A ghost in his machine

Emilio Gomariz exploits the Mac OS X desktop to create beautiful ‘performances’ from the various commands and functions which form everyday user experience

Emilio Gomariz exploits the Mac OS X desktop to create beautiful ‘performances’ from the various commands and functions which form everyday user experience

From the meticulous arrangement of colour-coded folders, to setting up a sequence of ‘maximising’ windows, Gomariz’s art looks at first glance to be the product of time spent simply idling away at the computer.

Spectrum Cube

This may well have informed his initial experiments (his first Mac piece, 2009’s Folder Type, was created using 22,655 separate items) but a look at some of his more recent work suggests he takes his desktop organisation very seriously indeed.

And just with performance art, many of these pieces only ‘exist’ when Gomariz sets them off, recording the results as screen captures.

Folder Type

The Spanish born artist, who trained as a technical engineer in industrial design before experimenting with digital media, also runs the digital art blog, Triangulation. He has worked in video and digital painting, and created projects for clients such as Django Django and the Fach & Asendorf Gallery (using another favourite tool of his: the animated gif).

But in 2009 he started using the Mac OS X interface to create interesting animations. “Folder Type came from using the colour feature to organise folders,” says Gomariz. “I started toying with things – creating lots of folders, putting them in sub-folders, until I’d created a huge landscape of them which I then coloured and animated using the arrow keys and the scrollbar along the bottom.”

Despite the complexity of the process, Gomariz says his Mac pieces don’t take that long to create, the hours are put into seeing how different files can be manipulated over the desktop. “In the beginning I work on sketches, using few files as blanks,” he says, “to just look at how the files act and move over the desktop.

“If I like it, then I extend it by adding more files and colours. But behind each different piece, there are quite a few hours of experimenting and looking for the final composition. I always work on them manually, too – by that I mean I don’t use code to configure them.”

Spectrum Horizont

The image at the top of this post is one of those experiments which was then developed into his new Spectrum series; Cube and Horizont are shown above. These pieces in particular rely on the exact placement of several ready made elements. There is of course a risk that the whole thing can come tumbling down if he clicks in the wrong place.

“With the Spectrum series I couldn’t save the configuration of how the files were organised on the desktop,” he says, “but I like that because they’re then unique manifestations that lived on my computer. If I wanted to see something similar I would have to create it again.”

It all requires a steady hand and mouse. “For Spectrum Cube, I placed around 75 different Text Edit files with exactly the same distance between them – again, manually – but I think this perfection is important, in this case, to get the great visual effect of the cube.”

114.psd Type

In some of the Mac-based pieces like Spectrum Horizont and 114.psd Type, shown above, the dock is crammed with files ready to be ‘maximised’. This functionality has, for Gomariz, a distinctly aesthetic appeal.

I have to be careful with the rhythm when taking out the files off the dock, I often repeat the final screen capture until get a nice flow. Sometimes is difficult to click the files on the dock because it gets really small when is full of files. For example, I have one screenshot with 1,030 files on the dock. It is quite ridiculous, but funny, too.

“The Mac’s basic default features [are] the first thing I see when I switch on the computer, so they are the first thing which inspire me to do something with. They offer sensual and attractive movements like the Genie Effect to minimize and maximize the windows to and from the dock, and there are a whole world of keyboard shortcuts which let me control all these options as a game; a very colourful palette for making folders, etc. So I use OS X both as a tool and as an aesthetic as well.”

Ai Professional Workspace

Messing with the standard desktop applications to such an extent isn’t without its risks. “A while ago, I had the biggest error/damage alert,” says Gomariz. “I was experimenting with Text Edit in another way, copying and pasting thousands of huge, coloured special characters at the same time, and the software became blocked permanently. I couldn’t use it anymore. I had to reinstall the OS X to get it back.”

More of Gomariz’s projects can be seen at emiliogomariz.net and cmdshift3.net. His work appears as part of Astral Projection Abduction Fantasy at the Monster Truck Gallery in Dublin. The show opens today and runs for a month until March 23. More details on the show are here.

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