Digital technology and its impact on how we picture the world is the subject of a new exhibition that has been developed by Jo Stockham, the Royal College of Art’s Head of Printmaking, working in collaboration with the Bluecoat.
The Negligent Eye reflects how a younger generation of artists is questioning the impact of digital technology on humans. The exhibition also includes older, seminal works showing earlier experiments by artists using computers and electronic reprographic processes.
Although focusing on printmaking, The Negligent Eye also features sculpture, video and multi-media work, historical prints and archive material, including the first scanned photograph by Russell A. Kirsch. The exhibition is accompanied by an events programme, which will offer opportunities for audiences, already familiar with the world of digital technology thanks to their mobile phone or computer, to participate in workshops, discussions and other events.
Jo Stockham, whose research into scanning provided the starting point for the exhibition, said: “It seems that the definition of scanning is riddled with contradiction as to whether it is understood as a close reading or a glance, a fact of scanning technology which was being hotly debated when whole body scanners were introduced to ‘strip’ passengers at airports. The barcode, the medical scan, the document scanners used in sci-fi or detective movies are fraught with notions of revelation and theft.
“I am interested in the ways scans are a particular kind of translation. The data can take many forms, but the capture of the image begins with a movement of a beam across a surface, sometimes handheld, in which case the hand becomes a kind of blind eye.”
Bryan Biggs, Artistic Director at the Bluecoat, said: “We are delighted to be working again with Jo Stockham, one of our artistic alumni who exhibited at the Bluecoat in the 1990s. The Negligent Eye provides a fascinating starting point from which to explore debates around scanning, connecting vital visual art to broader technological, scientific, sociological and cultural agendas.”
With over 25 UK and international artists exhibiting, there is a wide range of work on show.
Merging digital technology with a traditional printing method, German artist Christiane Baumgartner makes monumental woodcut prints based on her own films and video stills of industrial architecture, motorways and urban landscapes.
Liverpool-based Imogen Stidworthy presents an audio-visual installation focusing on Sacha van Loo, a man blind since birth whose job is to listen to and transcribe wiretap recordings for the Antwerp Police. Here scanning exists as an auditory practice as Sacha, fluent in several languages, listens carefully to uncover hidden codes and identify suspects.
Surveillance also occupies London-based artist Susan Collins, whose pixelscape work It’s about time presents a digitally manipulated live video feed into the gallery from a camera filming the Mersey and Liverpool waterfront.
Recent Royal College of Art graduate Elizabeth Gossling uses a hand-held scanner to capture digital imagery usually linked to computer or TV screens, outputting the results as long scrolls of digital print.
Using a computer-brain interface and industrial manufacturing technology, London Fieldworks (Bruce Gilchrist and Jo Joelson), created a 3D shape based on information from electroencephalogram recordings of artist Gustav Metzger as he attempted to think about nothing. The digital data was then translated to a manufacturing robot, which carved Null Object in Portland stone.
Marilène Oliver also creates life-size sculptures from scanning technologies associated with use in the medical field, such as Family Portrait, a series of 3D forms made from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) body scans. Another sculpture, Durga, a female figure with multiple arms, is made of layered plastic and based on a CT scan where X-rays and digital software are used to create detailed images of the inside of the body.
Jo Stockham will also produce a limited edition print with the Bluecoat Print Studio, which will be on sale during the show.
Exhibition curated by Jo Stockham and developed by the Bluecoat in partnership with the RCA Printmaking Department and the School of Art & Design, Liverpool John Moores University.