"Katie Rose Pipkin: picking figs in the garden while my world eats Itself"
In an art exhibition and accompanying chapbook, Pipkin automates the un-automatable
Reviewed by Seth Orion Schwaiger, Fri., July 3, 2015
Why make art when you can make artists? Katie Rose Pipkin has done both at Not Gallery, in an exhibition that serves as a supporting structure for the launch of a chapbook of computer-driven poetry and illustration also bearing the quixotic title picking figs in the garden while my world eats Itself [sic], published by Raw Paw Press.
Perhaps the most deeply rooted artistic stereotype is that of the obsessive. Pipkin's brilliance shines through most in recognizing the capacity of computers to fill that role when directed – to flex a processor's knack for repetition, not for the sake of mathematics or other practical application, but toward the creative outlets of poetry and images. Stitching that powerful engine of obsession together with precarious randomizing algorithms produces something akin to human whim or error. That might seem like a negative at first, but when considering the halo of misplaced and half-expunged lines around a masterwork drawing, the numerous pentimenti found in historical painting, and the accidental discoveries in song and writing, one begins to see how human error is not only a by-product of artistic endeavor but integral to it.
After wading through the tedium of producing code and algorithms necessary to create something in the shape of poetry (which Pipkin admits would be considered messy, even ugly, by most programmers' standards), Pipkin then had the task of editing down an endless volume of works to the very few that were published. The results bear a surprising amount of meaning and internal connection, even fragmented narratives, despite generally not making perfect sense and even pushing against what we know as poetic sense.
These chapbooks are presented alongside related works, both by Pipkin's own hand and produced electronically. Across the gallery from these books is a low pedestal topped with a nearly square computer screen brought to life by the real-time process of machine-produced illustration. Like those in the chapbook, these circular abstract works are generated through the translation of hidden source text into specific types of line and shape spiraling together to form compositions that are surprisingly organic in form: a star-filled night sky, a cross-section of a tree trunk, a bacteria-filled petri dish. Each image is a new creation, as surprising to Pipkin as it is to the viewers.
Deeper into the gallery, these processes are exposed further through another form of mechanical illustration. A series of draped cords between two pedestals, one topped with a computer terminal and another with a receipt printer, hang behind a mess of small abstract ink drawings spilling into a pile on the floor from the printer. The terminal begs to be used, its exposed keyboard set in front of a blank prompt on a black screen at an ideal height for a standing user. While the viewer ponders whether or not to engage, the printer springs to life and quickly ejects another drawing. If the viewer chooses to type something, the next drawings will be produced using these new characters as seed data – or, put another way, as inspiration.
Interspersed between these are illustrations directly produced by the artist, careful repetitive drawings that push closer to natural representation than her electronic counterpart's, though with a surprising degree of similarity in overall tone. The two together, and the chapbook itself, set up a strange situation in which the viewer can find the mechanical element within the human and the human element within the machine. But perhaps more importantly, the viewer is brought to question new ways of exploring the bounds of the written word, the constructed image, and the future of artistic expression.
"Katie Rose Pipkin: picking figs in the garden while my world eats Itself"Not Gallery, 5305 Bolm, Studio 8
Through July 4