“It is evident that no mention can be made of anything unless it is named”
—Epes Sargent’s, “The Standard Speller,” 1857
“What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”
— Ludwig Wittgenstein, the last sentence of “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”, 1922
JTT is pleased to announce its third solo show with Damon Zucconi, Imagine a World Without You. Included in the exhibition are websites programmed by the artist displayed on televisions, laptops, and iPhones, as well as a series of UV cured prints on the walls. The title implies a directive to the viewer, but it also is a directive that systems as ubiquitous as spell check take by automatizing corrections to human based errors.
Yieldings is a website series displayed on laptops. The site is divided into two parallel inputs, a left and a right. On the left, typing is simulated in real time. The text typed is from Epes Sargent’s 1857 schoolbook, The Standard Speller, which sought to teach children how to spell at a time during English-language spelling reform. A teacher would read aloud from the book to a class and the children would write the spelling by hand. Sargent states in the book, “the representative and anomalous words of the English language are so classified as to indicate their pronunciation, and to be fixed in the memory by association.” In Zucconi’s Yieldings, as text is typed, misspellings occur and are then deleted by backspace and corrected. Common typographical errors are modeled and applied: in one case, including an internal keyboard representation where strokes have specific probabilities of missing and striking a neighboring key. These mistakes are packaged and distributed by Zucconi as an open-source programming library he titles humanization. As it is designed to consider likeliness and probability, if the same text is inserted into the program twice, it would produce two unique sets of misspellings. The right input in Yieldings is all of the letters deleted when correcting the spelling of a word. In Zucconi’s words, “a hidden text is revealed”.
Also on view is a new series of prints, which Zucconi created by downloading on-model photographs from a fashion e-commerce website and processing them using custom-written software. The software breaks images down into fine grids and then re-assembles them, interlacing the fragments as sequences mixed with fields of pure color, creating composites without changes in opacity. The result is a visual contradiction; although the ghostly images comprise dense layers of tens of torsos, they appear transparent. Here, as in Yieldings, parts of the source material are separated, extracted, and then woven together to produce new forms. These images are then compressed a final time in the process of UV printing, which uses light to adhere ink directly onto its substrate.
Boredom is Deep and Mysterious, displayed on two screens, reflects on entries to Quora.com—a site where questions are asked, answered, and edited by 300 million monthly active users. Zucconi, programed a spider (also known as a “crawler” or “bot”) to read its pages, pull questions at random and compile them on an hourly basis around the clock. Boredom is Deep and Mysterious presents this database of questions (which has reached hundreds of thousands) in a graphically simple layout of a black background and white text, while an automated agent selects questions at random, wandering from topic to topic. Unaltered, Quora.com is a sort of litany, a highly structured call and response that spans across a vast community. Zucconi’s edit isolates questions from their answers, revealing a condensed desire to communicate with the world.
Throughout his broader practice, Zucconi has focused on randomness beginning with his iconic 2007 work http://sometimesredsometimesblue.com/ — a site that simulates a coin flip to produce either a red screen or a blue screen randomly. Zucconi has also isolated words from their meaning in works in his second show with the gallery titled http://dictionary.red/, http://dictionary.blue/, and http://dictionary.black/. These works separate definitions from words in the same way that questions are isolated from their answers in Boredom is Deep and Mysterious. Zucconi strips language from the personal, while also giving space to pause on query itself—a somewhat romantic reminder that computer programs are sets of instructions to a machine and systems for dialogue between one human being and another.
“If your thoughts and passions were directly present to me, like my own, without any mark of externality or otherness, how should I distinguish them from mine?”
—C.S. Lewis, “ The Problem of Pain”