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Macro/micro, subversion, and celebration
by Alessandro Imperato
Alessandro Imperato – What role does macro/micro play in your art?

Scott Blake – Let me start with one of my favorite quotes taken from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes ‘that which is above is like that which is below and that which is below is like that which is above, to achieve the wonders of one thing’. It means everything and nothing to me. I first read that quote in a black arts book where it talked about how astrologers tried to connect the heavens with their existence on earth.

A few years later I discovered the saying All is One in a book on Zen Buddhism. It was the main inspiration for that "All is Zero and One" piece I did in our first class. It combines two elements into a seamless whole. I was interested in how all relates to one, how we relate to our world, and how computers relate to us?

I created an image of Madonna where I used the cover images, instead of the bar codes, from her music CDs to paint her face in full color. This was the first photo-mosaic portrait I made where I reused the large macro image in one of small micro tiles. This connection allowed me to link the opposing elements into an infinite animation loop.

An Internet friend of mine, Glenn Zucman, created a mosaic piece that uses one single image for both of the micro/macro elements. In Fractal Beth he explains that "the cells composing the whole are made of the whole itself."

The Pixel President room I’ve currently installed in my house is all about the relationship between micro/macro. When I combine A and B, like Jesus and barcodes, I tend to focus on the A and the B not the relationship that connects them. The combining element is just a means to an end. By using the same imagery for both the micro and macro elements they cancel each other out, and the relationship now becomes the main focus. A and B are still seen as two things but understood as one. The question then becomes, how does A relate to A? How does yin relate to yang?

AI – What role does subversion play in your art?

SB - I do not intend my art to ruin or destroy anything, but I do expect it to change the world. I believe in "The Law of Conservation of Matter" which states that things cannot be created or destroyed only rearranged. So if some buildings have to be demolished or a few people killed to make room for my ideas, then so be it. Whenever I get the feeling that I have gone too far, all I have to do is turn on the television, and watch the news. It reminds me that there are people in this world living by any means necessary and killing and dying for one’s beliefs is acceptable.

I believe that everything is perfect all of the time. Sometimes that idea will stop me right in my tracks to the point where I don’t want to think another thought. I ask myself, why should I try and subvert something I think is perfect? Somehow I stop stopping and resume living. I reason that within this perfect world there is room for perfect change.

My biggest worry is that my art habit, is somehow subverting myself and I don’t even know it. I have been thinking a lot about this since my wife left me and I missed my grandfather’s funeral, mainly because of my dedication to my art. I have been questioning everything for so long, I am beginning to question questioning.

Getting back to my art. The tough part about my work is that it can be seen as subverting itself. I make art that questions consumption and I still expect people to pay me for it. I don’t think that consumption is evil or that bar codes are "the sign of the beast" (Revelations 13:16-18), but I do think we need to take a closer look at what we are buying, how we are buying, and why we are buying. There are more ways to consume than spending money. You can "buy into" a certain way of believing, like religion or politics. I am also interested in what happens after you buy something: what does it change, what stays the same, what would happen if you didn’t buy it? "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." (Rush)

AI - What are the goals of subversion?

SB - If you look at subversion all by itself, with no context attached to it, it comes down to overthrowing something from its foundation. It is the most absolute type of change, the only change worth talking about. It is about trying to change the way things change. I do not like the way the world relates to me, the way I relate to other people, and especially the way I relate to myself. I make my "subversive" art to help me relate better with all those complex relations.

Adbusters Magazine seems to be on the same page: "We want to change the way information flows, the way institutions wield power, the way TV stations are run, the way the food, fashion, automobile, sports, music and culture industries set their agendas. Above all, we want to change the way we interact with the mass media and the way in which meaning is produced in our society."

I was thinking about this in class on Thursday after watching that video on violence and masculinity. According to the video, white heterosexual men are on top of everything, they even seem to be on the "top of the bottom" (Bob Dylan). White heterosexual men are the problem and they are going to be the driving force behind the solution.

So how can any real change take place if everything we know, everything we have been taught, including how to subvert, comes from "THE MAN" himself? When someone is on top, everything that they let trickle down is going to support keeping #1 on top. It seems hopeless, but that too is part of the conditioning to keep the cycle going. The only way to knock them off then is to fight fire with fire.

AI – How is celebration different from subversion?

