The Great American Tour

mixed media installation with conceptual digital imaging, 2012
digital C-Print on Kodak Professional Endura Metallic paper (12 pieces in a set, 10.5 x 14 inches each)

The Great American Tour is a symbolic visual journey of the artist’s learning and growth in the United States. Digital photographs of nine museums and three well-known artists’ neighborhoods in New York were “personalized” by strategically replacing the “@” symbol found in the image source code with the name of the artist, “C. J. Yeh.” As a result, two very antithetical ideas emerged from these altered images: one singularly egotistical and the other as openly universal; each is the outcome of imposing of the same strategy on the same images. One idea is that the artist successfully “leaves his mark” all over the American art scene. The other idea is how “glitching” serves to illustrate the coincidental and unpredictable nature of life itself.

As previously defined, this process of intentionally inducing glitches into digital files is known as “databending.” It draws its inspirations from the practice of “circuit bending” and “glitch music,” a practice in which children’s toys or small digital synthesizers are deliberately short-circuited by customizing the circuit board to generate spontaneous and unpredictable sounds.

For The Great American Tour, the artist opened digital image files with a text editor and painstakingly searched through and altered computer codes, which were intended to be read by the computer, while remaining fundamentally incomprehensible to human beings. The results of this intervention are largely dependent upon chance, trial, and error, and they are impossible to predict. Instead of creating images utilizing image-editing programs such as Photoshop, C. J. Yeh purposefully sacrificed his traditional creative control and, in so doing, allowed this method of “imposed chance” to serve as the creative process itself. An old art concept, applied in a new way and new age, becomes a metaphor revealing aspects of his own condition as an artist trying to gain control of his destiny in a foreign land.