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Cenotaph Cruft (Intermission)

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: "That is not what I meant at all;
  That is not it, at all."

-- T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (87-98)

This cruft video consists of images from CNN's coverage on the morning of September 11th, 2001, with manipulated samples of streaming radio. The middle section is a computer voice reading content from Breitbart News, accompanied by selections of elevator music with an image of a tropical beach.

CRUFT: Art from Digital Leftovers
My art practice explores the Internet as source material to be appropriated, taken apart, juxtaposed, and recycled by writing computer code that is automated and runs on a 24/7 schedule producing a form of auto-generated collage I call Cruft. The resulting digital artwork allows me to investigate broader issues of traditional concepts—such as originality, creativity, authorship and eternal value. This work examines the relentless flow of information on the Internet that quickly becomes digital leftovers to reveal a relationship in which we don't simply consume media, but are also consumed by it.

In response to the intense pace and constant change happening online, my art practice also includes a slower and thoughtful method of applying traditional media such as charcoal, paint, wax and ink, to prints of selected Cruft images. These mixed-media images are created over longer periods of time resulting in a meditative process that subverts the goals of speed, spectacle and distraction, offering an opportunity for slower looking and deeper thinking compared to the crushing overload of an endless stream of automated Cruft.

The Internet has the ability to provide freedom by connecting us at great distances, democratizing the world's knowledge, and facilitating disruption and resistance to systems of power. It can also simultaneously provide control by restricting and regulating our thoughts and actions while propagating fear, divisiveness, surveillance and repression. My artwork delves into the very nature of the Internet, pulling at it’s strengths and exposing the flaws, producing what has been coined Post-Internet art, that by definition references the "network" that we all inhabit, and ultimately, it's effects on our society and culture.

My art is a personal inquiry into fundamental questions about our values, ideas, fears and dreams. I am interested in how the humanities and technology shape our individuality and communities, and how the arts and humanities can inspire us to ask who we are and what our lives might mean.

Robert Spahr
Carbondale, IL
September 2019