curator’s view : THAW

Links Hall’s annual extravaganza, THAW, features many kinds of live performance. This year, the organization gained access to a much larger party space in downtown Chicago. I was invited to do something projecting video on the large wall facing the entrance to the party.

I curated a show within the show – a screening of Chicago-made video art. The exhibition is arranged in screening order in this album.

Gogol’s Overcoat: The Gravedigger’s Meditation [ view online through 2/28 ]



The Gravediggers Meditation-HD 720p 1750

untitled video still : the gravedigger’s meditation


An experiment in audience relationships, exhibitions, intimacy, the internet – – I’m streaming The Gravedigger’s Meditation at through Feb. 28. After that, it disappears into the land of ‘password protected screener’ as I work to get it shown elsewhere.

Vladimir Nabokov said of Gogol: “When, as in the immortal The Overcoat, he really let himself go and pottered on the brink of his private abyss, he became the greatest artist that Russia has yet produced.” Gogol’s story of a poor, quiet copyist who finagles a new overcoat in the bitterest of Russian winters. Then, the coat is stolen; what was a blessing becomes a disaster.

This animation – – yes, I did steal images of overcoats from the internet in order to make it … The piece is also a meditation on the relationship of copying, language-as-object, record-keeping, and technology to a community’s memory. There may be a wink at the commodification of appearances but you know, the first rule of capitalist materialism is you don’t talk about how it works.

Animation frankensteined together in Adobe AfterEffects from parts created with QT7, Processing, and Quartz Composer. Audio created & mixed in Apple Logic, better with headphones.


Reas & Fry: Processing … 2d Ed > vs < 1st Ed [ review ]

Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists, 2d Ed.

TL;DR: Reas & Fry 1st edition told the reader about what Processing can do and encouraging reader to try it & learn from their experiments. 2d edition introduces readers to Processing in a user-friendly way – the book has become a ‘teacher’.


1) The second edition reads like a college textbook. Reas & Fry have defined their audience, and are clearly writing for it.

Concepts are brought to an intelligent, creative, new-to-coding reader with holistic detail. The denser text gives beginners a better sense of ‘net’ as they experiment (the text can catch them). Experienced coders will find rewards of nuanced language discussing processes in the richer text.

This allows faster learning through bookwork with less ‘running into walls’ experimenting. This point may represent a culture shift. Teaching concepts and ideas with a stronger ‘narrative’ can create a text-based authority of ‘shoulds’* vs. the user’s earned authority of experiential learning.

2) Content is presented with a ‘narrative through line’ – it is clearly organized in ‘arcs’ of chapters that loosely link and build. This differs from 1st ed, which felt more like “ok here’s some of this, and some of that, go try it out & see what you get!”.

3) Large communities of people have been working with Processing. Certain working arcs have developed; people tend to code in particular directions. Perhaps this influenced the interlinking of concepts inside the book. Reas & Fry provide jumping off points with page numbers to other parts of the text – – as if they put internal links in the book.

The 2d edition is, in that respect, more holographic and unified as a text. The 1st edition now feels like an extension of the online reference, a big index or dictionary of terms and functions that I use in response to my own curiosity or problem-solving. The 2d edition is narratively cohesive in multiple ways, delivering the ‘whole user approach’ to a beginning creative coder very well.

4) content differences:

3D has shifted from appendix to ‘main content’; rearrangement of content and ‘synthesis’ chapters brings a more easily-digestible ‘narrative’ to content; new artists & artwork.

Vertex & Array both got a lot of ‘explain’ love; so did Function – concepts that I’ve seen beginners get stuck on. Also, all of the discussions of ‘how to code well’ have become comprehensive.

Sound seems to have disappeared. I think PureData has won sound. Most of that is done via external libraries but there isn’t even an entry for ‘sound’ in the Index or in Topics.

Certain details of Processing’s functionality have disappeared – i.e. the discussion of image manipulations that mirror photoshop blend modes. The image processing section of the 2d edition’s text is concerned with functionality unique to Processing.

Additionally, image processing instruction arrives much later in the text (p. 529) so the ‘beginning reader’s’ comprehension of what’s happening is going to be very different than if the beginning reader is perusing the 1st edition and looking at images on p. 95, where they introduced ‘how to manage data files w/processing sketches’  discussion in a little pile-on.

*authority of ‘shoulds’ : the obsession with ‘doing it right’ becoming a block for creativity & discussion of concepts driving the work

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Author’s note: I spent 5 years working as a computer trainer [hardware/software] so, parsing the texts used to teach ppl how to use software/hardware is kindof my thing.

digital wabi-sabi

finally found language that accurately introduces the art i make. the work is made inside of computers and displayed with all this technology, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about embracing the human condition.

