Robert Maciel

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Robert Maciel is an artist currently living in Portland, Oregon.

He makes art with pixels, pencils, markers, paint, pens, film, video, and sound.

Drawings | 2018-2019

Sketchbook | 2017-2019

Daily Shapes | 2017

Daily Shapes | 2016

Noise | 2016-2018

Re: Daily Shapes + Noise

In 2016, I began a project called Daily Shapes, during which I created and shared one composition each day as a ritual reminder to be present. Over what would become a two year project, I explored basic composition, utilizing only a limited color palette and a vocabulary of lines and simple geometric shapes to communicate principles such as balance, pattern and perspective. I used bright colors inspired by the additive RGB color model employed by digital screens, yet at times would strip the work down to just black and white when form took precedent.

At the project’s inception, I was commuting for 3 hours daily via public transit, and became increasingly aware of my fellow commuters’ reliance on phones to pacify them. More often than not, I’d look up to see every other passenger staring into a screen, scrolling through and consuming digital information, noise, for as long as they weren’t forced to engage with the outside world.

In an effort to limit my own consumption and be mindful of the kind and quality of the media I was consuming, I opted to use my time in transit productively, creating something and developing my own skills and style. I used my phone (somewhat hypocritically), a 30GB iPhone 7, and an app called Assembly. I created at least one design by the time I arrived at work each day, shared it, and used my small but growing audience to keep me accountable.

Throughout the project and starting with Assembly, I installed and used 50+ apps, both free and paid for, that were intended for photography, illustration, animation and video. Each had strengths and limitations, unique editing tools or clunky design flaws (I was surprised at how many had some kind of social network functionality intended to lure users). Soon, an app’s design and usability became synonymous with its accessibility, and in poorly designed platforms a user’s literacy became more important than the app’s functionality in achieving results.

Eventually, the work began to include animation and video. Vibrating, frenetic organic forms  were made from simple animations affected with various “glitch” apps (most notably, Hyperspektiv). While the apps’ effects usually mimicked the aesthetic of degraded video media (VHS, digital compression, etc.), my animations were stripped of any recognizable forms, leaving only the artifacts of compression and digital effects, the subject becoming degradation itself. Here, my look at noise became about its creation, and the distilling of ideas over time as they are repeatedly consumed and regurgitated.

My inquiry into consumption became about the politics of noise

What constitutes media content being noise?
Is “escapist” content a bad thing?
Does it matter that it’s digital?

To me, noise is an artifact of efforts toward a different end. Ads are intended to sell things, but become noise when they fail in achieving their purpose. Noise could be content intended for an audience’s escape, or that doesn’t challenge existing perspectives or introduce new ones. It is easily digestible and can be either satisfying or maddening, depending on one’s exposure and if it is content of the user’s choosing. In other words, the definition of noise depends on taste (a realization sobering in its simplicity).

Escapist content, however, does not depend on taste, but is instead hinged on a person’s motivation for consumption. Escape is only detrimental to the extent that it prevents or replaces meaningful engagement (with the self, others, the world…).

That content consumed is digital only matters insofar as that content is accessible. Internet access in the home is often determined by socioeconomic status, as was television before it. The difference is the relative speed at which information now travels and changes, and that we each have a voice in the larger discourse, provided we have access to tools for creating and viewing digital media.

This body of work began as a reaction to the consumption of noise. Over time, it was as much about the creation of noise, the artifacts of compression and remixing, and the distilling of ideas spread digitally.

In sharing this project, I hope to provoke consideration for the individual and collective consumption of information. I hope to draw attention to the differences between engaged and escapist consumption, and the role each plays in the shaping of our ideas and awareness.

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