Artists-as-creative coders are a dime a dozen these days. Some manage to penetrate the new media art landscape as brands and personas, or create a nice Tumbler following, while others quietly and craftily produce visual alchemy.
Brooklyn-based visual artist Mark Fingerhut is part of the latter group. Working mainly with code, he creates warped virtual worlds that recall Chris Cunningham of "Rubber Johnny" and “All Is Full of Love” fame, if only he’d come of age with the internet and an arsenal of software.
But Fingerhut’s work assumes many forms and isn’t exactly easy to categorize. While he enjoys creating videos and virtual realities, he has also recently created an anonymous chat room and communal space within Facebook, where he hopes people will eventually deposit good content (more on that later).
Fingerhut spent his schooling years working with fellow artist and friend Ian Faris producing video content under the name "WOLFSHIRT." With a focus on CG and video game engines, WOLFSHIRT sought to expand the creative potential of game engines as a method for telling stories.
Fingerhut tells The Creators Project that he hasn’t fully left theater and film behind. It’s just that his discovery of Processing really redirected his ambitions. But Fingerhut’s interactive projects aren’t just pieces of warped eye candy—they’re journeys.
“I have this recurring idea of transcendence through computer usage that I've spent a long time trying to articulate,” he muses. “Those two 'journey' projects are seeing these boring 2D virtual 'spaces' we use as real physical spaces that one could travel through. And these come with all of the un-emotion and freedom that the URL spaces do. It's a very exciting place to be, inside of your computer.”
So, naturally, Fingerhut really enjoys local files. If he sees a video online he really enjoys, he will usually download it and store it for future use. For him, there is something very satisfying about building one’s own offline media collection. This is part of the reason why he calls himself a “media collector” and “computer user” instead of an artist, which he feels he hasn’t really earned yet.
When working on videos, Fingerhut always works in real-time. He enjoys the expressive potential that comes with mixing and editing a video live while screen recording the result. He almost always wants his hand to be visible in the editing, either through expressive choices or intentional errors.
Fingerhut writes code in C++ now, and uses the openFrameworks graphics library to do his windowing projects and most of his code as well. For real-time videos, he uses VDMX and Adobe Premiere, and Unity for interactive 3D projects. For various supplementary tasks, Fingerhut uses Photoshop and After Effects, and then Macro Express Pro and Everything for window juggling—the “spawning, killing, resizing, and moving [of] computer windows for purely aesthetic purposes, to convey meaning, to screen record,” and so on.
Fingerhut doesn’t start projects with any grand concepts. He says it almost always starts with music, which inspires a visual which he sketches out and develops over the course of a week. “I usually start with motion and images, and maybe some dramatic changes,” he says. “I'm very into transitions. I think transitions are what makes videos feel like 2015. IRL we have NO transitions ever. Everything is strung together in one big horror show we cannot turn off.”
At the moment, Fingerhut is very interested in the idea of windows—how they dominate our computer experience. He says he’s currently writing programs to wrangle and control computer windows, and even display computer graphics outside of the confines of a computer window, straight over a user’s desktop.
Now, to Fingerhut’s anonymous Facebook chatroom, “stfu chat”—or, as he jokingly calls it, "the new Facebook.” He started running the ephemeral chatroom so that people who knew each other could talk anonymously. Fingerhut hosts his own virtual server, which he says is spread across hundreds of computers all over the world, and he opens up this chatroom for about an hour a day.
Fingerhut is also currently developing a cyclical digital performance with fellow artist and friend Collin Clarke. He can’t say much about the project, but it involves Monopoly, a wireless printer, the Great Flood, and lots and lots of goo.