Ever spent more than three hours looking at a computer screen? Me too. There’s a name for what you feel then : eye strain, redness, irritation or dryness, a burning feeling in the eyes, blurred or double vision after computer use, headaches and neck and shoulder pain. I’m not turning into a Health Forum, but this is called CVS, for computer vision syndrome. And if you get in now while binging on RuPaul’s Drag Race, back in the days we had bloodshot visions of dirty pixels swarming around under your closed eyes. This was the Ur-vision for Mark Bern. When he started to play around on his Commodore 64, his perception changed for ever. You might remember this, but can all relay to it: a computer screen appears, and all we want to do is forever looking at it. Those Pixels are the visual bricks of life for the digital life, and if they get less and less noticeable, they are still the components of every thing you see on screen.
Mark Bern has been making Pixel based art for quite a while. Using those bricks to create abstract landscapes and forms that trigger a very contemporary kind of mental state. Dialoguing with other pixel artists such as Chuck Close or Space Invader, he’s been bringing this 90’s aesthetic into a new dimension. And that would be literally with his 3D printed pixel sculptures.
For me a pixel is the basis of everything in the digital world
KB: You notoriously started on a Commodore 64, do you miss the machine? How did it work for you? Mark Bern: Back in the 90s, I was constantly surrounded by geeks, hackers and other innovators in the field of Information Technology and I used a computer to start my own Internet Company at the age of 19. In those days computers were not really part of our lives like they are today, so I was excited by the idea of creating art with these new electronic tools.
KB: How did you start imagining life of screen at the end of the 90’s? Mark Bern: I had quite an unorthodox journey into the art world. For years I was creating art prints for myself on my computer. A few years ago, I had a few friends over who were constantly complimenting my work without realising it was created by me. After the support of several friends in the art world, I decided to send a few of my pieces to an art event. My work was an instant hit so I started my career as a pixel artist.
KB: In Berlin, we see a lot of Post-Internet artists. What’s your take on this movement? Mark Bern: Berlin is one of the leading spots worldwide for internet-startups so I think it is natural that you also have a lot of activities in this art segment as well.
KB: Your process involves a back and forth translation between the organic world and the digital one, can you describe the perception shift that is at stake? Mark Bern: From Photoshop to Instagram filters, it seems as if everyone these days can call themselves an artist. Modern technology and the digital world has certainly expanded the potential of creativity. But the ownership of computers does not make us all artists, just as purchasing paintbrushes does not make anyone the next Michelangelo.
For me a pixel is the basis of everything in the digital world. If you look into the modern world, you will notice everything is a pixel. Now we don’t see it with great technology, like smartphones and LED screens, but to me, the simple pixel, the square at the end is still the basis of everything in the world. I started to play with pixels on computers more than 20 years ago. When I was I teenager and as far as I know, there is no artist focusing on the same style as mine. My art reflects the modern digital zeitgeist of today’s generation. It is abstract, pixelated, flashy and gaudy.
KB: What are your main influences? Mark Bern: Nature and its power, but mainly life with its various facets. For me, art is a unique way to express the essence of all interactions in life.