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Dataforms: destroying analog in search of digital beauty

For the best part of a decade, Ed Spence has created original artworks by rearranging large photos and (reprints of) paintings into pixelated collages.

As a teen, Spence drew inspiration from his father's fascination with fractal visualizations; the notion that one can experiment with digital information to create something original and beautiful has stuck.

In an interview with The Verge, Spence cites a show at New York's contemporary Deitch Projects gallery as a major influence on his work. Super Mario Movie is a 15-minute video in which Mario explored an unfinished, dystopian video game, created by hacking an original NES cartridge. "I think it planted a seed in my head that got me thinking about working with preexisting art and making it your own."

One part analog, one part digital, Spence's work is informed by contemporary artists like Tim Hawkinson, who creates complex sculptures often from the most basic of materials. Just as Hawkinson has refined his style over the years, Spence's dataforms have morphed from variations on a theme to striking, abstract collages.

Initially the final dataforms were quite literal; thin, pixelated lines cutting through a largely untampered image, or squares of rearranged pixels that, from a distance, could perhaps be missed. But with his most recent works, Spence is perfecting his art. Rather than subtle, pixelated aberrations, Spence's dataforms are now vast swathes of pixels forming abstract studies on the original material.

All images copyright Ed Spence.

You can find more of Ed Spence's dataforms — and his other work — on his Tumblr.


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