Sights and sounds, the changing illusion of the world in which
we live, and the world that lives
only in the mind, are the basic materials of film creation.
The full flow of color, sound, synthesized form, plastic form, light and
picture poetry have in no way begun to be explored in man’s
range of experience.

–Stan VanDerBeek, “Re:Vision,” The American Scholar 35, no. 22 (1966): 340.


DOCUMENT is pleased to present Poemfield, Stan VanDerBeek’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition will present a 16mm film installation of Poemfield no. 7 (1967-68), a digital projection of the film Symmetricks (1972), and a selection of works on paper (1973-83).

VanDerBeek’s Poemfields, the artist’s most well-known series of computer-generated films, are complex, multilayered moving tapestries of abstracted images, colors, visuals, texts, and sounds. Fascinated with the computer’s ability to generate text on a screen, VanDerBeek established an “image-based poetry language.” For this series, he collaborated with computer scientist Ken Knowlton at AT&T Bell Labs beginning in 1964. Using an IBM 7094 computer and BEFLIX (short for “Bell Labs Flicks”), a computer graphic programming language that Knowlton conceived in 1963, VanDerBeek and Knowlton created eight Poemfields films between 1966-71. Each film combines the artist’s own poetry with a range of digital illustrations. Since studying under poet M.C. Richards and composer John Cage at Black Mountain College, VanDerBeek incorporated collage-like practices of chance and simultaneity, experimenting with representations of text and poetry in cinematic time.

The poetry of Poemfield no. 7 presents a thought-provoking message, one that maintains its political relevance in 2018. VanDerBeek’s poem ends: THERE IS NO WAY TO PEACE; PEACE IS THE WAY; NO MORE WAR. Movements 1 and 4 of John Cage’s composition Amores comprise the soundtrack; this same composition premiered at the historic performance of Cage’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in 1943. The synthesis of text, pattern, and sound in Poemfield no. 7 conveys a bizarre sense of foreboding, a quirky yet urgent uneasiness. Some words appear and then dissolve on the screen so quickly that one must focus intently to capture the phrase in its entirety; VanDerBeek anticipated the blink-and-you-miss-it effects of newsfeed overload and image overstimulation.

Symmetricks invites a slightly more meditative viewing. While artist-in-residence at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, VanDerBeek experimented with computer-animated drawing to explore the visual effects of rapidly tracked drawn line, symmetrical patterns, and flickering images. White forms pulse, shrink, expand, and mirror each other against the black screen, and the contrast subtly suggests colors as Symmetricks progresses. One reflects on their own interpretation of the cinematic Rorschach test upon the film’s completion.

VanDerBeek was a pioneer in the growing fields of “movie art” and “Expanded Cinema” during the 1960s and 70s. His multimedia practices forecasted many facets of later iterations of contemporary art–network aesthetics, Internet art, graphical user interfaces, and appropriations of desktop computing. Rather than employing a camera to traditionally capture images, VanDerBeek made use of the computer as an abstract notation system for making movies. He wrote pictures and visually manipulated language. VanDerBeek challenged the formal paradigms of film and moving images, adopting a collaborative, pluralistic, and multisensory approach to filmmaking that resonates with today’s prevalence of multimedia art and the feedback loop of everyday digital life.

Stan VanDerBeek (b. New York, 1927-1984) studied visual art at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York and then at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, receiving honorary doctorates from both schools in 1957 and 1972, respectively. He began his artistic career as a painter but soon moved on to create animated collage films made of altered paintings and newspaper and magazine clippings. VanDerBeek’s research into developing visual languages as ways of communication led him to seek out expertise from individuals pioneering in the fields of film technology, digital media, and computers. He worked with Ken Knowlton at AT&T’s Bell Labs and served as an artist-in-residence, collaborator, and instructor at a number of organizations and research universities during his artistic career. He was a professor of art and film at University of Maryland, Baltimore County from 1975 until his death in 1984.

