Birch Contemporary


Works in the exhibition

Featuring works by: David Hanes (Berlin/Toronto), Fabienne Hess (UK), Lorna Mills (Toronto), Louise Noguchi (Toronto)

Curated by Rebecca Travis

This group exhibition brings together works that variously explore the pixel as a soft and ‘tender’ component. In some cases it interweaves and transmutes between forms, or is rendered onto fluid supports. In others it supports imagery or text that seems to offer protection or even emotional, human connection. The pixel’s malleability, however, also makes it susceptible to damage and manipulation. Each work in the exhibition originates with found sources; many of them discarded as digital trash, pulled from mass media outlets or eroded to low-grade quality. It is here that the current of ‘corruption’ running through the exhibition stems - aesthetically in terms of visual glitches and deconstructed language, and more discreetly in the quietly insidious allusions to power, control and duplicity that underlies much of the work on display.   

Fabienne Hess’ Terms and Conditions (2015-16) series features small-print from email signatures, cookie notices, corporate web agreements, meticulously hand-transcribed in metallic ink onto translucent dustsheets. The result is text content that is never quite wholly visible, a reflection of the often silent, marginal positioning of jargon-heavy terms that at once protect the sender and make the reader complicit. Meanwhile, the Corrupted Series (2013) sees supposedly deleted images resurrected from digital memory devices via trash recovery software. The retrieved images – evidence that some deleted files never fully disappear - are under process of abstraction, being rewritten with new data or dissolved into visual noise. These digital residues, in this case featuring ‘portraits’ are printed on silk, a support that evokes the slippery nature of digital media and transitional state of the imagery. 

Image transition is central to the mechanics of the humble GIF file, a medium resurrected from relative obscurity to become one of the major sharing modes of the social media / meme age. For Lorna Mills the GIF is also a format through which to create highly formally aware, mesmeric artworks that pull from the wide terrain of web culture - both high and low. In Hand Job (2014) and Knee Slapper (2014), disconnected, heavily pixelated limbs perform jarringly repetitive but hypnotic actions suggestive of power, control and gender politics.

David Hanes also exploits the GIF format in his new screen-based work Psycho.gif (2012-16) using it as a lo-fi vehicle through which to transcribe the entirety of Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 horror film, an exercise which playfully draws on Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho and sees over 6000 images interlaced. Corruption, lies and deceit abound in Hitchcock’s film, while the obviously ‘corrupted’ visuals in Hanes’ GIF version speak to the nature of low-rate streaming and file conversion, and bring to the fore a ‘materiality’ in the digital.This materiality is also apparent in Hanes’ ongoing Aware series, in which found images of gallery documentation become the source material for digital manipulations. Derived from online searches of popular artworks and pulled through Photoshop’s ‘content-aware’ function, the resulting images appear devoid of their cultural objects and through dye-sublimation printing become ingrained in the warp and weft of a screen-like stretched polyester support.

Louise Noguchi’s Compilation Portraits (1995) offer an analogue counterpoint to the exhibition’s digitally based works. They are comprised of two silver print photograph portraits hand-woven together – one of a criminal, pulled from a true crime book or mass media source, and one of the artist attempting to replicate their facial expression and pose. This physical interweaving offsets the digital meshing within Hess, Hanes and Mills’ works. As with Hess’ Corrupted Series, the combination of the two images produces a sensation of data being overwritten, with the intermediary result being a strangely virtual, pixelated composite, blurring gender, race and time period. A combination of an ‘innocent’ portrait with a ‘guilty’ one, Noguchi’s Compilation Portraits are corrupted both visually and figuratively.

Lorna Mills appears courtesy of Transfer Gallery, NY and DAM Gallery, Berlin