The online editorial and curatorial project for systems, non-
Interview with James Irwin by Laura Davidson
©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock All rights reserved.
LD: Firstly, I’d like to start with an observation about your series RGB InstaWorks. They remind me somewhat of the 77k videos uploaded anonymously to YouTube last year, which were compositions of blue and red rectangular blocks.
These videos carried no explanation and caused some commentators to compare them to ‘the footage’ in William Gibson’s novel Pattern Recognition. Eventually, it was discovered that Google had developed them to test various elements of video quality. Although RGB InstaWorks have much richer colour fields and geometries, I’m really curious if there is some correlation here?
JI: Thanks for these, I haven’t seen them before -
RGB InstaRevolve (2014)
LD: You’ve also worked with Instagram filters off the screen; how does this process work? At what point did you decide to extract the Instagram filter from the screen?
JI: I started making the Instagram veneer works last year, before the moving image
pieces. At the time I was thinking about how filters applied to images in Instagram
have a normalising effect. A photograph put through an Instagram filter blurs reality
into a weird hybrid space, where the agency of the author is replaced by a new technological
agency. I’m interested in how technologies are designed to cancel out the noise -
The images printed onto the wooden veneers were made using Photoshop actions that
reproduce the effects of Instagram filters. Someone worked out how to replicate the
effects of filters like Mayfair and Walden in Photoshop, and put the files online.
If you apply the actions to transparent documents you end up with a certain hue,
or a vignette effect, which I had UV-
LD: So would could technologies, in an abstracted sense, be perceived as a reductive practice?
JI: Yes, I think so. Generally, when using software you are forced to work within
LD: Which must seem like a contradiction, when these logical systems seem to be capable of constantly generating material / data?
JI: Yes, I think it’s because it’s so reductive -
Silicon Progression (Binary Flicker)’ Still (2014)
LD: Silicon Progression (ii), 2014, selected for Generator, appears to be a direct reference to the material origins of computational culture. Can you talk us through this work?
JI: The moving image work that I am showing in Generator is from a set of animations that I made using single stock photos. The piece in Generator uses an image of a lump of raw silicon on a white background, repeated 8 times across the bottom of the screen.
Throughout the animation the 8 rocks systematically pulsate and flash. They are placeholders
for bits within a byte, and count from 0 to 255 – a full byte of data -
The binary progression is there to provide a script for the animation to follow -
LD: Who are the practitioners who influence you? Do you find that working processes / software / developments in technology drive what you create more so than other practitioners? Or is it a balance?
JI: At the moment I’ve been looking a lot at Anna Barham’s work. There was a great
I’m not really interested in letting developments in technology drive what I’m making
FaceBreak 1 (Degrade Regrade 10 per cent speed) Still (2015)
LD: What are you currently working on?
JI: I’ve been writing these predictive poems recently, using the predictive text
function in TextEdit on OSX Yosemite to make text works that are constricted by the
choice of words offered by the software. They’re presented as edited, cleaned-
Most of what I’m making at the moment examines the idea of automation, and how technologies
determine the choices we make day to day. I’ve been making these animations by linking
images through Google’s Search by Image. The pixels of each one have been manipulated
to make stills within animations that disrupt these hyperlinked narratives. I’ve
started using text-
As well as that, I’m using some Photoshop scripts I’ve written to make images come
in and out of screen resolution to censor web-
RGB InstaLapse Still (2014)