continent. maps a topology of unstable confluences and ranges across new thinking, traversing interstices and alternate directions in culture, theory, biopolitics and art.
Issue 1.2 / 2011: 92-93

DCP Series

Phil Stearns

continent. 1.2 (2011): 92-93.

A collection of Images produced by intentionally corrupting the circuitry of a Kodak DC280 2 MP digitalcamera. By rewiring the electronics of a digital camera, glitched images are produced in a manner that parallels chemically processing unexposed film or photographic paper to produce photographic images without exposure to light. The DCP Series of Digital Images are direct visualizations of data generated by a digital camera as it takes a picture. Electronic processes associated with the normal operations of the camera, which are usually taken for granted, are revealed through an act of intervention. The camera is turned inside­out through complexes of short­circuits, selected by the artist, transforming the camera from a picture taking device to a data capturing device that renders raw data (electronic signals) as images. In essence, these images are snap­shots of electronic signals dancing through the camera's circuits, manually rerouted, written directly to the on­board memory device. Rather than seeing images of the world through a lens, we catch a glimpse of what the camera sees when it is forced to peer inside its own mind.

With the digital photo, this light, from out of the night, no longer comes entirely from the day, it doesn't come from a past day that would simply have become night (like the photons emenating from Baudelaire's face.) It comes from Hades, from the realm of the dead, from underground: it is an electric light, set free by materials from deep within the belly of the earth. And electronic, that is to say, a decomposed light. Digitization breaks the chain, it introduces manipulation even into the spectrum, and by the same token, it makes phantoms and phantasms indistinct. Photons become pixels that are in turn reduced zeroes and ones on which discrete calculations can be performed. Essentially indubitable when it was analog (whatever its accidental manipulability), the this was has become essentially doubtful when it is digital (it is nonmanipulation that becomes accidental).

—Bernard Steigler, The Discrete Image

There are so many ways to take something apart. Deconstruction, differentiation, dissection, dissolution. A whole slew of concepts and processes towards atomization which aim, eventually, to evoke or locate an essence of some kind, in material science as in philosophy. In picking things apart, what is it we attempt to do? To simplify? To comprehend? To confront? To disprove?

With Stearns’ DCP Series we see that destructive scrutiny can sometimes bring about new forms. To create this series of images, Stearns applies circuit bending techniques to modern photography—his fingers and stray wires cutting across the camera’s circuitry at the moment of registration. As with Moholy­Nagy’s vinyl records and Nam June Paik’s cathode ray TVs, Stearns deconstructs the technological inscription of his era. In so doing, the function of the digital camera is revealed, but its transduction inverted: A recorder becomes a synthesizer, the scientist an artist. In a single, simple gesture, these works example a media archeology of the present.

We resist the urge to call these photographs.

 —Jamie Allen