This series of works is titled “Joe Is Not Here,” it is based on recollection and longing.
As a Canadian artist who lives overseas, most of my works and the text incorporated in them deal with reminiscing over places and time that may or may no longer exist. Even though the images are centered on a specific region, I believe the feeling of not belonging and longing for a time and moment that may exist only on one’s mind, is a universal phenomenon. One does not need to be an expat to feel this frustration, and this frustration, is what inspires me to put pen into page.
The text works as a meditative medium for me, a visual diary that marks the moment into the image. The size of the text is designed to preserve the privacy a traditional diary provides. Viewers are encouraged to test their patience in reading them, but I also encourage them to view the text for the energy they bring to an image compared to a traditional line.
I’m a Canadian artist currently working in Seoul. My work has been featured in exhibitions in Korea and Canada. I often exhibit under pseudonyms, with each pseudonym and made-up biography reflecting a different body of work. I find that the each body of work needs an environment that is separate from the artist. On a few shows, I hired actors to play the part of the artist. I think it’s interesting to see how the audience interacts with the pretend me.
I grew up in Winnipeg and graduated from the University of Manitoba’s School of Fine Arts with Honours. I had an interest in both sculpture and drawing during my university years but later focused on drawing. I have exhibited in several galleries, submitted works to minor art projects, and sold work for private and public collections. Though it is always good to have the rare opportunity to exhibit in galleries, I am always thinking of alternative ways to show art. This is the reason why I experiment with book publishing as way to show art and the use of pseudonyms and actors as stand-ins.
My drawing style consists of images made up of smaller images and text. It is a visual diary which allows those who are physically able an intimate window into the artist’s psyche. I enjoy exploring this need for public expression versus the need for personal privacy. I think the style also gives the viewer a sense of accomplishment as well as satisfying their inner voyeur.
A golden VHS tape containing teletext pages will be sent out to the edge of the Universe. Its contents have been carefully selected to best represent the medium of teletext to any intelligent extraterrestrial lifeform.
Through these teletext pages, which are by extension a reflection of human society as a whole, the observer will learn more about the people of Earth in 2016. Among the teletext ‘icons’ to be fired into deep space are palm trees and a live football scores teleprinter.
Critics immediately slammed the project, as it would ‘require the extraterrestrials in question to not only have a suitable VHS player, but also a teletext compatible television.’
PETSCII (PET Standard Code of Information Interchange) equals to Commodore ASCII graphics mode. While PETSCII was born for the PET machines of the late 70s, in this short article I will focus on Commodore 64 PETSCII that has its own characteristics. C-64 PETSCII is also relevant to focus on because of the recent boom of PETSCII images and demos. However, a lot of points made in this article concern other ASCII formats, too.Why to work with a 35-year old graphic mode is of course a good question. One reason is the fact that C-64 PETSCII was never a well examined graphics mode. It was mostly used for floppy disk directory art, BBS graphics and BASIC programmes by beginners. In other words, PETSCII was not seen as a competetive craft until the past few years. The other reason is the fact that with its significant limitations PETSCII actually gets you closer to creativity – the artist becomes as much a thinker as a creator. If I had to describe C-64 PETSCII in few words I would say it is ’an old puzzle with multiple solutions’.
C-64 PETSCII offers artist two colours per character. One colour is global while the other one can be selected individually for each 8 x 8 pixel character position. The colours are selected from the C-64’s fixed palette of 16 colours. The C-64 screen (not including the border area) is 320 x 200 pixels with 40 x 25 characters of 8 x 8 pixels. The basic C-64 PETSCII character set provides 256 different symbols to choose from. In comparison to other 80s’ home computer platforms, the C-64’s 16-colour palette is indeed very competitive. This is mainly because of the bearable colour intensity that makes it possible to create a great variety of colour slides by using any dark, any mid-tone and any light colour next to each other. The palette also provides enough cold and warm colours in different tones.
The C-64 basic character set includes 128 different symbols that can be divided into grotesque letters with glyphs and unique graphic symbols that are included to support low-end graphics. These symbols may have been created for beginners that wanted to have some kind of graphics in their first C-64 BASIC language programmes. The other 128 characters are inverse versions of the first half. How the C-64 symbols ended up being as they are rather follows from the creative work of a few designers rather than particularly good planning for a graphic symbol set. An experienced PETSCII artist would most probably recreate most of them. However, despite its weaknesses C-64 PETSCII gives an artist a lot of opportunities to explore. The key issue is that those 256 characters already provide an almost endless amount of possibilities, while the limitations of the graphics mode provide the necessary challenge. Limitations tend to focus creative work, as there are not too many ways to go. In a way, PETSCII can be seen as a very functional graphic mode. Even more so because of the fact it is a highly compressed format. When working with only 64 kB of memory (minus the operating system) that is still a valid issue.
