Joseph Nechvatal

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My sense of Joseph Nechvatal's layered, biomorphic images is colored by my first associations of him with the dense forests of Wales and the even denser beer one finds in its pubs. It's one of those personal things. I first encountered his work through Roy Ascott's interdisciplinary conference at the University of Wales (Consciousness Reframed) where Joseph was officiating. Although his work explores the sensual dimension of our international bionic continuum, I cannot help linking his work to that rich, humid place.

Like the forests of Wales, Joseph's work is moist, succulent and impenetrable. Flesh, liquid and digital viruses all writhe together in mucousy equilibrium. His complex images might tempt the most ardent geek to attempt some kind of kinky reverse engineering, but I am content to let it breath.

I could be deluding myself (and in the presence of such generous imagery I am happy to do so), but it seems to me that much of what I've seen of Joseph's work has the properties of a Hyper-Runt. Welling up out of the quagmire of processing emerge numerous oozing presences. Un-checked by prejudice or inhibition of any kind, his work radiates its charms to anything that moves, and in the process gives birth to a lumpy, thrashing field of pleasured being.

--Ebon Fisher

The artist brings back from the chaos varieties that no longer constitute a reproduction of the sensory in the organ but set up a being of the sensory, a being of sensation, on an anorganic plane of composition that is able to restore the infinite." Deleuze & Guattari, "What is Philosophy?" (pp. 202-3).

In 1967 Sol LeWitt wrote in Artforum that "In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work...the execution is a perfunctory affair."

I ask, why perfunctory and not voluptuously languid?

My art process now is a matter of visualizing aesthetic sensations linked to technological and sexual concepts. It is essentially a mental prosthetic for both the perfunctory machinic and the luxurious corporal domain. Through the use of computational power coupled with human delicacy, feelings of ebullient exultation, deep grief, and spectral serenity are conveyed.

Of late, I have been working more on the theme of hermaphroditism in my art - in parallel with the viral. For me the hermaphroditic sign serves as emblem of the variance that characterizes virtualism. In an age of networked incredulity, where hierarchies are put into crises by the digital, the hermaphrodite becomes the harbinger of new creative territories by flickering between static boundaries.

The function of my art is to create, by extenuation, different technological-aesthetic percepts. More specifically, my recent computer-robotic assisted paintings are an investigation into the sphere of the pan sexual under the conditions of what I call "viractuality" (occasions where the virtual and the actual merge) - circumstances which are not quite historically conditioned yet. To do this, my computer-robotic assisted paintings focus on an interface between the virtual and the actual (the viractual) by putting the classical canvas in confrontation with informatics. But why?

First, I very much like to work with the digital in its predominant visual form, the immaterial abstract information of pixels and I like very much the world wide transportable dimension of the Internet, where the digital data stream travels at the speed of light - but I also like to see a large-scaled semblance just sitting still on an unchanging canvas so I can silently reflect on it and move within the work in natural light at my leisure with customary unrestrictions to my bodily movements.

Secondly, with the increased augmentation of the self via micro-electronics feasible today, the real may co exist with the virtual and the organic fuse with the computer-robotic. Consequently, I am interested in a new interlaced sense of artistic viractuality which couples the biological with the technological and the stable canvas with the ephemeral digital.

The work's extensive ornate excess attempts to give to us an expansive metaphor for our computational condition - our state of digital-assisted being. In the rising and collapsing of alternative sexual visualizations and unordered revelations seen in the work, the circuits of the mind may find a dexterity exactly congruent with the viractual’s configuration.

As such, my viractual computer-robotic assisted paintings strive for a depiction of an anti-essentiality of the body-in-bits which allows no privileged sexual logos, but insists, rather, on a displacement or deferral of meaning. Here images of the flesh are further undone by viral disturbances they cannot contain.

This viral-viractual-visual situation creates ribald opportunities for transgressions of conventional erotic limitations. In the work’s pan-sexual interlacement, aphrodisiac thought detaches itself from the order and authority of the old signs and topples down into the realm of viractual reverie.

This pan-sexual viractual contemplation is certainly the most erudite area of our unconsciousness - as it is the deep down depth from which we beings emerged into our precarious, but glittering, existence.

-- Joseph Nechvatal,


Born in Chicago, Joseph Nechvatal lives in New York and Paris. Since 1986 he has worked with ubiquitous electronic visual information, computers and computer-robotics. From 1991-1993 he worked as artist-in-resident at the Louis Pasteur Atelier and the Saline Royale / Ledoux Foundation's computer lab in Arbois, France on The Computer Virus Project: an experiment with computer viruses as a creative stratagem. He has recently extended that artistic research into the field of viral artificial life through his collaboration with the programmer Stéphane Sikora. Dr. Nechvatal earned his Ph.D. in the philosophy of art and new technology at The Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts (CAiiA) University of Wales College, Newport, UK and presently teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His web-site, with full CV, collected writings, and various essays on his work can be found at