A 1-bit rave (with no dancing)

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When in New York last month I was lucky enough to be invited to the advanced opening of Ryoji Ikeda’s mammoth video/audio installation the transfinite at the Park Avenue Armory. It’s a 40′ high screen, both imposing and overwhelming. The front side, entitled test pattern is a series of aggressive strobing black and white patterns flashing rapidly on both the screen and the floor. The ‘back’ side, both data.tron and data.scan, is a more subtle projection of a staggering amount of data, millions of digits represented in fonts no thicker than a pixel (at this scale, about 1/3″)  with individual table monitors spread throughout the room echoing parts of the data in greater detail. Both sides are augmented by a soundtrack of digital clicks and noise emanating from powerful speakers surrounding the room.

No images or video can replicate the sensation of being in that space, one that can alternate between amazement, disorientation, discomfort, and for some sensitive folks, just plain nausea. My wife could only stay in the room for short periods of time before stepping out for a break, and she didn’t dare actually step in the central area where the projection was on the floor as well (although that may have been because she didn’t feel like taking her shoes off.) It’s an impressive battering of your senses, one that strikes a chord for a tech geek like myself, (who was inspired to pursue a career in computer graphics after seeing Star Trek II as a kid. The visual displays of information all over the bridge of the Enterprise were just spellbinding.)

The 8-bit aesthetic (possibly even 1-bit? I’m trying to remember if there were any grays on the front side at all…) and digital artifact nature of the sound track reminded me of David O’Reilly’s lovely work in the short film Please Say Something. Standing in the transfinite is what I imagine an O’Reilly character experiences when they’re very agitated. Or when they’re at a rave.

 

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