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Confronting Our Obsessions with Digital Screens

Do you have an overbearing relationship with digital screens? 'SURFACE SUPPORT' says yes.

It’s no breaking news that the screen, whether phone, tablet, computer, or watch incarnate, is our primary surface for visual consumption. We’ve reached a point where it seems to be an inevitable factor in contemporary life, something we accept without opposition, because everyone is engaged with the same surfaces. To imagine a life without the digital screen, these days, just seems surreal.

SURFACE SUPPORT, a group exhibition curated by Amanda Schmitt, just finished its run at SIGNAL in Brooklyn. The exhibition uses our obsessive relationship with the screen as its point of departure, and seeking to “erode the boundaries between content and container, inviting a collision between virtual reality and objecthood,” according to the press release.

The nine artists in the exhibition explore and tamper with the complex relationships between digital screens and the content they often display in conceptually varied manners, sometimes eschewing one for the other and at times creating entirely new power dynamics in the works.

Head and Shoulders, Pattern 2, by Philip Vanderhyden is the work that perhaps best illustrates this obsessive engagement. Six large LCD screens cycle through a series of animated 3D imagery that possess a hyper-futuristic sensibility as well a clean and simple geometric nature. Glossy, circular shapes on each screen move orderly, but independently, slowly morphing in color palette and shape until each and every screen presents a new and unrecognizable form as equally enthralling as the one that came before. Divorced from a distinct narrative and purpose, but still incredibly entrancing, the imagery on the six screens feels like an ode to our own day-to-day consumption behavior, a neverending captivation with the unexplainable.

Another particularly alluring piece is Jessie Stead’s Runway Interludes. A glowing table near the center of the exhibition room draws you towards captivating flashing lights. Once close enough, however, you realize that the table is, in fact, a flatscreen monitor with looping footage of supermarket produce, alongside black and white static, upon which lay translucent chess pieces, lighters, and other objects that reflect and refract the incredibly vibrant clips. The intersection between nature, entertainment, and forms of visual representation leave viewers astonished as to how mundane items, like red and green apples, gain new significance and potential for appreciation through the screen’s glossy display.

On the left side of the room, various TV monitors lay stacked, leaning against a wall as if waiting to be hung up in a Best Buy showroom. This is Luca Dellaverson’s Jurassic Park / Independence Day / Scream/ Home Alone 2:Lost in New York / 10 Things I Hate About You. As the title very discretely suggests, each of these plays a distinct Hollywood blockbuster, purposely laid out so that their visuals are mostly compromised and their sounds overlapping and difficult to discern. Flashes of color come from the left and right sides of the monitors, providing an abstracted sampling of the multi-million dollar movie visuals. Perhaps this is an extended metaphor of the audio and visual detritus we consume without objection everyday, whether its your roommate’s obnoxiously loud Netflix habits or the glimpses of a stranger’s cellphone on your commute to work.

SURFACE SUPPORT has unfortunately just concluded at SIGNAL, but more images from the exhibition, including the contributions from Antoine Catala, Lea Cetera, Meriem Bennani, Kyle Williams, and Dan Herschlein, can be seen on the gallery’s website. Be sure to check out SIGNAL’s next show, a solo exhibition by Andrew Ross, on September 11th.

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