A New Nothing – Zach Nader and Leah Beeferman


Wavepool – How have you approached the idea of having an image-based conversation?

Zach Nader – I started with the idea that the images themselves were discussing their day in a way I could overhear. The images I made for my conversation with Leah repeat elements back for clarification or reinforcement and pick up mannerisms from each other. I was especially hopeful that my images could introduce new information in a way likely to be understood by Leah’s images.

I often find myself returning to Gretchen Bender’s description of media as a cannibalistic river-flow, absorbing everything. In order to keep my images balanced in conversation, I thought it critical to incorporate a clawback mechanism to recycle material throughout this exchange.

Leah Beeferman – An image-based conversation is an idea I became familiar with through Tessellations, a project W M Harvey and I did together between 2007 and 2010. We “conversed” using found images, but it helped to create a precedent for me in terms of thinking about creative and intuitive responses to a given image; essentially, it taught me to look at an image, see its multiple dimensions and directions, its layers of visual, conceptual, or informational content, and its obvious and more oblique qualities – and then to respond in a way that feels exciting or challenging or strange, and to consider a response which takes a more minor aspect of that image in a new direction. It’s quite freeing and exciting to have these conversations, because it’s a way to think in parallel – to ask myself what I see, and then what ideas are triggered in terms of how I work, and how I make images. It’s provocative, because I look for things in that image which open new doors for me. It’s all really fun.

In the case of my conversation with Zach Nader on A New Nothing, I think I was looking for the ways our very different ways of making images could communicate. In the conversation, we both played transparency and layering, using photographic imagery and digitally-generated imagery, and stretching our own respective visual languages. I think we both took the opportunity to play, and that was really fun.



Wavepool – If you were to compare your exchange to one that is spoken, how would you describe it?

Zach Nader – This falls somewhere between the fluidity of having a spoken conversation and the potential embarrassment in reading a transcript of one’s own words.

The most significant difference is that images represent an infinite vocabulary and can be understood by nearly all humans and a host of machines.

Leah Beeferman – In a way, something like a game of telephone – except without the intent to explicitly transfer the spoken information…maybe akin to really interpretive game of telephone, crossed with an exquisite corpse game made out of words. Essentially: take what you hear, consider its structure and its meaning, ​and then re-communicate it somehow – except do this by playing with it, not trying to re-create it.



Wavepool – What have you taken away from the process?

Zach Nader – Images should be given more opportunities to speak to each other. I would love to see two machines have a conversation on A New Nothing.

Leah Beeferman – I often create pretty rigid sets of rules (both visual and conceptual) for my images. So, this conversation was a chance to relax those rules a little bit and play, to find some spaces where the rules didn’t need to be so fixed – where I could open them up a bit, and try out some new possibilities. It was also really interesting for me to think about how my images were being interpreted by someone else, and where my images could lead that person! It made me step back and see my images both more loosely and more categorically – and to think a little differently about its parts and the sum of its parts.


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