DIFFERENCE ENGINE Jamming is a form of error detection

Difference Engine* is an evolving touring exhibition, a model of autonomous artist curation, by artists Mark Cullen, Wendy Judge Gillian Lawler & Jessica Foley, featuring Gordon Cheung**.

Taking the ‘first’ computer as a namesake, and adopting Charles Babbage’s observation that ‘Jamming is a form of error detection’ as our imaginative jumping off point, Difference Engine plays with the idea of ‘jamming’. In one sense ‘jamming’ signifies stasis, shock, or rupture, but in another sense, it signifies change, growth, improvisation and invigoration between players.

With this in mind, we work together through art. In many ways, Difference Engine operates similarly to oral storytelling, where the story changes each time it is spoken. Only, with Difference Engine, the story is made up of visuals, objects and props, as well as words. There isn’t one set narrative, and so there is a call to the audience to build their own associations and narratives from the pieces we present and organise in the exhibition space. The works brought together through Difference Engine weave personal concerns with concepts of science, geologic time, language, architecture and economics.

*Charles Babbage is attributed with having graced the world with what has become generically known as ‘the computer’. The motivation behind his early 19th century efforts, it seems, lay in his desire to bring into being ‘the first successful automatic calculating device to embody mathematical rule in mechanism’, thereby eliminating ‘human error’ in the tablature of numerical calculations.

The Machine would produce a uniform numerical certainty that the human could not, thereby ensuring precision & automation within the major fields of the day dependant upon the tabling of data: Astronomy, engineering, banking & insurance, navigation, construction & finance. Babbage did not live to see his Difference Engine exact it’s existence leaving the legacy of his designs in his wake he declared ‘Another age must be the Judge’

**Gordon’s works variously infiltrate the Difference Engine exhibitions. Principally, though, Gordon Cheung provides Difference Engine with a talismanic portrait of Charles Babbage, which has become something of a touchstone within each of our exhibitions. Ironically, the portrait is the one piece within the Difference Engine shows which remains constant.

  Mark Cullen *** Gillian Lawler ***  Jessica Foley ***  Wendy Judge

September 2009 (revised Feb 2013)

D.E. ChroniclesHybrid Storytelling


The Story so Far…

Difference Engine came into being early in 2009, motivated by a desire to generate personal agency through a pooling of individual resources and talents. We wanted to take control of how our work could be brought into the public realm, and this shared motivation led us to develop Difference Engine as a model of autonomous artist-led curation.

We follow an ethos of mutual respect and a will to collaborate. Our individual practices resonate with each other in different ways, sometimes there is overlap and sometimes there is contrast. We are all interested in change and its effects, and how paradigms shift, and we all have a desire to manifest our concerns through art.

So, in the early stages of Difference Engine we decided that, rather than to set a theme for the exhibitions, we would simply ‘manifest’ our work together and let our concerns resonate with the audience.

In November 2009 we exhibited our first Manifestation at Cake Contemporary Arts at The Curragh Camp, Co. Kildare. Since then we have exhibited at the ESB Substation in Cork with Triskel/The Black Mariah; in the Lower East Side, New York, with thisisnotashop and Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Centre; at Wexford Arts Centre, Co. Wexford (the twin gallery of the Coracle project which supports this exhibition), at SOMA contemporary in Waterford; and at West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen, Co. Cork.

The exhibition at SOMA marked the end of the Manifestations, and the beginning of a new chapter, the Accumulator series. We are keen to develop aspects of the manifestations that have included music performances, such as those performed by Bloodyends (Black Mariah & CSV New York), and responsive audio/visual performances, such as those programmed by Jessamyn Fiore/thisisnotashop & Victoria Keddie in response to our exhibition at CSV by New York based artists. For the first in the Accumulator series it was a privilege to collaborate with and exhibit the work of artist Paul Green.

As part of Accumulator II at the Oriel Myrddin Gallery we are delighted to have the critical response of Ciara Healy to our work, in essay and lecture form, and we hope that this will invite a deeper discussion and growing familiarity with our audience.

Jessica Foley – Mark Cullen – Gillian Lawler – Wendy Judge

February 2013

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