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. Jeff Thompson’s performance and installation Human Computers explores the early history of computing, office culture, automation of labor, and the layers of abstraction and standardization found in technological systems. Over the course of six hours, a group of thirteen performers will decode a single digital image entirely by hand using only pencils and paper worksheets. The results of this labor will be installed in the space for the duration of the exhibition, serving as documentation of the computations and providing context to the "office" existing in the gallery space. 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, Thompson’s first solo exhibition in Miami, is a profoundly slow, intricate inhabitation of a single computer file.
The piece will be performed on February 22 from 12–6pm followed by a reception. The work will be on view through March 21. 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.
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.
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