A gigantic etching of an eagle and a sparrow

August 21 - September 16, 2015 @ Penny Contemporary Gallery.

Essay -

Does it exist?.. Pip Stafford 2015

A gigantic etching of an eagle and a sparrow… Does it exist? This image? Probably – there’s that rule: if you can think of it, then it’s definitely on the internet somewhere and there’s probably a forum dedicated to it. It’s the image that you’d find on Tumblr late at night after clicking down a rabbit hole and cracking up in some kind of sleep-deprivation induced delirium at this ridiculous “art” you’ve just stumbled upon. And that’s what this show is, on the surface, it’s funny because these are the fragments of the internet we share between us in images and memes and nostalgia and riffs on inspirational mis-quotes. And it’s the same tete a tete which I’ve shared with Scot myself over a kitchen table, late at night after too many beers and a huge dinner and we’ve probably been fighting over something ridiculous and the words just bounce off each other, back and forth, like a drunken game of table tennis. Scot’s work is like that though, it’s funny and pieced together from fragments of things you swear you’ve seen before and you have… you’ve seen things like them but not exactly them.

Bits of the internet and pop culture and inside jokes that make sense to most people. But to say this work, and Scot’s work in general is just a witty observation or a slice of the internet made art would be doing it a disservice, because it’s more than that too. It’s poetry in a way, the way the words click clack together as you roll them around the back of your mouth as you silently read and because it’s made by a generator it’s like the most satisfying magnetic poetry ever – where you never run out of nouns or definite articles. But again this makes it sond far more superficial than the work is, because, like, poetry if you stand with it long enough it begins to unravel its secrets. You might, like me, be immediately drawn to addressing the challenge of actually making the art works suggested by the prompts, or imagining with vivid accuracy the terrains and objects described.

And in their way they are like guided meditations, describing in a slow, stilted but not unbeautiful way the landscape of a place, a body, an object.
Each framed object is it’s own work, with nothing before it and nothing after it, entirely contained, singular but also part of the larger system, the “series of tubes” that is the internet. Because each is made by a bot, a generator that was previously given contexts, and words, to create when prompted a type of language. So they become connected, both due to their context in this show and their provenance but also because they are fragments of a whole and because they remind us of so many other things – poetry, meditation, early text-based gaming:

You are standing beside a small brick building at the end of a road from the north. A river flows south. To the north is open country and all around is dense forest.

What now?


*15 Terrains - also shown Bridgeport Connecticut, @ American Fabrics - Curator Crystal Heiden
*15 Concepts - acquired by http://laboratoryspokane.com/ Laboratory Collection - generative version in progress
*Early version shown at http://www.electrona7054.com/ - curator Liam James, Alasdair Doyle