In Like Insects Smacking Themselves Senseless Against a Screen at Night to Get to the Light Inside – a quote taken from an 80s book on computer hackers – James Hoff presents three new series of works that tackle the tradition of landscape painting and our changing relationship to nature.
Artist(s) James Hoff
Venue Supportico Lopez, Berlin
Photography Nick Ash
In his Useless Landscape series Hoff depicts cellular-free landscapes he captured in different areas known as dead zones for cellular communication. To create these images, Hoff utilizes a silkscreen/resist/etching technique that is commonly used to produce circuit boards; a technique that engineers borrowed from artists and printmakers beginning in the 1940s and 1950s, when circuit boards became commonplace in consumer electronics. By adopting this electronic material and process, Hoff displaces its techno-functionality, rending the material useless with an image of a landscape that has also been rendered useless by current standards of productivity, which requires connectivity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The end result is a haunting, copper landscape that floats atop the fiberglass’s opaque and milky plane.
In a new series of works, Hoff paints stock images from Yosemite State Park onto computer keyboards. Hoff chooses Yosemite because of its use by Apple as the name for a version of its operating system choosing images that are typical of the desktop wallpaper genre. In so doing, he documents the appropriation of the images and names of natural sites and phenomenon by computer and software manufactures for programs that contour our lives and actions within an endless, abstract digital landscape. The keyboard, takes on a special role within this landscape as a linguistic nexus between our analogue and digital realities. Each keyboard within this series has image-less keys/letters that spell out a phrase as if they were keyed in, thereby taking on the role of code or cypher. Phrases such as “Snorting Data,” “Delinquent Pornography,” “Euphoria Headache,” and “21 Days a Week” reflect on the uncomfortable fissures between our analogue and digital lives with poetic wit and humour. These works remind us that behind every digital image, lies a mountain of language, code.
These works are offset by Hoff’s Light Cycle series of floor works, which consists of found stones/rocks that the artist has painted with a pattern of digital camouflage. Hoff’s interest in camouflage stems from its development by artists in response to the changing nature of visual technologies, in particular aerial photography, in the first world war. At that time, artists were employed to create visual patterns/codes that would allow for equipment and people to disappear into the landscape. Hoff conflates this early history with its contemporary, digital equivalent in an attempt to register and record the technological value of rocks as mineral anthologies that are mined and processed to build digital infrastructures and computer hardware. This ensures that any walk through the forest is a stroll through the membrane of a future a computer.