For Jessica, visible fractures, glitches, and dissonance allow for permeability of meaning and critique of digitally-amplified language (our language). In the elevation of digital artefacts to aesthetic pleasure, she embraces imperfection, playing it back on screens built to display our longed-for perfection.

new work [ oldschool : newmedia ]

selfie [ oldschool / newmedia ]

The negatives I’m using for this process were shot & processed long before computers became part of my process – –

When I met animation processes, it was, at first, printmaking and scanning and hand-manipulation. Then hand-altered 16mm film. I’ve particularly missed that, the bleach and salt and razorblades and rubber gloves and stamps, glue, glitter and tape.

I figured out how to do that again, recently.

creator logic [ on process viz content ]

consider an idea.

reframe the idea.

shift your perspective in relationship to the idea: take on a different paradigm, reconsider the idea. what would [ dead artist 1 ] [ dead artist 2 ] [ dead artist 3 ] do with this?

play fill-in-the-blank replacing some of the words used to articulate the idea.

pick the idea up, flip it over, invert the logic, reverse the logic –

what are the consequences on other ideas residing on distal edges of the idea, when it is manipulated in this way – what are the ripples – [ if-then ] [ if-then ] [ if-then ]

is there truth in the idea? intrinsic truth or relative truth? a truth dependent on viewer perspective? on cognitive skill of viewer? on location of idea’s execution – is the truth context-dependant, or local –

if the viewer has blind spots to the metacontent, what can that particular viewer gain from looking at, consuming, or reading the local content?


[ collab ] »radiant devices« 08::30::14 : metro, chicago

This summer I finally buckled down and learned processing, the coding language built for artists. I find it incredibly responsive and immediate, unlike some of the user-interface based traditional video editing tools. And its so much fun to play with!

Back in Pittsburgh I created many video projections for live performances by bands and other live events. I also created & projected visuals for theatrical and dance productions. I’d been looking for the chance to work like this again in Chicago, and was blessed with the invitation to work with »radiant devices«!

»radiant devices« are inventive musicians, with a big live sound augmented by instruments they’ve built from bicycle forks and abandoned gas tanks and other objects. Each instrument weaves into a rich bed of sound – yeah, guitar, bass, drums but also dj with loops and Mojdeh’s haunting voice – sometimes augmented with skilled use of a megaphone. Listen to »radiant devices« at their bandcamp  – –

August 30 saw our first performance together, at Chicago’s historic live club, Metro. You’ll find my view from the projection booth in the attached image – for more stills from the show and samples from the live-responsive code please visit the flickr album of stills from this collaboration – –



church of glitch

Viz. Menkman : the artefact created/discovered by accidents of digital processes, or intentionally accidented digital processes – how can these machines create? Computers are only supposed to do as exactly as they are told.

Glitch points to the error, the flaws woven into material reality. Artefact as scar tissue. Computing is built on the user’s illusion, the information perceived on the screen. How it works – for most users, the digital platform is completely foreign.  In Kabbalah material reality is located in ‘the depth of evil’ in part because of the nesting boxes of illusion presented by personal story, point of view, and the layers of imperfection, brokenness, etc. that humans are confronted with in this world. The tension between the imagined perfect and the flawed ‘real’.

Glitch art operates in this space.

In glitch one finds the revelation of the imperfection of the digital, an ongoing criticism / pointing to / celebration of the underlying flaws of the platform.

How each artist harnesses the dilemmas of the medium becomes the interesting thing.


Of course people like to mimic the sexxxy-broken aesthetic. With enough determination and a cracked copy of Photoshop one can create the echoes, colorselected copy pasted pixels, the “look”. Recently there was a fistfight in an online glitch community on this point. Its only when a photoshop artist argued that “image manipulation in photoshop is the same as image manipulation in audacity” that I called the discussion dumb as a bag of hair* and found my church of glitch.

All artistic media needs boundaries of ‘what it is not’. While “painting” as a class can contain objects of ‘watercolor’ and ‘oil’, a watercolor painting is not an oil painting. “Digital art” as a class can contain objects like ‘glitched photography’ and ‘photoshop painting mimicing a glitched aesthetic’. A glitched photo is not a photoshop painting.

A glitched photo points to/critiques/exposes the flaws of the medium that supports the perceivable image. A photoshop painting unquestioningly uses the platform of digital media to create a perceivable image.


The thread has been since deleted, perhaps because the argument can go on endlessly. People take it personally, and all those feels get in the way of considering the truth in the media object.

We can only see the object of the image file through the mediating screen & other equipment of the computer. Its all sort of unreal, and becomes tweedledum and tweedledee arguing over their rattle in the forest. *Hence the ‘dumb as a bag of hair’ comment.

