Collapse: reflecting on a digital sublime

Stu Sontier

Refinery Artspace, 114 Hardy St, Nelson   21 June – 2 July 2021

untitled head alignment pattern with overprint

With the unlikely use of failing inkjet printers Stu Sontier creates forlorn and stark vistas populated by lines, numbers and dithered washes of colour.

Black linear elements and a preponderance of cyan (the colour often chosen by manufacturers for their print head alignment charts), span the walls, along with bursts of vivid colour. All bubble up from the digital palette that inkjet printers start with.

The works, hung simply and boldly, are shown as segmented A4-sized inkjet papers. He explains “I try to use redundant materials when possible, both to create the initial modular blocks I work with, and in presentation; these are rejected printers and papers that I’ve acquired second-hand or found and are emblematic of both my world-view and aesthetic”.

The work may challenge the photographic constraints of fine print on archival base. They address the material nature of digital photography and more generally the obsolescence and waste that our technological culture creates. This work strips digital photography down to its essence – the paper, ink and technology that provide support. In many ways it still sits within a documentary tradition – these are after all, real things being shown, images derived from something that happened and was captured, albeit produced by machines.

Sontier refers to uncertainty and inaction, aspects that he connects to current global issues including climate. His pieces are literally falling apart as the printers have struggled to render the information given them.

manipulated printer quality check with cyan magenta

A notion of the sublime is addressed here, referencing the ‘awesomeness’ of current terminology alongside the ‘terror’ induced by the fear of death that philosopher Edmund Burke discusses on the subject.

The work looks at the sublime in terms of the unknowable, overwhelming nature of our digitised world. The need is to find a way through stasis to address the vast mess that our global population creates, striving to live above our collective means but with visions of a potentially imminent demise.

—-   318 words —-

head alignment fail (-3)


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