‘Return to factory settings’ is artist Duncan Poulton’s first solo exhibition, with new works spanning digital collage, moving image, digital painting and installation. The exhibition is at SET Lewisham as part of the London Borough of Culture 2022.
Through the exhibition, Poulton attempts to distill the feel 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 of a generation that grew up online – the anxiety, insomnia, apathy and confusion that our rapidly changing, technology-driven culture is causing. .
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 3D model website Turbosquid to taking iPhone photos of graffiti and street litter and scanning books of charity shops. Email alert icons and electronic signatures, health and safety diagrams and medieval heraldry, mousepad and mouse cursor symbols, cartoons and graffiti, medical and archaeological photography, children’s drawings and long-forgotten eBay purchases, Idle robots and crash test dummies coexist and collide the “hyper-meat” of Poulton’s exhibit. Done in aggressive and intuitive bursts, the visually rich and complex digital collages blur the digital-analog binary, combining Photoshop and digital painting with physical collage, spray paint, stickers and papier-mâché. For the immersive installation at SET Lewisham, hundreds of photo stickers from Poulton’s hard drive archive containing over 30,000 image files will sprawl and overlap on the gallery walls, in a web made of flesh.
Featuring works created during and since the 2020 and 2021 lockdowns, ‘Return to factory settings’ reflect on the moment in which we find ourselves; a time when we all attempt a collective amnesia from those desperate, anxious and repetitive days of confinement. Poulton is interested in an imperfect “digital dirt” and strange moments when technologies haunt our bodily lives: nightmares of being on Zoom while sleeping, or confusing paper with a touch screen. Additionally, the exhibit explores how the pandemic has paved the way for further flattening of work-life-leisure time through the normalization of remote work and increased reliance on Silicon Valley mega-corporations. With its macabre humor, the whole work ‘Return to factory settings’ presents is influenced by the mainstream media of that era – video games, memes, online interfaces, app design – as well as the surrealist influences of Magritte and Chagall, and the traditions of trompe-l’oeil painting, folk art and amateur crafts.
Printed with the support of Captain Cyan, limited edition works on paper are available for purchase and a new text commissioned by curator and writer Rosa Tyhurst accompanies the exhibition. Simultaneously with 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 (born 1993 in Birmingham, UK) is an artist based in London and Birmingham, UK. Her practice is fueled by an obsessive gathering of online content into a vast digital archive, which is recombined into collages of still and moving images. Made exclusively with found materials, her works address a visual culture of overabundance and ambivalence, exploring the compression of stories and meaning spawned 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 the University of Brighton (2012-15) and The Syllabus (2019-21), a postgraduate alternative learning program run by the Wysing Arts Center and arts venues across England. @duncpoulton
Read a profile article on Duncan at WePresent, written by art and tech writer Madeleine Morley.
- Art News London
Mark Westall is the founder and editor of FAD magazine, founder and co-editor of Art of Conversation and founder of the @worldoffad platform