To Synchronize Our Heartbeats

There was so much broken and fragmented information to consume, so the task was to build something from the leftovers. This is Cruft.

We're in an Internet-induced collective hallucination and it's toxic.

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 misinformation, fear, divisiveness, surveillance, and repression. Post-traumatic stress. Post-traumatic growth. Realignment.

My art practice creates code-based automated art that explores the nature of the Internet, its strengths and failures, producing what has been called a post-Internet art that reflects the networks effect on our society and culture. The Internet is the raw material I appropriate and remix 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 artwork allows me to investigate broader issues of traditional concepts—such as stillness, repetition, overload, uncertainty, and loss.

Cruft is variable, fragile, and impermanent.

In his book After The Future, Franco Berardi refers to 'the slow cancellation of the future [which] got underway in the 1970s and 1980s.' He is referring not to a direction of time, but rather a psychological perception. Berardi also suggests we are stuck between globalization and global war, between identity and capital and we seem to be incapable of producing radical change. Berardi is describing my own sense of time. No forward movement, no progress, standing still.

Our culture industry is locked in an endless cycle of nostalgic reboots and sequels. Nothing really dies, it only comes back as a zombie in a new package. New technologies dislocate our ideas of time and place. Smartphones encourage us to not be in the here and now, while allowing us to always be simultaneously present and absent. No sense of time. No sense of place.

I make art in response to my experience of not being able to shake off that feeling of a slow cancellation of the future. Art can interrupt our hallucination and offer us moments of stillness and introspection.

Art must synchronize our heartbeats to be the catalyst for real political and cultural change.

Robert Spahr
Carbondale, IL
October 2023

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