Locust Projects is proud to present Human Computers, a new large-scale site-specific installation and durational performance by New Jersey-based artist Jeff Thompson. Human Computers Thompson’s first solo exhibition in Miami, gives physical form to an otherwise invisible process, utilizing data and mathematics as raw materials for artistic creation rather than paint or canvas.
The exhibition kicks off with a performance starting at noon on February 22. The durational performance is a profoundly slow, intricate inhabitation of a single computer .png file. Over the course of six hours, a group of thirteen performers will decode a single digital image entirely by hand using only pencils, paint and paper worksheets. Visitors are invited to come and go as they please, entering a typical 1950s office space to view performers seated at custom furniture working away on historically-based worksheets, slowly decoding the printed streams of zeroes and ones in order to paint each individual pixel that the image is comprised of on squares of paper, approximately 2,400 in total. Each pixel takes 67 steps to decode by hand, reversing filters that .png uses to reduce data size, converting the pixel’s color to CMYK for display, and calculating the pixel’s x/y position in the overall image. Human Computers explores the early history of computing, office culture, automation of labor, and the layers of abstraction and standardization found in technological systems.
Before they were digital machines, computers were people who performed calculations by hand on paper worksheets. The term "computer" was originally used to refer to "one who computes" in the early 17th century, transitioning into a cottage industry for scientific work in the early 1900s, and continuing into the 1950s even as human computers were replaced by the machines we use today. For women and people of color, working as a computer was a pathway into the sciences, something that they might not otherwise have been able to do. This complex weaving of social, political, and technological inspires Thompson’s project as do the physical spaces and labor required for this work. Thompson’s work seeks to make visible the friction between data, labor, and the immense abstraction created when we reduce things-- objects, people, ideas-- to systems.
Human Computers will be performed on February 22 from 12–6pm followed by a reception. The results of this labor will be installed in the space for the duration of the exhibition through March 21, serving as documentation of the computations and providing context to the "office" existing in the gallery space. Both the performance and exhibition are free and open to the public.
Human Computers was commissioned by Locust Projects and the University of Nevada, Reno, where it will travel after its presentation at Locust Projects in Miami.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Jeff Thompson is Assistant Professor and Program Director, Visual Art & Technology, Stevens Institute of Technology. Solo shows include: First There Is A Mountain, Then There Is No Mountain, Then There Is (2018) King’s College, University of Cambridge; Cambridge, England; I Touch You And You Touch Me (2017); Harvestworks; New York, New York, USA; White Noise Boutique (2015) Commissioned by Brighton Digital Festival; Brighton, England; Impossible In Another Form (2014) George Mason University Gallery; Fairfax, Virginia, USA; A Very Deep Saxophone And A Very Long Guitar (2013) With Damon Lee, Sheldon Museum of Art; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Seam Sorting (2013) LEVEL Gallery, Lawrence Technological University; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Glistening Waves (2011) Harvestworks; New York City, New York, USA; Lamination (2008) Local Project; Long Island City, New York, USA; Wavering Cedar and 100,000 Blades of Grass (2007) Department of Safety; Anacortes, Washington, USA; Recording Exchange (2006), Hogar Collection Gallery; Brooklyn, New York, USA. Learn more about Jeff Thompson.
BE A PART OF THE PERFORMANCE!
Locust Projects is seeking paid performers for Human Computers on Saturday, February 22. Adult performers of any age and gender identity are encouraged to apply - no previous performance or acting experience needed. Performers must be able to sit for extended periods of time, be able to carry out basic math (addition, multiplication, etc) with a calculator, and be excited about meticulous, quiet work exploring the materiality of technology.
Performers will be expected to attend a 3-hour evening rehearsal in the gallery the week of the performance (date TBD) and from 9.30am - 6.30pm on the day of the performance, February 22. Performers will be paid $125/day for both the rehearsal and performance, and will be provided lunch and snacks the day of the performance on the 22nd. To apply, performers may send a brief introduction on why they're interested in participating, resume, and headshot to Jeff Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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