Inscribed (Ko Aye Aung), 2010

This work was created as part of the Amnesty International’s ARTillery Festival as part of the MasterPEACE exhibition. Artist’s involved were asked to make work in response to the story of an unfairly imprisoned individual at risk, people whose right to freedom is currently being campaigned for by Amnesty International.

Inscribed (Ko Aye Aung) is an explicit analogy of the process of degradation and loss that has been occurred by Ko Aye Aung. I do not know Ko Aye Aung. If it was not for Amnesty I would not even know his story. All knowledge of him was provided to me as a simple digital profile. Dot pointed and only nine hundred and eighty two words accompanied by a small portrait. His is a story that is singularly unique, however at the same time multiple and all too common. His is a story we never truly know, we never hear about, we are all distant from.

This video is made through a simple process.
Insert Ko Aye Aung’s digital profile, one letter at a time, into and over the code that makes up his JPEG portrait. Each frame of this video is a record of the degradation and loss incurred as each letter is added until at last all his profile is written into the image and his face is lost.

relevant [ 10 Codeworks ]

Discourse, 2010

This work is the result of an inquiry into the process of conversation based purely on statistical probability. The transcript actively spilling forth from the two receipt printers is a hypothetical dialogue between the two classical economists Karl Marx and Adam Smith.

The System.

Each sentence is constructed from the statistical probability within a source text that any given word follows from another. The two source text used are Karl Marx, Capital, Volume II: The Process of Circulation of Capital, and Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book II: Of the Nature, Accumulation, and Employment of Stock.

Starting from scratch the first word is randomly chosen based on its frequency within the source text. Words with a higher frequency of occurrence are more likely to be chosen then words appearing less often.

The next word in the sentence is then randomly chosen from all the words that follow the proceeding word. This choice is informed by the frequency of those words occurring after the preceding word/s within the entirety of the source text. Then the next word is chosen based on the preceding two words, and so on. It is important to note that this specific instance of the system is limited to a maximum resolution of three preceding words. This process continues until the sentence ends. A sentence is ended when there is no word within the source that follows from the preceding word/s, or given a series of words there is a high probability that a full stop, or equivalent symbol, occurs next in the source.


The system of conversation is very limited. There are only two agents within any conversation. The agents take turns in talking. When one agent talks, the other listens until the end. There are no interruptions.

One agent is randomly chosen to begin the conversation. It constructs a sentence from scratch as describe above. When the sentence is finished the listening agent responds.

A response is constructed by searching the sentence received from the other agent for words or series of words that occur within its own source text, or vocabulary. It then selects between these based on the probability of potential words that follow within its source text. Words or series of words that have the largest amount of possible continuation are more likely to be selected then those with fewer. Once selected, the agent then chooses the first word of its response using the procedure described above.

This process is endless.

This work has also been reproduced as a 180 page book, “Karl Marx and Adam Smith: Dialogue. An inquiry into conversation through statistical probability“. Indefinite edition.
Resale price: $49.95

Discourse won the Non-Aquisitive Prize at the 2010 Fremantle Arts Centre Print Award.

Discourse (video + transcript)

Discourse, Primavera 2012, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Image courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Photography: Robbie Karmel

Adam SMITH: to have been always exported by foreigners who gave in exchange for something that had been purchased with it but only to one or other of those four ways are themselves productive labourers.
Karl MARX: several big branches of business.
Adam SMITH: industry or of certain districts of the country could absorb and employ will return upon it almost as fast as they were emptied.
Karl MARX: until after three weeks are up that is to say in the sphere of production.
Adam SMITH: in general idle and poor.
Karl MARX: capitalists.
Adam SMITH: of money being necessarily regulated by what can commonly be given for the use of the loans.
Karl MARX: borrowed land and capital borrowed by the industrial capitalists employ their capital to pay for labour power and thereby to maintain it.
Adam SMITH: increase very considerably the annual produce of the land and labour of any country which is employed in agriculture not only occasion like the workmen in manufactures the reproduction of a value equal to the revenue of all its dealings.

Short Message Service, 2012

Benjamin Forster invites speculation about the connections between objects and data in contemporary systems of thought and technology. Although the most dominant feature of this work is the transaction between viewers’ phones and the microcontroller displayed in the gallery, there are other elements to consider. They include the coding which generates and distributes the digitised text, the graphical or typographical decisions concerning what appears on the screens of viewers’ phones and the material or presentation aspect of work which can be enjoyed in the gallery. With audiences able to experience some aspect of the work anywhere in the world and forward it to others, Forster’s coding generates collective activity of a global and instantaneous nature – a characteristic arguably anticipated by precedents such as instructions in Mail Art.

During the exhibition Benjamin Forster’s work could be accessed by SMS 0434 377 980.

