The Hanging: My Sentiments Exactly
December 7th 2015
Jonathan Zawada ‘My Sentiments Exactly’ 2015 installation view. Photo: Courtesy the artist and Sarah Cottier Gallery
The intimate touch of your digital screen is at the heart of My Sentiments Exactly, a new exhibition from Jonathan Zawada for Sarah Cottier Gallery in Paddington.
Walking into this exhibition, you’ll see T-shirts strewn across the floor and a series of monochrome paintings on the walls. From a distance, these paintings appear to have clean, black & white lines that quiver and shake: an optical illusion created by subtle twists and swirls throughout the painting. Hypnotic and almost lyrical in their motions, the graphics seem to recall the visual effect of a finger tracing and warping a touch screen.
While they appear to be digital images, closer inspection reveals that they are made up of thick black paint stripes. With this simple mental trickery, the artist draws attention to the navigation of a digital moment – the oily trace of a finger on an inorganic screen – and aestheticises it in a profoundly physical way through paint.
While Zawada’s paintings explore the impact of the touch on the screen, the T-shirts are an exploration of the screen’s anticipation of the touch. Each T-shirt has a poem printed onto it; each poem is lengthy and reads largely as nonsense. This appears to be the outcome of the artist writing a poem collaboratively with his mobile device’s touch screen auto-correct.
How the artist actually ‘writes’ these poems is by typing on his keyboard and allowing the “predictive text bar” to complete the words. These poems then become a product of both the user and the algorithm that predicts text.
The way the T-shirts are strewn across the floor seems to recall the feeling of throwing aside nonsense. However, they are there in the gallery, and so they are there to be looked at. That tension between pushing aside and calling attention to the absurd gibberish of language made me both appreciate and exasperate over my own mumbling and bumbling way of speaking. I was able to laugh and contemplate over small moments in the texts, even though overall they amount to nothing more then loose gibberish.
Ultimately, while the texts may meander off to nowhere, they do tell a larger story of the way Zawada uses language – but also, more sinisterly, how his screen device claims to know him.
By Luke Letourneau