by Carlos Antonio Piñón
May 30, 2019
Chances are, if you were to ask any artist you know about the importance of iteration, you'd reach the same conclusion. Sometimes a project started one year isn't finished until several years later, and other times, it never is. Historically, it's just the way it is. If you're anything like William Blake, sometimes you'll keep revising your work every time to look at it until the day you die. For me, as an artist and a person, the idea that we are always growing as people is important, and it's reflected in our art, too. As time goes on, we become better artists with new, key insights to our work. One excellent example of this is my piece, "Wind," which started in the spring of 2015.
As a sophomore at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), I was enrolled in a humanities course called "Contemporary American Literature: Writing Technologies." This class began at the dawn of writing with Plato and ended with choose your own adventure games made using Twine. After all, the way people as a whole think about and consume writing changes over time, too. One of the first things we tackled was imagist poetry—and yes, I'm talking about Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro." In an attempt to write my own imagist poem that directly treats the "thing" while using no superfluous words that is natural to human speech, I wrote two poems. The first is "Wind," which is as follows:
The sigh of planetary distress
from rotating, orbiting.
Did I successfully write an imagist poem? Well, I don't claim to be an expert, but it wouldn't matter anyway because I fucking loved the shit out of what I wrote. As someone who doesn't know how to shut up, I loved the brevity of the poem. What I didn't like, however, was how the poem looked on the page. In fact, it might've best been served off the page somehow, perhaps in a large-scale installation of some kind. Instead of that ever happening, the project was shelved.
Over a year later in the summer of 2016, I took a studio-based art history class called "Making the Wor(l)d Visible" at Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists' Residency in Saugatuck, Michigan. In that class, we studied all the ways we encounter text in our daily lives from messages on our phones to ads on billboards. We then took a careful look at the ways artists have historically incorporated or otherwise responded to text as medium similarly to how we view paint or graphite. It was then that we experimented with using gestures to write, rather than using words. To do so, we used sumi ink on various sizes of paper in order to understand how writing small differs from writing large.
After playing with ink and goofing around with a typewriter, which I also bought while in Saugatuck, I came back to SAIC with a new perspective to my art practice. After all, up until this point in time, I had never considered myself a painter. While I still don't, I have to admit that I enjoy my Jackson Pollock influence in getting real messy with ink.
It wasn't until the spring of 2017 when I started a "Concrete Poetry" class with my longtime mentor, Mark Booth, that my poem would finally find its place. I whipped out the watercolor paper and sumi ink then went to town on my typewriter. When all is said and done, it was a beautiful representation of the galaxy in which a planet may sigh from rotating and orbiting.
Okay, I know what you're thinking, and no, the poem didn't suddenly become a concrete poem, or even a visual poem for that matter. It wasn't an imagist poem, and ultimately, it wasn't writing from gesture, either. It became a representational piece of art with text literally slapped onto it with glue. And I fucking loved it. Ezra Pound would expel me from his imagist club, but William Blake would welcome me with open arms.
Had I stopped there, it would have been perfectly fine. Instead, the Blake in me opened up Audacity on my computer and glitched the fuck out of that piece, and if it wasn't already overkill enough, there wasn't a single version of the glitched image that I liked as a whole. When I applied the echo filter to the piece, it produced a repeating pattern with the black splatter ink, and an excellent yellow in the surrounding area. However, the rest of the image was a mostly grey and dull background. There wasn't enough popping out in the image.
When I applied an invert filter, it produced an awesome blue color around the splatter with a pretty and darkened background, but the splatter itself was an uninteresting light grey, whiteish blob. While everyone has their own taste and interests, for me, glitch art is about the decisions you make. After all, as a painter, you would choose the type of paint, the type of painting tool, and the style of painting. With glitch art, you are choosing which effect you want to apply, and whether it is going on the whole track or just part of a track. You could even decide if you want to edit two tracks at the same time.
Up until the creation of this piece, if I glitched anything at all, I would leave the combination of effects be the artwork. There had never been a need to continually manipulate the image. However, with this one, since I liked a little of two separate effects, I knew I needed to break out of the "purity" of glitch art. Though this piece was already a physical collage, it became a digital collage, too, as I painstakingly combined all the parts I liked together to create this singular image. Together, the black of the ink splatter took command of the image while the blue and yellow give that dull background some nice pops of color. (And, of course, I gave the poem on the bottom right a little help so that it was legible, but hey, that's just how it is sometimes.)
This piece had the single worst critique I've ever had in my life, only made better due to the fact that it was my birthday. Before this critique, I've had bad work, sure, with insightful commentary. Even the quiet critiques where not much was said were better. The problem this guy had with the piece was hardly about the piece at all, rather, it was about glitch art as a genre. He essentially asked why this piece had to be glitch art, rather than being anything else. I already didn't like this guy, but my response was something along the lines of, well, why is anything anything? When you make a painting with paint, why do you use paint? This did not go well, as he then specified that, in his own personal opinion, glitch art is a genre, and this piece didn't do anything to reinvent it much like how pastoral paintings do nothing more for painting than look pretty.
Sure, one could say that. But for the rest of us who aren't pretentious, we don't gotta reinvent the wheel every art piece. Hell, every piece doesn't have to be a masterpiece either. And we certainly didn't have to spend twenty minutes circling this discussion with almost nothing said by anyone else. Sometimes, it's fine to experiment and do the work that'll inform a better piece later. But also, there's nothing wrong with making beautiful work that says nothing. Art doesn't have to be pretty and art doesn't have to be meaningful. Art doesn't have to be anything. Plus, who cares what that guy says. I ran into him once at a coffee shop when I was on a date and he made me the most disgusting drink possible. Maybe that's why the planet's sighing all the time.