Meet Bishop Zareh, Artist and Front End Developer

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    As part of our employee spotlight series, we’re pleased to introduce you to Bishop Zareh, a front end developer for Bloomfire. He is also a professional lighting, projection, and programming artist, showing his work at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C., and Lollapalooza.

    What is your title at Bloomfire and translate that to what you actually do all day?

    Honestly, the software industry changes so fast that programmers must reinvent their titles every few years. At some point I went from being a “webmaster” to “developer” to “engineer” and absolutely nothing changed about my day-to-day activities – I write Javascript for web browsers.

    My job consists of this: I am handed a Rubics Cube, I solve it, I hand it back, rinse and repeat. At least that is how I describe it to people. Ever since I was young, I have enjoyed solving logic puzzles. Now I get to do it all day and am happy as a bug in a rug about it.

    What kind of art do you produce and is there a piece you are most proud of?

    I was a professional artist for more than ten years. A lot of people believe in the stereotype that creative people are bad at math and well-organized people find it difficult to be imaginative. Creative programming blurs those distinctions.

    When I taught Special Effects Design at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, we presented art as requiring limitation. Looking at a room full of New Media seniors at an ivy league arts university, there is no audience more eager to break rules and paint outside the lines. However, artworks always exist within a frame. The frame might be quite large – the entire gallery in the case of Duchamp or all of NYC’s Central Park in the case of Christo – but there is always a frame. In a very literal sense, the frame defines the boundaries of a particular artistic expression, and is a necessary precursor to that expression.

    While artists need the ability to paint with the imaginative abandon that only comes from being oblivious to rules and boundaries, for their art to be successful, artists also need an analytical and strategic approach to setting their frame. Personally, I did well at isolating the scope of my artwork in a way that was communicative and evocative for people.

    What is the most unique place you have shown your work?

    Back in 2006, I was selected by the City of Chicago as one of 100 artists to create large-scale sculptures for a show about climate change at the Museum of Natural History.

    I made a ten-foot-tall model of the planet earth covered in asphalt. On the North Pole sat three small buildings also covered in asphalt. Under the asphalt, I used a combination of clay, plaster and hay which trapped small pockets of moisture.

    Over the course of the month-long exhibition, the sun would heat the surface of the planet creating bubbles that would occasionally burst open leaving behind earthy craters. After that show, the piece toured around the U.S. to places such as the D.C. Botanic Garden and the San Diego Zoo.

    How do you balance your work as an artist with your day job as an engineer?

    I do not think of art as an activity, but rather a way of life. I have worked extremely hard to move myself into positions where I enjoyed my job. That is just as true now as when I was a fulltime artist. I still make art all day long – only the frame has changed. I challenge myself every day to be as creative and eloquent with Javascript, as I have been with light and pigment.

    What is an interesting fact about you that most people don’t know?

    I was once the webmaster for the largest biker gang in Texas. The main benefit was all the free tattoos I could find space for.

    What excites you most about Bloomfire?

    All older collaboration technologies, like email groups and forums, shared a common flaw that no one noticed until many years after they were widely adopted. When all the members agree, they work great – when there is disagreement, they devolve into an unmanageable mess (e.g. flame wars). All of these past attempts at collaboration software gave precedence to the loudest voices and drowned out the meeker ones. Disagreement invariably resulted in a fractured community.

    The first big innovation to address this problem was the Wiki. Collaborative authoring made people reach an amicable agreement in their writing, ultimately bringing communities closer together. Meeker voices always have a place to express themselves, and flame wars could be easily contained. However wikis have a different problem – they become disorganized very quickly. This makes them very good at collaboration, but very bad at cataloging knowledge in a way that was easy to navigate or search.

    Bloomfire is the first product to combine the collaboration advancement of wikis and question/answer sites, with the content management tools necessary for large-scale knowledge repositories. It is structurally designed to be more beneficial than any product it replaces.

    What is the coolest thing on the web right now?

    Windows 3.11 emulated in Javascript – completely amazing!

    Follow Bishop
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