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If A Computer Explodes In The Woods Does Anyone Hear It? Mark Dorf's Art May Have The Answers

His photographs juxtapose digitalism and nature. Just don't call it #treepunk.

Like everyone who actively searches for art on the internet, I'm beyond disillusioned and turned off by the meme-turned-oversaturated art fad (don't you dare call it a 'genre' or a 'movement') known as seapunk.  Even bringing it up in a "this is not a thing" context makes me cringe. To save myself and you the time and energy of debating the merits and validity of seapunk, I'll jump forward a bit and state that some artistic characteristics implemented by seapunk-friendly artists like James Ferraro (who's actually great, and transcends the meme'd label) were intelligent and worth discussing.

The juxtaposition of Web 1.0 themes with tropical or jungle settings is especially interesting, as the idea brought forth concepts of nostalgia, digital decay, and the never-ending interplay between nature and technology. 

I would not say that visual artist Mark Dorf is in the same vein as artists like Jerome LOL and UltraDemon, but he's certainly in the same arm (even if he has never heard of seapunk). His pieces examines the all-consuming truth that there is almost no situation in 2013 that is not influenced by digital technology and web communication.

Rather than ironically criticizing this truth with kitschy dolphins and beach scenes, Dorf creates landscapes that refract snippets of technology and digitalism in the midst of woodsy landscapes. 

His recent work, called //_Path, specifically zones in on how "we have become depedent upon this tecnology to help aid us in our navigation of the every day." There is still a lush and tangible environment that exists today, and it can be found outside of Google Images. 

Dorf's website elaborates on this, as he notes "Within the images I focus on using strict geometric and synthetic form to contrast against the landscape in which they are manifested; a comparison of language." He uses digital photography, collage, 3D rendering and "primitive" 3D scanning technology to achieve this comparison.

His work includes animated computers floating in the middle of woodsy photographs, or computer screen-like squares reflecting mountainscapes. Which is more familiar? The image of the mountain on our screen, or a real mountain range? Chances are the answer will make you feel guilty. 

"The natural landscape can be seen as the most ancient of symbolic languages," he writes. "It is the original set of symbols that birthed all of modern language; it is the original text."

Dorf sparks a conversation that may be infinite and exhausting, but still worth calling attention to. It's even more admirable that he does so with images and artworks that are actually....beautiful. Just don't call it #treepunk. 

Check out more of his work on his website. And remember, if we were dropped in the middle of a forrest with an iPhone and a laptop then that Klout score you were working hard so beef up is rendered meaningless. Unless, of course, WiFi eventually becomes a panoptic tool. Until then...

@zachsokol