What the artist has to think of beforehand is the global colour, as it will affect the whole image. Instead of the usual choice of black on the background, it might be better to think about the whole through the global colour. A mid-tone makes it possible to have one darker and one lighter colour ’around’ the global one without any problems. In other words: the artist can draw with light and shadow. This is of course just one approach, but it already gets rid of a lot of problems.
The PETSCII character set is relatively bold with practically no one-pixel thick letters or symbols. This already gives all PETSCII visuals a certain clear look. In low-end computer graphics with limited resolutions and amount of colours, manual dithering has always been the main way to mix colours. With the bold PETSCII graphics dithering is almost impossible to do, so such mixing of colours is either not used or it is done by adding more ’noise’ to make the colour clashes vanish. Many PETSCII artists also prefer styles where colour clashes are visible on purpose. Colour clashing refers to a problem in visuals where the colour limitations appear in an unwanted way. This, too, is one of the key issues for a creative artist – to be able to turn disadvantages into advantages. Using visible colour clashes usually leads to a more comic-like appearance. PETSCII visuals are typically not very detailed because of the limitations, or at least creating something detailed takes a lot of time and talent. All in all, the characteristics of PETSCII graphics can be defined as bold, colourful, clear and functional.
Creating a PETSCII image is very much about making observations and improvising based on them – one looks at the image, tries different characters and colours, and finds a bearable solution after a while. This is also something I personally like very much – finding a combination of characters and colours that really work and fit the purpose is often hard work, sometimes pure luck. Somehow it all reminds me of playing with a random Lego set where the pieces were not really made to fit together.
What makes PETSCII art differ from ’normal’ Commodore 64 visuals is that it is less technique-oriented. An experienced PETSCII artist may have a handful of tricks that help him/her on the way, but in the end most of it is created, thought or improvised along the way. Meanwhile, to create a somehow good image using normal C-64 graphics modes already requires much more knowledge on pixeling techniques. Condsidering this, in a way, PETSCII is a more creative way of creating visuals for the C-64. In addition, it is an easier approach for beginners.
The current PETSCII boom of the still very active C-64 demoscene is yet another example of the power of tools. During the 80s or 90s there were almost no tools for creating PETSCII with. Generating images in pure BASIC language or machine code is very tricky indeed and does not support the creativity of an artist at all. During the late 80s there were a few graphic editors devoted to BBS graphics, but all of them lacked in usability and, therefore, made it impossible to do the testing and improvising that PETSCII requires. The lack of good editors largely fed the view that PETSCII was not a usable graphic format. However, the current trend is totally opposite. The post-millennium C-64 demoscene has been more and more interested in the real ’core’ of their computer.
When Markku “Marq” Reunanen from the demoscene group Fit released his PETSCII editor (that also supports other 80s’ platforms), there was finally a decent tool that met the current standards of graphic artists. Suddenly PETSCII was available to everyone, which created a flood of visuals – seemed that everyone in the demoscene was testing this challenging ’new’ format. In the end Marq’s editor affected the aesthetics of the whole C-64 demoscene. After the release of the editor, PETSCII competitions have become a common thing at demoscene parties, demos have started to use PETSCII as a normal graphic format, and even games have been made by using only PETSCII. Benjamin Franklin’s well-known quote Man is a “tool-making animal” fits this case as well. Download Marq’s editor for free at: http://www.kameli.net/marq/?page_id=2717.
After working randomly every now and then with PETSCII for the past few years, I came to a conclusion that with few modifications most C-64 graphics could have been done with PETSCII. In the graphic mode itself there are still lots of secrets to be found – and they will be found as after its 35 years of existence the C-64 demoscene is still hungry for new things. There will be more revised PETSCIIs for specific uses, even though not every stone yet has been turned with the original one either.
Next I will shortly explain a few graphic ideas behind some of my images. The images shown are made as a hobby and often as well as a test of a specific technique. I do not consider these in the art context, but rather as illustrations. Most of them are doodled for fun without much thought for the actual motives. As PETSCII was new for me when I started with Marq’s editor, many of the works I have done have been merely tests on simple things like materials, dithering, color clashes and so on.
Ascii Pron Remix Art is a reformatted version of the first pornographic art published and shared on the internet. What you will see in the coming pages is not ASCII art, but screenshots, a record of the Ascii Pron Remix happening in a text editor on my computer.
