Author Archives: A. P. Vague


Postln, 2017
Digital imaging

This image is made up of millions of layered lines, which resemble the distortions that are common in screen-based media. I’m interested in the process of translating imagery through various distributions methods; the process of printing a digital-born image to paper in itself creates a type of filter and alters the data encapsulated in the form. By highlighting and exaggerating deformity, this work emphasizes the role that technology plays in creating aesthetic sensibilities and serves as a reminder that all images include some type of interference.

The image was originally created for the German magazine Fount. A different version was later implemented as part of an online exhibition through Alastria Press.


MMeA #7

#N canvas 795 70 630 669 12 ;
#X obj 209 507 textfile ;
#X obj 98 295 print ;
#X symbolatom 181 197 10 0 0 0 – – – ;
#X msg 181 173 symbol test ;
#X obj 178 251 makefilename %s.pd ;
#X msg 245 420 write \$1 ;
#X obj 198 585 print name ;
#X msg 140 415 add2 \$1 ;
#X floatatom 138 369 5 0 0 0 – – – ;
#X msg 98 505 print ;
#X symbolatom 335 198 10 0 0 0 – – – ;
#X msg 335 174 symbol test ;
#X obj 332 252 makefilename %s.pd ;
#X msg 399 421 read \$1 ;
#X msg 95 409 clear ;
#X connect 0 0 6 0 ;
#X connect 2 0 4 0 ;
#X connect 3 0 2 0 ;
#X connect 4 0 1 0 ;
#X connect 4 0 5 0 ;
#X connect 5 0 0 0 ;
#X connect 7 0 0 0 ;
#X connect 8 0 7 0 ;
#X connect 9 0 0 0 ;
#X connect 10 0 12 0 ;
#X connect 11 0 10 0 ;
#X connect 12 0 13 0 ;
#X connect 13 0 0 0 ;
#X connect 14 0 0 0 ;

Digital Palimpsest(s)

Digital Palimpsest(s)
Giclée prints, video, programming, digital manipulation


A #47 config 1 IN
This project will be exhibited at the Ulrich Museum of Art in Wichita, KS, in 2020.

A #64 IN

An Incomplete List of Questions in Response to A. P. Vague’s Work

Vague’s work is open-ended and mutable, rooted in processes that allow him to iterate on his ideas over and over, so that every final product is a palimpsest – a layering of traces of ideas and experiments always liable to become the starting point for the next work.

At the heart of the art one finds questions about how we trust images, how they communicate their meanings, and how they create a sense of connection to events that are remote in space and time. These questions don’t have easy or definitive answers, nor is Vague interested in finding such answers. His mind keeps wondering. In the same spirit, here are a few of the many questions that his work raises in my mind:

•Does a photographic negative still bear the imprint of the moment it was exposed, even if the visual information is blurred beyond recognition?

•In the age of fake news, Photoshop, filters galore, and truthiness, what can we believe about an image? What can we trust it to reveal? And can image-makers be trusted at all?

•How might these images change our thinking about the claims that we humans make about our perceptions of reality?

•In the face of a coming deluge of algorithmically-generated images with no “originals,” will we need to evolve a more nuanced language for discussing visual reality, facts, objectivity, and subjectivity?

•What is the relationship between human and artificial intelligence in these works? Who is the creator? Whom do we credit and for what?

•If machines no longer need humans to generate immersive image worlds, does that de-center human perception in radical ways? Does the pinnacle of human ingenuity paradoxically bring to an end the era of anthropocentricism? How do we as humans feel about that?

-Ksenya Gurshtein
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Ulrich Museum of Art

54 v1.jpg

127 and 255

This project was a part of the 2018 Noemata Near-Field Communication Digital Art Biennale in Valencia, Spain.

The piece consists of a series of images that serve as a type of “map” to a complete depiction of a single photograph. Each color from the original was isolated and extracted to form its own .jpg file. It is theoretically possible to recombine all 512 parts of the image in Photoshop in order to resolve the original photo.

