Mining the Form
The Delaware Contemporary | Wilmington, DE
September 8 - December 31, 2023
Our relationship to the digital world becomes increasingly complex. Decades of information learning has created systems that improve our lives while simultaneously escalating our reliance on its existence. But what does it mean to have a dialog with the programs themselves? Although humans created technology, its functions and focus offer revelations that are uniquely machine-based. Both Stanislav Shpanin and Ben Snell have worked alongside computers to create artworks that utilize the mining of human-made forms as a means of process, revealing the computers’ capacity as creative through their understanding of us.
Each artistic practice begins with art history; the launching point of discussion between artist and computer and the core of each work. Conversation is then established as a series of trial and error experiments in which the computer navigates parameters set by the artist. What happens within these delineations becomes the creative product of the technology itself.
For over a decade, Ben Snell has been investigating the dynamic between the physical form of a computer with that of its internal life. Snell’s Inheritance series harnesses the rigor of a computer’s power and sets it on a course to study classical Greek and Roman sculptural forms. After days, and sometimes weeks, the computer has collected a visual vocabulary that allows it to complete its final task, create its own sculpture based on this acquired knowledge. Snell then destroys the computer by grinding it down to dust which is then used as material for a 3D-printed sculpture. Each sculpture is a volumetric embodiment of the computer’s own creative agency and an opportunity for us to better understand the complexities of its potential.
Stanislav (Stass) Shpanin, as a painter and digital artist, considers the two-dimensional surface through both his own eye and that of a computer. With a keen interest in the American Folk Movement, Shpanin has identified paintings based on his visual interests to generate conversations with the computer. The dialog begins as the computer fixates on certain forms, lines, and compositional elements, repeating those that it is fascinated with. These visual cues initiate Shpanin to continue the construction of the work, parsing out these elements and further manipulating them. The iterative process between Shpanin and the program reveals the possibilities of new shapes and forms, and in doing so, offers an insight into how both humans and machines perceive these elements.