Appropriation to Abstraction

In the example below I have used a digitized version of famous Leonardo da Vinci painting, The Mona Lisa. The painting is dated somewhere between 1503 and 1506. “The Mona Lisa is one of the most recognizable artistic paintings in the Western world.” (Wikipedia/The_Arts)

Upon digitization the work of art becomes a series of numerical values represented in a two dimensional matrix of picture elements, also known as pixels. This structural element seems rigid, because of it’s absolute values, but it is more malleable than we might think. Each pixel of the 12,159,315 (x: 2835px / y: 4289px) consisting the “original copy” (downloaded from Wikimedia Commons,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouched.jpg) can become autonomous within the matrix, and break away of it’s traditional boundaries, the photographic frame.

Kim Asendorf has written and published code in the programming language, Processing that interprets  an image file as a series of pixels on the x and y axis and provides three different functions to sort the pixels in different order than the original. Pixels are sorted by brightness, black, and white values. The results can be seen below, where by further experimentation with his code, and a few iterations later, The Mona Lisa, becomes an abstract visual form.

At this point, where the “original” has been deprived of its initial form, and the indexical nature of the photograph becomes ambiguous, I seek to provoke discussion on the importance of copyright.

Note: The particular file belongs in the public domain, and all derivatives produced I do not wish to copyright.
The subject that interests me is the concept of ownership, authorship and intellectual property.

For bandwidth purposes I have re-sampled the “original copies” to smaller, hence “lighter” in byte size, versions. Each of these versions consist of 165,000 pixels. (x: 330px / y: 500px) I encourage you to make more copies of these and remix them in ways you prefer.

Unphotographable Phiction (sic)

Working alone, you should choose one of Michael David Murphy’s “Unphotographable” posts and create a multimedia narrative. You should use your own images, new or from your archive and you should create an accompanying soundscape.
Please upload the pieces by next session to vimeo and tag it #phonar.


I went through all Micheal’s writing of a picture he did not take. I could not find one that related visually with my work so far, and I did not have time to make something new.

credit where credit is due
I have been a supporter of Creative Commons for some time and use the licensing scheme for all of my published work. I am aware of the capacity for creation of the remix culture and appropriation, and always happy to see one using my photographs to enhance their story. What I have never done so far was to tap into the massive archives of online content. There are archives of music, sound, video, photographs and anything you can imagine licensed under more flexible terms than “All Rights Reserved” allows. Creative Commons is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s been around since 2001 (founded by Lawrence Lessig) and belongs to a network of license agreements, most software oriented (GNU GPL, BSD, MIT, ODbL, MPL), but all free. Richard Stallman, software freedom activist and computer programmer, argues the definition of “free as in freedom, not as free beer” (Gratis vs. Libre). In the same spirit Creative Commons has created variety of agreements than instead of reserving all the rights of the author on the work, are permissive. Think Creative Commons as pizza recipe. Attribution (abr. BY) is the base. The available toppings are as follows: Noncommercial (abr. NC) that blocks commercial use,  No Derivatives (abr. ND) which does allow any remix, Share Alike (abr. SA) asks for sharing under the same conditions.

Many creatives and artists have embraced the power of this way of licensing and internet companies too! Many user generated content websites have given multiple licensing options to the users, or better say producers of content, the most popular being Creative Commons. (YouTube and Vimeo, Soundcloud, Flickr /,,

For this task I have created a super remix entirely from other people’s work. I have used five different sound recordings sourced from These are environmental sounds from cities. I did search under these terms: city, traffic, New York, noise, car engine, coins, falling, car window, electric window, footsteps, pedestrians
I started by combining the sound into one. When I exported in file, I moved on searching for photographs on Flickr. I searched under these terms: New York, Manhattan, limousine, morning, people, walking

When I collected all the content, I categorized and label everything, kept creator names, links to the originals, links to the creators profile and the actual files attached. The audio served as the base layer on which I built on top.

I should also mention that for the first time I though trying something new! I documented my progress on a google document and made it public and shared on twitter. I invited people to observe me working live, making notes, sourcing material. I left the comments on to enable the audience to participate.

For full attribution on the sounds and photographs used + my methodology check the document. It’s still open so you can comment if you wish!

Dream portfolio edit

Choose 6 photographs you would put in a dream portfolio that inspire you or influence your work.
Click on images to view source.

