Yesterday night i was in Gijón eating tortillas de patatas from dust till dawn, and taking notes and pictures at the opening of Laboral‘s new exhibition, El proceso como paradigma – Process Becomes Paradigm. The show reflects the shift in contemporary art and culture from finished, stable objects to processes. Flourishing beyond the limits imposed by the market, this art is in continuous flux and execution, that has a life of its own, that grows, changes and decays. Curated by Susanne Jaschko and Lucas Evers, El proceso como paradigma echoes pertinently the unpredictable, uncertain, and complex times we are living. It might take me a few days to gestate the first lines of a detailed report about the exhibition but let me share with you one of the most striking works i saw at Laboral:
Marloes de Valk and Aymeric Mansoux‘s Hello Process! is a machine that performs the usual tasks: deleting, copying, swapping and moving blocks of data. The computer functions is the usual black box theatre of processes. Its activity is only betrayed by an old printer that spits up a file of 128 blocks as soon as it is created. As the artists explains:
In this file, each block can be occupied by a small piece of code. Every piece of code has its own strategy. Some try to conquer as many blocks as possible, others simply target one specific piece of code or an unsuspecting neighbour. When the process is set in motion, all blocks are executed one after the other. This results in a battle between the file’s inhabitants. After forty iterations, a fresh file is created with a new combination of code.
Each piece of code has a special ID. This ID is sent to the printer every time the block is loaded in which the code is residing. Each printed line represents the result of one battle cycle. 128 small graphical representations of code are printed. This process repeats 40 times, creating a map of abstract patterns depicting the changes that took place.
There is some duality in this theatre of naive and nonproductive computation. We like to think of processes as actors in a machine theatre, playing with anthropomorphism and metaphors to trigger the imagination. Each piece of code has a descriptive name such as copycat, eraserhead, destroyer, or swapmaster, and displays behaviour to match. But at the same time these programs are just mechanical low level operations, totally inhuman. In the end the computer “computes” and the printer “prints” as a debug device and leaves on paper the only trace of these ephemeral permutations.
The machine churns out its paper and text non-stop. The data patterns change with each printing following a logic and language you can’t master. The printer is located on the top floor of the exhibition space and the paper quietly comes dropping towards the floor below.
El proceso como paradigma – Process Becomes Paradigm is on view at Laboral Art and Industrial Creation Centre in Gijón until August 30, 2010.