SB – Keeping with the notion that everything is perfect, both celebration and subversion are ways of showing praise. I believe in what I am doing, just like everyone else, but we don’t always see eye to eye. Anton LaVey wrote that the "Definition of good and evil: good is what you like, evil is what you don't like." Like everything else, celebration and subversion are relative. If you like and understand the way things are changing then its time to celebrate; if you are confused and disagree with the way things are changing then its is time to subvert. When I look at my art, I get the feeling of both subversion and celebration.

My ISBN/Oprah/Book Club series is a good place to see these opposing elements at work. Most people seem to perceive that as my most hateful and subversive piece, but I have always understood it as a truthful homage to Oprah's book club. The relationship I made with her face and the bar codes from the books she recommends is not that far fetched and pretty easy to comprehend. I believe that people’s feeling of hate and visions of subversion are valid, but misdirected at me. They should be focused on Oprah instead of the messenger/artist.

The other famous photo-mosaic artist, Rob Silvers, made a portrait of Oprah using pictures of black girls and flowers from around the world. We both actually used the same photograph of Oprah for our art before knowing about each other’s work. My first reaction to his portrait is to call it evil and subversive, but that is giving it too much credit. It is just bad art. Technically it is an accurate visual representation of Oprah's face, but it takes more than a realistic picture to make art good.

Borrowing an idea from Fred Orton’s book I’ve been thinking about the division of Oprah and ‘Oprah’: "In my text Oprah is the name of the agent who – sometimes with assistance by others – made the objects I look at, see and seek to understand. She is the intentional producer, the real person who is known to no one but herself, and not even to her. But ‘Oprah’ names the imaginary or symbolic character who stands in a causal relation with the works, who is their producer and who enables their inscription in discourse even as they and their inscription in discourse produce her."

If you look at Silvers’s Photomosaic portrait not as what ‘Oprah’ represents but what Oprah wants to be seen as, then I think this is an amazing, all be it confusing, example of Oprah's subversives.

October 2002
Brandon Native Turns Barcodes into Works of Art
on TBO News website
by Rod Carter
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June 2010
Omahan Creates Bar Code Art
on WOWT News website
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September 2009
Scott Blake Interview
on Dixonfoma Website
by Dixon Cordell
April 2009
Amazing portraits of Elvis and Madonna made entirely from bar codes
in Daily Mail Newspaper
by Gavin Bernard
United Kingdom
May 2008
Scott Blake: Behind Bars
in Swindle Magazine
by Jason Filipow & Anne Keehan
Los Angeles, California
March 2007
Interview with Scott Blake
on Soul Coffee Website
by Geoff Pitchford
August 2005
Interview with Scott Blake
on FryCookOnVenus website
by FryCookOnVenus
September 2004
The Fine Art of Bar Codes
in The Reader Newspaper
by Jeremy Schnitker
Omaha, Nebraska
February 2004
Creating art one pixel at a time
in The District Newspaper
by Craig Oelrich
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March 2003
Macro/micro, subversion, and celebration
by Alessandro Imperato
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Ecstasy Self Portrait Q & A
by Bonnie Molins
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Original Artist Statement and FAQ
May 2001
Barcode artist Scott Blake digitizes human expressions
on Silicon Prairie News website
by Andrea Ciurej
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Omaha Barcode Artist Scans Famous, Infamous Faces
on KETV News website
by John Oakey
Omaha, Nebraska
October 2009
Black is Beautiful
in Lowdown Magazine
by Sven Fortmann
August 2008
You're not special
on DocHoloday website
by DocHoloday
August 2007
Get acquainted, Scott Blake
in Inbox Magazine
by Andrey Oaheeb
February 2006
Madonna Portraits Q & A
August 2005
Bring Your Bar Codes
in Art Papers Magazine
by Kent Wolgamott
May 2005
Email from "Jesus"
September 2004
Finding Form in Bar-Code Function
on TechTV Live
by Andy Jordan
San Francisco, California
October 2003
The Body-Mined Show Catalog
by Glenn Zucman
Long Beach, California
January 2003
Abrstraction, "Capitalist Realist",
and the system

by Alessandro Imperato
Savannah, Georgia
November 2002
Enrayer le code
in Etapes Graphiques Magazine
by Vanina Pinter
July 2002
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