Streaming Now...
Joel Swanson

April 15 – May 19 2019

Public Viewing Hours:
Fridays 6–8pm
Saturdays 1–5pm
Sundays 1–5pm

Binary Pronouns is a large format video installation of animated words pairings such as HIM/HER, US/THEM, and YOURS/OURS. Although familiar, these words form the foundation of all the conflicts, inequalities, and injustices in the world today. The pronoun pairs are split into red and cyan channels, replicating 3D anaglyph technology. The work attempts to make reading more challenging by adding visual and formal complexity to these simple but powerful words.

Interview with Joel Swanson

Could you elaborate on the aspects of the language (as a medium) that interest you and how your work progresses throughout the past decade?

I have always been interested in the relationship between language and technology, but recently I have been exploring the dynamics of power that are created through words themselves. Like many languages, English is structured around binary pairs: me vs. you, this vs. that, us vs. them. These binaries influence how we perceive the world, and ourselves in it. Through viewing my work I want people to reconsider the immense power behind these seemingly mundane words.

It’s interesting to see the texts interact with the positive and negative spaces of the 89 LED panels of the 150 Media Stream. Do you see the fragmented structure of the LED panels work together or against the meaning of the texts, which were formed in different scales and patterns, and taken out of their context in the first place?

I see the fragmented construction of the media wall as working both with and against the text. In my work I frequently try to make reading difficult. Once we learn how to read, it quickly becomes second nature, almost automatic. As an artist I want to create a space of contemplation that challenges the immediacy of reading, and the multiple screens of the media wall do this as they physically interrupt the text in visually compelling ways.

Your work has been shown in art venues such as museums and galleries, as well as installed in public spaces such as hotels and neighborhood alleys. What are your expectations of how the audience (public and tenants) for the 150 Media Stream will respond to the project? Do these expectations affect your approach to the work?

Context is such an important part of my practice and I enjoy showing work in unconventional spaces. In galleries and museums, people experience art through a set of predetermined rules and assumptions, but in unique contexts such as 150 Media Stream, those rules aren't as fixed. Exhibiting work in unconventional settings comes with its own set of challenges, but I find it rewarding as it allows me to engage with viewers in new and unique ways.

How does showing the texts in motion driven by the complex screen technology of the 150 Media Stream differ from showing the work in print or photographic formats? How do you think the strong role that the technology played in this project affected its message?

Text is typically static and fixed on a page, but reading itself requires motion. We have to move our eyes—and sometimes our bodies—as we read a book or a screen. Working with time-based media allows me the opportunity to explore and often subvert the traditional patterns of motion associated with reading. ‘Binary Pronouns’ is built upon anaglyph technology which is an early method for creating the illusion of 3-dimensional space by separating the cyan and magenta channels of an image. By incorporating this technology, I am making a commentary on the illusory nature of language itself.

Learn more about Joel Swanson here

Streaming Next...

Motomichi Nakamura

150 Media Stream website:
design by the narrative
photography by michael salisbury