Campbell, John

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Digital access to this material is pending artist's approval. Materials may be viewed onsite at the Goldsen Archive, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Kroch Library, Cornell University.

My work over the last 7 years has been a progressing exploration into how digital representations of information can connect to poetic meaning. Initially my interests had to do with looking at how the relationship between information and meaning was(is) changing in our technologically mediated culture. The question was: Information can be digitized, can meaning? In 2000 I started a series of works called Ambiguous Icons that started with the question "How and what kinds of meaning can be expressed with extremely small amounts of information?" Information referring specifically to information in the mathematical sense, while meaning here embodies its definition in the poetic sense. The oxymoron title of this series, "Ambiguous Icons", indicates the fundamental difference between information and meaning, namely that poetic meaning is ambiguous (or plural) and mathematical information is precise (or singular). The moving images in these works have been reduced informationally (datawise) to be right at the threshold of comprehensibility. For these works I have designed and built my own very low resolution display devices using LEDs in panels ranging from 32 pixels to 768 pixels. In this series, in the beginning, I was interested not only in what could maintained in the transformation of a representation to low information (or resolution), but also in what was lost in this reductive process.


Recent Submissions

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    2008 Rockefeller New Media Foundation Proposal
    Campbell, John (2009-06-08T15:59:08Z)
    Total Internal Reflection is an installation that explores narrative possibilities in the realm of minimal amounts of information. The installation consists of a small open room within a much larger dark space. The small room is defined only by the objects in the room, no walls or ceiling, an open room that can be approached from any side. All of the objects defining the room are created out of cast glass; a telephone, a box of Kleenex, a tv, a glass of water, slippers, a chair, a bed side table, a clock, a picture on the wall, a window on the wall? Each glass object has multiple light sources pointing at it such that the objects themselves are animated with light. There is a 2'x3' moving video image projected onto a cast glass, mirror shaped object hanging on the wall (that's not there). The progression of the work is defined by the rhythms of light that seemingly emanate from the objects. There are two different defining forces behind the animation of the glass objects. The first is a rhythm that is based on the object itself, for example, the glass telephone ringing is represented as a vibration of light for a second followed by two seconds of darkness and repeating (mimicking the pattern of a ringing telephone). The second is a collective rhythm that ties the whole room together via the video image on the mirror. When the image changes all of the objects in the room change in unison with the image. It is the dialogue between these two conceptual structures of animation and the projected video image that defines the narrative of the work.