Chris Fortescue - Rectified Searches: Road, Chris, Fog
Exhibition: 31 October to 24 November, 2007
With the proliferation of image availability on the internet there are bountiful opportunities for creating artwork without touching a camera. Rectified Searches: Road, Chris, Fog consists of reconfigured jpeg files downloaded from the internet. Using keyword searches, Fortescue retrieved hundreds of thumbnails in a process he calls 'image mining'. Through selection and manipulation of the images he directs our attention to the genetics of portrait and landscape pictorialism.
The quality of the source images is low - thumbnails have typically less than 50Kb of data - which produces the work's characteristic 'lo-fi' aesthetics. Our familiarity with the conventions allows us to read the images with ease, despite the digital 'noise', which is somehow transformed into a kind of moody patina. With a nod towards the minimalists of the 60s and 70s, each group of images has been manipulated according to a system, so the interventions are both technical and conceptual. They introduce the layer of paradoxical information, which Fortescue, in the spirit of Duchamp, refers to as 'rectification'.
The keyword Chris, chosen for obvious reasons, arose from thinking about the Web as a kind of identity sink, a source of possible selves. The Road is a familiar narrative genre, thanks to Baudelaire and Kerouac, representing an existential search for selfhood, self-realisation and transformation. The keyword Fog was used after reading a comment Erwin Schroedinger made about the difference between an out of focus photograph and a photograph of fog. When juxtaposed together the three groups of images operate poetically to suggest a socially constructed subjectivity poised between the known and the unknown.
The resulting works are dry, humorous, confusing and thought provoking. The Chris series in particular is highly enjoyable for its playful interpretation of the portrait/mugshot duality. It seems Fortescue has achieved his goal of presenting images, which are highly charged at the same time as being evacuated of meaning.
This is the first "flat" work that Fortescue has produced since the early 90s. His 1988 and 1990 Untitled Series are held in the collections of the AGNSW, NGV and NGA. During the 90s he worked in room installations, generating interplays between objects, images and sound. He established SOUTH gallery with Simon Barney in 1998. At the end of the 1999 he moved to Vienna, where he worked with TimesUp on their Dolby Surround Sound Anchortronic project, made online text animations and sound pieces, and collaborated with other artists as a sound designer and web consultant. He currently operates between Vienna and Canberra, where he is completing a PhD at ANU's Centre for New Media Arts.