art, exhibition, digital

Site Exploration

10 - 28 Feb 2014
Site Exploration is an exhibition looking at the way artists use technology to explore our relationship with the environment and the natural physical world

From the earliest maps to our increasing reliance on Sat Navs and Smartphone GPS, how we perceive the world around us is heavily influenced by the technology and media we use to navigate and understand it. In parallel, many artists are using new technologies and the huge array of data we produce about our surroundings to imagine environments that normally lie beyond our realm of experience.

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Playing into the gallery space, Subterranean (Seismic Blues) by Semiconductor is a sound work of seismic data made audible. It is composed of several types of seismic data; earthquake, volcanic and glacial, each of which forms one of three sections of the work. Each section has distinct characteristics which can be associated with processes involved in the seismic propagation; the earthquake data evokes images of rocks crunching and splintering under huge amounts of pressure, the volcanic data gives the impression of lava resonating underground whilst the glacial data crackles and snaps bringing to mind melting ice. What we hear gives a sense of the Earth in motion; what ordinarily appears static is in a constant state of flux, encouraging us to imagine the mechanisms producing these epic sounds.

By translating the seismic data into audible sound we are able to perceive subterranean movements we are normally unable to perceive. What we hear gives a sense of the Earth in motion; what ordinarily appears static is in a constant state of flux, encouraging us to imagine the mechanisms producing these epic sounds. Through appropriating scientific data in this way, Semiconductor are playing with the role science plays in our experiences of the natural world and questioning how it mediates them.

Marina Zurkow’s Mesocosm (Northumberland, UK) is an algorithmic animation, representing the passage of time on the moors of Northeast England. One hour of world time elapses in each minute of screen time, so that one year lasts 146 hours. No cycle is identical to the last, as the appearance and behaviour of the human and non-human characters, as well as changes in the weather, are determined by a code using a simple probability equation: seasons unfold, days pass, moons rise and set, animals come and go, around a centrally located and almost omnipresent human figure.

The man with his back to us is based on Lucian Freud’s painting of Leigh Bowery, the performance artist, designer, and drag queen whose larger than life personality helped to catalyze the interdisciplinary experimental art scene in London in the 1980s. In Mesocosm (Northumberland, UK), he acts as a Green Man, a corpulent bridge to the world beside the human: his night-time excursions outside the edges of the landscape imply action beyond the wings of the constructed theatrical landscape, while by day he permits various small creatures not only to climb on him but also to feed on him, producing the only specks of colour—blood red—in the work.

Over the centuries we have created various sets of instruments to help them find their way around the landscape: maps, signage, satellite navigation, etc. Maps are abstracted projections of the real world, and whether intentional or incidental, they distort our surroundings. For instance, the geographical structures of transportation networks are often reshaped to provide users with more understandable transit maps. These distortions have a major influence on people’s perception of a city’s geography, to the point they get stored mentally and become the collective representation of the real world’s geography. Metrography by Benedikt Groß & Bertrand Clerc explores this phenomenon through the most famous of the transit maps: the London Underground.

In 1992 a container of rubber ducks was washed overboard in a Pacific storm. 29,000 ‘friendly floaties’ started to make their own way around the oceans of the world tracked by Oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer and his beachcombing friends, some even making their way to the UK via the Arctic, eventually arriving 11 years later in 2003. In Eric Rosoman’s GPS Ducks, rubber ducks with their own solar charged GPS trackers will navigate their way down a series of rivers across the region, from source to sea mapping their route as they go. As the exhibition progresses a unique map of the East Midlands will emerge, revealing a web of waterways that crisscross the landscape.

The Quarry by Charles Danby and Rob Smith explores the site of Robert Smithson’s artwork Chalk Mirror Displacement. For its iteration here at Phoenix, The Quarry consists ofthree stacked tables that support, contain and display images and objects from the site of the quarry. Central to the work are a series of triangulated photographs. These three part photographs, folded and internally mirrored, have been taken as the artists have navigated the quarry in search of its forgotten artwork. Viewed through glass they form a physical network of generative pathways, routes and intersections. Scanning the mirrored QR Code with your smartphone accesses accompanying video works.