|The Light Day: A Generative Lexicon (2012)|
Today’s Wednesday Exhibitions is one of my favorite pieces from the 2011 Workspace Artist-in-Residence exhibition: James Case-Leal’s The Light Day: A Generative Lexicon, an unbound book of letterpress prints (with two prints hanging on the wall) and housed in a cradle made of etched copper plates, mounted on wood.
What makes Case-Leal’s piece so exciting is how it combines science, art, and language. At first glance, the printed images may appear to be the same: hundreds of pages filled with random letters, letters that have been placed in no orderly sequence into the shape of a pointed arch. The prints on the wall seem to differ slightly, with their absence of text in certain spaces, but in general a few minutes with the piece may feel like enough. Not so. The magic and surprise of Case-Leal’s piece is how the letters were arranged: randomly, yes, but with a method to the randomness.
|A zoom-in of one of Case-Leal’s images|
The project was created using data gathered by the United Kingdom’s Trinity University Department of Computation Physics, a place where the scientists have developed a process of generating random number sequences using the phenomenon of Atmospheric Background Radiation: the remaining particle energy created during the Big Bang and that is believed to be the cause of television static. Case-Leal is literally working with material from earliest moment of creation we know: the creation of the entire universe.
The artist, working with Trinity University, then translated the number sequences generated by their system into random letter sequences. The sequences on each page are different and, when “read,” sets of words and even syntax can appear. While the work is fragile and cannot be touched (and therefore you can’t spend the time leafing through each page!) you can carefully look at the page that is displayed and search for words or structure. The image above is an example of this, where you can find words like “cot” and “rose” as well as small pieces of sentences, such as “of a,”.
For me, Case-Leal’s piece shows the surprising order that can form out of disorder, the randomness that is beautiful on its own but can also be created into a piece of art. Though this piece is very much rooted in technology—from the basic man-made printing press to the more advanced computer program—it is also deeply rooted in natural phenomena (including the scientific explanation for our own existence) and in the natural chaos, beauty, and luck that leads to the creation of something new.
James Case-Leal’s piece, as well as others in our 2011 Workspace Artist-in-Residence exhibition, our main exhibition Canceled, and our Featured Artist Anne Gilman’s The Jolly Balance, will be on view through June 30, 2012. As always, the exhibitions are free, so come down during our hours (M-F 10-6; Sat 12-4; Sun closed) and check out more of Wednesday Exhibitions!
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