PSALOM 50/51

Algorithmic Reverence: Navigating Spirituality and Apocalyptic Imagery in the Pictorial Tableaus of Arik Weissman

APR 2023


Divine Pixels: Arik Weissman's Algorithmic Spirituality

Divine Pixels: Arik Weissman's Algorithmic Spirituality

The use of vertical formats also denotes an inference of the spiritual and sidereal, and it follows on from this that the pictorial viewpoints are those of elevation, or, in religious terms positions of reverence.

This said the imagery at the same time is consonant with depictions commonly associated with early nineteenth century biblical painted sources such John Martin’s Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion (1812), a painting that attempted to blend science and fantasy at the time. That is to say imagery also reminiscent of the vivid colouristic parody appropriations of Komar and Melamid in the 1980s.
A corona-Melchizedek (cohen or priest) figure also appears in a specific Weissman tableau, echoing the position of David as priest and king, and is shown in elevation surrounded by his spiritual flock. The theme of the flock and followers appears through many of the untitled tableau, visually stressing the contingencies of purification by fire and light.

The allusion to fire suggesting purification in relation to penitence, whereas light and luminescence connte faith, “Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar (KJB, verse 19). Throughout the pictorial tableau there is a neo-romantic aspect of presentation, emphasis is placed on the diurnal moment, a sense of pictorial transition. We see images of the abyss and the void, passageways through fragmented and abraded architecture, Friedrich-like luminous windows of light, fiery crosses and levitating figures forms, and a sense of apocalyptic uncertainty. However in other instances we find signage works, where each motif is reduced to a skeletal drawings of stick figures, crosses that appear like old telegraph poles, altars and crosses, as if the former pictorially conventional representative algorithmic images, have been re-encrypted into a completely different ideogram-like language- On a sour yellow cave like ground we have moved from the symbolic to the encoded world of pictograms where compositional boundaries are transgressed and the juxtaposed elements appear haphazardly placed. We enter at this point the creative sublimation of the artist-programmer’s algorithm in which there is limited predictability.

The use of algorithms applied to the production of rule-based images is not a new invention, and as previously stated the term artificial intelligence derives from the mid-1950s. The programming of brush marks and various other pictorial effects began in the 1960s. In fact artists like Harold Cohen’s AARON system was first developed at San Diego a computer system of drawing and painting using brushes and various dyes or tints to mechanise the making of the marks. This seems primitive when seen against today’s artificial intelligence or deep learning algorithms analogous to generative neural networks and transformers. With the advent in the last decade of advanced neural networks images and patterns of great diversity have been generated using algorithmic pareidolia, autonomously rule-processed images. The term pareidolia is the tendency to impose meaningful interpretation on nebulous stimuli usually visual, so that one sees objects, patterns, or meaning where there may be none. Yet in this instance Arik Weissman as artist-programmer takes inspiration of the processing of a penitential confession, The Miserere hymn among the most famous within the psalter, has previously been subjected to a diversity of musical settings across cultural media from liturgical to secular and pop music, it is a hymn that permeates the life of the threefold religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Its transliteration as visual language adds a further layer of pictorial celebration.


©️ Mark Gisbourne

Friday, 7 April 2023

© 2023 Arik Weismann