Control, 2014-2017


The Limits of Control is based on a seminal text by William Burroughs on the subject. For the artist, this text related to global surveillance concepts is a source of inspiration. Beyond its sociological immediacy, the artwork deals with issues such as data excess (big data), meta-data, emergence, non-linearity, geometry and language… William Burroughs’ experimental writings and his use of the random factor as a creative process have inspired Pascal Dombis for many years. And especially the famous Cut-Up technique developed by Burroughs with artist Brion Gysin in 60’s Paris. By destructuring texts in both a random and non-linear way, Cut-Up allows to create a new language which is for Dombis a very closed match for today’s digital and technological universes.
Pascal Dombis started to work on The Limits of Control in 2013 with the documents leaked by Edward Snowden and the disclosure of the NSA global surveillance activity program. Beyond the Big Brother side of these revealed reports, what interests him is the highlight of the meta-data usage: how connections and links between individuals could be established from gigantic amount of data. And this meta-data usage matches Dombis’s own artistic activity: For more than 20 years, he has used excessive computer processes to create unpredictable, unstable and accidental visual forms. In other words, he has been seeking to produce different perspectives from machinist noise and big-data excess.
In that series, Pascal Dombis’s art process consists in integrating the different parts of Burroughs original essay into an organic growth algorithm which makes the text proliferate millions times at various scales. During this excessive iterative process, some geometric shapes emerge, like an X or a cross. These forms suddenly appear and disappear right away, produced from subtle and unstable alignments of millions of text elements. The X forms are not intentionally programmed: they simply appear out of the excessive enforcement of autonomous and simple rules. The X shape is particularly interesting for Dombis because it is a strong geometric sign that generates various symbolic meanings : primitivism, ancient religions, but also modernism ( like the X from Russian constructivist El Lissitzky) …and, in our burroughsian digital ages, the X also echoes to the X-Files, Xbox, X-Men, X-Generation