Siebren Versteeg – Digital Culture Jammer

I wanted to find artists working with technology and the Internet, particularly with a strong message in commercialism and capitalism. I happy to say I found a practicing American artist who’s work is not only unique but calls upon computer programming to create some highly interesting works.

Authors Note: this article like the others in this category are part of my Masters Degree in Art and Design and are works in progress, so you’ll have to forgive the bad grammar and spelling in places.

Siebren Versteeg – Affirmations

Siebren Versteeg, born in 1971 in New Haven, Connecticut, is coined as ‘every Harry Potter loving/Hackers­ watching/anti-capitalist computer geek’s idol,’ by New York Magazine, or as he likes to call himself a ‘Programist’ rather than an Artist. His work is mostly based in multimedia installations where he writes and manipulates his own computer programs to use algorithms that guide the flow of information to create artworks. Versteeg uses Mirosoft primarily, ASP programing language with Adobe Director. The video work he produces (I think, this how he does it) gathers RSS Feeds from selected websites, loops the text back to a display (in this case its a Plasma Screen), overlapping a looping or live video cast. The result is a live blog feed, presenting organic news written from Internet in real time, displayed over a mainstream TV News Program. Versteeg wants us to see the balance between ‘outside news’ or world news with ‘inside news’ personal journals and blog entries.

Dynamic Ribbon Device and Not Dynamic Ribbon Device

Dynamic Ribbon Device, made in 2003 and later Not Dynamic Ribbon Device, made in 2006, used Versteeg’s own program to gather live Word News Feeds from arbitrary selected News agencies and output them to an LCD screen. This continues feed of information is displayed into Coca-Cola’s cursive red and white typography, which scrolls through the screen as droplets of ice water drip across the surface. Versteeg explains the piece’s purpose is “to visually present them (news/ information) in the branding style of global corporations which mediate our consumer and info worlds.”

Versteeg was inspired by Slavoj Zizek’s essay, ‘The Super-Ego and the Act‘, he makes a relationship between Coke’s slogan ‘obey your thirst’, cited in the essay and the desire to know and create news. Versteeg is using Zizek’s dialogue as a depiction of the troubles in society, to be a part of the world you have to be seen. I personally feel the piece explains, quiet plainly, the branding of world news and thus depersonalising events in to digestible chunks. Everything looks good in red and white! Its the use of style and trend to convey world affairs in order to stimulate its viewers, that helps us reflect on the emotional control we’re accepting via branding.

Siebren Versteeg – Dynamic Ribbon Device

Not Dynamic Ribbon Device (2006) supersedes Dynamic Ribbon Device, and flips the news feed using Diet Coke’s branding to depict the “not” or “with out” in his rewritten program.

Versteeg’s program selects the words “is” or “are” that appear in the RSS Feeds and changes them to read “is not” or “are not”. These pieces of art a continuum, the future is as yet to be seen, and the past (on a conceptual level), scroll through disappearing unlogged, out of the artwork and out of existence!

Siebren Versteeg – Not Dynamic Ribbon Device

The Chicago Humanities Festival

Here is Siebren Versteeg discussing his work and the role of being an artist in the digital age with Naomi Beckwith, curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago during the 2012 The Chicago Humanities Festival.

The Satan Drawings

Siebren Versteeg also uses his programing skills to manipulate image feeds and not just text. Versteeg created a series of drawings called The Satan Drawings (created in 2007), where he reprogrammed popular drawing software to strip and reassemble the results of a Google Image search for “Satan.” The results are a sketchy, spidery impression that looks very much like etchings. This effect just adds to the rawness of searched keyword and programing. However the search Keyword ‘Satan’ throws up a number of cultural ideas in its meaning, you could say, the birth of Google is the death of religion through discovering the truth in visual evidence. Or culturally, we’re drawn to iconic representations, particularly in Western society, that influence or decisions and desires, the Keyword Satan is arbitrary, from this notion another search keyword might have been “Sex” and then what would the drawings look like!? The whole series is printed on Inkjet archival paper.

Siebren Versteeg – The Satan Drawings 1

Siebren Versteeg – The Satan Drawings 2

Siebren Versteeg – The Satan Drawings 3

Siebren Versteeg – The Satan Drawings 4

100 Years of Google Images

100 Years of Google Images (created in 2007) is an archival inkjet print mounted to aluminum, which maps of the quantity of images returned from a Google image search of each day of the past 100 years. The vertical spikes represent time. This piece depicts the cultural importance of Google Image searches and societies technological evolution for requesting information, also playing on the notion, we were all blind before July 2001.

Siebren Versteeg – 100 Years of Google Images

Siebren Versteeg – 100 Years of Google Images (Close up)

Heaven and Hell

Heaven and Hell (created in 2009) uses a similar search program to The Satan Drawings. Versteeg’s program gathers realtime image searches for ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ and intermittently places the results respectively above or below a horizon line. Because the artwork is displayed via a Plasma Screen, “live”, the results are aggregated into a continuously evolving composition.

Siebren Versteeg – Heaven and Hell

Siebren Versteeg – Heaven and Hell (Close up)

Sources of this info are: www.vulture.com/2007/08/the_devil_inside.html, www.siebrenversteeg.com, www.meulensteen.com/artists/siebren-versteeg/, weirddeermedia.com/2008/05/freeproseland-a-conversation-with-siebren-versteeg/, strp.nl/nl/