Stephen is a media artist who works primarily by re-engineering consumer electronics into expressive and reflexive devices as a means of critiquing the ideologies they embody. He works between the contexts of gallery and gig, making installations and performances in which the functions and flaws of media technology play a defining role. Dismantling, scrutinising, amplifying, intervening in, reconstructing, or rejecting the design of these machines opens their potential to a broader imaginative engagement with, through and by them.
Research group membership
Stephen is an active member of both the Sonic Art Research Unit (SARU), where he curates and co-directs the Audiograft festival, and Fine Art Research (FAR).
Saturation Trails (2016-2018)
Saturation Trails consists of three experiments conceived to reveal the materiality of image sensors and the sub-representational architecture of the digital image. Image sensors were exposed with an infra-red laser, hydrofluoric acid and X-ray radiation. These experiments appropriate laboratory processes from the optoelectronics industry in which this microelectronic component was developed. The scientific methods used to manufacture and test this photosensitive microchip are turned against the resulting consumer product: eroding, etching, excavating, and fracturing its silicon substrate.
Destruction of an Image Sensor (2015-2018)
An audiovisual performance for an excised Fuji A600 compact camera, handheld lens, mirror, dremel, CRT monitor, audio feedback system, and my right eye. Drawing from innumerable youtube 'teardowns' the performance consists of a live deconstruction of the image sensor from a 6 megapixel compact camera, revealing the chromatic and geometric architecture of the digital image. Representation dissolves into digital colour fields while the camera switches between shooting modes in an effort to normalise its output. Debris is photogrammed onto and animated across the sensor's surface, emphasising the physicality of this ubiquitous yet inaccessible technical component.
Constant Linear Velocity (2016)
A kinetic sculpture for used computer cases with automated and amplified optical disc drives. The title of the work describes the playback of a compact disc: a system in which the further from the centre the laser moves the disc faster the disc has to spin in order to maintain a consistent audio signal. Here the technical facts of the compact disc are applied to our rapacious appetite for digital technologies, which are not to be as immaterial as we have been sold. While our technical progress may appear to be constant and linear to the listener, the cycles of purchase and disposal spin at ever faster rates towards the edge of the disc.
Digital Audio Film (2015)
Blank film stock is exposed to the laser pick-up of a portable CD player, transforming the machine from an audio playback device into both projector and camera. The film reframes the data reading function of the device as an aesthetic action, inscribing a flickering dot of light, normally invisible to the naked eye, in the emulsion of the film. In doing so the work aims to bring these two optical media, one of sight and one of sound, into an anachronistic dialogue, allowing them to reveal one another’s materiality and finding a compatibility between these apparently mutually exclusive media which pushes both beyond their designed function.
An installation for numerous factory-second cassette dictaphones. The mechanics and audio electronics of these machines have been subtly transformed - their simple motion, voltage and operative noise are combined into a visual and aural display reminiscent of the massed migrations of birds or insects. Obliquely referencing the appropriation of the term 'migration' as a data process the work reflects on the global movement of consumer electronics as they pass from production to pollution in the ever accelerating life cycles between generations of technology.
Stephen has had solo exhibitions in Tokyo, Berlin, Brighton, Bergen, Ljubljana, Rennes & London and his work has been included in group exhibtions at the ZKM Center for Art & Media, Karlsruhe; ICC, Tokyo; Austrian Cultural Forum, London; Haus der Electronische Kunst, Basel; Sigma Foundation, Venice and at Bienalles in Lodz and Poznan.