Gretchen Andrew’s most recent exhibition “Other Forms of Travel” is a playful testament to the power of art in the digital age. Showing now at Annka Kultys Gallery in London, her latest works of eclectic collage operate across the liminal passage between the showroom floor and the world wide web; both dazzling the senses with their idiosyncratic bursts of colour, and casting light on a new Romanticism of how the internet can generate freedom. Drawing on her Silicon Valley background, the intersection between her artwork and online space characterises a truly innovative change in how people can enact their desires and is charged with excitement for the burgeoning technology.
Each of the works featured in “Other Forms of Travel” appear as deeply personal acts of curation, formed from a selective collage of interlocking objects, ranging from a menagerie of artificial flowers to wine glasses and emoji stickers. Named “vision boards”, they function to layer their polyphonies of texture into colourful scenes and circumstances that Andrew does not yet possess, but desires nonetheless, ranging from camping holidays, to the replacement of American Presidents. Inextricable from the artist herself, these pieces operate as self-actualising grasps at her own future, and that future is pink, and fuelled with glittering champagne. Alone they form a brilliant punctuation in the history of artistic dream-weaving, but it is their digital context which fuels a further and broadly profound fascination with their contemporary relevance.
For each piece that she creates in reality, Andrew enacts a staple work of ‘internet imperialism’ online, and thereby begins to blur the line between the two worlds. Using closely guarded techniques of search engine manipulation, that from outside can only appear as sheer ‘tech-wizardry’, her replacement of the usual search results for certain terms and phrases with images of her own artwork, initiates a magical alteration of how her audience relate to the world. The results are euphoric, if not mildly terrifying. Her dreams appear to be coming true. Since her search engine hack of ArtForum Magazine, Andrew has found herself featured amongst its pages, and following her project ‘The Next American President’, the dawn of 2021 has been realised with a new US government; perhaps most importantly of all, a short trip to her Instagram page does reveal the occasional reference to the drinking of champagne. Her works don’t just give the impression of digitally bleeding into our world, but provide direct demonstration of the fact.
Andrew explains this succinctly in her own words: “the internet cannot parse desire”. Her work operates within a realm afforded by the imprecision of search engine algorithms; that in their nature they cannot tell the difference between information and images that are dreamed, and those that walk amongst us in reality. This is also the point at which Romanticism enters the picture. Alongside her creation’s sharp illumination of the systems of control that inform internet space, and a display of her own power in the face of these institutions, the realisation of Andrew’s dreams breathes new life into the human ability to reshape reality. With the internet being designed as a virtual articulation of human logic, its categories and processes of identification remain as flawed as any individual’s; as much an effacement upon a complex and ineffable world as Andrew’s flowers on her canvases, the laws that govern this system are open to play. Some of these rules can be bent, others can be broken. Given the complete saturation of this virtual world with our own waking lives, what Andrew’s art has done is to draw attention to how this sense of playfulness has seeped into our everyday reality. If success and sparkling cocktails come hand in hand with clicks, then she who controls the search engine can form them seemingly from nothing.
Through its invisible digital counterparts, Andrew’s work is likewise a brilliant alteration of the notion of gallery. By turning typically secluded surrealist curation into a form of internet activism, the pieces initiate a means by which their exhibition explicitly contributes to her project of realised aspirations, sweeping the space up from the function of museum to an active part in her creative process. The art and its housing no longer reside solely in an exclusive enclosure, but in acts of rebellion and dreaming that are made within the fabric of our social environment; between the lines of code which govern the internet. In an age which has been increasingly defined by insular online activity, Covid-19 notwithstanding, the works featured have opened a path towards a new axis of movement; reshaping digital architecture where otherwise her audience may have been constrained. In a marriage of art and action, with the drive to freedom, Andrew shows us that there are indeed ‘other forms of travel’, and new roads to walk.
GRETCHEN ANDREW: Other forms of travel – 6th JUNE 2021 at Annka Kultys Gallery
Gretchen Andrew takeover of @worldoffad 29th April follow @worldoffad for notification.