A collaborative audiovisual performance, recorded live at last year’s edition of Berlin Atonal.
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII, or Barcode, is an enigma. In an effort to shirk the personality cults that can develop when an audience’s primary tool for engagement with music is social media, the mysterious producer and musician removes their personality entirely from the distribution process of their music. In an age where the widespread adoption of streaming services has removed most value for most musicians releasing their music in digital formats, artists have had to transform themselves into the product, their music becoming a means of signal boosting their personal brand and in so doing imbuing their practice with value. In a critical gesture, Barcode collapses these distinctions, reducing their identity to a visual marker of their creativity as product, a barcode, within which all the information pertaining to the potential value of their artistry is contained. In the absence of any identifiable artist, the listener is left only with the music, evocative and experimental percussive compositions that defy any easy genre definitions or corporate categories. When it came time to translate the project into a live audiovisual performance for the 2021 edition of Berlin Atonal, it made sense that their collaborator, glitch artist Thomas Collet, also had his mind on how inextricable contemporary art is from capital.
“This whole project started during the pandemic, when it was nearly impossible to travel or record videos outside,” he explains. “It’s in that particular context that I decided to explore Google Earth, seeking new images. During this long journey I developed a fascination for industrial forms. Gravitating around Google Earth during curfew made me realize how much our lives are intricately related with industrial culture. It took such an important part in our evolution during the last two centuries that we can barely think without it. This particular mindset led us to the anthropocene we live in today. This concept describes a new geological epoch, where the human impact is more significant in earth’s ecosystems and geology than ever. Google Earth in itself emphasises this idea of a world sculpted by human activity.” A seemingly infinite procession of god’s eye view images of industrial phenomena – supply chains, shipping crates, megaports and coastlines dotted with oil tankers and supply ships – are presented in counterpoint with plains, mountains and seas, simultaneously exaggerating and collapsing the enormity of the vast, globally connected network of industry that enrobes planet earth. Through Collet’s pixel manipulation these artificial forms saturate, warp and shift into patterns that resemble organic forms, as vast aerial images car parks are duplicated, taking on the structure of a teeming ant colony, while 3D rendered shipping crate blueprints glitch and drip like petrol floating across water.
“When Barcode contacted me for Berlin Atonal it was an incredible match between the music and the videos. I can’t imagine a better place than an old electric factory to play this set.” Collet continues. “Destructive processes ground my experimentations and I can feel this in Barcode’s work too. Glitch art has always been a way to create a singular version of reality. In this case it can erase data to the point where the landscapes are consumed and melted into other material. It gives the sensation that time is accelerated and we are travelling through the anthropocene era. It reaches a point where industry becomes a camouflage of nature, and the other way around. You may feel that you are staring at romantic paintings, watching these over-industrialized sites in their terrific beauty. In these experimentations I had this feeling that I was mining glitch in Google Earth, using the same processes I could observe in industry: starting with raw materials to glitch into processed ones.” By aligning his art practice with industrialized processes of production, Collet enacts Barcode’s depersonalised approach to art in his visuals, mapping the extraction of value from the earth onto the aestheticization of distortion presented in his work. Pixels are rendered as precious ore or oil deposits in his excavative approach to glitch art, the most basic units of digital imagery coded as the most basic objects of value within the natural world.
“We live in the information era where data is a new resource, it seems essential that artists use it as well,” Collet concludes. “In this regard glitch art processes open a new narrative where digital doesn’t only produce tangible data, but also generates artifacts through its own destruction. The idea that we can eternally stock everything online seems foolish to me, therefor I prefer to show the fragilities and weaknesses of the medium I use.” By probing at the stress points of digital imagery, Collet formally captures how difficult it can be to think on a planetary scale. He exaggerates how dwarfed our personalised perspective of the world is by global industry, twisting it into even more intricate and overwhelming forms. Capitalising on this inertia, he replicates the feeling of standing in the bowels of Kraftwerk, the old power station and longstanding home of Berlin Atonal, an epiphanic instance of feeling at once impossibly small and intensely alive – insignificant on the scale of a supply chain, yet all powerful on the scale of the consumer.
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII x Thomas Collet – Live at Berlin Atonal 2021 Tracklist and Timestamps:
1. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII – Electric Rated Gesture 00:00
2. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII – Outlook Remains Untouched 04:06
3. user09081994 – Help Yourself 10:23
4. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII – All the Hours I Spent in Bunkers 14:00
5. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII – Qatidiq 17:12
6. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII – Exoteric Resistance 21:01
7. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII – A Kenotic Song About The Megamachine 23:23
8. user09081994 – A Red Warning Flag 26:50
9. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII – Why She Is Hiding in the Other Man’s Eyes 32:40
10. Grand Inc – Stress Kicked In And Hurled You Toward 37:59