The following post is the first in a series featuring contemporary artists whose work engages technology—broadly defined—in innovative ways.
Like many of us at The Hacktory, Leah Beeferman has a fondness for grids, dials, and luminous rhombi rotating slowly in space. As part of Vox Populi’s January exhibition, the New York-based artist installed two long, black tables bearing an assortment of laser-etched plexiglas and mirrors in varying shapes, sizes and (predominately Day-Glo) colors. Her precise etchings layer abstracted bar graphs, scatter plots and invented data-types to form an aesthetically determined pseudoscience, variables unknown.
Beeferman is interested in the machines we use to study the universe on its most extreme scales—from nearly massless neutrinos to the furthest star systems. For her January exhibition, titled 1201.2280v1, she drew her imagery from research conducted at Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider, rearranging scientific pictures of subatomic behavior into a new picture of imagined facts. (She explains her mysterious title as a reference to LHC document formatting.) Based on her fascination with such high-tech machinery, it seems only natural that she should seek the aid of a machine in producing her work. Yet previous “data” has been largely hand-drawn, such as this series of stunning ink and graphite drawings disseminated weekly by email for an entire year. (Another great example of Beeferman’s intelligent use of current technology.)
Though she was first introduced to the laser as an art-making tool while working toward her MFA at Virginia Commonwealth University, it wasn’t until after graduation that she began developing ideas to use the technology in her own work. She now accesses a Universal PLS6.120D Laser System through a lab at New York University. The process begins with a drawing made in Photoshop, which she then converts to file types that the laser can read as instructions: vector for etching a fixed line width, or raster for shades of grey. Before etching she tested the machine’s various power and speed settings to determine the appropriate levels for plexiglas. With up to 120 watts of power, the laser can etch nearly any surface and can cut through a variety of materials including fabric, plastic and wood.
Check out more photos from the exhibition along with the accompanying soundtrack at inbox.org, where you will also find updates on Leah Beeferman’s 2012 plans, which include spending time at Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio to work on a soundtrack for a new animation, as well as group shows in Copenhagen and New York.