Each week, we bring you the backstory of work featured in our collection, written by a member of our curatorial team.
by Poppy Simpson, Head of Curation
Before Binwanka was Binwanka—which, and we’ll not go into it further, means ‘Man of Ability’ according to ancient Chinese lore—he was a Design and Technology graduate student at Parsons in New York. His intention was to work in game design and so, it’s fitting that it was while Binwanka was playing on a Super Nintendo (remember those?) that something happened to change the course of his career, or rather, suggest a new one. The Nintendo broke mid-game and Binwanka was transfixed by the remaining screen—the frozen glitches and the digital tears, he thought, were strangely beautiful. “I wanted to purposefully recreate what happened by accident,” he explains. And as he experimented with code and Photoshop, Binwanka ‘accidentally’ became an artist.
Well, that’s not entirely true. That had once been the (vague) plan. He was schooled in art—an education that incorporated everything from sculpture and painting to Japanese woodblock printing. And there’s no doubt, he says, that his understanding of form, shape, line and color naturally influenced his early forays into digital manipulation. But he was learning as he went, and, as he did, he found others who were working in a similar sphere.
I must confess, I’m not that au fait with ‘glitch art’—a process by which digital ‘errors’, created by corrupting either data or devices, are used to create art—beyond a general appreciation of its artistic lineage (in relation to both experimental film and media art) and its membership to the broader club of ‘digital art’. Binwanka describes the work presented in our collection as “a form of glitch art,” but it struck me that his intention, certainly in the early days, of creating an accidental aesthetic on purpose was almost the inverse of how many other glitch artists think. What’s more, he is unlikely to ever settle on the idea of a final work. Many of Binwanka’s artworks are ‘versions’ of each other; a digital image is disrupted by code to create another image, then manipulated in photoshop to create one more, then corrupted again...and so it goes on. “You could say that all my works are always ‘in progress’,” he says.
This commitment to iteration and his interest in the democratising tendency of the Internet means that Binwanka has spurned the creation of exclusive or limited digital editions; he publishes his work on multiple platforms that allow for it to be printed on everything from canvas to t-shirts. But here at Meural HQ, we are very happy that the Meural canvas offers Binwanka the opportunity to display his creations in their native form!