Slade School of Fine Art, UCL, London
Tim Head was born in 1946 in London. He studied at the University of Newcastleupon- Tyne from 1965 to 1969, where his teachers included Richard Hamilton and Ian Stephenson. In 1968 he went to New York where he worked as an assistant to Claes Oldenburg, and met Robert Smithson, Richard Serra, Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, John Cale and others. He studied on the Advanced Sculpture Course run by Barry Flanagan at St Martin’s School of Art, London, in 1969. In 1971 he worked as an assistant to Robert Morris on his Tate Gallery show. From 1971 to 1979 he taught at Goldsmiths College, London. In 1987 Head was awarded First Prize in the 15th John Moores Exhibition. Head has exhibited widely internationally. His solo shows include MoMA, Oxford (1972); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1974 and 1992); British Pavilion, Venice Biennale (1980); ICA, London (1985); and Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany, and touring (1995). He has taken part in group shows including ‘Documenta VI’, Kassel (1977); ‘British Art Now: An American Perspective’, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Royal Academy, London (1980); ‘The British Art Show’, Arts Council Tour (1984); ‘Gambler’, Building One, London (1990); and ‘Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965-75’, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2000).
THE DIGITAL DIMENSION
Artist's Statement, Tim Head
Thin walls of metal and plastic seal off the digital dimension from the sticky tangle of our contaminated world. In this quasi-dimension physical space is collapsed and a different order of space fills the void - hermetic, encoded, precise, finite, airless, unstable. The fundamental condition of the digital screen is instability, each pixel being continually redrawn many times a second. Bathed in the screen's insubstantial glow we absorb this continuous agitation daily. Concealed beneath the screen, the computer's internal workings operate at speeds that are beyond the range of our senses, engendering a giddy sense of acceleration in its wake. Yet behind the feverish surface of the computer's chilled deliveries is an underlying emptiness, a sense of something not wholly satisfied. The pulse of our heartbeat and the digital pulse tick inextricably out of sync with each other.
The contrary nature of the digital medium, its elusive material substance and its unsettled relationship with both ourselves and with the physical world form the background to the recent work.
The digital screen and the inkjet print are currently the dominant commercially available means to display visual information. A large part of the digital industry is dedicated to the increasing refinement of the reproduction, manipulation and transmission of this visual information in which the medium itself is often rendered as invisible as possible. My work attempts to make the medium itself visible.
As a medium that generally operates within the virtual dimension, what is the material substance of the digital medium, its 'raw material'? Does its intrinsic materiality lie within the luminous fabric of the screen pixels and the flurry of microscopic inkjet dots settling on the paper? Or within the hidden procedures of the computer program operating at ultra fast speeds? Or somewhere in-between? And ultimately, what is our own relationship to this prevailing medium?
The work focuses on certain intrinsic properties of the digital medium that clearly distinguish it from other media such as painting, photography, film and video. It deals with only those properties that are part of the basic elements of the computer program linked to the animation of the screen or inkjet printer.
The Digital Projections and Screens
The computer programs are written to generate unique events with random components on screens and projections and to operate at speeds simulating a sense of 'real time'. They are written to work at the native resolution of the projector/screen (the number of pixels that make up the grid of pixels on the screen). They use the property of the pixels that is able to display varying amounts of the red, green and blue primary colours that mix together to create a palette of over sixteen and a half million possible colours.
The programs written for projection are projected directly on to a wall at a scale large enough to make each pixel on the screen visible as a discrete unit. The programs that are written for wall- mounted screens treat all the pixels on the screen as a single unit.
The programs operate at the primary scale of the medium's smallest visual element - the pixel - by treating each of these elements as a separate individual entity. In this way the digital medium's commercially prescribed role of representing images and text is completely bypassed and replaced by the underlying material of the medium itself. The medium is no longer transparent but opaque.
The Digital Inkjet Prints
The work with inkjet prints sets out to redefine the prescribed role of the commercial inkjet printer through a computer program that is written to directly control all the printer's operations, diverting it from an industrially refined reproduction machine into a direct primary printing medium in its own right.
The computer program generates unique decisions in real time for the colour, size and location of each inkjet dot set within sequential horizontal lines that are the intrinsic physical properties of the inkjet print.
In virtual space the scale of what is represented is either an enlargement or a reduction in size or else has a floating unanchored scalelessness. This seems to be the case for most digital inkjet prints. Instead these inkjet prints are set at the physical one to one scale of the inkjet dot. They sit in the same physical space we occupy. One metre of inkjet print is one metre, not a representation of a hundred metres.
By operating at the primary scale of the medium's smallest visual element (the printed inkjet dot) and by treating each of these elements as a separate individual entity the ambition of the inkjet print is no longer tied to the interpretation and reproduction of an external source (an image created on a screen) but becomes instead the direct embodiment of the printer's own unique characteristics.
The digital programs for screen, projection or inkjet print confront us directly with the medium itself. There are no images, scenarios, back- stories - no distractions. The choices of how to relate to these works are not predetermined and place us in a more direct physical and reflexive relationship with the material substance of our dominant technologies.
The drawings focus on inherent physical characteristics of the drawing medium. Unlike the remote precision of digital programs the drawings carry the nervous rhythms and seismic waverings of the hand made. Using the restrictions of a limited range of standardised materials each drawing adopts a fundamental drawing procedure. The drawing emerges on the paper through the gradual accumulation of this procedure. Over a certain duration the drawings come to rest at different densities of activity.