Paul B. DAVIS

(USA/UK)

Founded the Beige Programming Ensemble with Joe Beuckman, Cory Arcangel and Joseph Bonn. While still in college in the late 1990s Davis pioneered the use of hacked videogame cartridges as an art practice. His Nintendo work was premiered in 2000 and subsequently Beige members used hacked Nintendo Entertainment Systems (NES) to create a distinct body of work that has been shown internationally. Davis created The Beige Cassette Jockey Championships, the world’s only cassette tape-based performance competition, and performing as “DJ Spin-Laden” is the only DJ to ever get thrown off stage at the Technics/DMC World DJ Championships. Recent projects include solo exhibitions in London, Milan and Chicago, performing music and wizardy in a duo with DJ LeDeuce [Thrill Jockey] known as The Potions, and DJing in the elevator of the Akademie der Kunste, Berlin. Currently a lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, working on his PhD, and producing beats for St. Louis rapper “Wonton”.

The 8-Bit Construction Set Atari Data, 1999
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Atari software, originally distributed on vinyl record

The 8-Bit Construction Set is also an example of using vinyl as a physical medium for software distribution. The record contains software on each side that, when played and taped onto a standard audio cassette, can be loaded in an Atari or Commodore computer using their respective cassette drives. The Atari side’s software includes an open source bass synthesizer written by Glenn Gutierrez, a programme that explores “Post-Data” (a Beige concept that proposes love for CPUs), and an address for anyone who actually recorded and loaded the software to write to and receive a prize.

The 8-Bit Construction Set, 2001
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Vinyl record

The 8-Bit Construction Set is a self-titled concept album/DJ battle record created entirely with Commodore 64 and Atari 800xl home computers. It has two programmatically matching sides structured as “Samples” – “Locked Grooves” – “Song” – “Data”. The “Samples” are from various games, demos and television commercials. The “Locked Grooves” and “Song” sections all contain original material composed by members of the band. The “Data” section uses vinyl as a medium for software distribution. The sounds of the inside tracks are actually data encoded as audio which can be dubbed to a cassette tape and booted in your respective Atari or Commodore 8-bit computers.

Commodore 64 song, Atari samples, Atari locked grooves, Atari song and Atari software: Paul B. Davis
Commodore 64 samples and Commodore 64 software: Joseph Beuckman
Commodore 64 locked grooves: Cory Arcangel
Commodore 64 locked grooves and engineering: Joseph Bonn

Untitled, 2001-2009
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Hacked Nintendo cartridge

When Beige was formalized as a collaborative art practice – and a very loose one at that – Paul B. Davis shared his Nintendo hacking concepts and techniques with the group. Before that time it was a solo practice he had developed, and he still has his old PC from this period which contains many early pieces and fragments of unfinished work, most of which have never been seen. Untitled is a piece he completed for the Playlist exhibition starting from an unfinished early cartridge.

5 in 1, 2007
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Hacked Nintendo cartridge

Homage to DIY/”pirate” multicarts often found in Hong Kong markets which take multiple games and illegally cram them all on one cartridge, Paul B. Davis crams multiple artworks from the Beige catalogue. There are stylistic nods to multicart culture in the somewhat awkward main selection screen, the misspelling of the component names (this is also a reference to bootleg hip-hop records), the lack of navigation instructions, and a slightly buggy feel. However, its authentic/illegal “pirate” nature is tempered by the fact that the source codes for most Beige artworks are freely available from their website. Anyone could download and make their own edition of the original pieces – Davis’ Fantasy Cutscenes, Cory Arcangel’s Mario Clouds, etc – if they learned the technique and could be bothered. This is the paradox of “open source” software when manifested in an art object: the object is reduced to the application of a technical skill because the code/concepts already exist in the public domain (except, of course, for Davis’ code that runs this multicart).

Courtesy: Seventeen Gallery, London
Acknowledgements: 5 in 1 contains copies of existing Beige artworks