Alchemical – bitforms gallery

bitforms gallery is pleased to introduce ​Alchemical​, a collaborative exhibition by Casey Reas and Jan St. Werner. ​Alchemical presents the artists’ suite of videos alongside a selection of prints by Casey Reas. The online component of this exhibition is presented in collaboration with New Art City.

Untitled Film Stills are a series of prints that trace Reas’ exploration of generative adversarial networks (GAN) as image-making instruments. This empirical procedure more closely resembles alchemy than the artist’s usual practice of software art. Reas and technical lead Hye Min Cho trained GANs with specific films selected for their visual and emotional environments. The artist extracted impressions from consequent material, thereby positioning GANs as an apparatus of his visual language. ​Untitled Film Stills​ are selections from the unique and labored procedure of modeling, generating, and editing.

As the ​Untitled Film Stills​ evolved over a year of production, Reas began animating images that formed the video series ​Untitled ​ 1–5. This cyclical procedure required GAN models to be repeatedly trained to produce a range of images the artist could choreograph with cinematic transitions. Works within this series signal toward subject matter through titles such as ​Untitled 4
(Two Dead!)
​ or ​Untitled 1 (No. Nothing.)​ . Reas’ directed movement is instilled with uncanny gestures made manifest through the sentient electroacoustic sounds of Jan St. Werner.

Werner’s compositions augment the transmutation of imagery in and out of recognition by adapting computer-generated sounds with granular synthesis, a technique that transforms acoustic events into microscopic grains to be arranged and modulated freely. This process allows certain auditory signals to be obscured while others may manifest suddenly. The final culmination of visuals and sound mimics a discernible lexicon of film while establishing a new, multi-sensory expression of cinema.

Alchemical​ delights in the curious combination of machine and human perception. The works synthesize image comprehension through an incantation of sound and motion. Werner and Reas employ a critical process of mediation in relation to machine learning that honors the processes of transformation and combination over generative output.

Thank you to Meyer Sound and Sound Associates for their generous contributions that make it possible to provide a spatial audio experience of Jan St. Werner’s compositions in the exhibition space.

by Casey Reas + Jan St. Werner
January 8–February 14, 2021
Gallery Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11 AM–6 PM

Virtual exhibition tour