Angela Bulloch

Schipper & Krome

Got a case of chromophobia? Angela Bulloch’s ingenious pixel boxes might not be what the doctor ordered. The artist, who is based in Berlin and London, has given the pixel—the indivisible picture element whose only information value is color—an entirely new plastic form. Basically, Bulloch has transformed the little color squares that make up a televisual image into large, individual sculptural units. Each one is a fifty-centimeter (nineteen-and-a-half-inch) cube and consists of a screen framed in a wooden box containing an RGB additive light system: three strip lights in red, green, and blue that are capable of producing an astonishing 16 million colors. The modular pixel-box system, which has been developed and copyrighted by Bulloch along with the German artist Holger Friese, can be programmed with any digitized image, from preset animations to solid colors. Whatever appears on a screen can be shown on the pixel boxes, yet their size prevents the spectator from discerning anything beyond color, which appears to have devoured and metabolized all other information present in the source image.

In one recent incarnation of the system, “Standard Universal: 256,” 2000, Bulloch presented a specific instrumentalization of color; the 256 shades of the Macintosh screen moved like breath across a single pixel box, one shade exhaling the next. For this show, Bulloch has taken her project to the next logical step, capturing color as narrative. She chose a key scene from Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow Up: the photographer stepping out from behind a tree to take pictures of a couple in the park. (Only later, when developing the prints, does he discover that he has photographed the traces of a crime.) The appropriated scene, which might be recognizable at a vast distance, appears on seventeen pixel boxes arranged in five columns, all blinking silently at the spectator.

Although Blow Up may seem an all too obvious choice to blow up, Bulloch’s gesture is not that simple. While it's true that the scene is enlarged through the scale of the pixel boxes, there is also a reduction at work in her transformation of the source image. To get the color for each box, Bulloch decreased the resolution of the scene on the computer screen, from seventy-two to one pixel per inch, which allowed her to capture the photographer’s movement instead of any of its details. In other words, she did not zoom into the film but flattened it out, reducing detail and taking away information. Unlike film, the pixel—whatever its size—hides no fragments in its surface; when we try to get closer, it simply pushes us away, revealing more of the same color. By choosing to pixelize the photographer, instead of his photographs, Bulloch puts him and his tools in the past and shows that the dynamics of the trace have simply disappeared.

Having tackled Antonioni’s chef d’oeuvre, Bulloch's next step is to integrate real-time information. The pixel boxes will be installed at the OK Centrum für Gegenwartskunst in Linz and change color according to the movements of local pedestrians. Such an interactive project is typical for Bulloch, an early proponent of relational aesthetics. The modular pixel-box system may be a technical feat, but it also presents a challenge to the definition of artistic endeavor: Why simply produce works when you can invent entirely new media? The implications of Bulloch’s project are almost as numerous as the colors on her palette.

Jennifer Allen