Synesthesia 2.0: Digital Images, Distorted By Sound Waves

“By misusing the software, I let its chaotic side run wild,” says artist Daniel Temkin.

As soon as a photo is Photoshopped (or even just snapped on a digital camera), the computer has augmented it into something undeniably digital. Algorithms sharpen images to an inhuman edge and brighten colors beyond their organic foundations. The digital rules rule, and so there are a lot of people out there who still prefer film.


Artist Daniel Temkin describes this effect as an “aloof, antiseptic quality to photography.” But he’s not preaching that we all give up digital cameras and photo editors. Rather, his art proposes the exact opposite: We just let the machines run wild with our art. “I make art that faces the rigidity of logic–the way we must compromise with the computer in order to get it to understand us, and the compulsive thinking that reinforces,” he tells Co.Design.

His project, Glitchometry, begins with the most simple of images, like a single circle or square. Then he “sonifies” them, importing the image files into a sound editing program. From there, he’ll change the volume or pan left to right–he’ll even add effects like a delay or flanger–but he never works with the image as an image. Instead, he gives himself up to pure digital abstraction.

“I lose myself in the wilderness of the computer, but I do so by giving up my own sense of control to the machine,” Temkin tells Co.Design. “By misusing the software, I let its chaotic side run wild.”

The images that Temkin is able to create are wondrous. You can see patterns of repetition and even a sort of vector-style progressions, yet they seem to flow with all the unpredictability of static on a TV screen (another bit of electronic abstraction that we don’t get to see so much anymore.)

Temkin is a bit obsessed with this idea of computer-based abstraction. In another project he calls Dither Studies, Temkin literally tasks Photoshop with the impossible–building a gradient of incompatible colors. If you look at enough of his work, you almost get the impression that he’s picking on machines, misusing their logic for a laugh (or more accurately, a pretty picture). But ultimately, he views the relationship as a lot more symbiotic than that.

“I have a rough idea of how the image will be transformed (through practice), but no precise control. It is often a frustrating experience, with a great many steps back and forth, and quite a few abandoned images,” he writes. “But it is a process which leads to far more interesting results than I could have thought of if I were, say, Photoshopping elements together deliberately.”


[Hat tip: Triangulation]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.