&nbrs;Beyond Resolution


Myopia 2015
[ ⌇ Wavelets ]
‘Myopia’ (2015)
Myopia (2015)
13x3.5m wall vinyl showcasing wavelets and extruding vectors.
Zooms into the JPG2000 wavelet compression artefacts.

Myopia zooms into the JPG2000 wavelet compression artefacts, created by introducing a line of ‘other language’ into the JPEG2000 file data.

The day before the iRD closed its doors, visitors were invited to bring an Exacto Knife, to cut their own resolution of ‘Myopia’, and mount them on any institution of choice (book, computer or other rigid surface).

Myopia (2015)
[ analogue ]
Beyond Resolution (2015)

Beyond Resolution :: Pattern recognition lost its resolution.
15:30 min AV live performance registration that took place at Static Gallery, Liverpool, January 2015.

Featuring video images by Alexandra Gorczynski and sounds from Professional Grin by Knalpot. Sound mastering by Sandor Caron.

Beyond Resolution remix [Ryan Maguire aka moDernisT remix]
Original: Beyond Resolution [Rosa Menkman, Professional Grin Knalpot remix]

From Ryan Maguires website (on process):

""moDernisT" was created by salvaging the sounds and images lost to compression via the MP3 and MP4 codecs. The audio is comprised of lost mp3 compression material.
Deep Screen Resolution
In 2013, I was invited to play a concert with Knalpot during The Night of the Unexpected in Moscow. The invitation came from the Russian government, to celebrate 100 years of trade organisations between NL and RU. Coincidentally, it was timed just after the implementation of a new law against gay propaganda in Russia, which put a strange context of power and control on the event.
A mediator working for the Dutch embassy in Moscow helped us to obtain a visum. In the process he demanded a ‘map’ of my setup, a rider (the list of technological requests) and a list of gear. He also spoke about ‘permitted AV-behavior’. I explained I would use the live sound of Knalpot to generate synced video. In my rider I asked for an analogue-out resolution.

Then The Night of the Unexpected was there. The venue was big and we were to setup in the middle, on an island. A big projector graced the prow of our island, pointing at a big, professionally suspended black screen - a screen for back-projection, in this case setup to be projected on from the front. Instead of RCA, the producer handed me an HDMI (digital) cable, and an analogue to digital convertor. 

Surprised at what seemed like problems stacking up rapidly, I turned to the producer of the event. An eye opening conversation took place:

< What will we do with the screen, where will I project?
> This is the screen (pointing at the black screen)
< Since we are not able to project from the back, we need a white screen, not a black screen.
> This is the best technology available in Moscow.
< Black screens absorb light, they do not reflect it - this means the projection will not show from the side on which you project (but on the back).
> This was the most expensive. I ordered the best technology in Moscow.
On your rider you did not specify that you need a white screen.
< We can test it… Can I have the RCA cable I requested on my rider?
> [lady points at HDMI cable and analogue to digital converter] We have this for you, it is better.
< I requested analogue out. I need to send my output unconverted, straight from my synthesizer to the projector, because it is synced with the band.
>This is not possible. 

While nothing resolved, it was only when the rehersal had already started I finally realised my main problem: in the corner of the island, a Russian video engineer (or what I would like to call the ‘Russian video police’) took my videostream, screened it for any ‘offensive’ content, while taking the liberty to cut and overlay the stream shown to the audience at any time, corrupting its intrinsic analogue qualities by adding digital macroblocks (digital video artifacts) and introducing an aspect-ratio conflict. But, most importantly: adding a two second delay to my synced and live generated video feed. 

In the end, my performance became a barely visible disaster. But as a result, one thing appeared to me very clearly: the shortcomings of my understanding of the term resolution. During the performance, I could clearly see the difference between the resolved image on the screen available to the audience and the image resolved on my check monitor. These images did not just differ in terms of size or aspect ratio, but also in terms of esthetics, power and timing.

As Gonring writes in his PhD paper, besides a width and height, a screen also has a ‘thickness’ and ‘depth’. The ‘thickness’ of the screen acts as an immediate veil, showing only a final resolution, while shrouding (most of) the technologies involved in the process of resolving the image. The ‘depth’ of the screen involves the procedures beyond (or behind) the screen: the processes involved in creating or ‘resolving’ the final resolution. 
The term ‘resolution’ thus needs to be redefined and expanded for the field of media arts. This expanded definition should involve a reflection on what processes and trade-offs between materials and their protocols take place, not only perceived from the perspective of the audience, but also as experienced by the producer, performer, curator or reviewer.

A drawing of my setup during the Night of the Unexpected, Moscow, 2013. 

The Russian black screen, in the process of cleaning before the performance. 
[ resolution theory ]
︎ Untie : Solve : Dissolve : Resolutions for the Transmediale Machine Research publication


1. Gonring, Gabriel Menotti MP. Movie/Cinema: Rearrangements of the Apparatus in Contemporary Movie Circulation. Diss. Goldsmiths, University of London, 2011. p. 227.

