Many artists have side jobs to see them through their early careers, working as drivers, art handlers, or in construction. I chose to work in code. For years, my two lives were separate, but inevitably, what I did influenced what I made, and what I made influenced who I am, which is an artist / technologist.
I work predominantly with digital and electronic media. I use found or code generated imagery, drawing algorithms, information systems, paint, randomness, and, sometimes, radiation. My work bridges traditional media with newer digital forms, both subverting and liberating technology, re-purposing it to reveal its innate humanity.
My recent work uses the ubiquitous LED matrix panel. This LED display technology is our most widespread high ’volume’ means to visually broadcast information, advertise, and call-to-action. But in all of its various forms there are other kinds of possibilities and, for me, a sometimes-absurd entry into the Sublime—all with cords and hardware exposed.
Early on, I was drawn to the lowest, most hard-working, form – the bodega/food truck sign with its blinky, bright graphics. These panels are little selling machines, but I saw them as beautiful, amusing, and even chatty companions. From there I began to work with the panels themselves, liberating them from their enforced rectangles, interrupting their sleek, smooth surfaces. I program them using some common and open-source languages and platforms mixed with commercial software and hardware. I write the code to create something like formal propositions, each infinitely generating unique shapes, colors, and sequences, a practice more akin to endurance-based drawing exercises, yet designed and organized pixel by pixel. Each sculpture operates with its own rhythm and system, cheerfully buzzing and glitching, endlessly and without real repetition, each a not-to-be-repeated original. It is a conversation full of math, art history, and the Sublime.
To me, the code is vital to the art. At heart, I am a painter, and so, the work generated by my algorithms needs to interact with an extra layer of intentionality. LED panels can be crude and invasive, but if we approach them with the attention of a painter or sculptor, we can see the physical panels in tandem with the images on screen as contiguous parts of a whole. By pulling them apart, I locate and expose the capacity for pathos in these plastic and metal jumbles. Try as they may to hide it, there is a humanity in these panels, the way they confound and alienate us while simultaneously revealing our aspirations, failures, desires, anxieties, and, yes, even joy.
luke murphyCode Reflections, 2006
luke murphyElementary Relation of Invert Forgiveness and Home, 2000