Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Irrational Geometrics of Pascal Dombis

Post-Digital Mirror, 2011–2013, TZR Galerie Kai Brückner, Düsseldorf, 2013

For nearly two decades Pascal Dombis has been using computer algorithms to produce excessive repetitions of simple processes that create unpredictable, unstable and dynamic visual forms. By computationally reproducing a geometrical or typographical sign, he creates destructuring structures and develops irrational environments. He exploits the paradoxical coexistence of orderly control and chaotic aleatory forces to produce unpredictable, unstable and dynamic visual forms which he synthesizes into digital wall drawings, lenticular pieces or video installations. Dombis's work has been shown in numerous exhibitions around the world and is part of several public and private collections. Recent exhibitions include the 2008 retrospective Imaging by numbers: a historical view of the computer print at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art in Evanston, IL. In 2013, Dombis participated in Noise, an official collateral show of the 55th Venice Biennale of Art, based on Joseph Nechvatal’s book Immersion Into Noise. He presented Post-Digital Mirror, a large lenticular piece that follows the observer’s movements and produces organic and irregular shapes and lines. In May 2014, he will have a solo show at Holly Hunt New York based on his Irrational Geometrics works.

The following is an essay by Joseph Nechvatal written for the occasion of Dombis’ upcoming exhibition, Irrational Geometrics, at Holly Hunt (150 E. 58th Street, New York, NY). The show opens May 19th and will run through August, 2014. Gallery website: Artist website:

Post-Digital Mirror, 2011–2012, Lenticular mounted on alu-dibon, 3.30m x 1.80m (3 panels)

The Irrational Geometrics of Pascal Dombis
by Joseph Nechvatal

In our era of the late-capitalist circulation of digital signs, French artist Pascal Dombis has been creating perverse computer-assisted paintings that seem to try to overthrow, or at least displace, modern rationality in favor of a digitally debauched version of some vaguely remembered, disordered, non-mathematical emergence, now numerically manipulated and prefigured. This techno re-invention of emergence is accomplished by Pascal’s manipulating computer-generated hyper-structures which he synthesizes into abstract digital paintings. To my eye, within the borders of his post-conceptual practice, Pascal's complex results automatically hasten an elaborate visual irrationality via the most rational of means.

Just as antediluvian groups attempted to deal with the repetitious cosmos through irrational excess, so seemingly do these computer-performed simulations operate to make the rational/geometrical world move inexhaustibly towards irrationality. Thus his is a post-structuralist address to the fallacious nature of the former. Consequently, his hyper-geometric art leads us to a teeming process of rational expurgation through supra-rational excess.

Post-Digital Mirror (E1, E2), 2013, Lenticular mounted on alu-dibon, framed, unique piece, 0.90m x 1.20m

To do so, Dombis methodically uses an elementary warped prototype as his computational starting point, so as to advance an inhumanly complex pictorial space in which he addresses a miscellaneous collection of network issues such as complexity, perpetuation, enrichment, and chaos. By commencing with a singular and uncomplicated warped constituent (a lonely fragment of a curve or a diminutive portion of an arc) and by maniacally computationally reproducing it, Dombis achieves an intensely elaborate geotectonic optic structure, rich in associative significance. Into this elastic virtual matrix rushes a relentless machine-logic, one bent on achieving a contemporary techno hyper-irrationality of the sort which is becoming more and more familiar to us in all aspects of our lives.

This process of irrationality is ironic in that Dombis uses the computer in a simple, fundamental, computational way so as to incessantly compute the curved geometric element (the resulting intricate geotectonic configurations would be impractical to generate by hand as they are made up of tens of thousands to several million bowed constituents). Indeed, Dombis sees this methodology as "a kind of Arte Povera within new technologies." [1]

Post-Digital Blue, 2013, Lenticular mounted on alu-dibon (2 panels), 1.10m x 1.80m each

Post-Digital Blue, 2013 (detail)

Regardless, Dombis uses the resultant manic geometric hyper-structures so as to create an illusionary space that plays with the ambiguity between the mathematic structure produced by the computer and its metaphorical elucidation on a pictorial surface—elucidations in which the original motif disappears into the scrolling network. Dombis terminates this hysterical process at the point just before what Severo Sarduy calls the "black out". [2] According to Sarduy, in his book Barroco, if a structure is developed incessantly it will end up as a perplexed all-black facsimile of itself and thus attain its own "black out."

So long as his rational-irrational fabrications can mathematically multiply and permutate undisturbed by any apparent coherent restraint (short of "black out") there is no impeding them or, by implication, our own supra-rationality from attaining ever amplifying spectral capabilities. Hence I am delighted to see his rational-irrational simulacra proceed to blast away prior rational geometric pretexts so as to bring us closer not to our own limiting geometric "truth," a category long ago shattered by post-structuralism, but to the denuded realization of our own supra-rational coercive animus, now purified of all non-fantastical, non-multiplying delusions, including, finally, our own inelastic actuality.

[1] E-mail interview with the artist by the author
[2] Sarduy, S. (1975). Barroco. Paris: Editions du Seuil

SpamScape (Triple), 2010, IBU Gallery, Paris,
3-screen video installation. Video software: Claude Micheli

SpamScape, 2011, Lenticular mounted on alu-dibon, 1.20m x 0.90m

CensorZip, 2011,
Lenticular mounted on alu-dibon & PMMA (Plexiglas), 5 panels: 0.35m x 1.80m each

Post-Belaga (square), 2003–2004, Cháteau de Linardie, Senouillac, France,
Lenticular mounted on light box, 0.90m x 0.90m each


  1. My friends, may I be so absurd as to suggest that I see in "Censor Zip" the possibility of a show bringing together the work of Dombis, Nechvatal, and Roniger, and to be entitled, after Thomas Merton, as "Raids on the Unspeakable"?

    1. Many thanks for that, Glenn. I quite like the idea!