REMOTE CONTROL: Jesse Houlding & Stephen Whisler
FEBRUARY 7 - MARCH 27, 2014
Oakland, CA Chandra Cerrito Contemporary is pleased to announce Remote Control, a two-person exhibition of mechanized drawings. In his artist statement, Jesse Houlding speaks to the challenge of working with the ‘anxiety and wonder we feel as we attempt to make sense of the world around us’. Houlding and artist Stephen Whislerfocus their attention and engagement on this task through individual but intersecting explorations. Their work conveys the perils of an unpredictable future and the role that technology will most certainly play—but with humor and a kind of compassionate lunacy.
Houlding, a conceptual artist with a background in printmaking and psychology, shows his self-automated drawing machines that summon up pre-industrial revolution experiments in technology. These machines, finely crafted of wood, use magnetic force to ‘draw’ with the use of iron shavings, leaving traces of pigment dragged across the surface of the paper. Evoking the prophetic inventions that fill Da Vinci’s sketchbooks---the simple, elegant aesthetic of these machines suggest nostalgia for a time (was there ever such a time?) when new technologies amazed and did not hold concepts of singularity.
Also on view are maps or diagrams of the regular routes Houlding’s truck creates with a simple set of tools, acting as a sort of after-the-fact GPS device. A shot put placed in a frame lined with inked paper ‘draws’ as the truck moves, leaving evidence of the twists and turns in the road. The resulting ‘map’ is a random and mysterious web of lines.
Whisler’s work might be tied to the origins of the word surveillance---from the French ‘sur’ or over, and the Latin vigilare ‘to keep watch’. In exploring the phenomena of the drone, the artist calls on us to ‘keep watch’ on runaway technologies that are carelessly deployed and threaten to invade the privacy of the general public.
Whisler’s playful, yet somber “Speed Enforced By Drones” prank consisted of a series of signs placed on major highways as a spin on the ambiguous “Speed Enforced By Aircraft” signs. Designed by the artist and fabricated by a manufacturer to look like the real thing, Whisler found the sly installation of signs easy enough to do in the light of day wearing a hard hat, orange vest and safety cones.
Whisler focuses on the use of the drone and the implications of surveillance in a series of drawings on view in this exhibition. Compelled by the threatening appearance of the tower form, the artist began the series with architectural renderings of towers as symbols of patriarchy and control. In an attempt to ‘humanize’ the drone, Whisler incorporates the work of the hand literally by leaving traces of his fingerprints on drawing after drawing, chilling in their volume alone. Suggesting the aged appearance of a pored-over blueprint diagram, the charcoal and pastel drawings leave the impression of a faded document that urgently needs our attention and scrutiny.