A conversational experiment with Leigh Robb, 2012

A tiny bit of context before the deluge of nonsense:

A 500 to 800 word essay about Benjamin’s practice was commissioned for Primavera 2012. He asked Leigh Robb, both the curator at Perth Institute of Contemporary art as well as a close friend. Over numerous coffees and a few beers they discussed alternate strategies for approaching the essay, wanting to do something experimental but accessible. On the right is one of their experiments which never made it any further than Leigh’s lounge room. The simple premise was to use the statistical algorithms of the work Discourse, but rather than using the source text of Marx or Smith, they would feed it all the words ever written about Benjamin’s practice, and then instead of having a conversation with its own perverted logic, they would open it up to Leigh Robb’s input. This is a brief excerpt of a conversation between Leigh Robb and all of the published words on Benjamin work (as of august 2012).

a conversation between Leigh Robb and all of the published words on Benjamin work, 2012

INPUT: drawing and machines .
OUTPUT: embody that process he said .
INPUT: that process of making visible .
INPUT: or invisible
OUTPUT: more than a semantic content the graphic elements of our natural urban habitat thus constitute an almost imperceptible horizon within which and against which something like communication or representation may happen .
INPUT: so how do communication and representation coexist .
OUTPUT: drawing .
INPUT: so is drawing a form of language
OUTPUT: computer code .
INPUT: computer code is a language .
OUTPUT: code .
INPUT: code is language .
OUTPUT: in a row of gargantuan photographs on the idea of reclaiming these lost stories or objects these earthly physical experiences .
photography isn’t central to your practice .
OUTPUT: automatic .

INPUT: automatic imagery through code
OUTPUT: printers pouring out long ribbons of text one composed of words between karl marx and adam smith s the wealth of nations as the input material .
INPUT: benjamin’s dialogue machines are also drawing machines
OUTPUT: utterly primordial .
INPUT: drawing is primordial and benjamin attempts to program this intuitive process .
OUTPUT: forster is hoping his latest drawing machine that was programmed to draw and has programmed receipt dispensers that discuss marx .
INPUT: benjamin is interested in analogue things
OUTPUT: documented on long white receipt rolls that tumble across the floor in forster s studio were beautifully drawn dog headed masculine bodies which lay beside pictures cut out from health and fitness magazines tentatively underlining the contradiction between the natural male body and the wealth of nations .
INPUT: this was when benjamin was studying cynicism .
OUTPUT: jacques derrida noted more or less in passing that there is a clever conceit and a common view .
INPUT: philosophy in artistic practice .
OUTPUT: forster s art is incisive albeit its incisions are the effect of a work entitled discourse .
INPUT: discursive drawing machines .
INPUT: anti drawing machine .
OUTPUT: that was programmed to draw from observation .
INPUT: but that is incorrect the machine was programmed to draw from code .
OUTPUT: from observation .
INPUT: no from benjamins own system of catelogrizing drawing .
OUTPUT: economics and excess .
INPUT: benjamins recent machines depart from drawing to analysing language and dialogue .
OUTPUT: where to write meant originally to scrape or to scratch on a clay tablet with a contemporary dancer for his project he realised that we are fairly cynical here .

relevant [ Primavera 2012 ]

connected (installation view)

relevant [ 10 Connected ]

Drawing Machine (Output = Screen)

Film demonstrating the general progression of the screen-based version of Benjamin Forster’s Drawing Machine.

“…a digital environment is an abstract projection supported and sustained by its capacity to propagate the illusion (or call it a working model) of immaterial behavior: identification without ambiguity, transmission without loss, repetition without originality.”

— Kirschenbaum, Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination (2008)

relevant [ <09 10 11 12 Drawing Machine ]

Twenty-Six Ideal Erasures, 2011

process: Every occurrences of the twenty-six letters in the alphabet are digitally erased from three essays about language. Each essay in this series represents a different domain of knowledge: Literature, Science and Philosophy. Through this simple process of erasure the absence reveals the scaffolding on which meaning is pined and opens space for new possibilities.

relevant [ )( 11 ]

Appearances, 2010

Intended to raise questions about identity within a culture of increased surveillance and machine intelligence, this work is a simple computer vision system that analyses a live camera feed for faces. The system records all the faces it encounters into a database and then replaces newly seen faces randomly with one recorded previously. Installed opposite the monitor is a large drawing derived from facebook, which the system reads as human faces and records, replaces the drawn faces with actual visitors to the gallery and vice versa.

relevant [ 10 Rational ]

Index of all possible forms (65,536) + Every possibility iterated over time, 2011

process: A clock. Changing every second this clock iterates through every possible form within the structure of the LED display. A total of 65,536 forms. From time to time a recognisable structure strikes – An A or a B, a + or a -. These are moments of clarity in a completely determined system of nonsense.

relevant [ )( 11 ]