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REvolution: Luis Miras and Spencer Mack
The Art of Reverse Engineering
by Jialin Luh on Jun 22, 2007
What do disassembled wireless presenters, oscilloscopes, graphical representations of ones and zeroes, and destroyed muscle cars have in common? Reverse Engineering was probably not the first common thread to come to mind, but this theme is intriguingly explored in the fourth installation to grace the white walls of 20 goto10 gallery in Nob Hill. Spanning two long walls, this exhibit features the work of two local artists: Luis Miras and Spencer Mack.
As you enter the light-filled gallery you will find the work of Miras on your left and Mack on your right. Miras is a locally based Reverse Engineer who has made an artful presentation of what is required to hijack a presentation being given with a wireless presenter, as evidenced by the title of his collection: “Other Wireless: New Ways To Be Pwned”. His is a visual journey that starts with dissection of a wireless remote that exposes its electronic innards. There is a strange beauty to the green peanut-shaped circuit board (at least, I think that’s what it is) that somehow transmits a signal in ones and zeroes to the receiver piece that would normally plug into a USB port on your laptop. One of these receivers is dissected in the next box displayed. The circuitry is terminated on a male USB on one end and a spring-like coiled wire on the other end.
Between the physical dissection of the hardware and the visual breakdown of the software proccessing, Miras crafted a two-part diagram two show how the signal is passed from the transmitter to the receiver. The idea for this came from his frustration with standard PowerPoint flowcharts while creating a presentation to accompany a talk he was giving at a Security conference. Instead of the usual ho-hum chart he used construction paper and solders as antennas and photographed the results to use as a slide. To incorporate his love of graffiti, Miras labeled his diagram in a tag-influenced graffy style.
The last part of Miras’ installation shows the tools Miras uses to hijack the presentations. He interprets the transmitter’s unique signal with an oscilloscope and uses software to analyze the graphs generated by the signal. Even if you’re not an engineer and don’t know how to interpret these graphs, the results are fascinating to look at.
Spencer Mack, who doubles as your friendly local bartender some nights at the infamous Beauty Bar, exhibits his work on the opposite wall. Mack has accomplished some amazing feats with his penchant for model cars. The unmanipulated photographs of cars submerged in water are incredibly realistic. In fact, the sky and landscape backgrounds in these photographs are real. In the background of one photo you may see spot some people – a few of Mack’s friends, not model figures. His camera work warps scales of reality with mastery. If you look closely at the two lightboxes, you may even see water rippling behind the submerged vehicles.
Definitely make sure to spend some time at the front of the gallery with Mack’s detailed sketches of submerged cars and some enthralling dioramas. These dioramas feature model figurines in hand drawn backdrops, set atop an old-school turntable. As a fan of Murray’s pomade I was tickled that Mack repurposed an old tin into a container for one of his dioramas.
REvolution is a term coined by Miras to signify a revolution in reverse engineering (RE). How are hijacking of presentations and cars submerged in water applicable to REvoltion? By working backwards Miras is capable of taking the signal from a wireless presenter and engineering it into a new signal, thereby highjacking it. Mack ends up with an amazingly lifelike photograph of a car submerged in water (i.e. destroyed) by launching a model into a body of water, which requires reversing its journey to figure out how to achieve a realistic result. Though his works don’t depict reverse engineering perse, they demonstrate some of the destructive forces characteristic of reverse engineering.
REvolution is the fourth opening curated by gallery owner Chris Abad, a San Francisco native who sees the gallery as his way to give back to people he admires and has gained from, whether it be insight or through appreciation of their work. Previous exhibitions have included works by Alexis Mackenzie, Mindy Datema, Jason Snell, as well as his own. A previous one-night exhibition “You Eat Maggots” showcased maggots at work on comestibles. “REvolution” runs through July 6th.
by Jialin Luh on Jun 22, 2007
Photo courtesy Joe Smooth
Photo credit: Jialin Luh