I said this sort of thing to the art school bros who claimed they were ‘glazing with oil paints’ when they weren’t, at my undergrad. Same with incalmo hot glass work – there’s a technical baseline, one that’s much harder to meet than opening a .jpg in word pad. Those who claimed the were making incalmo (but weren’t) were informed as such . . . but glass art and oil painting both have the history of tradition and the authority of that established tradition to make the claim. Still, the determined continued to claim they were right, telling themselves they were participating in that history.

All I got’s Rosa Menkman**.  I’m glad I’ve chosen to read some of her theory, explore the ideas around the activity. It lends additional meaning and context to what I’m doing, helps me draw that line around glitch and explain to curators why glitch as a process is important to the meaning in the work I’m making.

I don’t know why its important for people to jump on a bandwagon, when are not doing the thing. Is it that important to belong to the group? To say you are doing the thing, when you are? I suppose all the digital is a mimic, but the 50-50 split of ‘this isn’t glitch, it mimics it’ in that community was interesting to me.

The ticket to participation in this activity is computer ownership, determination, and enough ego strength to post shit online for other ppl to see.  I gotta take Alice’s tip and leave T.& T. to their rattle, my own working definition of the media I’m making and screening tucked under my arm.


** This isn’t really true, I’ve also got Jon Satrom & Jon Cates & Nik Briz and all the stuff happening with the dirty new media people here in Chicago. I read/see their stuff & think about it too. In the context of that online community, cited Menkman only, so that’s where this blog post went. I am imperfect in my church making.

[ encouragement ] for the working poor artist

Always-never thinking has its own traps. We can not measure the good we do in the ounces or pounds of miracles we enable, because those results and their import cannot be known to us. There’s a little trick of faith in accepting you are here because the universe asked you to be here. The universe set a place for you at this table. What you sow and reap with your hands, well, who are we to know what it feels to be that wheat? We cannot know. We can only trust that we are doing what we do best.

Guard your heart from making despair, there is enough of that in this world.

You are loved, you are loved, you are loved. This is the only certainty.

[ comfort food ] on poet at the end of the world

No one lives outside the walls of this sacred place, existance. ~ St Francis of Assissi

My contribution to Rob Hendler & co’s Chicago-based poetry podcast, Poet at the End of the World, comes third. I follow Mojdeh Stoakley and Greg Curry;  Andy Karol closes the show for us  . . .

My contribution, Comfort Food, is on surviving the media’s mindless re-presentation of gun violence in America.


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??? Who wins at the Internet today? [ thisguy ]


we have a winner!

On Memorial Day, when I logged into Flickr, I found my stats had crossed 100,000 views. I have less than 2,000 images in my Flickr stream; still, people are looking. The most popular image? Ungun: Raspberry Ruger. I decided to give it away, via a lottery I ran from June 1 to the 21st!

As I wrote in the post announcing the lottery, when I started making the images that became the ungun project, I put them on flickr. I kept making them in part because of the positive response to the work in the photostream.  At the time I was working full-time in demanding, customer-facing work. Positive feedback from Flickr, and a handful of my customers, was my only encouragement to move the work forward. Their responses were so intense, and so personal, it gave me a huge push to keep making.

So here we are, with the winner – @oxthoughts from twitter, Ian Martin, will be receiving an archival giclee print of Ungun: Raspberry Ruger. The image is sized such that the glitched handgun mirrors that of the ‘real life’ gun.

I have some interesting things cooking for the ungun project. I can’t help but keep making the images, and more representations of broken guns are going to be appearing, in different forms, during 2014.

Thanks to all who signed up for the drawing!

[ ungun (2013) ] animation : director’s statement

I live in an American city where fear of being shot is considered reasonable. I began breaking stolen digital images of guns in late 2012, after the handgun violence victim count in Chicago, IL was 14 people in one weekend.

I went online, and found, stole, and glitch-sabotaged digital images of guns. 5,000+ glitched images of handguns became this six-and-a-half minute animated film, which I completed in February of 2013. I sampled audio from American movies in which guns have roles as important as human actors. Isn’t the sound of a gunshot speech?

A hypnotic, this experimental film presents the broken or decaying and reappearing handgun animation with audio snippets from American film. How do we reckon with our hand-held machine? How do we use it? What does it mean to us?

* * * *

screening history :

04.2013 : VIDEO>transcends [ stream ]

05.2013 : MAGMART VIII, Casoria Contemporary Art Museum, Naples, Italy [ screening ]

06.2103 : Audiovisioni Digitali/Scicli, Sicily, Italy [ installation ]

08.2013 : Videoholica : Varna, Bulgaria. [ screening ]

11.2013 : Three Rivers Film Festival, competitive shorts program : Pittsburgh, PA. [ screening ]

12.2013 : 8th International Streaming Festival. The Hague, Netherlands. [ stream ]

02-03.2014 : VIDEO>transcends. CUNY QCC Art Gallery, Queens, NY. [ stream ]