Phillip Stearns & the Year of the Glitch
This month, Tumblr took part in a project called Art Takes Times Square, where Artists Wanted gave us the opportunity to feature a Tumblr artist on a Times Square billboard. We chose Phillip Stearns from Year of the Glitch. Tonight (Monday, June 18, 7-11pm), check out Stearns’ “DCP Series” far larger than life above the Times Square crowds (plus a performance by Twin Shadow). Stearns lives in Brooklyn and works out of a studio in Bushwick. He currently has work available at Eyebeam and showing at Camera Club New York. Before you go though, wouldn’t it be enlightening to learn just how Stearns creates his work?
Take apart a digital camera, and you’ll see wires, a circuit board, some thingamabobs, doo-dads. Phillip Stearns sees a lot more: a new way to make art.
In his “DCP Series,” Stearns explores the Kodak DC series of low-res digital cameras. He takes apart and rewires the cameras to invert their own processes — taking a picture of what goes on inside the camera’s “mind.”
“When a [digital] image is captured,” Stearns explains, “it exists as an encoded hash of zeros and ones. It’s not fixed by any means and can be transformed radically with only a few minor alterations to the raw data.”
What he gets is a glitch:
“These glitches are made by short circuiting various electronic components responsible for image processing in a digital camera,” he says.
It helps that Stearns has a background in engineering. But to the outsider’s eye, it helps that his work looks pretty cool, too.
“I’m curious,” he explains when asked what inspires his work. For Stearns, these glitch projects are a way of exploring how things work, and then empowering himself to create something new with the everyday objects from various times in his life.
“The aim of my process is to crack open technological objects with the intent of extending the range of possibilities for expression,” Stearns says.
Stearns also works with busted laptops, CD players, scanners, manual typewriters, and old products of the Texas Instruments variety. He makes electronic glitch music in addition to his art and sells blanket versions of his prints.
His Tumblr is more or less an extension of the “DCP Series.”
“I started the Year of the Glitch project as a way to challenge myself to do more with glitch art,” says Stearns, “to not only explore the techniques, but to find ways of making the glitches meaningful, to find ways that glitches can enrich, expand, or complicate meaning and understanding.”
Stearns uses a wide range of techniques for the works on Year of the Glitch. “039 of 366,” above, went through a process called “databending.” This piece started as a completely white 4000x4000 pixel image, but once Stearns messed with those encoded 0s and 1s, he revealed the image’s colorful wonder.
“I feel it’s important not to allow technology as it’s handed to me determine what I can say or how I say it,” he says, “it’s the difference between letting the machine speak for you and you speaking through the machine.”
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