julie kern donck

Space and surface. These are the constitutive elements of vision. How does one produce a visual representation of his or her world? How does history, feelings and narration affect the final rendering of what we call an image?

Coming from a Belgian-Brazilian background with a classicist education, I’ve been concerned about in-between interrogations since long, with questions like that the fact that an image doesn’t encapsulate the same meaning depending on the viewer. These grey zones of interpretation also exist in translation issues, as translation always implies to betray the idiomatic meaning. In my work, I tend to see images as matrices for interpretations. Therefore, I started to explore this specific aspect by destructuring existing images through print. From the more casual selfie to US Marines video footage in Syria, I’ve been aggregating images from the everyday. To be successful, reproduction processes, both physical and digital, relies on the good organisation of all steps. Images’ integrity depends on the accuracy of both operator and machine, and thus becomes dramatically fragile.

Discrete processes as dithering are one of these decisive steps; that is when the operator — or the artist — chooses which information will be kept and which information will be discarded, transforming continuous colour information in dots or lines. But even the most accurate definition can’t render the essentiality of a colour field as a mathematical description can. A bitmap image is no more than an extraordinary accumulation of discrete signals, on and off, in perfect synchronization. One error, and the entire system can fall apart: the image will be no more readable, or will at least be deeply affected. In the same way that ambiguous sentences can lead to obscure meanings, I tried to figure out how an image can resist assaults from the operator. This led me to work on glitching and to design my own dithering algorithm, using low-definition for exposing clearly the dithering patterns. In a way, this form of definition loss is a method for blurring, and blurring is a method for enabling an interpretation process from the viewer. But as my images were turning to be more and more indistinct, I started using texts as a loose guiding path. Poetry can indeed be seen as a means to give a certain tonality to the work instead of obvious indications.

In parallel to the interrogations about image integrity, I started to learn 3D modelling and rendering. Unlike discrete processes as used in bitmap images, 3D is a mathematical description that is more or less continuous. Therefore, working with this kind of technology is a much more essentialist and Aristotelian approach than working with discrete signals. Objects tend to get value by themselves, and a 3D scene is nothing more than the sum of its parts. In such a world, the operator must create much more human input; things become characters easily, with their own consistency and symbolism. This is very different from working on pre-existing images taken from reality: in fact, 3D is all about simulation and mimesis.

Because the techniques of image reproduction are now more evidently merged with those of image creation, our relationship towards representation has slightly changed. We are currently faced to standalone and portable images, ubiquitous files that follow us anywhere we go. We are surrounded by instantaneous copies of reality, as well as by irruptions of special effects and fantasy representations. This tension is somewhat similar to the relationship between descriptive language and poetic language; therefore, my work aims to explore the links between image and language.
Diving deeper in these language problematics, I started to consider language itself as a technology, as suggested by the works of Walter J. Ong (especially in Orality and Literacy). Linguists and anthropologists (as Toshihiko Izutsu or Edward E. Evans-Pritchard) also speculated about the idea that the belief in magic is a collateral effect of the logical structures available in language. If the notion of magical thinking is a bit outdated, it still reveals that language has the ability of giving meaning to otherwise unaccountable facts. Magical and associative thinking responds to the deep instinct of giving meaning to life; therefore it is no surprise that such thinking patterns still survive even in our all-rational and science-based society. In the art field, slightly romantic questions like the authenticity of an image and the power of this authenticity, an eventual aura, as defined by Walter Benjamin, are taken very seriously. In fact, being a representation of reality is something shared by both art and language: art can have magical side effects, just as language does.

All these reflections open an interesting field of research, in which printmaking situates itself in an ideal intersection. All species reproduce themselves, and humans extend this characteristic by replicating objects or information. Thinking about copying masters and creating matrices is a path for investigating many forms of human and non-human activities. As the notion of print is easily extensible to sculpture (via casting), it can also be extended to a variety of domains: we indeed reproduce meaning through myths and history; we reproduce forms with techniques, objects with machines, behaviours by mimicry. For the years coming, my work’s aim is to explore these issues through different media, all interlinked by the ideas of replication, mirroring and reproduction.