Mark Amerika’s CHROMO HACK is a self-contained, multi-media installation that includes two vertically mounted plasma screens and a 5.1 surround soundtrack. The work premiered at the Techno-Sublime exhibition at the CU Art Museum curated by Lisa Tamaris-Becker and featuring the work of Jim Campbell, Jeremy Blake, Lynn Hershman, Mary Lucier, John Simon Jr., and others. CHROMO HACK was also included in Amerika’s comprehensive retrospective, UNREALTIME, at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece.
According to the artist: “The morning of 9-11, instead of just sitting down and watching the unfolding media event take place on TV, I instinctively went to get my digital audio tape player and decided to trace my channel-surfing through the media space. The ensuing language of confusion and hysteria that I captured was not so much of America off-guard but of the corporate media off-guard. How do you cover such an event in realtime? The digital source material provided by the network and cable broadcasters is full of silences, gutteral intonations, screams of hysteria, and famous news media personalities trying to stop themselves from flipping their wigs. You can hear it in their voices. Consequently, I have decided to take this audio source material and rework it so that it becomes my own media manipulation of the events of that morning. This then becomes the CHROMO HACK surround soundtrack which I designed with my long-time audio collaborator and artist Chad Mossholder of Twine.
“The flickering images are created in a similar way to my last DVD project CODEWORK. Using customized VJ [visual jockey] software that I put into action when doing my VJ performances in Europe, Japan, and the USA, I am using stock footage of the burning towers and remixing them with this ever-present shadow figure whose shape occasionally morphs into what looks like the wings of an airplane. The DVD loop starts with a black and white flicker of the towers and the shadow figure, until soon silver gives way to blue which then begins to take over the image as do other colors. This chromatic hacking of the image which is already hacked from a TV news broadcast and further hacked so that it looks like a distorted black and white “leaning tower of NYC”, brings to mind an outrageous commentary the day after 9-11 made by the experimental artist and sound composer Karlheinz Stockhausen who referred to the event as ‘the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos.’ As insensitive as the remarks were, in hindsight one can see that what he meant was: the best art is always hacking reality in such a way as to cause deep misgivings about ones status in conscious life flow. ‘Compared to this,’ Stockhausen continued, ‘we are nothing as composers.’ In many ways, he’s absolutely right, and CHROMO HACK’s attempt at aestheticizing not 9-11 or the attacks themselves, but the media event it produced in realtime, is a further investigation into this inadequacy.”