Is Dayvid LeMmon's digitally-modified photography made of scenes from Kurzweil's utopia or Gibson's dystopia?
The 28-year-old local artist, known for his geometric and ambiguous human portraits and techno landscapes, is already well embedded in the Phoenix arts scene. Belt-notches include a 2010 Arizona Commission of the Arts grant and representation by the currently disembodied Perihelion Arts.
VECTOR, his latest exhibition, is a 16-piece glitch showcase described in the artist statement as reacting to "a culture that's fetishistically obsessed with synthetic imagery" using "my library of 'electronic trash' including television static, broken lcd monitors, circuit bent electronics, and vintage computer emulators."
The exhibition, at MonOrchid in downtown Phoenix, opened to the public April 6, and the party continues with a Third Friday reception tonight.
Jackalope Ranch caught up with LeMmon this week to discuss VECTOR, as well as his previous work, his fascination with TV static, and the effects of digitally-projected rappers on society today.
The inside dish on VECTOR
"This show has been kind of a continuation of the stuff I've been working on, pretty much for the past three or four years. [...] It's been a gradual progression. My work has been more and more complex, finer and finer details. I have been working on this particular series for the past six months or so. I do tend to work pretty fast, but each piece takes between 10 and 30 hours, I wanna say, to put together. It's a lot of assemblage, a lot of collage, a lot of layering, a lot of manipulation of images and transforming them from a more traditional photograph ... and removing them from photography itself. I still consider myself a photographer, but a lot of times, it's like: "Where is that point where it stops being photography and start to become digital imaging?" It's kind of playing with the distinction between the two."
On drawing inspiration from technology
"I work with a big library of images. Television static is something I've been photographing for a couple years now. I have some really amazing old televisions, with crazy patterns in them. I don't know. There's something interesting, sitting there late at night, staring at the television static with the camera. It's like, something weird happens to my brain. It's just fascinating. The way the technology is just being itself. I'm not manipulating it in any way. I'm just there, watching it, and sometimes it gives me really amazing stuff.
"Still... it's a process of selection. I have to know when something looks good, or something looks bad. So it's not totally the machine. You kind of need somebody there to edit everything down. Because otherwise it's just way too much information."
You seem to put some thought into the titles of your artwork. They sometimes make the audience reevaluate the meaning of the images we're looking at.
"There is definitely a sub-context that runs through the titles, in addition to the pieces themselves. I don't title them until they're done. Usually, what I'll do is come up with a list of things that I'm working with, and the titles kind of find me from that list. I also tend to poke fun at myself, subtly, in a lot of the titles, because I don't take myself too terribly seriously. Although, sometimes you might think I do...
"That's kind of a reference to 'First World Problems.' All this stuff [in VECTOR] is kind of high-tech, and information overload, and made with expensive technology. But ultimately, I'm privileged to get to work with things like that. You can't take that for granted."
You've exhibited worldwide. Why do you continue to live and work here?
"For everything that I don't like about it here, there are a lot of things that I do like. I have a lot of family here. I grew up here. It's home. Also, the nature here is fascinating. You can be in a desert [but] drive an hour and a half, and you're in the forest, at 8,000 feet. It's totally different. Or in four hours, you can be in Mexico. Or in six hours, you can be in Los Angeles or Colorado.
"[Phoenix] is also the Wild West. You have to find your own fun here. You have to make your own inspiration. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on, but I think, for somebody like me, drawing inspiration from the places that I do, you really have to search for it. You have to make it yourself. And I think that's influenced my work. I was primarily self-taught, so I've had a lot of time to go down my own path, so to speak.
"I don't think Phoenix is where I'm going to end up, but it's definitely been very good to me. And year-round road biking isn't bad."
This last question is an important one ... Hologram Tupac: Yay or Nay?
"You know, I was actually thinking about this, and it reminds me a lot of William Gibson's Idoru, the fake pop musician. Although Tupac was certainly not fake, that kind of seems like where it's headed.
"I can't really say 'yay' or 'nay.' Both? [laughs] I think it's really cool that, technologically, we're able to do that. But also, I don't think it's cool to be playing with dead people. Would he have wanted it that way? I don't know, I'm not into rap music, but if somebody did that to me, I wouldn't be too happy about it."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"It's interesting that we're in a place where our society can view things like that. I have a lot of friends who are painters--incredibly talented painters and sculptors -- but I feel that it's almost my duty to be working with computers and digital imagery and all that. That is what I grew up with; that's what I understand. In an age where you have dead, holographic pop stars playing for millions of people, it doesn't make a lot of sense to still be painting, for me. I understand the escapism, the rejection of all this technology, but I also understand the embracing of it. If you really want to understand it and wrap your head around it, you just have to dive right in."
NT: Maybe the process of painting makes more sense to some people than computers do.
"Definitely. It's all dependent on you. I actually get a lot of inspiration from painters, more than from other photographers. They construct things, and I construct things, too. I feel like we're in the same boat. I don't really feel the same with a lot of photographers.
Photography is primarily working with reality, and while I'm doing that, I'm kind of taking it so much further. It becomes some undefined place."
Follow Jackalope Ranch on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest.