Picasso used a flashlight to conjure lithe Minotaurs out of thin air, ephemeral performances that exist now only in photographs. C.E.B. Reas’s print Pre-Process Execution has a similar grace, its flourishes of indigo ink looping down a three-foot page like the veronicas of a bullfighter’s cape. But where Picasso’s mythological figures were born of whimsy married to a preternatural drawing hand, Reas’s abstract dervishes become manifest through the interaction of silicone and copper. The blue swirls of Pre-Process Execution represent myriad connections among lines of programming code that instruct a nearby computer—its motherboard and other components exposed—in the creation of an ever changing geometric drawing displayed on a wall-mounted monitor. The programs use simple rules (“Behavior 1: Constant linear motion . . . Behavior 3: When touching another, change direction”) to translate wisps of electrons into writhing pixels or densely woven ink-jet images, their organic suppleness—Process 6 (Image 4) resembles silky dandelion heads—built up from an underlying stratum of faint, sharply angled lines. The computer has joined other machines (the printing press, the camera) as a transformative art tool, the ghost in its guts now a modern-day muse.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 15, 2005