Artist Statement

Deadpan fills in a mathematical idea with evocative images and text. 17 topologically unique divisions of a square become bites out of a piece of toasted bread; the number 17 recurs as 17 planar symmetries of a spiral motif on cloth. Found in nearly all cultures, the spiral evokes growth or decay, both of which break the endless recursion of the circle, while the 17 symmetry groups in which they are arranged might evoke the scientific realm of analysis and apparently timeless order. Rippled cloth recalls waves on an ocean, hence trade across oceans. The toast floats over the cloth, while on the toast float silhouettes of islands filled with text. The punning reference of the bitten edges of the toast to the ragged coastlines suggests a linkage of consumption of food to consumption of resources and information. At times illegible, the texts are computer-generated pastiches of a Buddhist scripture, of the so-called "Anarchist's Manual," and of a 17th century novel about the colonization of the Americas, "Orinokoo, or, the Royal Slave," by British novelist Aphra Behn, which provides the first instance of the "noble savage" in European literature on the colonization of the Americas.

The texts were all found on the Internet. The islands were generated from the Central Intelligence Agency's "World Data Base" of coastlines, rivers, and political boundaries, a publicly available geographic database derived from satellite images. Except for the texture maps of the toast, which were scanned from photographs of toast bitten by the artist, all parts of these images were created digitally.

I am aware of having created a highly personal, perhaps even arcane series of interpretations for these images, which I believe nevertheless have an aesthetic presence that could draw the viewer into his or her own interpretations. The images have been rendered as photographic prints with an antique tone, since they reminded me of early scientific photography. Their baroque imagery also suggested a further baroque attitude, that of disguising them to look like something other than a computer-generated image. While some of my work has had a clear political intent, in these works I am more concerned with a kind of allegorical discourse on the depth and complexity of interconnections of computer images and networks, than with any direct militancy; nevertheless, they are charged with my own concerns and the irony I employ to defend myself from being overwhelmed by them.

Addendum: "Deadpan" is a Spanish/English pun for "dead bread." Being dead, it's toast. Being bitten, it's holey. You may expand the halo of associations at leisure, but please keep a straight face.

Paul Hertz, 1995