- Client: City of Toronto, Metrolinx
- Site: Several sites along the West Toronto Railpath for the upcoming Union Pearson Express air rail link.
- Role: Artist
- Collaborator: Michael M. Simon (Co-creator)
From a certain perspective, three mosaics appear as rectangular “screens” on a noise wall alongside the Union Pearson Express, the top of each “screen” truncated as it intersects with the view of the real space above the wall.
The image presented on the mosaic screen is a pixelated image of the landscape directly through the wall. By representing the space beyond the wall, the artwork relates to each site in two different ways: first of all, as a sort of “invisibility cloak,” affording a view as though the wall itself were immaterial; and secondly, as a visual record of that site in a specific moment in time.
Dot_JPG is a series of tile mosaic murals that explore the intersection of —and incongruity between — real and digital experiences. Using ¾ inch vitreous glass tiles to translate digital photographs of the Queen West and Liberty Village neighbourhoods into brightly coloured, pixelated patterns, the installations combine a rumination on modern technology with traditional materials. This project comments on the contemporary methods we use documenting the world around us, and translates those ephemeral techniques into a lasting work of art. In this way, Dot_JPG creates a contemplative and interactive visual experience for the art-savvy residents of Canada’s most celebrated art district.
The mosaics appear — from a certain perspective — as rectangular “screens” on the noise wall. Each mosaic appears in the same aspect ratio as a standard high-definition screen, but with the top of the screen truncated as it intersects with the view of the real space above the wall. The image presented on the mosaic screen is a pixelated image of the landscape directly through the wall. By representing the space beyond the wall, the artwork relates to each site in two different ways: first of all, as a sort of “invisibility cloak”, affording a view as though the wall itself were immaterial; and secondly, as a visual record of that site in a specific moment in time. It is the second function of the artwork, the archival function, which weaves into the concept of the artwork.
Each mosaic privileges a specific viewpoint — subtly marked on the site —from which the pixelated image on the artwork lines up perfectly with the natural view beyond. At the top of the noise wall, a border exists between the view above the wall, and the trompe l’oeil image on the mosaic screen. As the viewer moves away from these privileged points, or as the real-life backdrop changes over time, her view slides out of phase with the perspective of the image. The lived experience of the space and the digital record of it become incongruent. A “glitch” is therefore created; encouraging viewers to consider how digital representation mediates their experience in the world.
//CONCEPT: CONTEMPORARY METHODS OF DOCUMENTATION
In the past, the documentation of moments in history was a luxury that could be commissioned by few. To ensure that the documentation would endure, it was executed through physical materials such as paint, marble, stone, or bronze. The majority of public art remains rooted in this tradition.
In any art medium which requires a significant amount of space and material resouces, what we choose to document and how we document it are important reflections of culture in a particular moment.
Today the tools of this documentation have been democratized. With the affordability of digital cameras, tablets and smartphones, we are able to quickly and easily document every lived experience: family vacations, brunch, today’s outfit. Perpetual documentation has become a condition of our contemporary culture — we tend to experience the world through the viewfinders on our phones, yet, almost counter-intuitively, to ensure that these experiences will endure, we make them immaterial: digitizing them, and saving them to the online world, or into a “cloud.”
One of the major themes in this work is the juxtaposition of the digital record and the real experience. By setting the pixelated image of the neighborhood right up against the real thing, we hilight the persistence of the digital filter through which we see the world.
//CONCEPT: GLITCH THEORY
In 2011, theorist and artist Rosa Menkman published a nine-page essay entitled Glitch Studies Manifesto. The document describes and examines an emerging art style that uses errors occurring in digital and analog technology — glitches, skips, interference and the like–to create a visual aesthetic. In explaining the function of aestheticizing these digital shortcomings, Menkman claims:
“[The glitch] forces the audience to move away from the traditional discourse around a particular technology and to ask questions about its meaning. Through this void, artists can critique digital media and spectators can be forced to recognize the inherent politics behind the codes of digital media.”
By building such a “glitch” into this sculpture, the artwork achieves a similar effect.
//CONCEPT: PRESERVATION AS GLITCH
While the Queen West and Liberty Village neighborhoods can expect to change significantly in the coming years, the artworks Dot_JPG remains a static document of the site at this specific moment in time. Seasons and weather will alter the landscape, buildings may be erected and torn down, and other urban renewal projects will change the streetscape. As the view beyond the artworks changes, it becomes incongruent with the image that frames it. The real view and the digital image fall out of sync, and another type of glitch is created.
//CONCEPT: THE TECHNOLOGICAL RECORD
Similarly, as time passes, the way we record everyday moments will be improved. Technologies will shift, screen resolutions will improve; future residents may even document their lives through 3-dimensional holograms rather than 2-dimensional images. As this component of the project also slides out of phase, Dot_JPG will endure too, as an anthropological record of the very specific way we experience, interact with, and document the world in 2014.
//MATERIALS AND METHODS
Because part of the artwork’s concept is revealed through time, it is executed in materials which are capable of greatly exceeding
the 5-year warranty period specified in the project document.
The mosaic tiles are made of vitreous glass–a durable material resistant to weather conditions, extreme temperatures, and vandalism. It is created from 98% pre-consumer recycled material, earth-friendly, vibrant, and rated for commercial floor and exterior applications. (A specification sheet for the tile is attached to this document.)
The noise wall will be prepared with a mortar scratch coat to even out any irregularities before the tiles are applied. An exterior grade adhesive is then applied between the dried skim coat and the tiles. Finally, a sacrificial clear coat may be applied to further protect the work from vandalism. The project should not have any significant maintenance or upkeep requirements. In rare instances of damage, tiles can be replaced on an individual basis. An attic stock of tiles will be provided.