I Am a Black Box

David Riley is an artist’s artist – he works with raw ideas and even when these concepts have attained a ‘result’, as David calls them, they are still wide open for interpretation, further development and wide ranging tangential possibilities.  His work could be seen as a springboard to so many other ideas in so many possible media.  I continue to be amazed by his output and the sheer magnitude of his inspiration pool.

David also is a keen blogger and has written several blogs on a-n Artists Talking.  Two of his blogs have been chosen as ‘Choice Blog’, the most recent by Linda Stupart.  FORMAT is an artwork and a unique blog, as Stupart points out in her article; it is uniquely David Riley.    It uses the a-n blogging platform to explore the “facilities and limits within the context of an a-n blog,” as David writes in his intro.  He explains, “this should not, in any way, be taken as criticism. The intent is to explore the limit of the facilities offered by an a-n blog (implied and actual) as a form of visual enquiry”.

Stupart says, “Riley’s collapsing of form and content then is notable within the collective blog imaginary, which often fails to be critical of its own formal structure in a way that other types of practice could never get away with.  Through an explication of limitation FORMAT also reminds us of the incredible potential of blogs as medium, as well as making visible the otherwise invisible restrictions of the institutionalized blog – a very big, fairly convoluted white cube, but a container nonetheless.”

See what I mean – a springboard wide open for possibilities.

Jane Boyer: The statement on each of your blogs reads, “I am a black box, an abstract device evolved to hide the complexities within. Given the appropriate stimulus, I can be triggered to display a transient pop-up model of my inner self and disclose a little of what would otherwise remain secret.” 

Beyond the stated reason ‘to hide the complexities within’, why do you present yourself as an object and your inner self as a ‘transient pop-up model’?

David Riley: I don’t intend to ‘present myself as an object’; a black box is a system metaphor so I use it to present myself as a system, a complex system that no one can fully understand (not even me).

The ‘pop-up model’ idea was planted by Richard Taylor when he interviewed me for an a-n Degrees Unedited Blogger Profile back in 2010. The idea meshed quite naturally with my experience as an engineer, where I often analysed systems that were new to me by treating them as a black box in order to understand their true function.  At art college we were encouraged to self-analyse our output and I found myself not fully understanding how I travelled from initial concept to final outcome. So, now I find it useful to think of myself as a black box where every new line of enquiry has the potential to reveal more of my inner (often hidden) self and my motivations for doing what I do.

679-607-700 (c)2012 David Riley

679-607-700 (c)2012 David Riley, post-it note and ink

JB: Your blog REMNANTS could be seen as a companion piece to FORMAT in its use of the blogging platform limitations.  Your introduction statement is a philosophical one and reminds me of Deleuze’s observation “Underneath all reason lies delirium, and drift.”[1]  You state:

“Everything is T R A N S I E N T.

Although the tools here at a-n (and in general on the world wide web) try very hard to make everything permanent, this is not the natural order.  Any impression of permanence is illusionary. The nature of the universe is for everything to return to the universe for reuse.  I have removed (from this blog) everything the a-n system allows me to delete. I could hide the rest by unpublishing it, but this does not release the storage space for reuse.

So here we have a new outcome based on everything that has gone before: the R E M N A N T S.”

Can you comment on that existential triumvirate – memory, transience and reason, in relation to your enquiries and do you feel they are as present in your work as for someone who is working in more traditional media?

DR: If memory is knowledge and experience; if transience is the coming and going of a new influence or a loss of knowledge through lack of use; and if reason is the use of knowledge and experience to filter the infinite possibility into a manageable focus; then yes these factors are most definitely present in my work.

JB: You have two works in This ‘Me’ of Mine, twitter user names: coded (follow the link on David’s page to see the virtual version of twitter names) and bar EP blues (kinetatic), tell us what is behind the further coding of what is often already a code name in the twitter piece.

DR: I chose to translate the twitter user name into a different form, a form that would retain the full meaning but hide it in plain sight. As I wanted to use twitter, this had to be in a form that would still fit within the limitation of a tweet. If you can read my code then you can read the name, the meaning hasn’t changed. But even this is little more than a side-effect. My concept was to take the names and present them in what is to me a visually interesting way while at the same time engaging new people who might interact with me and stimulate new paths of exploration.

stringing code triptych (c)2012 David Riley

stringing code triptych (c)2012 David Riley, wood, steel angle brackets, screws, steel hooks, bungee cord and nylon bungee hooks, editable wall mountable sculpture/ re-mountable installation; 144cm x 144cm x 4cm

JB: I admire the ease with which you move between codes and systems.  Your latest enquiries, stringing words, involve stringing bungee cords which represent the alphabet, short phrases and now names.  You mentioned earlier that you see text as code and so all language is code to you, does this affect your notions of communication and how you relate to others?

DR: My life has been riddled with codes, as a systems engineer I see them everywhere; consequently I am very comfortable with codes. On reflection, using codes may be a strategy, being an artist is relatively new and I prefer to keep an aspect of the process familiar while I explore other aspects for the first time. Changing one variable at a time is a familiar strategy for experimentation, working with the familiarity of codes allows me to handle the unfamiliarity of materials and reactions to my work. It helps me focus on the new connections I make with people and ideas through sharing my output.  I am always absorbing new things and this feedback can influence and encourage something new further down the line. It is rare for this process to change my own perspective on the work, but it does happen on occasion, when it does this can lead to a new line of enquiry or a variation on an old one.

Maybe there will come a time when I move on and explore a different aspect, one that takes a step away from code into a less familiar territory. Although experience suggests codes will always be there somewhere.


In an effort to raise funds for This ‘Me’ of Mine, I’ve asked the artists to share a list of books they find informative for their practice.  Follow the links here or visit the Bookshop to see all the books suggested so far.  We hope you will see something inspiring for your own interests.

David’s Reading List:
The Janus Aspect: Artists in the Twenty-first Century by John Tusa

The Infinite Line: Re-making Art After Modernism by Briony Fer

Lines: A Brief History by Tim Ingold

Cryptography (Very Short Introductions) by Fred C. Piper and Sean Murphy

You’ll Never Know: Drawing and Random Interference by Henry Krokatsis, Jeni Walwin and James Flint

The Cloudspotter’s Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to the Standard Object Modeling Language by Martin Fowler and Kendall Scott

Use Your Head: How to Unleash the Power of Your Mind by Tony Buzan

Jane’s Additions:

The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler

Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty

If you enjoy what you see here, follow the progress of the project by clicking the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of the page and share content you really like using the ‘share this’ buttons below each article.

Leave us a comment too, we would love to talk with you.

If you would like to support the project contact me at ThisMeofMine@gmail.com

THANK YOU!


[1] L’île déserte et autres textes (2002). Trans. Desert Islands and Other Texts 1953-1974 (2003). p. 262.

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5 thoughts on “I Am a Black Box

  1. robpixaday says:

    Super interview!
    Thank you for sharing these insights, Dave…and thank you, Jane, for bringing Dave’s particular genius to us in this way.

    “Any impression of permanence is illusionary.”
    ::applause::

    🙂

    • janeboyer says:

      Thank you very much for your comment Robin! David does have a very interesting point of view which I greatly respect. It is a great pleasure to be able to highlight all the artists in This ‘Me’ of Mine this way. It’s really great going through the process of delving further into their thoughts.

  2. revad says:

    Thank you Robin, glad you enjoyed it.

  3. […] Coded and Transcribed. TMoM has it’s own web site where you will also find extracts from my interview, with Jane asking the questions. The latest addition to the news is a video of the artists in […]

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