In writing this review, Dear Reader, it has been difficult to retain a narrative thread. Each work at ONLY REAL, Public Works latest exhibition, seems to reference another work in the exhibition while simultaneously opening up further implications and complications in a seemingly endless cascade of elusive meaning, contributing to a feeling that each explication is about to collapse in on itself. This feeling of anxiety of collapse is an apt affect for a series of visual explorations of the invisible. To start, Darst interrogates photographic constructions through 3D rendering while Jellitsch makes visible WiFi signals, yet both of these statements are extremely reductive.
Mesh grids of one sort or another fill most of the wall space of the second floor gallery that is situated off the city street vertex of Six Corners in Wicker Park. Rolling plains, sharp peaks, steep shadows and colorful caves are modeled, sketched and rendered. While the work of Peter Jellitsch and Theodore Darst may appear similar, the curiosities that drive their production approach from different points, coming to an intersection of mutual interest in the fields of invisible environments rendered visible. Helen Koh, co-curator along with Wallo Villacorta, in an email described the exhibit as beginning with the idea of simulation. “Both Peter and Theo play around with this idea of simulation by generating their own. This idea for both artists plays a huge part in their artistic process – whether they are directly dealing with the concept (Peter and wifi data) or not – and is manifested into a visual reality, made possible by the artists for the rest of us.”
Peter Jellitsch’s Data Drawings consist of shakily hand-drawn grids whose narrows and apices lend depth and content to the picture plane. Jellitsch then paints in shadows with black acrylic, in Data Drawing #6, #7 and #8, roughly wrought black blocks frame the peaks and troughs, gesturing towards minimalism as a style that took on visualizations of aesthetic systems while simultaneously evoking black out zones that may exist on the periphery of these data networks. In Data Drawing #6, a figure taken from a theoretical physics book acts as a legend of sorts. Jellitsch has been working with WiFi data visualizations since 2011 when he started collecting WiFi frequency data for his Bleeker Street Documents project. The visualization of WiFi, while by no means novel, is approached from a different angle with this series’ emphasis on shadow, expanding Jellitsch’s take on the blending planes of the real as WiFi very much affects our experience in both additive and subtractive ways (eg.: fuck, there’s no wifi).
Peter Jellitsch, Reference Shelf, 2013. Wooden shelf (37.4 x 12.8 in. mounted on wall), inkjet print (framed, 11.8 x 19.7 in.), data object (milled Ureol model, 9.8 x 9.8 in.), inkjet print (11.8 x 27.6 in); Courtesy of the artist and Public Works.
Reference Shelf is the figural legend of his work. The pencils the artist used to create Data Drawings are depicted on-end to create peaks and valleys of their own—a new topography from the act of topographical creation. The artist has photoshopped his hand into the otherwise pristine black-and-white image to provide a connection to the works on the wall. Weighted by the frame of the image, a 27.6 inch-long inkjet print of the recognizable halftone grid that signifies transparency in Photoshop rolls off the shelf. Weighting the other corner of the transparent signifier is a milled Ureol model of the topography created by the en pointe pencils. This series of representations is a kind of conceptual vanishing point, at once presenting points of conceptual origin as well as representative abstractions through reorganizing and reframing the object of representation.
Theodore Darst’s works begin with the frame and bring it to life as he interrogates both the frame and the object of focus. In the Desert. At the Movies is his first installation piece that makes use of known characters he has worked with in the past while bringing a digital work into a physical context. Projected onto a digitally printed sheet with a projection area that is screen-printed with a blue grid, a short looped animation of blue-purple pulsing sneakers, a PS 2 gaming system and a projector rotate in space in front of animated stock footage taken from desert scenes in Algeria. The frame pulses with the same blue-purple light as the objects take turns rotating slowly in the virtual plane. The sneakers and PS 2 are familiar objects in Darst’s work and in this instance are imbued with a pulsing life that calls to the fore commercial fetishization as the projector, or “beamer”, seems to not only be a reflection of the source of projected light but a comment on the fetishization of the new-media world’s favorite event, the BYOB – Bring-Your-Own-Beamer – an event that at one time was a practice in community building but has now become synonymous with curated shows of projected new media work.
Theodore Darst, In the Desert. At the Movies, 2014, 64x42 in., Digitally printed cotton, screen-printed cotton, HD video; Courtesy of the artist and Public Works.
Float Aerial, an HD3 video loop mounted on the wall starts with a wire frame that evolves and devolves into various states of representation. The perspective is that of a flyover, reminiscent of the kind of perspective gained in flight simulation games, with a soundtrack provided by Violet Systems. The overall effect of the work is narrative, the structure of the narrative provided by the affected motion engendered by the shifting gaps between the vertices of the rendered wire frame as well as the soundtrack which follows a rise and fall structure punctuated by deep beats and high percussive tinks like peaks and troughs. Float Aerial is especially notable for creating a space that is neither close nor far, the images at times being reminiscent of cell walls under the gaze of a scanning electron microscope. The created space again pulses, playing a game of perception through mathematical reorganization.
The two prints by Darst, Benghazi and Hippy. Neighbor. focus in on the patterns created in Float Aerial and are adjusted digitally into renderings that call up the optical illusions functioning within a photographic practice. As an artist that sources his practice from programs like Cinema 4D, the manipulation of points and lines to create space has led to an affinity and interest in photographic conventions and constructs. Speaking with Darst at the gallery, he alluded to this progression in his work by presenting two questions that have guided him as of late: “How can I look at this in terms of photography? How can I fake things using depth of field, camera angles, lighting?”
Simulation and visualization are by no means the same thing but often they are considered as such and it could be argued that they serve the same function in a regime of the hyperreal— simulations/visualizations mistaken for the object proper. Darst’s work seeks out this vertex, the moment where visualization bleeds over into the plane of simulation: “at a certain point the distance stops being closeness and closeness becomes more determined by the depth of field or the focus… that moment when you are moving so close to a real-looking object from a point where it was so clearly constructed.”
That’s the moment, where it’s all about to come together and simultaneously fall apart.
(Image on top: Peter Jellitsch, Data Drawing #7 and Data Drawing #8 , 2013, Crayon and Acrylic on Paper, 42.8 x 57.7 in.; Courtesy of the artist and Public Works.)