Searching for magic and the distorted image falling from your iCloud — is the incomprehensible title for a very incomparable group show. Opening this week in the Dot Project, it aims to redefine the phallus quo of the art world (even though all the participant are men). The poster is a desktop wallpaper, with folders, one binder per artist. Within it a window of the headline (‘Searching for magic and the distorted image falling from your iCloud’) being searched on Google with 12,300,000 results. iCloud vs. Dropbox vs. Delayed pixels. Or a mix of gender traitors meeting Kafka meeting your own personal storage space (in megabytes). Tech and art are strange bedfellows and a very hard sell, though. The never-trending story in art is exhibition spaces trying to tap into social media on canvases with mostly daft outcomes; QR codes on white walls, hashtags made of neon, Saatchi Gallery showing random selfies.
This show, however, is different. It’s not about social media. It’s about computing. iCloud folders are not meant to be shared. Your files are yours, your lock-screen picture is for those who care to look. Unless leaked (hence ‘falling’ from iCloud) this is your ad-free virtual vault. The show doesn’t try to do tech as much as it reflects about it through classic means. It explores contemporary paintings relationship to Apple devices (not Xiaomi or Huawei) while teaching us how tech and digital streams influence our ego chambers. One of the leading artists is Brooklyn based painter Josh Reames. His subject matter usually ranges from floating, technicolored fruits, computer graphics, food labels, graffiti and paint splatters He loves idiosyncratic information streams.
Josh, in a chat with me over gmail: ‘I was interested in the exhibition’s concept of analog painting’s relationship with digital technology. My paintings are sort of filtration device for the high speed image consumption. I keep an extensive catalog of images often found unintentionally while researching and browsing that eventually find their way into the work.’
Another heavyweight who’s showing here is Gordon Cheung, British born, known for his psychedelic, apocalyptic illustrations. His theme is normally economic and social armageddon. In ‘Juggling Weighty Properties with the Fee’, presented in the show, there are five men wearing yellow pants on a ladder, held on the legs of a sixth man wearing the same pants. The background is an ode to screensaver templates.
I contacted Cheung to ask about the means of creating this art. Cheung: ‘When I discovered an open source algorithm around 2015 that enabled me to reorganise the pixels according to a code, I knew that I wanted to apply it to these images to effectively blur a sanctioned history in order or destabilise its dominant narrative to question what was hidden. The layers of mechanical reproduction become metaphorical multi-dimensions of perception from which the code re-orders the pixels.’
Then there’s Michael Pybus, the Robert Pattinson fan sketch-master and Pokemon enthusiast. His painting in iCloud is Harvest; a depiction of a terrified videogame princess licked by animalistic plants. Vibe: Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Atari, bmp, png, tiff.
He told me the following when about his digi issues. Pybus: ‘If you can remember far back enough to those early days of Myspace and the crazy trend of pimping your profile to a point where it was practically illegible! That act of pushing an image, an idea too far, creating too much of something, a culture drowning in copies of copies to the point where the understanding of an ‘original’ totally fails is where me and my art lurks.’
The best work, in my judgement, is ‘Sun, Moon and Stars’, by Los Angeles-based artist Wendell Gladstone. It is a green haired woman holding a few naked bluish ladies captured between her hands and some mysterious yellow material, symbolizing one’s hard drive. Gladstone is fresh off the Art Brussels boat (train), where he had an even better piece titled ‘Smoke Screen’.
I asked him to describe the piece. Wendell: ‘‘Sun, Moon and Stars’ is a strippeddown composition where the parts fit together in a claustrophobic puzzled way, that plays with scale shifts, harmony between contours and levels of abstraction.’
Show starts May 5 and ends July 9. The Dot Project, 94 Fulham Rd, London. Full list of artists: Das Balloon, Derek Mainella, Gordon Cheung, Jonas Lund, Josh Reames, Konrad Wyrebek, Kristian Touborg, Michael Pybus, Ry David Bradley, Siebren Versteeg, Tilman Hornig, Victor Payares and Wendell Gladstone.