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DCT:SYPHONING. 64th Interval | by Rosa Menkman
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DCT:SYPHONING. 64th Interval

DCT:SYPHONING. The 1000000th (64th) interval.

Conceived by Rosa Menkman


About the work

A modern translation of the 1884 Edwin Abbott Abbott roman "Flatland", explains some of the algorithms at work in digital image compression.

Inspired by Syphon, an open source software by Tom Butterworth and Anton Marini, in DCT:SYPHONING, an anthropomorphised DCT (Senior) narrates its first SYPHON (data transfer) together with DCT Junior, and their interactions as they translate data from one image compression to a next (aka the “realms of complexity”).

As Senior introduces Junior to the different levels of image plane complexity, they move from the macroblocks (the realm in which they normally resonate), to dither, lines and the more complex realms of wavelets and vectors. Junior does not only react to old compressions technologies, but also the newer, more complex ones which ‘scare' Junior, because of their 'illegibility'.


Every image plane environment is made in a 3D Unity Level, and per level, artefacts from another realm of compression form the textural basis of the chapter.



Background of the work (DCT, 2015):

In 2015 Menkman developed DCT for the exhibition "Design my Privacy" commissioned by MOTI museum, Breda, Netherlands, which won a shared first price in the 2015 Crypto Design Challenge. The work DCT (2015) formed the basis for "DCT:SYPHONING. The 1000000th (64th) interval" (2015-2016).


The basic premise of “DCT” (2015):

The legibility of an encrypted message does not just depend on the complexity of the encryption algorithm, but also on the placement of the data of the message.

Discreet Cosine Transform (DCT) is a mathematical technique, that has been used since 1973, but only became widely implemented in 1992, when the JPEG image compression technology started using it as a core component. In the case of the JPEG compression, a DCT is used to describe a finite set of patterns, called macroblocks, that could be described as the 64 character making up the JPEG image, adding lumo and chroma values (light and color) as ‘intonation’. If an image is compressed correctly, its macroblocks become ‘invisible’, while any incidental trace of the macroblocks is generally ignored as artifact or error.

Keeping this in mind, Menkman developed DCT, a font that can be used on any TTF supporting device. DCT appropriates the algorithmic aesthetics of JPEG macroblocks to mask its 'secret' message as error. The encrypted message, hidden on the surface of the image is only legible by the ones in the know.



Production of DCT:SYPHONING.

DCT:SYPHONING was first commissioned by the Photographers Gallery in London, for the show Power Point Polemics.

This version was on display as a powerpoint presentation .ppt (Jan - Apr 2016).


A 3 channel video installation was conceived for the 2016 Transfer Gallery's show "Transfer Download", first installed at Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco (July - September, 2016)


The final form of DCT:SYPHONING will be in VR, as part of DiMoDA’s Morphe Presence.


DCT:SYPHONING. The 1000000th (64th) interval is dedicated to Nasir Ahmed and Lena JPEG Soderberg.

A Spomenik for Resolutions (that would never be)

A warm thank you go out to Transfer Gallery (Kelani Nichole) and DiMoDA (William Robertson and Alfredo Salazar-Caro)




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Taken circa 2017