NEXT GEN CONTEMPORARY
Essay by Lindsay Howard, Paddles ON! Curator
Paddles ON! brings together twenty-three artists who are using contemporary materials to respond to contemporary experience. We use the term “digital art” to describe these works because they employ computers as a fundamental part of the creative process, even if the output is in the form of a painting, print, or sculpture. Michael Manning refers to his large-scale paintings as “essentially jpegs” because he creates the initial image on a computer, which is then printed on canvas and finished by hand. While many contemporary artists incorporate some aspect of the digital into their practices, the artists in Paddles ON! are recognized for continuing a tradition started in the 1960s by engaging critically with various aspects of digital technologies, poeticizing and politicizing a culture shaped by digital developments, and merging art, science, and technology to create the next generation of contemporary art.
Sara Ludy’s Bouquet comes from a series called “Projection Monitor” in which she documents scenes from Second Life, a 3D virtual world. After signing in and assuming her avatar, Ludy roams the virtual landscape until she finds something of interest, and then photographs it with her iPhone. By bringing a physical camera to the screen, as opposed to taking a screenshot, Ludy asserts her subjective experience and aligns her physical and online identities. In the process of taking and printing the photograph, occasionally certain artifacts emerge that reveal insights about the virtual environment. Of particular note in Bouquet is the axis on top of the flowers, a subtle yet significant group of pixels left over from another user’s creative process. “The artifacts speak to the nature of Second Life,” Ludy says. “There’s a desire to create something beautiful and human, but always within the limitations of the environment.”
When the Chelyabinsk meteor entered Russia in 2013, Yuri Pattison watched as meteorite fragments were instantly commodified on eBay. Fascinated by the market, the perceived spirituality or superstitious quality of the fragments, looming questions of authenticity, and how meticulously the fragments were photographed, Pattison saved hundreds of images onto his computer. He started to think about how he could materialize and heighten the question of supply and demand, seeing as how reports on the size of the meteorite varied greatly and the actual supply of fragments was unknown. “The most interesting thing about working digitally, especially with 3D printing,” he wrote, “is that the information that’s contained and conveyed through the work is of primary importance. The value isn’t necessarily based on whether the piece is a copy or an original.” Ultimately, Pattison reverse engineered the images back into physical form as 3D printed objects in silver, stainless steel, and titanium, returning the meteorite fragments, layered with new meaning, to the realm from which they emerged.
Artists have always been at the forefront of great change, pioneering new languages, engaging in alternative modes of exchange, adopting and interpreting culture, and helping us understand the nuances and implications of an ever-changing world. From 3D printed self-portraits to architectural renderings in Google Earth, from digital paintings to artworks composed by algorithms, the artists in Paddles ON! examine the ways in which experience is now thoroughly influenced by digital technologies. We are approaching a tipping point, where everyday the virtual is more subtly blended with the real, and digital art serves as a true reflection of this contemporary age.
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