‘Factory Reset’ is the debut solo exhibition by artist Duncan Poulton, with new work spanning digital collage, moving image, digital painting and installation. The exhibition is at SET Lewisham as part of London Borough of Culture 2022.
Through the exhibition, Poulton attempts to distil the sensation of the overwhelming world of images and information that make up our chaotic physical-digital existence today. His large-scale digitally printed collages bear witness to the mental and physical toll taken on a generation that has grown up online – the anxiety, insomnia, apathy and confusion that our rapidly changing, tech-led culture causes.
The exhibition emerges from Poulton’s expanded collage practice in which he uses the internet as his palette and imagination. Like a digital archaeologist, he scours real and virtual spaces – from online archives like eBay, Wikimedia Commons and the 3D model website Turbosquid to taking iPhone photos of graffiti and street detritus and scanning charity shop books. Email alert icons and e-signatures, health & safety diagrams and medieval heraldry, buffering symbols and mouse cursors, cartoons and graffiti, medical and archaeological photography, children’s drawings and long-forgotten eBay purchases, dormant robots and crash test dummies coexist and collide in the ‘hyper-meatspace’ of Poulton’s exhibition. Made in aggressive, intuitive bursts, the visually rich and complex digital collages blur the digital-analogue binary, combining Photoshop and digital painting with physical collage, aerosol spray paint, stickers and papier-mâché. For the immersive installation at SET Lewisham, hundreds of photo stickers from Poulton’s hard drive archive of over 30,000 image files will sprawl and overlap across the walls of the gallery, in a network made flesh.
Featuring work created during and since the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, ‘Factory Reset’ reflects on the moment we are in; a moment in which we are all attempting a collective amnesia of those desperate, anxious, repetitive lockdown days. Poulton is interested in an imperfect “digital grubbiness” and uncanny moments when technologies haunt our corporeal lives: nightmares of being on Zoom whilst asleep, or mistaking paper as a touchscreen. Furthermore, the exhibition explores how the pandemic has paved the way for the increased flattening of work-life-leisure time through the normalisation of remote working and further reliance on Silicon Valley mega-companies. With its macabre humour, the body of work ‘Factory Reset’ presents is influenced by the prevalent media of this time – video games, memes, online interfaces, app design – as well as the surreal influences of Magritte and Chagall, and traditions of Trompe-l’œil painting, folk art and hobbyist craft-making.
Printed with the support of Captain Cyan, limited edition works on paper are available to buy and a newly commissioned text by curator and writer Rosa Tyhurst accompanies the exhibition. Simultaneous to the show, Poulton’s is featured on WeTransfer.
Factory Reset – 7th August 2022 Open daily 10am – 6pm at SET Lewisham [map] Unit 1, Lewisham Retail Park London SE13 7RZ setspace.uk/events/factory-reset/
Part of Lewisham Borough of Culture 2022
About the artist
Duncan Poulton (b. 1993, Birmingham, UK) is an artist based between London and Birmingham, UK. His practice is fed by an obsessive gathering of online content into a vast digital archive, which are recombined into still and moving image collages. Made exclusively with found materials, his works address a visual culture of overabundance and ambivalence, exploring the compression of histories and meaning engendered by the internet. Poulton’s work has recently been exhibited and screened at Ars Electronica (Linz); MOSTYN (Llandudno), Coventry Biennial, Art Licks Weekend (London), QUAD (Derby), OUTPOST (Norwich), MIT Museum (Massachusetts), Eastside Projects (Birmingham), arebyte (London) and Transmediale (Berlin). He is a graduate of University of Brighton (2012-15) and The Syllabus (2019-21), a postgraduate alternative learning programme led by Wysing Arts Centre and arts venues across England. @duncpoulton
Read a profile article on Duncan at WePresent, written by art and tech writer Madeleine Morley.