Artist Statement: The Stuff of Nightmares

Stuff of Nightmares - IT

Check out the project here.

It’s Halloweeen time—at least it is at the time of me posting this project. And I’ve been thinking a bit about the troubling and even terrifying experiences I’ve had with movies.

I’m no psychologist, but I can imagine that it is a part of healthy psychological development to develop and eventually overcome fears, especially through childhood and adolescence. Whether it be spiders or snakes, death or the dark—we find things that frighten us. And then we face those things.

My son Damon is no fan of the dark. That’s not uncommon for 6 year-olds. He is also terrified of zombies. That’s my fault. I introduced him to a series of Mickey Mouse cartoons, one of which includes a horror-film parody in which Mickey’s car breaks down in some dark woods, and an un-dead Goofy terrorizes (and eventually assists) the mouse. Now the dark is scary not just because it’s dark, but because it gives the zombies a place to hide.

The Stuff of Damon’s Nightmares

That unfortunate experience as a parent got me thinking about the role of media in our development of fears. Damon didn’t know to be afraid of zombies until the sunken-eyed, partially-decomposed Goofy showed up onscreen. If we took inventory of our fears—especially as children—how many of them are due to exposure to scary scenes in movies? And inversely, if we consider the moments in movies that traumatized us the most, what does that say about our fears, ourselves?

So, here is the stuff of my nightmares—little snippets of scenes that left indelible marks on my young psyche. This is the stuff that visited me night after night in my dreams, and sometimes worse—kept me from the relief of sleep. Curating these moments has given me a chance to reflect on the things I’ve feared, and still fear, and in so doing has helped me understand my insecurities, my values, and myself a bit better.

Now it’s your turn. Please contribute the moments from movies that made up your nightmares. Include an animated GIF along with a brief explanation of the significance of the scene. Maybe this project can work as a community exorcism of the demons that movies have introduced to our dreams.

Artist Statement: a_glitch_aint_01

Check out the project here.

I started this project long before any pronouncements about “Becky with the good hair,” back when Jay’s problems did not include public (and kind of astoundingly artful) criticism from his boo, the most powerful woman in popular culture. But that’s not central to this project’s point.

a_glitch_aint_01 is about learning to embrace the tensions and limitations, within media and art. And the glitch aesthetic is a productive way of getting at that idea. Contemporary media is dominated by filtered and photoshopped, airbrushed and auto-tuned representations of reality so that culturally we’ve constructed a standard for beauty, and even of reality, that is hyperreal.

The glitch is a visual manifestation of the breakdown of the technological processes used to produce this hyperreality. We get a peek at the man behind the curtain; the apparatus is revealed; and guts begin to seep and spill on the floor. But there is an alternative form of beauty in this transparency. The glitch not only functions as a critique of polished, perfected media culture, but it forwards an argument about the value of imperfections, limitations, ‘happy accidents.’

For example, while I created these images by adding, subtracting, rearranging, and remixing the characters in the code of the image (using a texteditor as well as this cool online glitch generator), many were further manipulated when I uploaded them to this site. And in some ways, the tension between these 1st- and 2nd- order glitches makes the project even more interesting to me.

So, here’s the original image, my glitched image, and the image that wound up on the site. It’s interesting how WordPress dug up Z from the pixelated pink sunset that I glitched together.  It’s like the image upload protocol became my co-creator, asserting its own aesthetic intentions on my work.

jayz black album originala_glitch_aint_01 originala_glitch_aint_01

I’m using Jay-Z’s album, and song title, to demonstrate this alternative perspective on art and culture for a couple of reasons.

  • First, it’s pretty exciting to see the cascades of colored pixels that come forth when you manipulate an almost entirely black image.
  • Second, Jay-Z’s song seems to make the argument that while his success hasn’t eliminated his problems, among them is not a ‘bitch’. Likewise, while I encounter a number of obstacles in creating art, among them is not a ‘glitch.’
  • Third–and maybe this is where we circle back to Queen Bey–while I’m unsure whether Jay-Z’s use of the word ‘bitch’ is deliberately derogatory or just a common (yet unfortunate) colloquialism, I like the idea–forwarded by feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem among others–that women might re-appropriate the term, emptying it of its misogynistic meaning, and wielding it as a weapon in the fight for gender equality. Listen to Bitch Media founder Andi Zeisler discuss their use of the term.

My own reclamation of the word ‘glitch’ has far less gravity, but I find the political possibilities of this type of postmodern play to be pretty powerful (sextuple word score!). I would hope that efforts to find the beauty in the glitch will not only produce good art, but allow us to reimagine beauty in contemporary culture. Here’s a cool thing to end this post: