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Rupture Cruft (Drone Study #2)

This cruft image is created by regularly downloading and processing an image from the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

I visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the summer of 2013, and climbed the tallest sand dunes in North America, which rise about 750 feet. It was impressive to experience landscape that was in constant motion, like standing in a river as it rises and falls away. The metaphor of digital leftovers flowing through the network came to mind. Grains of sand not unlike digital images streaming past. This cruft image captures snapshots of this moving landscape, and processes them in a way that the motion of the landscape is slowed down. Looking at the image archive one can feel the motion at a new temporal pace. The power of the Great Sand Dunes National Park is that one can experience erosion at an accelerated speed and at a visceral level, as the sands and rocks are blown literally into ones skin.

Selections from the Archive

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

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