2. Galloway, Alexander R. The interface effect. Polity, 2012.
Untie : Solve : Dissolve : Resolutions
Resolutions involve < determinations > /* –and lost alternatives– */

Within the technological realm, the term ‘resolution’ is often simplified, to mean a standard numerical quantity or a measure of acutance, such as samples per inch. In reality, the term refers to settings that function in conjunction and thus entails a space of compromise between different actors (objects, materialities and protocols) in dispute over norms (frame rate, number of pixels, etc.). Generally, settings within these conjunctions either ossify as requirements and de facto standards, or are notated as standardized norms by organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

A resolution - or rather the resolving - of an image thus means more than just a superficial setting of width x height, or frames per second. Besides a width and height, a screen also has a ‘thickness’ and ‘depth’.1 This thickness of the screen acts as a membrane, that shrouds the technology from its audience, while its depth can be understood as the space where protocols behind (or beyond) the screen organize settings, that in their turn inform the image politically, technically and aesthetically. Resolutions should be understood as a trade off between these standard settings; actors (languages, objects, materials) that dispute their stakes (frame rate, number of pixels and colours, etc.), following set rules (protocols).

The more complex an image processing technology is, the more actors it entails, each following their own ‘protocols’ to resolve an image, all influencing its final resolution (think: liquid crystal, CPU, compression, etc.). However, these actors and their inherent complexities are positioned more and more beyond the fold of everyday settings, outside the afforded options of the interface. This is how resolutions do not just function as an Interface Effect but as hyperopic lens, obfuscating some of the most immediate stakes and possible alternative resolutions of media. When was the last time you saw or thought about a video with 8 or 3 corners?

Unknowingly, the user and audience suffers from technological hyperopia. It has lost track of the most fundamental compromises that are at stake within resolutions. The question now is, have we become unable to construct our own settings, or have we become blind to them?
Determinations such as standard resolutions are as dangerous as any other presumption; they preclude alternatives, and sustain harmful or merely kippled ways of running things. This is why any radical digital materialist believes in informed materiality: while every string of data is ambiguously fluid and promiscuous, it has the potential to be manipulated into anything. This is how a rheology of data can take form, facilitating a fluidity in data transactions where actors themselves are at stake.
Resolution theory is a theory of literacy: literacy of the machines, the people, the people creating the machines, and the people being created by the machines. But resolution studies is not only about the effects of technological progress or the aesthetization of the scales of resolution; which has already been done under the titles such as Interface Effect or Protocol.2 Resolution studies is research about the standards that could have been in place, but are not - and which as a result are now left outside of the discourse.
Through challenging the actors that are involved in the setting of resolutions, the user can scale actively between increments of hyperopia and myopia. This is why we need to shift our understanding of resolution, and see them as disputable norms or habitual compromises.

A protocol shapes data in order for it to be stored, shown, or move and connect between technologies. Protocols, together with objects and their materialities, form the resolutions that make technology run smoothly.3 But these resolutions form not only a solution, but also a compromise between multiple underlying media properties. A resolution is not a neutral facility but carries historical, economical and political ideologies. The cost of all of these media protocols is that we have gradually become unaware of the choices and compromises they represent. We are collectively suffering from technological hyperopia where these qualities have moved beyond a fold of perspective.

Have we become bad at constructing our own resolutions, or are we just oblivious to resolutions and their inherent compromises?

[ DCT encryption ] 
The legibility of an encrypted message does not just depend on the complexity of the encryption algorithm, but also on the placement of the data of the message. Here they are closely connected to resolutions: resolutions determine what is read and what is unseen or illegible.

DCT ENCRYPTION (2015) uses the aesthetics of JPEG macroblocks to mask its secret messages on the surface of the image, mimicking error. The encrypted message, hidden on the surface is only legible by the ones in the know; anyone else will ignore it like dust on celluloid.

While the JPEG compession consists of 6 steps, the basis of the compression is DCT, or Discrete Cosine Transform. During the final, 6th step of the JPEG compression, entropy coding, a special form of lossless data compression, takes place. Entropy coding involves the arranging the image components in a "zigzag" order, using run-length encoding (RLE) to group similar frequencies together.
How Not to be Read, a recipe using DCT:

  • Choose a lofi JPEG base image on which macroblocking artifacts are slightly apparent. This JPEG will serve as the image on which your will write your secret message.
  • If necessary, you can scale the image up via nearest neighbour interpolation, to preserve hard macroblock edges of the base image.
  • Download and install the DCT font
  • Position your secret message on top of the JPEG. Make sure the font has the same size as the macroblock artifacts in the image
  • Flatten the layers (image and font) back to a JPEG. This will make the text no longer selectable and readable as copy and paste data.

︎ for the #3D Additivist Cookbook.
︎ DCT won the Crypto Desgin Challenge Award in 2015.

A Discrete Cosine Transform simplified to make a monochrome .ttf font and iRD logo. In the logo RLE 010 000 - 101 1111 signifies the key to the DCT encryption: 010 000 - 101 1111 are the binary values of the 64 most used ASCII glyphs, which are then mapped onto the DCT in a zig zag order (following RLE).