Fire Code

Ellen Hackl Fagan interviews Jeff Becker about Fire Code.


Ellen Hackl Fagan:  Hi Jeff. Tell me about the history of Fire Code.

Jeff Becker: Gazing daily into the fire that was keeping the cold at bay, it seemed that there was something going on that needed a closer look. After making some images, a patron encouraged me to continue. He has now passed on, but in his memory, I delved deeper. The camera, so long as I didn’t melt it due to the intense heat, could and did reveal things that I wasn’t seeing, freezing the delicacy of that destructive process.

EHF: And where is it at now, and where is it ultimately going?

JB: Now that it is 80˚, the fire is out for the season. Some of the still images became animations, which became a part of CTW. I’ll have the summer to let this cool off before I once again get seduced by the warm glow of the coals.

EHF: What skills have you acquired or honed during those years?

JB: Animations and video are a whole new frontier for me, and these skills are the ingredients of the soup that comes later. I’ve opened the door and stepped inside.

EHF: I know that engineering is an important part of your life. What were your influences?

JB: Once an engineer, always… Today’s experiences lay the path for future responses to the situations that we encounter, and become the tools for the task at hand. My years at Silicone Graphics became the ground that everything grew from. A simple comment about photography upended my engineering world, and provided the path from ubergeek to artist. A single email to Scott Draves about Electric Sheep changed everything, and brought me to LISA and CTW.

EHF: Who inspires you?

JB: Anyone with extreme skill. I’m interested in pushing boundaries, since the frontier is what exciting. You don’t leave a legacy by doing what has already been done.

EHF: Your career began as an engineer in Silicon Valley. What pulled you back to the east coast?

JB: My camera dragged me away from techno burnout. I took a chance, tossed a career, and wandered the globe, exploring life away from all those computers. I came back for my brother’s wedding, and had no reason to go back west.

EHF: Tell me about what you’re up to for CTW.

JB: For CTW I created a large Slurry Series print of a still image from the animation Fire Code, which is one of the animations that I am showing. Fire Code is a great visual representation of the execution of computer code. I’m also showing another fire animation, which captures the incredible delicacy that is found amongst such a violent process. I find that duality truly fascinating.

EHF: What’s a Slurry Series?

JB: A Slurry Series print is created by bending the rules of the technology.  I make prints that come out of the printer wet, giving the inks time to move, merge, and spread. This results in the creation of a watercolor-like unique print from a traditional photograph.


Interdisciplinary abstract painter, Ellen Hackl Fagan uses synaesthesia, digital media and interactive performance as tools for developing a corresponding language between color and sound in her work.

Ellen Hackl Fagan is the inventor of The Reverse Color Organ and the ColorSoundGrammar Game, two projects that enable viewers to interact aurally with color.  In collaboration with web architect Joshie Fishbein, the Reverse Color Organ is a web app, downloadable to a smart phone, thus placing this synaesthetic tool into peoples’ hands to be used, not only to expand the language of color, but also as a crowd-sourced musical instrument.

Fagan exhibits her work extensively throughout New England and New York City. In 2014 she expanded her independent curatorial practice into a full time business and is now the owner of ODETTA Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. There, she maintains her painting studio and is an active member of this vibrant arts community.