Maps, DNA and Spam is the latest exhibition by Scotland and London based artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead. Both are graduates from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and have been working together since 1993. The work examines how communication networks and the internet are changing the way we see and relate to the world: “The conflict between our private and public identities, the tension between the global and the local and the way in which modern communications inform our sense of place and self in the world.”
The first piece presented as you walk towards the first room, is a new work for Craighead and Thomson called Dundee Wall. It is a wall plastered with social networking messages, all taken from within a 20 mile radius of Dundee. The messages read everything from “Who’s pertying?”, to “This man-flu is sh*t”, to “Morrissey recording a new album? Good, good… Not sure about comparing meat-eating to paedophilia & Auschwitz though.” Intended to represent a newspaper in the age of the internet, the wall acts as a humorous introduction to the, often more serious, themes of the exhibition.
The first gallery presents the installations Flipped Clock, a digital clock where the numbers have been rotated 180 degrees to remind the viewer that time is an abstract human construction, as well as The Time Machine in Alphabetical Order, a rendition of the 1960 film adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novella, re-edited so the dialogue plays in alphabetical order. While the concept of Flipped Clock is interesting, the product seems a touch underwhelming and in practice does not “remind” the viewer of much at all. Time Machine, however, is perhaps more immediately interesting aesthetically, presenting a choppy sequence of scenes that give only a general idea of the film and themes. One of which is time travel: a theme eminently suited to a piece which draws the viewer’s attention to which editing footage creates the illusion, story and power of film.
This idea of juxtaposing separate shots to create a sequence which has more meaning than its individual visuals, also known as the Kuleshov effect, is prevalent in two pieces in the second gallery: Belief and A Short Film About War. The former combines unrelated videos, sourced from Youtube, all in some way related to religion, radicalism and belief. A compass projected onto the floor and visuals from Google Earth inform the viewer of where in the world the video originates, moving from the Middle East to North America and beyond. The piece tackles globalisation, virtual connection and the idea that all our ideas are connected and shared through the internet. As the videos are mostly people filming themselves addressing the camera, Belief creates a sense of global community but also a sense of intrigue as the individual monologues incline towards radical opinions. In any case, the piece draws the internet as a collective human thoughtscape, woven together by shared opinions and knowledge. A Short Film About War is made up of a combination of images from the image sharing website Flickr and various monologues from internet blogs. Alongside the primary visuals, the artists include the provenance of images, blog fragments and GPS locations of each element sourced online.