Among VanDerBeek’s numerous awards are grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts; and an American Film Institute Independent Filmmaker Award. VanDerBeek’s work has been featured in countless international exhibitions over the past six decades, beginning with the pioneering exhibitions Cybernetic Serendipity, Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), London, and Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. (1968-69); The Projected Image, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (1968); and Software, The Jewish Museum, New York (1970). Recent exhibitions include Thinking Machines: Art and Design in the Computer Age, The Museum of Modern Art, NY (2017); Merce Cunningham: Common Time, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2017); Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980, The Met Breuer, New York, NY (2017); Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema and Art, 1905-2016, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (2016); Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College, 1933-1957, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2015); Stan VanDerBeek: Poemfield, Andrea Rosen Gallery 2, New York (2015); Cosa Mentale: Art et Télépathie au XX Siécle, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Lorraine, France (2015); Venice Biennale (2013); and Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2012). VanDerBeek’s films have been presented in numerous moving image screening programs, including Cine Dreams: Future Cinema of the Mind, 1972, Planetario Galileo Galilei, Buenos Aires (part of Art Basel Cities Week, 2018); Experimental Animation, Anthology Film Archives, New York (2015); Stan VanDerBeek: Newsreel of Dreams, Los Angeles Filmforum at MOCA, Los Angeles (2015); Movie-Drome, New Forms Festival, Vancouver (2014); Stan VanDerBeek: Expanded Cinema, Skissernas Museum, Lund, Sweden (2014); and Expanded Cinema: Activating the Space of Reception, Tate Modern, London (2009). Upcoming exhibitions include Judson Dance Theater: The Work is Never Done at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2018).

VanDerBeek’s work is represented in public collections worldwide, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Art Institute of Chicago; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the National Library of Australia Film Collection, Canberra; Pennsylvania State University, State College; and the Arts Council of Great Britain, London.

Elizabeth Atterbury

Elizabeth Atterbury (born 1982, West Palm Beach, FL) lives and works in Portland, Maine. Recent solo and group shows include Kate Werble Gallery, New York; The Portland Museum of Art, Portland; Mrs., Queens; The Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville; kijidome, Boston; Document, Chicago; Western Exhibitions, Chicago; The Luminary, St Louis; Et al. Etc., San Francisco; Pulaski Park Field House, Chicago; Able Baker Contemporary, Portland; Ida Schmid, Brooklyn; TSA, Brooklyn; Bodega, Philadelphia/New York; KANSAS, New York; and The ICA at Maine College of Art, Portland, among others. In the Middle, An Oasis, a monograph of her work, was published by Bodega Press in 2013. She received her BA from Hampshire College and her MFA from MassArt.

Atterbury’s studio practice is fluid, fluctuating between picture making and object making. Fascinated with the autonomy of the artifact – objects disassociated from their original function and context – Atterbury’s practice considers the distinction or lack thereof between artifact, prop, model and sculpture.  Drawn to materials such as paper and sand, Atterbury constructs ephemeral tableaux specifically for the purpose of transfiguring and recording them. Both her photographs and sculpture build upon a continued interest in display and its visual structures, along with a more recent interest in language, ritual, and abstraction.

Elizabeth Atterbury, 26 Waves, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 22 3/4 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Alone at night, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Still life with bowl and mirror, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Anonymous Old Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Another Poem, 2018, Mortar, plywood and glue, 23 x 19 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Calligraphy Frame, 2018, Maple, acrylic paint, glue, 60 x 40 x 1 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, The Well, Again (Pool), 2017, Beach sand, glue, MDF, 10 1/2 x 8 x 6 1/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, The Well, The Wall, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Beach Woks (Marks of a Tool II), 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Still Life with Popcorn and Pits, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram III, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram II, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Logogram I, 2016, Silver gelatin print, 20 x 24 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Tomb), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 12 x 7 1/2 x 5 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (The Cut), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 13 1/2 x 28 1/2 x 1 1/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Sunset Hedge), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 1 1/2 x 16 x 2 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Small House), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 1 x 16 3/4 x 14 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Bull Shark), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 2 1/2 x 18 x 1 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Paper Cut / Hedge), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 10 x 9 x 1 3/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Noguchi's Intetra, Mist Fountain), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 11 x 9 1/2 x 9 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Lawn), 2016, Enamel paint, steel 9 x 9 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Big House), 2016, Enamel paint, steel, 16 x 18 x 6 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sunny Side, FL (Palms), 2015, Enamel paint, steel, 17 1/2 x 11 x 16 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Relief (China White), 2015, Plywood and paint, 33 x 48 x 1 3/4 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Moonlight on the river, 2014, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Slow Song, 2014, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Marks of a tool, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Rake, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 24 x 20 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Ghost Tracks, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 24 x 20 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Black Beach, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterbury, Bones, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in, Edition of 3

Elizabeth Atterburym Glyphs II, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Glyphs, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Site, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Sculpture Park, 2014, Silver gelatin print, 11 x 14 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Bricks, 2013 Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Harry, Henri, Sal, 2013, Chromogenic print, 14 x 11 in

Elizabeth Atterbury, Blue Runner Night, 2014, Chromogenic print, 13 1/2 x 11 1/2 in, Editon of 3


Producing the Social: Andrew Norman Wilson Interviewed by Jared Quinton

 February 21st, 2019
Andrew Norman Wilson1


Infinite loop videos.

