Buncefield in Paris – the encoded images.

For the 5 days of Paris Photo 2015 Buncefield broadcast a nightly web radio stream, based on images from the books featured, encoded into their pixel values. From London, a computer generated voice read out sequences of numbers, based on their red, green and blue components. A 200 x 200 pixel image took about 6 hours to ‘read’ in total, which represented the length of the event / length of the broadcast. In Paris, a computer received the web stream, and relayed the information over FM radio using a cheap in-car FM transmitter jacked into a Macbook Pro.


The work is in homage to cold war Numbers Stations and the activity of the Conet Project (Irdial Records.)

On Friday 13th we went ahead with the broadcast as normal, despite the tragic events. The image chosen was from Donald Weber’s War Sand. It seemed appropriate to carry on given the image I had selected, the chosen medium, and the many meanings of this image.


Images encoding in London – Processing to TextEdit to Audacity


The stream goes live – MyRadioStream (server) and B.U.T.T. (broadcasting tool)

Hillie de Rooij Myopia 4


Myopia presents a portfolio of images of Europe shot according to a set of representational tropes identified by the artist from a collection of images of Africa. By photographing Europe ‘Africally’, Europe is made to look like Africa – the conversation is bidirectional.

De Rooij has also worked with collage, encoding, writing on the image in a piece called la Mallette (2015), based on an image from the Cameroon Press Archives depicting participants in a cross country race. De Rooij tries to work out what can be read from the image – with little information about backstory, she tries to read the embedded message with the tools to hand. In both works, the image is worked on like a code.

Coding this image from Myopia into pixel values will be interesting: it contains a lot of white. The voice will speak values approaching 255 255 255, or slight variations (‘250, 250, 250’), consistently close to maximum RGB, and almost always similar. Very repetitive.

Day 2: Thomas Hauser from The Wake of Dust

hauser wake of dust

I like this piece because when it is encoded/decoded it evaporates. Loads of zeros.

Why this one? In a book which juxtaposes images of people with images of things, wouldn’t it be nice, after all my concentration on formalist obscurity, degradation and dustiness, to at last have a human face? But the faces in Haiser’s book are degraded through successive layers of bad photocopying, which is after all dust, laid on paper, fixed with heat and electricity. It seemed best to choose this one because in the absence of the pages which make up the other half of the book (the peopled pages) it is actually a more pointed statement of the absence of the subjects – if I had used an image of a face, it would have been a desperate attempt to bring back a kind of presence – and why, then, would the author have bothered to degrade the images, if after all this was not about trying to use technology to generate intersubjective distance? Sound-dust.

Day 3: Donald Weber, from War Sand

Donald Weber War Sand

The broadcast from London on Friday 13th November 2015 was taken from Donald Weber’s book ‘War Sand.’ Weber collected sand from the beaches of Normandy, and photographed it under electron and optical microscopes – the images show fragments of shrapnel mixed with sand particles. This image is from Juno beach. After 70 years of erosion, about 8% of the ‘sand’ on these beaches is estimated to be shrapnel. Time erases the legacy of conflict / the legacy of conflict persists. Our thoughts go out to all caught up in the escalating violence.

Day 4: Martin Eberle, Voyager – The Grand Tour

sounds of earth small

Browsing the books I came across an image of where the Buncefield project started. In the top left hand corner, you can see a diagram etched onto the Voyager disc which will explain to serendipitous aliens how to play the record and read the images stored therein. For those only aware of the Buncefield project through Punto de Fuga, Buncefeld also releases coded photographs on vinyl disc, using a technique inspired by Voyager (and other things). In this iteration of the project, an image of the inspiration for how to encode/recode images as Buncefield sounds is split into individual pixels and broadcast through the web as a radio stream, to be received in Paris and transmitted through frequency modulation to a transistor radio which plays a robot voice to the customers of a bookshop over an eight hour period. Scrambled and geographically distanced, space is nothing. Voyager is so far away now, how far can it go before it becomes completely absent, or is its distance from us culturally becoming far more significant than its distance in light years? Is this what the book explores? How far is far?

Day 5: Mapping my Table by Tariq Heyboer / Mikel H. Orfanos

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 23.44.26

On day 5 an image arrived in my email – in fact a video – sent by one of my students who had visited the Parisian event and seen the installation that Laura had put together. There was a Macbook, on a shelf, hooked up to the hokey tech we had collaborated on over Skype. Watching the video, I thought of old Conceptualist strategies, and how, no matter how hard artists tried to reconceive ‘art as idea as idea,’ the aesthetic of A4 paper, typewritten text and bureaucratic diagrammatization was always to the fore as you walked through the gallery to get a closer look. The laptop screen is merely a subclass of bureaucratic carrier medium. No matter how sleek the lines, the Macbook Pro is the manila folder of our age.

I like the image of the desktop, it makes the sequence reflexive, bounces back to things made through these channels, it returns the image of the hardware to the hardware, through an appropriated image of someone else’s identical hardware somewhere else. There are three computers in this picture: the one in the picture, the one the broadcast is transmitted from, and the one it is received on. Hegemony is a network.


Thank you to Laura Carbonell and all at Punto de Fuga for the opportunity to engage at long distance with such a fascinating range of practices, and to the artists for their generosity and permission to remix the work.

All images and books listed at http://puntodefugaparis.com/2015/10/02/the-experimental-book-platform-during-paris-photo/


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