Want & Need

ASCII image of Beer

An ASCII Art exhibition is the sum of SMS contributions and more. The thematic thread is prefigured with the following:

Today Want & Need have become confused.
Our desires transform what is wanted into something essential.
Our consumption can no longer be taken for granted. What I want is …what I need….

The operational thread is realised through a process of distributed delivery and distribution. The input, text results in the output of ASCII images such as ‘Pint of Beer.’

The ASCII image is alot bigger and thus the beer image is found with a certain stare. But this size reveals the secret behind the process.

The Process:

Users/Artists contribute by sending a text message of their want or need, eg BEER, via SMS to a database. Messages are then randomly selected and sent to a proprietary visualisation software (by C6) which converts the text into an ASCII image. The image is then sent to monitors in the exhibition space, and on the website.
Input and Output schematic

It seems, then, as you can see in the Beer pic. That the text is parsed as a word, a theme, and then images are searched with this as a keyword and then the text is used to create the image again. Before I realised this I was excited by the realisation of my words, the manifestation of my want. But when I realised/supposed the machinic nature of the text to image transformation the process lost its gloss. Why?

2 Responses to “Want & Need”

  1. 1 Mark Marino

    Let me know if I’m hearing/reading your queston correctly?

    If “lost its gloss” means lost its satisfying effect then….(I switch to my two-bit Lacan impersonation)

    More than just pulling the curtain back from the illusion, your realization of the mechanism seems an extension of the lack you have already foregrounded in the image itself. The words as image at first seem to become what they signify. At the point at which we recognize their letters in the image, the image deteriorates and its relationship to the words that make it prove as arbitrary as the relationship between the image and the thing. The focus shifts to lacks and gaps (to borrow some ideas from our psychoanalytic friends). In this emphasis on language as the pixel-stuff of our images, comes a redoubled sense of the gap between all the signifiers and the thing we want, and perhaps, between the thing we want and the drive that makes us want it, or what it represents.

  2. 2 Christy Dena

    Yes, I like your play on want and need. Lucky I didn’t include the carnal pics. But continuing on your observations I must say that what I found dissappointing in the end was that the process reduced the amount of meaning in the pic or at least made it static. If the pic was actually saying something to contrast the word — like a car crash or a pizza box and static on a TV — there is a deeper level of meaning. But just finding a pic that matches the word and blending the 2 into an ASCII image just isn’t enough, a search engine and remediation. OK. I love generators and so the fact that this is an automated response doesn’t phase me. It is the human designers who created a program that doesn’t have cleverness built in. The only way this could be interesting and fun is through human ingenuity. Like entering the word ‘abstract’ or ‘piety’ or ‘formant’ and seeing what happens. This makes the entertainment user-driven whereas the whole idea of delivering a word for picturfication or ASCIIfication seems to imply to me that the program was going to supply some surprise.

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