Chaotic forces disarranging orderly structures and uncovering new beauty in them—our new research is dedicated to experiments with shapes and patterns appearing from aberrations and imperfections.
For this story, we took inspiration from graphic design, sculpture, and data visualizations, finding ways to capture meanings that result from serendipitous combinations of parts.
In a world that gets more documented and digitized, data becomes a valuable resource. Searching for objectiveness, we yearn to find reliable principles that would inform our decisions.
Data seems to be the perfect source of this external wisdom, extracted directly from the world as it is, and so it becomes the foundation for our digital society.
Aside from the question of interpretation, information itself may be corrupted, be it by accidental loss or by excessive noise that hinders the extraction of useful bits.
To make information exchange more effective and accurate, modern storage and networks are planned on the foundation of information theory, a field combining knowledge from mathematics, physics, and computer science.
The theory includes several important concepts, one of the most basic ones being information entropy.
The term borrowed from thermodynamics indicates how much unpredictability and chaos exist in a system and is used to encode and decode a message based on how often certain symbols might occur.
The headspring of the information theory is work by Claude Shannon. Mathematical apparatus that evolved from his ideas made possible the entirety of modern digital society, as it describes how data is transmitted, compressed, protected, and so on.
Drawing parallels between the movement of information and the movement of matter, he was able to build the basis for the impetuous development of another dimension in our world—the digital one.
As we perceive it as detached from our reality, something reminiscent of Plato's world of pure ideas, we tend to forget that digital worlds still rely on material infrastructure.
Storage mediums themselves are not eternal: hard drives last for up to 10 years, and magnetic tape, the most durable medium, keeps its shape for 20 years.
Moving entirely to cloud storage also does not ensure that the data will be intact: accidents happen in data centers, resulting in the loss of information.
While file damage can be solved by backing data up, there is another threat that can indirectly destroy digital creations—technology obsolescence. Something safely stored for a decade might not be viewed, as the needed software is no longer supported.
Especially concerning this issue is for digital artworks, and there are dedicated foundations that exist to preserve art from virtual spaces.
Such organizations, like Rhizome, might create public databases with emulators that allow running programs and websites that can not be opened with current software: these virtual exhibitions look similar to the Internet Archive, as they feature copies of websites that contain artworks.
This approach works for pieces that can exist outside of the Web as isolated pages, the preservation of works that use other sites or platforms is a bit trickier.
An example of such work is Shredder by Mark Napier: it is a website that turns web pages into incomprehensible layered structures of code, text, and images.
Recreated in an emulator, it would be segregated from its original context and would lose a part of the experience, as the visitor can 'shred' any website they want.
There are also art interventions on the platforms like social media. Created as a Facebook group or an Instagram profile, they question the behavior patterns that are expected on these platforms and reflect on their influence on users.
One of the most notable works in this genre was made by Amalia Ulman who, in 2014, staged an online performance in which she posed as a heroine going through a nervous breakdown and, eventually, healing.
Being extracted from the platform, the work loses its context and its credibility: we perceive it with a slightly different mindset, as we are there to look at something labeled as art, not as a regular social media profile.
Another issue with platform-based art is moderation principles on the platform that it uses. Whereas it might be seen as an integral part of the medium, it is still something that can threaten the preservation of works.
Seemingly intangible and evergreen, information is something that can disintegrate and alter. Inspired by patterns of interrupted signals and disarrayed structures, we chose distortions as a topic for our exploration.
Having noises, accidental interruptions, and distorted signals as our references, we interpreted these themes through a variety of digital forms.
In our experiments, we also looked at the patterns that a changing shape creates. Stacking and shuffling pieces of paper, matte glass, and particles, we generated new shapes out of unpredictability.
Some of our creations were based on paper sculptures: being built out of meticulously ordered layers, they are visibly changed by sudden imperfections. We see these deflections not as defects but as something beautiful and special.
Maxim Zhestkov, Igor Sordokhonov
Artur Gadzhiev, Denis Semenov, Roman Eltsov, Roman Kuzminykh, Sergey Shurupov, Tatyana Balyberdina, Kirill Makhin, Daniil Makhin