In-situ, the piece is seen as a QR code placed in public space. The code links to a scrolling collection of component images as well as a slide show (randomized).


va_0030_Layer 89


To reframe data #3 (A Very Large Work)

This web page is a compendium of experiments initiated by the Very Large Works pavilion at the Wrong Biennale 2019. Throughout the course of the exhibition, new materials will be added. This project involves generating different formats of data (images, sounds, texts, and others) by starting with a single pixel.
One (1) white (255, 255, 255) pixel, .png
1,414 bytes
Preview window screen shot, .png
31,580 bytes
Screen Shot 2019-10-08 at 12.00.57 PM
(0,0) opened in TextEdit, .txt Unicode (UTF-8)
1,436 bytes
Extracted text rendered as screenshot, .png
113,889 bytes
(0,0) opened in Audacity, .aiff
822 bytes

Printout of 00.aiff, .png
180,383 bytes
Printing 00
1,700,462 bytes
(1,2)Printing 00 s
(1,1) opened in Audacity, .aiff
3,701,738 bytes

Printout of 11.aiff, .jpg
8,001,598 bytes
(1,2) opened in Audacity, .aiff
384,310 bytes

Printout of 12.aiff, .jpg
19,645,680 bytes
Printing 12
Printout of 12.aiff, .jpg opened in Audacity, endian only, slowed 50% .aiff
3,903,726 bytes

Screenshot of (1,2) opened as text in TextEdit, .png
240,060 bytes
3-channel separation of (0,0), (1,1), (1,2), .jpg
31,598,176 bytes
(1,2) endian text file imposed octavo and 56-up, .pdf
22,709,529 bytes
12 endian imposed octavo x 56
(1,2) with added delay and pitch shifting, .aiff
10,565,006 bytes

(1,2) .aiff opened as raw data in GIMP, .png
350,662 bytes
12 endian slowed with pitch and delay copy
(3,0) opened as text in TextEdit, .pdf
20,461,529 bytes
12 endian slowed with pitch and delay copy
(3,2) 4-color separation in Photoshop, .jpg
29,995,920 bytes

Screen shot of, .png
72,905 bytes
Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 3.13.16 PM
Text of this webpage, .png
269,953 bytes
Screen Shot 2019-10-18 at 3.36.07 PM

(5,0) opened as text in TextEdit, .pdf
63,494,263 bytes

Screen shot of desktop with all files associated with A Very Large Work as of Tuesday, October 29th at 11:04 am CST, .png
652,531 bytes

Word processing document of this web page as of November 1st, 2019 at 16:42 CST, .docx
8,776 bytes
To Reframe Data #4 (A Very Large Work)
Software patch that generates copies of the text files associated with this project (self-replicating), .txt/.pd
1,186 bytes
#N canvas 0 23 1239 755 10;
#X text 24 31 To open this file in PureData \, change the file type
suffix to “.pd” and install PureData on your machine from
#X obj 411 136 textfile;
#X msg 502 115 bang;
#X msg 588 115 read a\$1.txt;
#X msg 539 115 rewind;
#X obj 411 52 f;
#X obj 438 52 + 1;
#X obj 411 32 bng 15 250 50 0 empty empty click_to_iterate 17 7 0 10
-262144 -1 -1;
#X obj 411 73 t f b b f;
#X floatatom 474 73 5 0 0 1 iteration – -;
#X obj 411 94 + 1;
#X msg 411 115 write a\$1.txt;
#X connect 2 0 1 0;
#X connect 3 0 1 0;
#X connect 4 0 1 0;
#X connect 5 0 6 0;
#X connect 5 0 8 0;
#X connect 5 0 9 0;
#X connect 6 0 5 1;
#X connect 7 0 5 0;
#X connect 8 0 10 0;
#X connect 8 1 2 0;
#X connect 8 2 4 0;
#X connect 8 3 3 0;
#X connect 10 0 11 0;
#X connect 11 0 1 0;
Screen shot of (6,1), .png
134,936 bytes
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 11.04.07 AM
Screenshot of (6,1) within PureData environment, .png
59,942 bytes
Screen Shot 2019-11-03 at 11.08.06 AM
The text of this webpage as of November 11th, 2019 at 13:50 CST in 9-Pixel Inland Northern font, .jpg
2,557,354 bytes
Microsoft Word - Document1

9-Pixel Midland Northern American English

This project is a font that replaces the standard characters in American English with patterns that can be expressed with no more than nine pixels each. This is partially inspired by the history of languages having been influenced by the tools and materials originally used to create characters. A language made for a digital environment in which resolution reduction is key would result in letterforms that can be expressed with very few pixels. Unlike Braille, however which uses only six maximum dots per character, this piece is also an experiment in mapping the visual patterns of each form to the phonology of the associated sounds.


Download the font here.

Microsoft Word - Document1

The font can be used as a pattern generator for textures and other visual manipulations, as different texts will have different word and letter frequencies.

