Never Odd Or Even is the first survey of Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead’s work in the UK. The artists appropriate and manipulate video footage, You Tube clips, computer games, and Twitter and other real time web data into installations, video works and projections, often with sound and text. Political and social themes are explored through technology to reformulate human questions for contemporary times.
Using the aspirational vocalisations of the karaoke singer, More Songs of Innocence and of Experience (2012), displays unsolicited spam email texts as though they were on a karaoke machine, accompanied by a soundtrack of anodyne music familiar from supermarkets and shopping centres. Spurious pleas for financial assistance - I am the wife of the late Libyan Leader Colonel Muammar Gahdafi and I would like you to help me relocate to your country as my uncle wants to assassinate me – describe barely credible fantastical scenarios.
In contrast, Belief (2012) - the final work in the Flat Earth Trilogy following Flat Earth (2007) and A Short Film about War (2009/2010) - mines the vast array of video imagery that breeds on YouTube, bringing together a series of self-appointed proselytisers extemporising on their personal faiths and fetishes. Between each clip, the camera pulls back to a Google Earth view of the planet, and a compass floor projection points to the geographical location of the next bedroom broadcaster.
In London Wall W1W (2013), Thomson & Craighead evolve a physical manifestation of invisible Fitzrovia and Soho on the walls of the gallery. Drawn daily from live social media generated within a one-mile radius of Carroll / Fletcher, the words become a form of concrete poetry produced on site in the format of propaganda-style posters that eventually cover a whole wall.Thomson & Craighead’s spatial and temporal mapping of the boundaries of the knowable world culminates in Time Machine in alphabetical order (2011). Using a complete version of the famous 1960s film, the artists have re-edited it so that every spoken word is sequenced in alphabetical, rather than narrative order. The artists consider this an experimental work of ‘constrained’ editing in reference to the constrained writing technique developed by the Oulipo literary movement in the 1960s.
Evoking 1960s systems art, 1970s structuralist filmmaking and early Minimalism, Thomson & Craighead create compelling visual and musical systems that employ chance operations, re-contextualising the familiar to allow for lyrical new readings of known structures and situations. Re-using and recycling enable the artists to engage in a form of oblique storytelling where meaning is implied, ideas slowly percolate and time is treated with a sculptor’s mentality, a pliable quantity that can be moulded and re-modelled. The artists acknowledge their sources as ephemeral products of the moment whilst transforming them into timeless and enduring works.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 64pp publication with an essay by writer and software engineer David Auerbach.