Cory Arcangel Colors 2006, Tate Modern displays

Cory Arcangel
Colors (still) 2006
Single channel video, artist software, computer. 33 days
© Cory Arcangel
Image courtesy of Cory Arcangel

In Colors, Cory Arcangel breaks down Dennis Hopper’s film of the same name into a mesmerising field of shifting colours.

Arcangel’s work addresses the precarious relationship between images, data, physical objects and digital systems. He is as fascinated by obsolescence as he is by technological progress, and his art is often formed by both extremes.

The departure point for this work is a 1988 film by Dennis Hopper called Colors about violence between Los Angeles street gangs. Arcangel developed a computer program to scramble Hopper’s cinematic images, transforming them into a dynamic abstraction. The program plays Quicktime movies one horizontal line of pixels at a time, starting at the top of the screen and working its way down. Each line of colour is stretched to fill the screen, resulting in animated bands of colour. To run through every row of data, the two-hour movie must repeat 404 times. It takes around thirty-three days to play from beginning to end.

Arcangel developed Colors out of his interest in slit-scan, a process originally used in static photography to achieve blurriness or deformity and perfected for the creation of spectacular animations. Although the psychedelic flow of colours it generates is now commonly created through computer animation, slit-scan is traditionally a mechanical technique, highlighting Arcangel’s interest in the tension between digital and analogue technologies.

Colors disrupts the cinematic image and the conventional logic of its narrative flow. It is a clever nod to colour field painting and also to the earliest experiments in abstract filmic animation by artists such as Oskar Fischinger, Walther Ruttmann and Viking Eggeling.

Cory Arcangel was born in Buffalo, New York in 1978. He lives and works in Brooklyn.

Curated by Stuart Comer.