The first four pages of “The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, gentleman”:
Microsoft Word - Document2

Untitled (C, F, L, W)

Untitled (C, F, L, w)

This series explores an analog/digital hybrid technique that involves drawing the primary colors of an image separately and recombining the drawings in Photoshop. The source imagery is derived from computer-generated simulations of natural forms such as flames, trees, and clouds. This process questions the role of the artist’s hand in creating a recognizable likeness of the natural world, and looks to a possible reality in which the virtual becomes indistinguishable from the organic.

Untitled 3 (L)

Untitled 1 (F)


Dotcolor, 2018

Programming, imaging, video, serigraphy


This project was inspired by the practice of documenting travels with photography, film, and video. Collecting and sharing travel images has a paradoxical relationship to memory and place: it can simultaneously remind us of home and family while depicting other, sometimes distant, locations. Of particular interest to me is the way ephemera such as packaging, labels, and storage can become embedded in one’s memory. The design of brands such as Kodak or Polaroid act as a de facto aesthetic filter through which personal and family films are experienced. With this piece I collected a type of scrapbook of media packaging related to my own family’s history of travel documentation and processed the imagery to create a 16mm video, with each frame corresponding to a small fragment of the collage.

A Processing sketch from this project is copied below.

int x;
int y;
int z;
PImage img;
PImage nimg;

void setup() {
size(637, 478);
img = loadImage(“g.jpg”);

void draw() {
nimg = img.get(x, y, 637, 478);
image(nimg, 0, 0);
z = (z + 1);
x = x + 637;
if (x > 10191) {
x = 0;
y = (y + 478);

if (z < 460) {



I. Introduction

Phantom cultures emerge from two distinct and related tendencies in humanities discourse. First is the fallacy of assuming that “culture” is an exclusive abstraction, something that happens elsewhere and elsewhen, independent of the individual. My own experience growing up in the American Midwest had a huge influence in shaping my understanding of what constitutes culture. The pervasive idea that only others are the authentic participants in cultural production was one of the more difficult misunderstandings that I have since tried to correct. Part of the basis for this attitude, at least as I observe it, comes from a lack of representation in popular media. As national news stories rarely focused on Kansan events and movies almost never depicted any lives that resembled my own, the feeling that my reality was not only remote and isolated from America’s cultural centers, but also a type of inauthentic annex of American life altered my perspective in a way that still impacts how I view the world. I can imagine similar complexities affecting immigrants, their children, and other minorities in even more difficult ways. The process of reconciling our status as a nation of immigrants, a melting pot, a salad bowl with the disconnect that even something as prevalent as regional differences can generate is still open-ended.

Another side of this tendency is the belief that only certain contributions are exceptional enough to significantly push an aggregate society in any direction. In one sense this can be seen as the opposite of assuming society is created separately from the individual, as it places the entire task of cultural production on extraordinary figures. In both cases responsibility and authorship are displaced to a virtual other, the phantom that somehow seems to have more power than the real. The concept of an “art world” plays directly into this misunderstanding. The idea that the art world exists is ill-defined at best, if not counterproductive to the role of art in the world. By overemphasizing high-end sales in descriptions of how the art world functions, the real world experience of how most artists sustain a practice can seem like a secondary activity, a temporary step toward the undefined spectre of success. In practice, a very small number of working artists today make their living from art sales, and the alternative spaces, artist-run galleries, online exhibitions, and break-even publications that comprise the bulk of contemporary art activity have an undeniable role in shaping the current experiences of art. Moreover, the process of canonization has historically favored the privileged, and to assume that prodigies are who shape the art world can deepen the injustice of overlooked voices.

The other discursive error that generates phantom cultures is to underestimate the role of individual perspectives as a factor in building beliefs about experience. The kind of objective distance and observational rigor that anthropologists are taught to employ when studying groups of people doesn’t carry the same expectation in art theory and criticism, where the subjective experience of a work of art is often a trusted source of conceptual guidance. This is not to say that embracing the unique opinions of the viewer is always misguided; part of the richness and value of visual art lies in its ability to shift meaning from one encounter to the next, and this expansive role gives power to its generative ability. Subjectivity can also cloud judgement, however, by obfuscating the fact the worth of an artwork is always attributed to it externally and never an endemic component of any piece. In a similar way, beauty can never be understood outside of cultural conditioning. The task of curating and classifying art can sometimes overlook this, as it’s common for collections to be composed based on superficial material or aesthetic similarities. The danger in this modality lies in attributing too much cultural meaning to what more accurately amount to stylistic trends or practical choices on the part of the artist. It’s helpful to remember that aesthetic leanings in visual art function not unlike those in fashion: they are created through popular use and easily discarded with time. The ability for art to produce lasting cultural shifts is less clear when considered based on the phenomenological moments of present experience with a piece, and this is the set of possibilities by which I think contemporary art history can offer insight.


