The curatorial and editorial project for systems, non-objective and reductive artists working in the UK

Website: Chestnuts Design

Sunday Salon 29  |  Robert Good  |  New Work

Saturation Point, Deptford, London  |  25 February 2024

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

My work explores the move from analogue to digital, offline to online, human to computer, and New Work at Saturation Point was an opportunity to share my latest digital experiments, to see how they all behave together in one space, and to provide a sequence of encounters in which the viewer is invited to reflect on the impact of technology on our lives.

The catalyst for this body of work was a research visit to Silicon Valley in 2022 to find the home of the internet. A serendipitous encounter with an arts collective called The School of Visual Philosophy, where the emphasis was on craft and tradition through skills such as letterpress and metalworking, led to my desire to deconstruct and contextualise our relationship to technology. I want to pick apart the black box magic of technology and re-present it in more digestible ways, at human scale, and in ways in which we can begin to comprehend and critique it.

During my visit to Silicon Valley, I also discovered Richard Brautigan's poem All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, in which he reflects on the possibility of a future digital utopia. This has become, for me, a repeated source of reflection and inspiration.

My previous work at Saturation Point for Sunday Salon #11 focused on the ways in which text has morphed online into fragments of (mis)information. These were passive encounters in which the viewer looks at the work, but the work does not respond. But once again technology has moved on. With the rise of AI and the increasing sophistication of chatbots and text-to-image software, it feels as though technology is on the cusp of sentience. And so I wanted my new work to hum and whirr, like the first stirrings of Frankenstein's monster.

In New Work, Shutterbug wakes up every few minutes to take a look around the room and record what it sees. Crocodile lures the viewer in to the digital reflection of the room, only to be unexpectedly photographed and spat back out elsewhere in the room. In Catatonic, a moody cat is either bored, happy, unhappy, or very unhappy, depending on the presence or absence of viewers, and miaows or purrs accordingly. 5 Screen Orwell fires out the text of 1984 one word at a time, randomly across five screens. It is on the cusp of our comprehension, but at a mere fraction of the speed at which the computer could process (and analyse) the novel.

The beautiful lighting and clean aesthetic of the Saturation Point setting provided some unexpected formal harmonies. In particular, the large windows echoed the grid-like structure of several works, notably Exploded Shutterbug and the large digital print Catatonic (--chat-bubble-padding-vertical:). The digital world is comprised of ones and zeros, pixels and rectangles. It gravitates towards patterns, repetitions, grids and sequences in a way that to me seems to have many points of contact with the systems-led agenda of Saturation Point.

New Work was curated by artist and curator Lizz Brady and is part of an ongoing collaboration between us in which we will continue to explore the impact of technology on our lives. Many thanks to Lizz, and also to Patrick and Hanz for their continuing support.

All images courtesy of Ben Deakin