[ Generative ]

Peer to Peer: Bend

Ix Shells

Ix Shells created Bend for the Buffalo AKG Art Museum’s 2022 exhibition, Peer to Peer, curated by Tina Rivers Ryan and presented in partnership with Feral File. It was later acquired by the museum for its permanent collection.

In Bend, the appearance of the artist’s dancing body is an illusion generated by the bending of scrolling horizontal white lines towards or away from the viewer. That is, the volume of her body is neither ‘behind’ nor ‘in front’ of the lines, but in them, in the same way that the contours of a geological structure are represented by the lines on a topographical map. This unusual method of depicting a human figure makes it seem as if her body is less a solid presence than a kind of unstable artifact of geometry; one can imagine the lines all snapping taut and her body instantly disappearing.

Yard made this work by recording herself dancing and then processing the footage using Touch Designer, a node-based program that allows users to visually manipulate data in real time. The resulting images were then recorded off a screen, as evidenced by how the image slightly angles up and away from the viewer. In other words, Bend is a digital self-portrait in which Yard—who has spoken openly about the importance of her online friendships—depicts herself as quite literally existing in lines of code on a screen. Like a stop-motion animation, the illusion of movement relies on the sequencing of still frames, which are compiled into a looping video. Unlike most animations, however, Bend’s lower frame rate ensures that her movements are not seamless. This causes a glitch effect, as if Yard’s already ghostly body is struggling to remain coherent within—or alternatively, is being brought to life by—technological circuits.

Itzel Yard, known by her artistic pseudonym Ix Shells, is a Panamanian-based new media artist specializing in sound, generative art and the creative space between the two. The artistic capabilities of computational systems sparked her interest at an early age through her passion for music and video games. As she began exploring art through code, Yard discovered TouchDesigner, a visual node-based programming language that allows for real-time creation of multimedia compositions. Through this program, she interrogates the evanescent interactions between wavelength, velocity and visual expression, shaping a creative process driven by intuition and emotion. Architecture, namely the geometric structures of Brutalism, is key to her practice. Supplemented by her studies in architectural technology, she creates works with exquisite detail and spatial depth, often pulling patterns present in her daily life, before abstracting them together through elements of digital aesthetics like glitch, gradients and pixelation. The resultant compositions are methodically layered tapestries pulsating with energy and rhythm. Yard has become widely recognised for this style in the contemporary digital art space, which she refers to as 'Caribbean glitch'.

In May 2021, Yard became the highest-selling female generative artist when her piece Dreaming at Dusk was purchased for a record-breaking 500 ETH (over $2 million at the time). That same year, she was featured in Fortune’s NFTy50 list, alongside names such as Beeple, Cryptopunks and Mark Cuban. In 2023, her work Bend was acquired for the permanent collection of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum and she became one of the first 15 artists to take part in MoMA’s blockchain-based postcard project. Yard’s works continue to be some of the most sought-after by major museums, galleries and auction houses around the world. In August 2024, having completed a residency at the Statens Museum for Kunst (National Gallery of Denmark), she will feature as the only digital artist in the museum's exhibition, Against All Odds. Spanning an immersive, interactive installation and a number of smaller integrated pieces, the exhibition marks a historic moment for Yard, solidifying her position as one of the foremost generative artists of our time.