Conditional, 2005-2010

This project involved throwing disposable film cameras onto the ground in order to release the shutter. Over the course of several weeks I shot through the film of dozens of cameras this way, and many of them were broken and leaking light by the time I developed the film.



Continuity, 2011-2013
Digital imaging, giclée prints

This series explores the concept of visual rhyme by combining various layers of photographic and drawn imagery in Photoshop. The compositional logic that runs through the various finished pieces questions the veracity of photography and becomes a kind of signature that borders on obsession.



Untitled, 2013
Programming, video, sound, performance

This is a collaborative piece with Patricia Brace that involves a rudimentary DIY motion tracking patch I created with PureData and a webcam. As Patricia moves in front of the camera while dancing, the software alters the sound based on the changes in her position.

The patch can be adapted to work with various types of audio, and was performed in multiple contexts. This work is a type of role reversal for dance: the sound changes in response to movement, rather than a dancer responding to music.

MMeA #2

MMeA #2, 2013
Programming, video, sound, electronics

This project consists of a PureData patch that converts ambient sound into visual patterns based on Braille. The installation included a series of contact microphones mounted to the gallery wall, which allowed a computer to “read” the vibrations of the room in real time and convert them to images.


Part of the inspiration for this piece comes from the type of “distance” that I intuit between forms of communication; for instance sighted individuals typically don’t read Braille, making the piece unreadable.

Another element in the piece is that it’s inspired by my grandfather, who is blind and was a ham radio hobbyist. I have often considered how my own work as an artist might resonate with him or other blind people, which is one of the reasons why I’m interested in sound art.

Hello world

Hello world, 2014
Programming, digital imaging, video, sound

This piece consists of a PureData patch that converts sound into abstract visual compositions.

The project was originally made for the Groundwork Retreat in 2014, where I asked the other artists present to record a short clip of their voices saying “hello world” and their names. The software created unique compositions based on each clip, like a digital fingerprint of each person.

One million seconds

One million seconds, 2013-2016
Programming, video

This project uses PureData programming to create a series of changing visuals that function as clocks. The color patterns that are created correspond to milliseconds, seconds, and minutes, and can be “read” like a traditional clock with practice.

The concept is meant as a reminder that all languages are invented.

The specifics of color and arrangement are mutable in this project, as is the scale and display arrangement. The patch is written to run for one million seconds and then shut off, which is about 11 1/2 days.

The image on the previous page was from a temporary exhibition installed at the McKnight Art Center in 2013.

Dance for radio

Dance for radio, 2016- (ongoing series)
Programming, text, sound, performance

This is a collaborative project with Patricia Brace that explores the concept of scoring and communicating movement and dance in various ways.

The above is a piece of music created in the PureData programming environment for the purpose of transcribing a dance using only audio. The sound is comprised of one chord (Fmaj7) that is played continuously throughout the piece, with each of the five notes in the chord changing in volume and timbre. The highest note, which is heard first, is intended to correspond to the head, neck, or spine of the dancer’s body. The other four, which are heard in either the left or right channels, correspond to each of the dancer’s limbs. As the individual notes change, the dancer may respond by moving the associated limb(s) accordingly, with louder and more abrasive sounds denoting larger movements.

The project also incorporates a modified version of Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation, which can be employed to generate imagery and serve as carrier data for translating information across different domains.

Visible light

Visible light, 2015
Video, sound

This piece is a response to the following prompt, posed by the Simultan Festival in Timișoara, Romania:

“What would Voyager 3 contain if it would be re-launched today, after 38 years? In 1977, an information package was launched into space, a symbolical selection for the human civilization, launched with the intention to be intercepted or discovered by an alien civilization. A sort of “hello” from the humans, a way of saying “we are here”.
Today, maybe, such a package would contain microchips, texts with smiley faces at a correct decoding. We would probably brag about the invention of a virtual communication system, about our intelligent control systems? Our self-control or the controlling of others. We might also include some e-books about the human nature, on micro-sd cards, because we also advanced our knowledge in the field of psychoanalysis. Why wouldn’t we send a picture of Osama or of other terrorists that we cannot find, maybe they would help us with that.
Maybe we could simply send a cry for help, in the hope that in the thousand years that would take them to discover it, there would still be a chance for a few of us to be saved. Or Voyager 3 could be a new Noah’s ark, a capsule of DNA for a possible reconstruction.

