by artists, and how is that reflective of how it ’s used in broader culture?

JN: Are most of the artists in this show familiar with things like code or pretty well versed in the language of computers, or are some of them entering the issue from outside of that knowledge base?

CE: That ’s a great question because the idea was to have diversity of different kinds of artistic practices and there ’s definitely a whole spectrum of relationships to computers or electronic media. The point is that all of these kinds of practices are influenced by or have to engage with electronic media and specific file formats. But it runs all the way from Casey Reas ’ work—he is the co-founder of his own coding language—to Chris Meerdo, who engaged in this topic but had to find a collaborator to write code so he could write a script to help him render all these pixels from the original Wikileaks file. And there are different skill sets that each artist has, different relationships to things like computer code or no relationship at all to computer code.

LS: With some artists, it ’s clear that they know code and use the code. In Siebren Versteeg ’s case, he wrote an executable program that creates this very complicated drawing, only in one iteration, and then it ’s only printable one time—you can ’t save it and you can ’t print it again. So, that ’s definitely the code that he wrote. Whereas Kristin Lucas does know code, but the piece of hers we ’re showing has no code in it—the Refresh project in which she changed her name [from Kristin Sue Lucas to Kristin Sue Lucas]. She ’s had a long history of working digitally and has great knowledge and skill in that arena, but with that piece [Refresh], the work itself is more about the conditions of the website and of our being as analogous to the website.

JN: How many of the artists are Chicago-based artists? Would you say that there is a particular flavor that Chicago artists bring to the table? For example, with Jon Cates ’ piece being a visible part of the show and glitch art ’s prominence in Chicago?

CE: About half of the artists are from Chicago. Yeah, I ’m proud to select Jon as a representative of the Chicago glitch art scene, since he ’s a great participant and supporter of that community. And while you have glitch art here, right around the corner you have lush textures of rendering 3D processing, which may be a contrasting aesthetic approach to the same thing.

LS: On the flip side of the question, so many of the artists who are in Chicago know the work of the artists who are not in Chicago, and they know it really well, so even the idea of location being the thing that connects the artists is really put into question.

JN: Were either of you involved in any of the production of these pieces, once in the gallery or otherwise?

CE: Well the Siebren Versteeg was a very involved production. It ’s very labor intensive for any gallery that ’s showing it. It takes about 4 to 6 hours for the drawing to generate and then there ’s one moment to print it out as 64 squares on 64 pieces of paper. If you don ’t print it at that right moment, it ’s gone—the only way you can store the drawing is on the physical printout, and you can ’t save it as an image file.

LS: Yeah, with some of the pieces, we just took the work right off of their website. But in Siebren ’s case, that piece exists on discs, so he sent us the discs—there ’s actually a black disc that generates the black drawing and a white disc that generates the white part of the drawing. So, Chaz had the disc run on the computer to generate the drawing and then printed it out.

JN: What ’s your hope for any kind of discussion generated by this show?

LS: I certainly feel like work in this terrain could use more public viewing, and hopefully with this show—one of the things I like about the show is how much it has physical, formal work and conceptual work and this digital, virtual work in it. The divisions between media seem blurrier to me in this show and so that ’s the kind of future I ’d like to see—instead of having new media corralled off to the side, whether that ’s in small galleries or big museums. Certainly, I want Gallery 400 to be more engaged in conversations around new media and its relevance in our lives and to the way that artists are working.

CE: Hopefully a specific set of questions have been raised, which asks what kind of output do these things, which are typically discarded as just “well, computer science did this and it ’s irrelevant to creatives or the artistic process,” but realize that actually all these file types and all these compression standards and so forth were made by people and they make decisions which affect representation. So by throwing this into the mix, as something to consider alongside the artwork, we can open up the perspective in which to understand these processes as contingent. And if you ’re interested as an artist or a creative agent to manipulate that, you have options regarding file types.

LS: There ’s also a second question that I think the show asks about work that exists in virtual space and then work in the physical gallery. Instead of thinking about them as two poles that are separate from each other, I ’m really interested in how the gallery is changed by the virtual and what new practices could happen in the gallery because of it. I don ’t necessarily think that this show did those things, but I think it asked those questions. So, I could envision a project that ’s about the relationship between things that exist virtually and things in the gallery and how they may be more like each other than separate.

Evans, Chaz; Lorelei Stewart. “File Types: An Interview with Chaz Evans and Lorelei Stewart.” Interview by Jennifer Nalbantyan. The Chicago Arts Archive. July 11, 2011. Chicago: sixtyinchesfromcenter.org, 2011.