Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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B rooklyn-based artist James Hoff is a hacker of sorts. Relying on specific computer viruses as his source material, he has built up a multidisciplinary practice that extends to the worlds of music, visual art and publishing—and which will be feted at his first solo museum show "B=R=I=C=K=I=N=G," opening this month at Contemporary Art Center (CAC) in New Orleans. "James employs rigorous conceptual frameworks, sophisticated systems and technologies, and a fierce command of contemporary forms of distribution and communication," says Andrea Andersson, the Helis Foundation Chief Curator of Visual Arts at CAC. "And yet the works themselves exhibit a kind of old- fashioned charm, a healthy humor, a comfort with both historical and contemporary ideals of beauty." "B=R=I=C=K=I=N=G," consists of three elements. In his vividly hued virus paintings, Hoff converts a monochrome SGI (Silicon Graphics Image) file into code, into which he inserts fragments of the infamous Skywiper and Stuxnet computer viruses. When converted back to SGI, the manipulated code generates bursts of color and patterns of lines that Hoff then transfers to canvas or aluminum. For CAC, the artist has also completed a sound installation in a manner similar to the process behind Blaster, the Hoff album that Berlin-based record label PAN released last year: that recording features music samples corrupted by the computer virus of the same name. The museum survey's third component is a wall intervention also guided by bad code. In all, Hoff turns his source material into a mechanism for producing art. "I wanted to figure out what value the computer virus offers to traditional arts," he explains. "What you are seeing and hearing is code." Superimposed in one gallery environment, the pieces "function conceptually in the same space while utilizing their different viral forms," says Hoff, who adds that, in addition to referring to the seminal mid-century literature movement of the same name, "'Bricking' is a term used to describe the overload of an operating system when infected with malware." But as the new exhibition reveals, giving multiple tangible forms to this technology also dispels the romance of its star's chosen profession. Hoff turns a means of destruction into one of creation. In so doing, he also highlights the flimsiness—or, phrased in more accurate information-technology terms, vulnerability—of art made in the digital age. "They are never as they first appear or sound," Andersson says of the works. "They offer perpetual surprise and challenge." 168 CULTURED COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND CALLICOON FINE ARTS, NEW YORK BREACHING EXPECTATIONS James Hoff's digital palette includes the tools of espionage and data corruption. BY BECKY ELMQUIST Skywiper No. 52, 2015

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