Andrew Norman Wilson, The Unthinkable Bygone, 2016. Video still. Courtesy of the artist and DOCUMENT, Chicago.

Andrew Norman Wilson might be best known for his 2011 multi-channel video Workers Leaving the Googleplex, a firsthand account-cum-Marxist exposé of the human labor behind the Google Book Project. In this and other earlier projects, Wilson gained access to corporations’ internal apparatuses and performed interventions that made their insidious organizing politics slightly more tangible. His more recent videos feature a cast of nonhuman proxies—a mosquito, a dinosaur baby, a scarecrow puppet, an oil pump—trapped in endlessly enthralling and alienating loops. On the occasion of Wilson’s third solo exhibition at DOCUMENT in Chicago, where he’s looking back to the labor history of Kodak Corporation, we spoke about his aesthetic strategies and how they work with and against the politics of art history, the art world, and the world at large.

—Jared Quinton

Jared Quinton I notice a certain dialectic in your work. On one hand you’re specific about corporate structures and other systems of organizing labor and production; you name them, you critique them, you adopt their technologies. On the other hand you’re invested in ambiguous narrative forms that seem to ask for affective responses. I appreciate that setting this up as a binary might be a bit of a straw man, but can you talk about these different modes?

Andrew Norman Wilson When I hear that question I see two hands. One hand holds old work (a red pill imprinted with the word “tool”) that is geared toward uncovering things that the phrase “the invisible hand of the market” is used to conceal, such as offshore labor and offshore financial activity. Within this hand the hands of the nameless worker, as well as the keystroking fingers of the anonymous account executive, are cast under the cold light of capitalist social realism in order to “identify and question the dominant economic, social, and political forces in our world today,” to quote many a press release. Opportunistic curators go bonkers for this kind of work as an affirmation of some nearly forgotten PDF they read during their MA. The hope was that the work was actually productive, in the sense that it didn’t necessarily represent social processes, so much as it participated actively in these processes, and even helped constitute them.

JQ And the other hand?

ANW The other hand has a blue pill embedded under the skin of its palm, but science tells me that, like blood, the blue pill is red as well. It’s just that blue is what makes it back to my eyes when passing through flesh.

Neither would get me closer to the truth, but this inaccessible red pill in the second hand implicitly acknowledges the illusory, deceptive qualities of not only art but also reality itself. I started to realize that there’s more to life—and art—than a critical framework based on human economic relations, or any framework. There are invisible handjobs of the market, magician’s hands, demon primate hands, and hands that make me uncertain as to whether they’re gesturing or signing to me.

So I’m not so much invested in narrative as I am in how we create and operate through incomplete mental models—both scientific and cultural—for understanding the world. These models can include narratives. But if the newer work feels baroque, perhaps it’s because illusion and sensory immersion here reduces the narrative conviction of familiar cause-effect structures, limiting them to pattern-making functions, or logics that unfold and repeat across time. The old structure of causation in which the past causes changes in the present becomes the baroque “cause” that lies in the future. This is why I’ve been making infinite loop videos; themes of predestination proliferate, but there’s no concluding truth.

Andrew Norman Wilson2

Andrew Norman WilsonWorkers Leaving Googleplex, 2011. Video still. Courtesy of the artist and DOCUMENT, Chicago.

JQ So perhaps it’s more a question of resolution. In the curator-friendly work we know exactly what’s being critiqued. This makes art viewers feel like they’ve done some good merely by becoming aware of a structural problem. But your recent video-installation work is more alienating. I think empathy is the enemy of good art, so I’m interested for you to talk a bit more about this and other strategies you’re using in videos like Ode to Seekers 12, Reality Models, or The Unthinkable Bygone (all 2016).

ANW With those works I found myself at the beginning of something that I’m still pursuing—something like making a knot for viewers, including myself. If the knot works as I hope it does, it creates disturbances in the seemingly natural order of things and unwinds our counterfeit intuitions, allowing for thought to become an infinite drift outside of our established habits and perspectives.

Using and breaking techniques we have been conditioned to respond to from cinema and television—the embodied flight of an off-balance Steadicam, a transcendent crane into a computer-generated character’s head, or the shifting perspectives of a multi-cam setup—creates opportunities for identification with nonhuman characters. These seemingly intelligent yet amoral characters—the baby dinosaur, the mosquito, the oil pump, the syringe, the puppets—are anthropomorphized enough to offer a bridge for a human viewer, but also formally disturbed enough to cultivate the alienation you speak of.

JQ Are there political motivations behind this process of aesthetic problem solving?