In the end, the important thing to know is that we are not alone. And also, it is important to understand how did we end up here. But does it worth the effort? Or wouldn’t it be wiser to enjoy our mere existence and to co-exist peacefully without exploiting each other for the sake of profit, without exercising our power and dominance over each other.
Is this exploitation of others human nature? Is it the engine of progress? Is this evolution? Or is it evolution the creation of virtual realities where we can feed our brains with “01”? Till then, we have other serious problems. Soon the Earth will become overcrowded and under the human influence, the fight for territory drives the species to the verge of extinction. For now, we are preparing a colony to Mars…

But meanwhile art must go on, contemplating and acting, re-acting with our creative means, being aware of the power of now. Hope exists as long as we believe in hope, as long as we believe in our creative power in order to save ourselves and hope for a broader echo.”

This piece is begins with a demonstration of every visible color in the light spectrum, along with every audible frequency in the sound spectrum. As extraterrestrial life forms would like observe light and sound in very different ways than we do, this serves as a type of road map of human perception; what appears as noise establishes the parameters of what we are capable of seeing and hearing. The video also features raw data gathered from the ATA radio telescopes and ends with video taken from my bedroom window as the audio transitions into a selection of traditional stringed instruments.


Tungsten, 2016
Video, sound

This piece depicts a kind of “performance” that I developed with a 8mm film projector and a digital camera. By altering the framerates of both I was able to create a wide range of optical effects.

The image on the previous page is an edit of several frames from the video that were compiled and printed to be displayed in a gallery context.

MMeA #5

MMeA #5, 2015
Programming, video, sound

This piece was completed for the Test Patterns exhibition at Flux Factory in New York, which brought together artists who utilize various test patterns as inspiration for audiovisual art. The piece used recorded audio from a number of artist collaborators who are currently living and working in the New York area: volunteers recorded short voice memos via laptop or smart phone and sent me the recordings, which formed the source material for the final work. I used PureData to analyze and manipulate the individual recordings to form an abstracted spectrum of changing color and sound, forming a composition using individual messages as a unique imprint embedded in the visuals and audio.

Inkjet music

Inkjet music, 2015
Hand-manipulated 8mm film, programming, video, sound, giclée prints

Inkjet Music is a video score created by drawing individual frames in Photoshop and printing them onto strips of paper with a household inkjet printer. By feeding these strips of paper through an 8mm film projector the imagery becomes an analog/digital hybrid, drawing attention to the relatively low resolution of inkjet printing. The paper film is fragile and easily jams the projector, making the conflation of 8mm film and inkjet printing technology cumbersome. This fusion reveals both the limitations and possibilities inherent in each type of imaging and pays homage to the impractical allure in outmoded systems. The resulting movie is then used as a score, with audio elements such as clicks, noise, and tones corresponding to changing visuals. This constructed audio becomes an extension of the process of mediation; as multiple formats translate the original information, a new composition emerges from the noise.

Documentation of this project was included in the Signal Culture Cookbook vol. 2.

The images pictured below and on the previous page are two versions of the piece that are made to be displayed as giclée prints. The video version of the project was created for and exhibited at the MANTIS Festival in Manchester, England.

scanned paper a

For the version pictured below, I manually erased the original film and filtered the audio through noise reduction software. This video was in the Look to the Future-Past online exhibition through isthisit?.

MMeA #6

MMeA #6, 2016
Programing, sound, electronics, drawings

This piece was one of two works selected to be installed at Harvester Arts in response to Robert Bubp’s “Wichitopolia” exhibition. “Wichitopolia” dealt heavily with location and the human experience of a place; my response initially involved making a series of sound recordings in various locations around Wichita. I used this audio as raw material, manipulating it in Puredata by compressing the files into a minimal series of clicks and tones. The final piece consisted of a Raspberry Pi running a Puredata patch in 6-channel audio, with speakers placed in a horizontal line across one wall of the space, accompanied by drawings inspired by the audio. 

Harvester Arts provided me with an invaluable opportunity to explore the physical display for my work with sound. Presenting audio in an art setting means I’m often limited to video or one-time performances, and the chance to use a large gallery space allowed me to explore a format that deeply enriched the work. The wires connecting the various electronic components took on a quality similar to a timeline or linear map, and viewers leaned forward with their ears close to each speaker during the opening. This phenomenological presence further speaks to Bubp’s original inspiration for the piece, and can’t be faithfully reproduced as documentation.

The video below is a hybrid recording that includes 6-track “live” audio from the space as well as a direct software capture.