nyartsmagazine.com : David Cotterrell's Unlikely Endeavor

nyartsmagazine.com : David Cotterrell's Unlikely Endeavor

Publication Title: nyartsmagazine.com/articles
Writer: Author not known
Publication Date: 6th December 2004

The first book to chronicle the work of British artist David Cotterrell, The Impossible Project explores Cotterrell’s fascination with technology, politics and romance. 

Cotterrell’s work often pushes the parameters of art and scientific discovery: playing with an acknowledged tradition of eccentric invention, he customizes existing technologies to assert new use-values. A practice divided between the gallery and the public realm, the differing demands of each intervention are reflected in Cotterrell’s sensitivity to site as both location and subject. He’s a postmodern, interstitial figure whose methods are as mercurial as his image: always changing, always expanding, always redefining what it means to take up space. As an architect and as an artist, Cotterrell has added a stock of gestures to the now inscrutable and defiant contemporary air-molding scene.  

Where did he come from? His first solo exhibition, Reference Frame, explored themes of approximation and translation in the process of representing behaviour through data. The links between this work and the origins of criminology in French 19th Century pseudoscience will creep some people out and delighting others with its craniometric overtones. “Reference Frame” took on important questions about representation that no conceptualist can ignore. This concern with the framework of our perceptions has remained with the artist throughout his development.  God’s Eye View [& II & III]consists of three projections exploring facets of the symbolic order imposed on human experience of the world. The work both celebrates and questions the wisdom of attempting prediction. Struck by the inadvertent beauty of systems created to ease understanding of a complex world, Cotterrell here replicates the language of predictive modelling to highlight what is lost (and gained) through the process of translation.  

Working with a set of climatic statistics to predict possible future weather systems, isobars continuously create new patterns, which metamorphose the reality of a tornado into an agreeable aesthetic experience. Traffic flow around an urban centre and its inevitable gridlock as more and more vehicles are introduced into the equation mimics video games like SimCity and Populous. Red dots, each representing a human life, dash to and fro: bunching together in ‘desirable’ spaces and leaving others abandoned. These works have an eerie quality reminiscent of science programmes that exhibit the acceleration of the spread of HIV or ebola through a healthy host. We see human choice and naturally occurring patterns reduced to game-like conditions.  

The quest for God-like status is brought down to earth by the limitations imposed by humanity’s collective imagination: prediction machines are only capable of replicating identified trends. Our inability to witness all of the convolutions of existence is reduced to an abstraction: a translation or ‘Beginner’s Guide’ to this shared existence. Cotterrell employs the visual language of meteorologists and spatial analysts to create works that openly question the wisdom of urging the blind sibyl to tell her tale. 


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