For this online exhibition, Cottingham has rendered a virtual installation of work—‘virtual’ connoting not just the vanishing of the art object into the digital, but also of the expanded possibilities with regards to space, production, and resources. Under our current circumstances of social distancing and broken supply chains, the exhibition considers how artistic conventions can or can’t operate at this point in time, and looks to virtual modes of production already latent within fields like architectural visualization, industrial design, and cinematic vfx. This process envisions possibilities for the type of future spaces where practices can flourish, while hinting at one kind of bodily experience into which one can perhaps initiate oneself to experience art virtually.
As in Heat, death—Cottingham’s previous exhibition with the gallery—he continues to explore the notion that entropy is a precondition for a way of life outside the domineering logic of profit. Whereas profit necessitates the impossibility of infinite gain, Cottingham’s work begins with the reality that energy is always lost to friction. No process produces more than it consumes except as capitalist fantasy. In his view, this inevitable loss deserves affirmation rather than repression.
The reality of entropy is put into a dialectic with the photorealism of his renderings. The slow and detail-oriented nature of photorealist rendering is contrasted by the works’ gestural materialism. Rendering draws out the symbolic aspects of banal materials: heat-sensitive receipt paper is used to index waste rather than commerce, poisonous cleaning chemicals are applied to canvas, and thermal imagery of ghost cars plays on disfigured screens.
What freedom does conceiving a work, without necessarily realizing it, confer to the artist? What conceptual freedom does the displaced work provide for the viewer? It is testament to Cottingham’s sensitivity that the work in this online presentation does not lack in haptic qualities. Even camera mechanics are reproduced to mimic a familiar (but no less mediated) mode of representation. This is not conceptual art as much as it is conceptualizing art, its forms of representation, and the fascinating relationship between a works’ material and symbolic attributes.