Amy Feger
Glitch: Deconstructures of NatureGlitch: SpillGlitch: BurstGravity Without VesselSpillBurstComposition Sketch 1: The Fall at Berkeley PitComposition Sketch 2: The Fall at Berkeley PitComposition Sketch 3: The Fall at Berkeley PitComposition Sketch 4: The Fall at Berkeley PitComposition Sketch 5: The Fall at Berkeley PitComposition Sketch 6: The Fall at Berkeley Pit
My life and artwork are situated on the cusp of “The Information Age” and “The Anthropocene.” By exploring landscapes using Google Earth’s 3D renderings, which give a first person point-of-view on the ground and are compiled from topographic data layered with satellite images, I discovered anomalies or glitches in the data that generate otherworldly images representing actual places. Looking critically at how visual language mediates the perception of the landscape being represented meaning is implied through institutionalized representations of the landscape created by non-art institutions such as, the state transportation department road maps, or these Google Earth digital renderings. Examining the language of visual communication employed by these entities, I compare my personal experiences and observations in these same or comparable landscapes to the presentation of the place in public media. These discoveries in this virtual landscape become the source material that I use to compose images. From these “virtual” experiences I created a series of paintings capturing the essence of a virtual space representing a physical place.
During a “virtual hiking” mishap I discovered that it was possible for the user to penetrate, or “punch through,” the thin layer of data rendering the digital landscape structured layers of data. These paintings are composed from these source images which offer a perspective that is both behind and within the scene of the digitally rendered landscape. I have begun thinking of these paintings as “deconstructures of nature.” The paintings deconstruct the mediated landscapes created by Google Earth revealing the satellite data, anamorphs, glitches, and algorithms employed by the software designers. Anomalies in the Google Earth landscape reveal where gaps in data or human error in coding present otherworldly phenomenological potentials in future landscapes. At times the landscape’s sheer cliffs, cave entrances, rock overhangs and pristine water features can look like a future “wonders of the world” theme park under construction now. Other, perhaps more subtle, aspects of the design language of technology, and specifically Google Earth, that are reflected in my paintings are proportions and light. Since beginning this work, the dimensions of my paintings reflects a cultural shift away from the golden ratio, toward the proportions of the flat-screen, laptop, and smart-phone displays. My palette has also shifted toward colors that reflect the cool projection of screen light instead of the warm, reflection of sunlight. In the virtual space of the paintings, the landscape has become un-natural and un-humanized.
I relate the internet in general, and Google Earth particularly, to a metaphoric parable by Borges, “On Exactitude in Science” chronicling the creation of a 1:1 map of the world. Current technologies manifested by humankind’s excessive drive to advance and to consume in the human domain are inevitably undermined by self-serving, irrational, and merciless human indifference. I pursue answers to questions regarding human connection to place through orientation within local surroundings and personal and cultural identity. I create these paintings to qualm personal fears that a virtual representation of the landscape like the ones presented in Google Earth may at times move into the realm of the hyper-real at a time in human history when we need to be aware of the impact of humankind on the natural systems that would do just fine without us. To me, someone who observes regularly in the actual landscape, the virtual space is abject in its uncanny representations of our world and the internet is an entertaining alternative to hard reality. I perceive that the landscape is being marginalized and treated in-humanly because the real world, like Borges’ map, is “Unconscionable,” unwieldy, obsolete, and out-of-fashion.
The paintings deconstruct the quarry landscape, the unconsidered by-product of the mining industry that unnaturally disrupts the pace of erosion and geologic time, by highlighting the human-made land masses, rock formations, and water features similar to similar natural phenomenon preserved in our National Parks system. I strive to embody the nuances of the visual language of each: the lived experience, the picturesque, and the internet mediated landscape, in each painted landscape. I hope that this contemporary mash-up of visual cultures in a single image will be a sublime meditation for the viewer to channel my response to this place. Each of my paintings is a discourse regarding access to an imperfect and mediated reality as granted by technology and raises questions about the landscapes of humanity’s future.