I explore the experience of the sublime using computation and the visual language of abstraction. My works are synthetic, painterly manifestations of software in the form of algorithmic animations, projection mapping, virtual reality, digital prints, and interactive iPhone applications.
Dating back to the Romantic era, the sublime is a concept that describes the overwhelming experience of being amongst incalculable greatness, the mixed sensation of awe and terror. Turner painted sublime depictions of nature, as did the Hudson River School in an effort to celebrate the untouched American landscape in the 19th century. In the early 1950s, Abstract Expressionist painters returned to the sublime with their large-scale immersive canvases. By employing the immeasurable possibilities of computation and the vast expanses of virtual worlds, I aim to create meditative and visceral works that invite viewers to experience that sensation again.
My medium, software, is a virtual (as opposed to a physical or real-world) tool that models and blends artistic practices that were once distinct. Transformed into parameterized algorithms, techniques from painting, photography, animation, and filmmaking now exist within a single software application–often at the click of a mouse. As a software programmer, one can re-interpret these techniques to their own ends, define how they interact with one another (in an endless "remix" of genres), and synthesize hybrid or entirely new forms in order to create unique perceptual experiences. In my work, I craft algorithms that generate painterly animations. My compositions are instructional and process-based; they are designed to operate in a open-ended manner and create a constant flow of change that mimics today's incomprehensible production of information.
My work embraces the simulated nature of the digital medium. Using custom algorithms, I synthesize bits and bytes using mathematical formulas and compose using vector graphics–the low-level geometry of computer graphics. By embracing the flat appearance of cell-based animation–as opposed modeling the high-resolution forms and textures of our physical world–my use of synthetic imagery is itself a digital form of abstraction.
Abstraction is a long-term personal obsession, one that started with childhood visits to Buffalo's Albright-Knox museum, where I first encountered the large canvases of Pollock and Rothko, and continued when I discovered the visual music of Jordan Belson and Oskar Fischinger at my university's library. After embarking on my own software art practice in the early 2000s, abstraction became a technique for appropriating and re-interpreting pre-existing media such as photographs "found" on the Internet and Hollywood films–for creating expressive compositions out of bitmap data.
More recently, I've been writing algorithms to create painterly abstractions that unfold in 3D virtual worlds, a playful contradiction to the motivations of Modernist abstract painters, many of whom sought to break from the chains of perspective vision. Virtual environments are contemporary spaces that exist without the limitations of the physical world. Their lack of boundaries parallels the expansiveness of digital information (boundlessness is another defining aspect of the sublime). Using virtual cameras, these 3D graphics applications continuously guide viewers' gaze along an endless journey through vast worlds filled with amorphous forms–as if the were infinitely scrolling through their data feeds, always wanting more.