Visakh Menon is an artist from India, currently living in New York. His interdisciplinary practice spans drawing, video, installations, & media art with a focus on human machine interaction. He received his M.F.A from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2007.
Menon currently also works as an independent art director & interactive designer and is an adjunct faculty with the Communications Design Department at NY City College of Technology (CUNY)
Born 1980, Kochi, India
How does human machine interaction impact perception ? This has been the key area of exploration in my interdisciplinary practice over the last decade. My current series of abstract drawings and paintings focus on the visual language of digital artifacts and the aesthetics of glitch, error and noise. Compositionally these works are inspired by geometric abstraction and color field paintings, with a process transitioning from the digital to traditional mediums of drawing & painting and driven by the notion of repetitive mark making as an act of meditation. The algorithmic aesthetics of these works pushes into focus both the functional (generative) and dysfunctional (glitch) nature of code as a tool for expression.
As efficient flow of information has become essential for the exchange of ideas, social interactions and political discourse in our networked society, my signal series of drawings explore concepts of structure and hierarchy as informed by the diagrammatic representation of command and control modules often seen in electronic systems, social networks, botnets, neural circuits, genome maps etc. These works are also influenced by my interest in non-traditional graphic musical scores & representation of sound visually.
Visakh Menon’s new work is a series of drawings created by combining the surrealist techniques of frottage and collage. He utilizes the automatic method of frottage by using a stick of colored charcoal that he rubs over a paper surface in order to highlight the unevenness of its texture that otherwise remain invisible to the eye. Then, by pressing the sticky stripes of the clear adhesive tape against the covered with charcoal paper, he “picks up” the traces of uneven texture to reproduce them on a different surface. As he transfers the material traces of charcoal from one paper surface to another, Menon plays with the micro-topography of surfaces and the micro-landscape of paper as such. The material dimension of work and its visceral nature are especially important for the artist who believes that the immediacy of this process cannot be rendered and, if lost, cannot be remediated.
The series is a result of the endless automatic repetition of similar gestures—pressing, rubbing, and cutting—before the rectangular traces are assembled as a single abstract composition. What might seem as a big departure from Menon’s earlier complex video and installation work still bears a strong connection to the realm of digital culture. Visually, the collages resemble the level maps of the vintage 8-bit video games. The works also contain the small black sprites that reference the game graphics directly, while the traces of paper’s texture create the impression of pixilation.
Besides, the elements of the works are all copied and pasted patterns that follow the logic of sampling and remix where the artist’s intuition and the element of chance are both crucial for composition. However, the series as a whole might also be seen as a variation of just one pattern that evolves in front of the viewer’s eyes like John Horton Conway’s Game of Life, absolutely on its own.
The algorithmic aesthetics of the collages brings up the notion of code as a rule for converting a certain piece of information into another form or representation. One of Menon’s big inspirations is Daphne Oram’s revolutionary work in electronic sound and her technique of “Oramics” that allowed for “drawing music.” Menon’s collages contain the rhythms, as even they are ready to be fed through Oram’s sound machine. As such, they, however, challenge the literal correspondence between the sound code and its visual representation. The series encourages the viewer moving beyond the representational paradigms, to where a code is no longer a convertor that transforms the information patterns in a different form. Instead, by tricking the viewers into playful decoding of what looks like readable sound patterns, the series of Menon’s collages gives birth to the inexistent, unseen or unheard—coming from within the machine.
By: Svitlana Matviyenko (writer, curator & media scholar)