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Not necessarily the news

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

More each day, the visual world is made of pixels, those tiny bits of information that make up a Web page on your computer, an image on your television screen. And what the world wants is more pixels: more pixels means more information, which means a sharper picture.

Angela Bulloch is stepping back from all that high resolution. Her current exhibit at the Aspen Art Museum, “World Reflections,” features four works; combined, the four pieces have just 43 of Bulloch’s “pixel boxes” ” squares of light whose color is ever-changing. Compared to a high-definition TV set, Bulloch’s works contain an infinitesimal amount of information.

But in Bulloch’s work, each pixel is blown up to a size ” 50 centimeters ” that gives the visual information a quality it could never have in its normal form. That, to Bulloch, is the crux of the art ” to reconfigure information so as to give it a new identity, and allow viewers to see that information in an entirely different way.



“The information has been so altered that it goes beyond what it originally was,” said Bulloch, an Ontario native who has lived in Berlin since 2000. “Normally, the ambition is to have more and more, sharper definition. I’ve gone in the opposite direction and turned the pixels, something that was a notional thing, into a physical object.”

The centerpiece of the Aspen Art Museum installation, which opens with a reception on Thursday, Dec. 18, from 6-8 p.m., is a rectangular arrangement of 35 pixel boxes titled “Macro World: One Hour3 and Canned.” Running in an hour-long loop from a computer program,”Macro World” seems a study of light, with individual boxes changing both subtly and dramatically. The softly glowing lights in themselves are attractive; as a whole, with the boxes playing against each other and bouncing off reflective surfaces on the ceiling and floor, the work becomes seductive.




Arranged otherwise, however, the digital information makes up something much different, and much more ordinary. In its original form, the source material for “Macro World” is the English TV news show “BBC World.”

“Macro World” and the other pieces in the exhibit further Bulloch’s continuing examination of codes and information-organization systems. “Ideation and Reflection,” a work of six pixel boxes that change color more slowly and with greater coordination than “Macro World,” also includes a reflection of “Macro World.” There are also two single-box pieces, “Asia Today” and “Global Weather.”

“I’m interested in perception and how you understand things, how physically your body perceives things,” she said. “I’m interested in the different ways organizing systems can be altered ” by putting certain information in wrong places, shifting of context, processing of info and putting it in different terms so it means something different.

“You don’t see an hour of news. [Though Bulloch says, when the colors turn predominantly blue and green, she can see the weather report.] You see changing colors. And you lose the sense of what it actually means. I’ve reinvented a kind of television technology. It’s an entirely different way of seeing.”

Bulloch’s tendency to alter the world we inhabit extends beyond the light emanating from her pixel boxes. In constructing “Macro World” for the Aspen Art Museum, she configured it to fit precisely in the upper gallery space, giving the work an architectural element. “I wanted to crush the whole thing together, make the space very confined, with the reflections and the carpet,” she said. The backs of the pixel boxes, with their wires and even the words written on back, are meant to be viewed as well.

In addition to the visual, there is an audible element. Every 15 minutes, a soundtrack plays for a minute or so. Though not lifted from “BBC World,” the music has the feel of the introduction to a network news show. A “sound logo,” Bulloch calls it. Even the intervals of silence, like the spaces underneath, behind and between her installations, have a purpose. “There are spaces that I want to highlight ” the fact that there’s nothing here, or no sound there,” she said.

In taking a news show, digitally deconstructing it, and turning it into a festival of light, there lurks some kind of commentary on our pixilated, amorphous world. In the broadest view, Bulloch has taken the news ” and changed it completely to suit her own desire.

Bulloch is reticent to explain exactly what her art might be saying about such issues as the media and technology. “That’s for someone else to make their own choice,” she says. But she does let slip some tidbits. For instance, it is no coincidence that the source material for “Macro World” is the “BBC World” ” a show that is shown all over the globe, every day, and has as its focus the entire universe.

And Bulloch reveals a bit of her take on television in describing how she sees her work.

“It’s like homeopathic television. It’s a tiny amount of television,” she said. “Maybe it’s just the amount we need.”

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com


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