Text by Georgina Wright
The Negligent Eye at the Bluecoat reveals an innovative interpretation of printmaking with particular reference to the ever expanding use of technology within the field, showing the work of over twenty artists including established artists like Cory Arcangel, Helen Chadwick and Rachel Whiteread alongside recent graduates. Although printmaking has long welcomed the digital, there has been a recent spurt of interest by a younger generation of artists in approaching technology more critically. Through experimentation with computers, rapid-form and 3D scanning and digital multiplication, with printed, sculptural, video and mixed media work these artists question the impact of digital technology on human identity. With contemporary and archival work shown alongside one another this exhibition demonstrates the prevalence and unceasing reliance our world has on machines and examines how our identity has and will evolve.
Highlights of the exhibition include Maurice Carlin‘s vibrant piece which evolves throughout the duration of the exhibition, by taking a series of impressions from the floor of the gallery using a squeegee and cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink, Maurice Carlin has created an immense site-specific print. Intermittently during the exhibition he adds to the print and documents the process using a handheld scanner dragged across the paper simulating the movement of the squeegee. The developing nature of the piece, to me, represents the rapid evolution of technology in the digital age.
The theme of development continues to be present in the work of Conroy/Sanderson which brings together both old and new technologies and explores the connection between identity, drawing and scanning. As drawn portraits are scanned by a searching band of light viewers can imagine or fill in the missing parts. I consider this work to question our abilities to imagine in an age where the imagined may possibly become the real. Furthermore, I consider this piece to illustrate the value and infinite nature of imagination and creativity, something which, as yet, cannot be replicated by technology. The collaboration between the physical, the imagined and the technological also suggests that a certain harmony exists between them.
Perhaps the most significant contribution to the exhibition is Helen Chadwick’s Viral Landscapes. By combining panoramic landscapes of the Pembrokeshire coast with microscopic images of Chadwick’s own cellular tissue these large, extremely personal photographs explore the indeterminate fields between the abstract and figurative, visibility and invisibility, interiority and exteriority, landscape and body, the world and the self, and, finally, medicine and culture. Created during the late eighties using computer technology to overlay microscopic images of body cells across the photographs, Viral Landscapes establishes the notion that technology can be used in a way that allows for an interchange between the scientific and the subjective.
Continuing with the subjects of science and subjectivity, medicine and culture, internal and external, the focal point of the exhibition is the work of Marilène Oliver who has created life-sized sculptures using scanning technologies associated with use in the medical field. Durga uses CT scans where a combination of X-rays and digital software create detailed images of the inside of the body for medicinal use. Using data to cut plastic contours she creates a figure with multiplied arms, copied and pasted from the data body, and the result is simultaneously extraordinary and disturbing. Additionally, in Family Portrait, Marilène Oliver has reconstructed the figures of her mother and father through stacked, screen printed sections taken from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) body scans. Through her work Marilène Oliver examines how technology is used in a positive way, referring to medical advances; her work also unquestionably suggests a sense of ‘sci-fi’, through the use of scanning techniques creating a convincing replication of the human form, an endeavour previously only possible in science fiction.
Throughout the exhibition several images of Russell Kirsch’s baby son, the world’s first scanned image, remind us of the continuous evolving nature of technology. Since the digital realm remains in a state of flux it is apparent that most of the issues raised in the exhibition are unfathomable. What does become clear is that the more we become inextricably involved with the virtual world, the further we are removed from reality.
The Negligent Eye continues at The Bluecoat, Liverpool until 15 June 2014
Image: Elizabeth Gossling, ‘Ventriloquist Dan Horn Orson’ (2011) Digital print on archival paper 350×152 cm, Photographed by Stuart York
Georgina Wright is a writer based in Liverpool.