Cover image of the review
Grant Stevens, *Fawn in the Forest,* 2020, live streamed procedurally generated computer graphics with sound, assisted by Pat Younis. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney.

Grant Stevens, Fawn in the Forest

28 Nov 2020
Buxton Contemporary 16 Nov - 20 Dec 2020

Imaging Nature

I wonder how many people will watch Grant Stevens’ online screen work Fawn In The Forest (2020, the third Light Source commission by Buxton Contemporary), without knowing anything of what is going on while they watch it. Its online didactic states that the work—a CGI animated fawn aleatorily roving an equally CGI modelled/rendered American forest environment as it is framed with corresponding randomness by a floating camera perspective of its movements—is “programmed with artificial intelligence (AI)”. Did you subtly nod your head while reading that, assuming that something must be happening at the intersection of AI and CA? That contemporary screen culture must somehow welcome AI into its Rooma-vacuumed sweep of current topics? The audience for this work is bound to be a select grouping who would likely defend their self-rating of visual literacy. So let’s pretend this review is a literacy test.

Fawn In The Forest extends Grant Stevens’ ongoing interests in the extremities of anonymised, de-designed, socially-aggregated and deliberately vacuous ways in which twenty-first century images of life and living have been coded into channels, streams and platforms of creative expression and personal statement. Screensavers, default-fonts, menu-options and visual-enhancements have been the primary visual tools of many of his screen-based works. Corporate ethics, personal well-being, social care, cod-Zen aphorisms, soap opera dialogue and utopian dreaming have all at one point surfaced through this practice. The beauty of his operations is the way these tools and their procedural outcomes cancel each other, creating a reduction in meaning and effect. Think Eisensteinian montage theory reversed by the marketed faux-musings of Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous Goop ® empire (“a modern lifestyle brand” since 2008).

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