Translating data into design, artists Rachel de Joode, Katja Novitskova, Julia Crabtree, and William Evans offer a new perspective on icons and images familiar to the majority in the developed and developing world alike.
It is only when taken out of context that one realises the mild absurdity of scroll bars, stock photos, and 2D web ‘pages’. First selecting images from the screen, rendering them tangible, and then exhibiting them as art objects, these four artists challenge viewers to question the ‘normality’ of things we have grown accustomed to seeing in their traditional two dimensions.
Hailing from Berlin, Dutch-born artist Rachel de Joode uniquely interprets online paraphernalia most notably in some of her earlier works, such as The Imaginary Order (2012); a performance piece exploring the border between the physical and the imaginary, the artist utilised a physical rendering of Google’s instantly recognisable search page through which a woman peered intensely, licking the page and contorting strangely at times in what seem to be efforts to push herself through it.
Illustrating the impenetrable divide between man’s often fictional online persona and his ‘true’ physical being, de Joode’s work can only have increased in relevance when considered in light of the rise of social media and the smart phone since the works conception, phenomena that has resulted in an unprecedented surge of people turning the camera upon themselves, projecting desirable ideas of their lifestyle and appearance for their online ‘followers’ to contemplate and envy via a plethora of platforms.
Using photographs to make sculptures (and vice versa) in her most recent work, de Joode has developed her study of dimensions, creating absurd and unusual objects that continue to blur the boundaries between 2 and 3D.
Featured as part of the playfully titled ‘#nostalgia’ group show, Katja Novitskova’s 2014 performance of text and image at CCA Glasgow (available to read and view on her website) is a wonderfully sharp satirical monologue based on a generic stock image representing ‘growth’.
With special focus on the jargon typically associated with business practises that involve technology and globalisation, Novitskova’s monologue highlights the vague and mildly Sisyphean aspects of the financial and technological modern world, distorting the image’s original intended meaning and purpose.
Ideas that the growth arrow signifies have recurred in her work since ‘#nostalgia’, notably in 2014 installation ‘Pattern of Activation’ – modelled out of semi-translucent polyurethane, Novitskova transforms the arrow into a tangible 3D object, juxtaposed alongside a startlingly ‘real looking’ image of an albino stallion, a digital print also originally sourced from the world wide web. Visually representing of the effects of man’s demographic and technological advancement on our planet’s ever-increasing extinction rate, ‘Pattern of Activation’ exemplifies Novitskova’s unique awareness and dexterity as an artist.
‘Antonio Bay’ is Julia Crabtree and William Evans’ most recent exhibition, the result of a continued examination by the artists on the relationship between the body and the screen. A product of their time as the Nina Stewart Artists-in-Residence in the SLG’s Outset Artists Flat, ‘Antonio Bay’ was shown at the South London Gallery in 2014, occupying the first floor with curious and immersive abstract shapes and textures.
Unlike Novitskova and de Joode, Crabtree and Evans’ work is not directly linked to the internet: in their attempts to investigate the imagery of our collective conscious, the artists focus instead on ‘the high artifice of B-movies’ and ‘the spatial logic of cartoon physics’, rendering their own interpretation of these things in physical form.
2D transformed into 3D, viewers were given the opportunity to contemplate previously flat ‘horizon lines’ sculpted into thick, undulating structures; in a mind-bending materialisation, an image of theatrical atmospheric smoke was flattened onto carpet, simultaneously indistinguishable and distinguishable, tangible and yet as impenetrable as it would be on screen.
Crabtree and Evans have worked collaboratively in an experiment in shared subjectivity over the past nine years; their most recent endeavour as part of group show ‘Back to the Things Themselves’ recently exhibited in new London artist-run space Assembly Point was a continuation in their exploration of the boundary between virtual and real spaces, involving the playful manipulation of interfaces, objects and imagery into placeless, immersive scenarios.
The human race is hurtling toward a dystopian and mechanised future at an alarming rate - as our reliance on screens and the internet increases, all aspects of life, including the way we communicate, look, and eat are changing at a rate incomparable to any other period in history.
With some of the world’s most significant and memorable art movements conceived in reaction toward rapidly changing social, mechanical, and political structures, one cannot help but wonder what lies in store for the art world – if the work of the aforementioned artists is anything to go by, then perhaps it is safe to say we have seen the future, and it works!