Simon Norfolk – Supercomputers, IBM BlueGene L
I chose this photograph because of the subject. Since my very first interaction with computers I have been fascinated with their application one way or the other.
I stronly believe the invention of Computers and the Internet are only equivalent to the wheel, electricity and plastic. Computers though are not necessarily used in all useful and moral applications. That is the subject of Norfolk’s “The Supercomputers”. The servers depicted below are part of IBM’s BlueGene L, which spends a lot of it’s time to design America’s Nuclear weapons. The second important reason I pick this photograph is the aesthetics. I like the relation of the converging lines, with the ones that make up the frame. This photograph hopefully sums up my fascination with perfect framing of the subject and minimalism. I usually spend a lot of time compositing my frame in order to produce an absolute result. Relative some times appears better, but absolute can have a somewhat more unreal feeling.
Bart van Damme – Maasvlakte (flickr)

Bart van Damme is a  Dutch artist who photographs man-made landscapes. His latest project (book) in Maasvlakte area documents the extension of the Port of Rotterdam which is built on reclaimed land. Many parts of the Netherlands are below sea level and massive engineering works have been undertaken over the years to reclaim major parts. I have particularly chosen the photograph because of my fascination with industrial buildings and nature. Bart’s framing and composition of a subject is very similar to how I would do and this is a reason for appreciating his landscapes. Most of his photographs give off a peaceful and ethereal feeling. Some times they even look like paintings, which reminds me of Pictorialism.

Matthias Heiderich “Heartbeatbox” (flickr)
I discovered Matthias on flickr and ever since I have favourited many of his photographs. I chose this lamp posts composite so I can show you in context why I like them. Again, if you take a look at the way he photographs buildings, they are distinguished by a minimalistic and almost unreal, “retro-futuristic” feel. The colour hues and saturation are quite consistent throughout his work, like if he is using a specific lookup table, or color profile. Or maybe he is?
Hugh Manon “eaubscene” – cachemash (flickr)
eaubscene creates mostly glitch aesthetics like the one below. Glitch is when a machine, computer does not operate as it should. In this this image the glitch artefacts are created with help from an old version of Photoshop where a bug is exploited to cashemash. This image is probably a mash of a still from a film and a glitched image. I chose the image because of the glitch aestetics which is a subject I have been researching for about 2 years, practicing as well. Another reason I choose this image is the pairing of the old film look signifying the mechanical age, with the new look signifying the electronic means of production. These blocky, chunky aestetics reveal the nature of digital.
Glitch Art: It’s my duty to defend you, but I can’t do anything for you unless you talk to me.
Jose Irion Neto – Thoreau Glitch Portrait (Glitch Moment/ums, 2013)
This image has also glitch atefacts, although much different than above. The reason I chose is the specific aesthetics of this portrait which happens to be the Henry David Thoreau. The original is a daguerreotype from Benjamin D. Maxham taken in 1856 and appropriated in 2011. Also the fact that it’s situated in a frame hanged in gallery, shows the development and promotion of the glitch/computer aesthetics in the art world.
The glitch makes the computer itself suddenly appear unconventionally deep, in contrast to the more banal, predictable surface-level behaviours of ‘normal’ machines and systems. In this way, glitches announce a crazy and dangerous kind of moment(um) instantiated and dictated by the machine itself.” Rosa Menkman, curator. The Glitch Moment/ums of Furtherfield Gallery happened in London, June 2013. A very interesting moment as glitch art has been mostly exhibited online which is its natural environment.
Thoreau Glitch Portrait - Jose Irion Neto
Mishka Henner – Pumped, animated gif

Pumpjacks across the United States photographed from space. Mishka Henner has spent time photographing -capturing screenshots- off Google Maps and Street View. His subjects usually depict systemic infrastructure, networks, and concentration of power using visually compelling imagery often reminiscent of the abstract expressionism movement. I consider Miska’s work profound, because of the aesthetics but also the information deriving from the data it’s based on. Unlike many art critics, I appreciate his work because it signifies the transcendence of photography into the digital domain, which has happened a long time ago, but some refuse to accept. From a different perspective, Mishka works with computer generated photographic archives. These large archives were created void of any judgement, emotional trigger and awareness of aesthetics, when “looking” at their subject through the lens(es). The lack of human interaction left space for the artist to experiment. These images have been freed up, while subversively, their meaning and purpose has been altered irreversibly. I chose the animated gif instead of a single image because it shows a common point between all the pumps. Most of them seem to be situated in beautiful fertile land, which contradicts their destructive, ugly product -oil.
Pumped (Animation) - Mishka Henner