ANW I regularly worry about the devaluation of aesthetic problem solving, not just throughout general educational systems, but even within the art world, where a clickbait mentality seems to prevail that privileges consumables, virtue-signaling rhetorical stand-ins, and conceptual content designers instead of artists who take the time to process their material and how it might inhabit the world in ways that are unique to art. So in the form of very direct action, I’m contributing to a world that I want to live in.

While I wouldn’t reduce the decisions I make to simply being politically motivated, there are ways in which those works complicate a humanist legacy—primarily European and male in its origin—that understands the world as having been given for our needs and created in our image. The processes of identification I’ve set up are meant to offer revisionary vantage points from which that stagnant legacy reveals itself as contradictory, amounting to an ecologically murderous, even suicidal tendency.

Andrew Norman Wilson, Ode to Seekers, 2016. Video still. Courtesy of the artist and DOCUMENT, Chicago.

Andrew Norman Wilson, Ode to Seekers, 2016. Video still. Courtesy of the artist and DOCUMENT, Chicago.

JQ So if I’m understanding correctly, the “intelligent yet amoral” characters are something like posthumans. How does this relate to your more recent work, Kodak (2018), which seems like something of a return to your more explicit interest in human labor and the production of imaging technologies?

ANW Through its development of the world’s original nervous system, the jellyfish was the first creature to figure out that nerves are an obvious advantage. The ability to receive and process information meant that the jellyfish could actually react to changes in its environment in order to increase the odds of life going well, rather than just floating aimlessly and hoping for the best. A certain jellyfish—the Turritopsis dohrnii—is believed by some to hold a potential key to immortality. Instead of dying, the jellyfish transforms back into a polyp and begins life anew. The scientist Shin Kubota has made it his life’s work to unlock that potential.

This immortal jellyfish—both an ancestor from the deep past and a potential for a deep future—is scripted as the MacGuffin that a blind former Kodak employee pursues in the Kodak video. Like photographic film, the jellyfish’s body offers a gelatin medium for information storage. Whether or not that’s possible isn’t what’s at stake in the work; it’s the protagonist’s desire to preserve his consciousness and all of the memories it contains indefinitely on an analog medium. It seems that photographic film won’t be so lucky, and the protagonist knows this. Throughout his pursuit he’s haunted by memories based on photographic archives, but it is the 3D-animation sequences, which start to appear in the third act and are narrativized as schizophrenic delusions, that fully derail his efforts.

Andrew Norman Wilson, KODAK, 2018. Installation view at DOCUMENT, Chicago

Andrew Norman Wilson, KODAK, 2018. Installation view at DOCUMENT, Chicago

JQ And why the choice to think about labor through this fictionalized, hypersubjective, perhaps even impressionistic lens?

ANW In the recent history of critical photographic art, there is a dominant insistence that a photograph is meant to be looked at literally for the information contained within the document, whereby the literal creates the possibility for an oppositional alternative to whatever plagues ordinary life or aesthetics (most often some form of “the man”). What this kind of work encodes is a certain fantasy of escape—a long tradition of humanism that likes to think that it can step outside the circuits of commodification.

Meanwhile, Google and Facebook are building a vast machine for converting every oppositional vector into a curve that bends right back to that very machine, a new input for a more personalized output. It does so not by making people stop having faith in opposition as a mode of critical thought, but by allowing—even encouraging—that faith, a faith people can gather around in optimism or critical pessimism, even while it builds parallel forms of collectivity that turn all action, all stances, no matter how oppositional, into capital accumulation built from preferences, affinities, and likes. The belief that subjectivity is somehow foreign to those circuits is a humanist fantasy—at this point we are informational capital.

Mental health conditions like schizophrenia might be useful in thinking through how we now relate to post-produced photographs, photorealistic 3D-modeled imagery, and even information. If the schizophrenic could take a step back, out of the affected self, she or he would understand her or his delusions to be just that, at which point these delusions would vanish and self-understanding would return. It is precisely this action of stepping out of the image that enables us to make a mental image—to put an image in front of the thing or to make a representation from memory. Mental conditions like this further obscure the sight of reality. When images internal to the psyche “appear” or surface on the retina and are projected back inward before making contact with the world, they generate looping pulses that embed the mind in a recursive fantasy.

Andrew Norman Wilson: Kodak is on view at DOCUMENT in Chicago until February 23.

Jared Quinton is a writer and curator based in Chicago.

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DOCUMENT is a commercial gallery located in Chicago that specializes in contemporary photography, film and media based art. The gallery has organized more than 40 solo exhibitions since its opening in 2011 and actively promotes the work of emerging national and international artists. Operating conjointly as a professional printmaking studio, DOCUMENT facilitates the production of works by artists from Chicago and the US. At this time we do not accept unsolicited submissions.