“Compressionism” – scanner performance art and printmaking


after experimenting with interactive technologies for performance of installation for a number of years I started an exercise where I wanted to invite non-technical visual thinkers into a creative process of production something that was akin to Jackson Pollock’s performance painting but in the digital space I wanted to give people who didn’t want to publicly perform or interact a way to be invited a way to appreciate a beautiful art object that was made through a process that was interactive but that was easily understood and transparent and didn’t ask too much of them the idea was to use a relatively simple digital tool to perform an image into existence Pollock used to perform being a painter he would take his paintbrushes with excess paint on them and wave them over the canvas dripping the image and the action into something that we could see besides from the fantasy-like aspect of his creation he made us feel like we could do it too you know there was something special about we wish we had thought of it first and it really told us something about the relationship between subjects objects and actions and the way they influenced one another in 2005 in Johannesburg I began by traversing gallery spaces with my scanner I would take my scanner and glide hover run swoop over walls windows and tables while my scanner head was in motion literally compressing these objects and images into something the size of a small sheet of paper and the textures that you would see were just unpredictable and beautiful and unbelievable and once it was virtualized into my computer I Driss Treach them to their original size so you could see the dynamism the refractions of my performance the works which ranged from looking abstract and ludic to almost photographic or fleshly started to look as if they could have belonged to historical movements in painting and I decided to go with that and started referencing such works in my scanning and printing processes I started going underneath surfaces around them in different sine wave formations and colouring and putting mild effects on some of the images in order to accent the relationships between my performance myself my subjects and the I was using through compression isms trans figurative process walls become geological events and trees mutate into atmospheric maps it’s a transformation of form texture and color in which flesh returns court and verdant slumbers while windows become fiery mosaics when I started going through my Monet phrase with compression ISM I needed to find more portability with my methodology ironically when I started to use the newer usb-powered scanners they tended to be too sensitive I would take the cover off and everything would go completely wide so I had to use this older scanner that I knew worked I wanted running into problems with power and size eventually Simon Kesh and I decided we needed to design an extension tool an appendage if you will I was already calling my scanner Jackson so this became action Jackson action permanently houses the scanner and allows me to strap in or remove a custom-made battery pack as well as my laptop I can safely go in 360 degrees to capture any space an object or object and we even carved out little handles for my hands and a little bit for my belly there’s clips so that I can strap it on to my belt strap it over my shoulders now and I just inches scanning in long straight lines across tables windows and walls I could tie the scanner around my neck and swing over flowers do pocket in jagged edges over bricks we’ll just follow the wind over water lilies and agapanthus each performative action produces a subsequent digital image that allows for continued callin response between the images subject my performance and my own eyes interpretation one of the funniest things about working out in public is that you have to necessitate answering questions I often get people stopping me asking if you know I was testing the chemical levels in the water somebody asked me about the floating Macintosh and once I told people what I was up to they were very keen to make suggestions about what I might scan in the future what would work good in keeping with the performative aspects of the series and its movement through various iterations and processes I’ve more recently begun to compose handmade compression aswer ‘kz as of 2006 I’ve been taking details from my digital files then we working them from other media Jill Ross the resident print maker at David crit workshop in Johannesburg has helped me to turn these into engravings lift the graph spit by it’s aqua tents and more these are 500 year old processes that add to the dynamic and the relational qualities of compression ISM the most interesting part for me has been the implicit dialog between my relatively fast performances with a scanner and the tedious attention to detail necessary to make a workshop plate compression ISM now I thought really needed some rules some guidelines a manifesto I thought was a bit much but I wanted to invite other artists into the exploratory space even if they wanted to work with text or video or sculpture so I decided that a compression erst would first capture or compressed through performing with a digital tool they would edit and extent that performance within a virtual space and then they would reconstitute in some kind of analogical or physical form what’s great about this project is that I managed to maintain the level of conceptual work I’ve always strived for and it’s still an interactive and inviting process but the end products are these beautiful art objects than anyone can appreciate

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