(still very unresolved field): a conversation with artist Mark Beasley
Mark Beasley is a young artist whose “artware” (software programs created as works of art) is making for some of the most interesting work in Robert Bills Contemporary’s current show Abstract Places: Mediating the Built Environment. Beasley has been extremely busy lately; in addition to working on his MFA at the University of Chicago, he has had work in group shows in Cleveland and New York just in the time since Abstract Places opened. Earlier this week he found time to chat with us about his work, the amorphous state of “new media art,” and the ways in which work like his own is changing the rules of everything from the art market to what it means to be an art student.
The theme of the show is place, and mediating place. Your work in the show seems like it addresses that theme in a pretty obvious and necessary way — Google Maps is a mediation of place and space we use every day. Your other work doesn’t deal so much with place. Mediation itself seems to be more a unifying theme in your oeuvre. Talk to me about your approach to this piece, how it fits in your greater body of work.
Mark: Well I think It’s important to note this is a fairly early work, around 2007, which was when I was really getting involved with making work for the Web. My early approach to make Web work was through text, poetry, or language — this was somewhat due to how I was introduced to it, taking classes such as ‘Web art’ which taught basic web through an e-literature frame.
This project was to combine both that background and interest, with the broader rise of Google Maps as a way to navigate/delineate and experience space. I also got interested in Google’s development of APIs (application programming interface) that allowed users to develop custom ways of interacting with their system. So by developing this custom system in which text was the vehicle for navigation, and by developing it in such a way that the text used was mapped in non-linear or unintended ways — by basically sending whole chunks of text to google’s search algorithm — I sought to build a system that acted as an interactive fiction or poem, having the collections of text navigable and represented as the plotted points, however Google resolved them.