What connects the artists in DATA TRASH is not the materials they use, their formal similarities or their generational proximity. It’s that they are each addressing, in their own ways, the increased mediation of everyday life and the profound effects that technology has on how the subject position gets defined. In part, the exhibition charts the relationship between artists who have been committed to exploring these ideas since the 1980s and those of subsequent generations. Like scavengers along the beaches of the virtual, the Data-Trashers wander the outer reaches of the mediascape and pick from the scraps that wash up along its shores. Working the fringes, they attempt to make sense of the mess and the garbage. The by-product is different for each artist, but they are united in their desire to turn the detritus that our culture pumps out into something funny, critical and beautiful. Maybe the work will even be embedded with useful information that a future species might use to determine our habits and culture. Proof, perhaps, that mankind wasn’t blindly hurtling itself towards extinction; or possibly it will serve as nothing more than confirmation. While it’s easier to consume the proverbial crap on our plates and push it out half-digested only to consume more, the artists in this show have invested their projects, in some cases their lives, with the relatively thankless task of sifting through the shit—an attempt to make something out of it. Like the tag line from that reality TV show about garbage workers: “It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it”.
Kurt Russell’s character in Justin Lieberman’s painting “Captain Ron” 2007— is the perfect metaphor for our 21st century Robinson Crusoe artist— marooned amid the wreckage of the vacated signs and signifiers of Late-Capitalism. Ridiculous, trapped and totally deranged. A life spent de-coding and re-constructing systems so complex and contradictory in the hopes that something more than the sum of its parts might be communicated.
Welcome to the trash pile.