The idea in Ascii Pron Remix was to create “glitched versions” of the original ASCII pornography available online on many websites that have galleries featuring ASCII porn art, such as Textfile and Ascii Pron. I have been making glitch art and working with internet pornography for some years and I have glitched a huge amount of pornographic pictures, videos and GIFs, appropriating the material from various online sources and discovering the way porn is produced and shared on the World Wide Web.
I then make art out of the material, trying to problematize the readability of pornographic images and publishing them on various social media sites, posts on Facebook groups and walls, screenshots on Instagram, tweets on Twitter and last but not least, as Tumblr’s blogs such as Pirate Porno Material 1, Pirate Porno Material 2 and Red Link District. I take these projects from the World Wide Web and bring them AFK on street and public toilet walls using stickers with QR-codes that link to the projects online, creating access points to these dirty new media projects online. After all, it is the distribution and publishing that altered pornography everywhere.
I was wondering if there was a way to “glitch” text-based art and I came up with the idea of making copy/paste ASCII art in text editing software, trying to reformat their original style. I got the most interesting results from the text tool in Photoshop CS6 that suited as the best choice to keep the ASCII art as an altered edit but with a recognizable form. I kept focusing my research and creation on online pornography production. The original works here were copied from the sources mentioned above (Textfiles and Asciipr0n) and then pasted using the text tool in Photoshop. I selected among many fonts (Figure 1) what I felt was the best one and kept the text highlighted to give the text a shadow touch. I then used the <ctrl+stamp> function to copy and paste the screen in Microsoft Paint. The final outcomes were then cropped and saved in .bmp pixel image format.
When I was working with online pornography I understood that porn is accessible basically everywhere and it is also so easy to do so. Working with the images, I realized that the quality of images, thanks to constant improvements of screen and internet technologies, was reaching levels of high definition that were unimaginable some years ago. Back then even poor quality pictures took long to upload. The online pornography today is probably not the best known to mankind but it surely has the best image quality ever.
The first pornography to circulate on the internet was far away from contemporary online porn and it was presented under the form of ASCII art and produced with graphic design techniques. We are talking about the times of bulletin board systems (BBS), Fidonet, e-mail, telnet, usenet and gopher. I wanted to push the problematizing approach in porn production and in porn reading a bit further and so I decided to apply the “glitch” text technique I was experimenting to ASCII porn, often spelt wrong as “Ascii Pron”. The results I got from this process were really exciting, and having all of the different types of fonts available it was just really a wide field of discovery of how much it is possible to depict just using ASCII characters.
The Ascii Pron Remix Art collection is presented with the original filenames are as they appear on major text art archives such as www.textfiles.com and www.asciipr0n.com.
The process of drawing, stemming from a line, a mark on a surface, in any media, is a deeply personal process, and the most ancient of art forms. The act of drawing and the end result may depict the world as we know, through observational studies of moments, light, form, or it can be a subjective process and experience, from deep within, where our emotions and thoughts run free and are brought to the surface through a tactile process.
These photographic images and mixed media works represent these subtle realities. They are observational in nature, sharing with its audience the light of the landscape, the fields and vast deserts. This body of work represents the subtle realities, a “moment” from within, where words alone may not describe, but a line does, a form depicts, and ink draws. The fusion of words and line are intertwined at the core, the word “J ‘arrive” has double meaning, which translates from French “I am capable” as well as “I am arriving”. This is repeated again as a reminder of a goal to be achieved. The landscape is symbolic and similar to one’s journey in life, of being on a road or path, which leads to new places of wishful discoveries.
This body of work is a reflection on the act of drawing, both in the process, as well as in the outcome found, where words are utilized as line, and lost, and found again.
Naz Shahrokh has worked as an artist and educator internationally in the United States, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates. She received a BFA and an MFA in Painting, and an MS in Art History from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY, where she later taught Fine Arts and Art History from 1998 to 2008. She joined the faculty at the Performing and Visual Arts Department at the American University in Cairo, Egypt in 2004-2006, and has been teaching at Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, UAE since 2008.
Naz has exhibited her work internationally and awards for her work include the Change Inc. (the Rauschenberg Foundation) Grant, Captiva, FL, and the Artist-In-The-Marketplace Fellowship, the Bronx Museum, Bronx, NY. Her work has been reviewed in the New York Times, TimeOut Abu Dhabi, the Connecticut Post, the Advocate and Greenwich Time, Contemporary Practices, and ART PAPERS, and is included in private and public collections internationally.
Throughout her creative process and research, Naz investigates common challenges found within the environment with a focus of bringing forth in tactile matter an experience that is both pleasing to the eye as well as revealing. Naz is currently working on several projects connected to land art, where she is investigating the landscape of the United Arab Emirates, as well as a body of work linked to cartography.