Through constantly-evolving and continually innovative iterations, Jim Campbell parses one of the most fundamental questions regarding the human mind: what enables us to interpret and understand the world around us?
The 15 new works in this exhibition should, in theory, defy comprehension. They are either so low resolution (too little information) or so high resolution (too much information) that the viewer should not be able to understand the imagery depicted. Campbell’s works, however, activate our most primitive neural and sensory processes for interpreting visual clues like shape, movement, rhythm, and color. Tapping into these instincts, combined with the human capacity for complex memory and the ability to extrapolate, Campbell experiments with digital representation as a metaphor for the transmutation of data into knowledge.
Campbell’s pieces are unique among artists using technology — not only because he designs and builds the computer systems that make them function. More significantly, his choice of media is conceptually linked to his message: he uses technologies developed for information transfer and storage to explore human communication and memory. His is not technology used merely to wow, but to consider the relationship of our minds to the technologies we’ve created.
To be completed within the next few months and visible for decades to come, Campbell’s artwork on the top nine stories of the exterior of San Francisco’s new Salesforce Tower — the tallest building on the West Coast — will fundamentally alter the Bay Area skyline as well as the nature and purpose of public art. Unlike any permanent public artwork to date, Campbell’s piece will change daily, as a direct reflection of the life of the city in which it exists.
Jim Campbell was born in Chicago in 1956 and moved to San Francisco after earning degrees in mathematics and engineering from MIT. He transitioned from filmmaking to interactive video installations in the mid 1980s, and began using LEDs as his primary medium in 2000. His custom electronic artworks and installations have made him one of the leading figures in the use of computer technology as an art form.
Campbell’s works are in the collections of MoMA, SFMOMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and many others. In addition to the new installation for the Salesforce Tower, Campbell’s numerous public commissions include The Journey at the San Diego airport, Exploded Views for SFMOMA’s atrium lobby, Scattered Light in Madison Square Park (New York), Exploded View (Cowboys) for the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, and a forthcoming work, in collaboration with Werner Klotz, in the new San Francisco central subway in Union Square. Jacob’s Dream, a collaborative installation with Benjamin Bergery, is currently on view at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.