Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Encyclopedia Bean, Boy Detective

Went to see the show "Encyclopedia Studies" - the digital work of Bean Worley - at Beep Beep Gallery.

"Encyclopedia Experiment Study-1" Digital Print

Bean set for himself the task of photographing the images from a 1957 World Book Encyclopedia. At this point he has an image bank of over twenty-five thousand images that he manipulates, layers, and combines "to create static art objects or interactive performances and film."


Bean describes the work as a "deconstruction of visual information." It seems more like a reappropriation to me as the context of the images are changed while in much of the work the images remain identifiable, documentative in purpose, but no longer paired with the encyclopedic definitions they were meant to illustrate. Instead the viewer's own understanding of the subject matter (i.e. frog, tiger, etc) becomes the base for which the viewer searches for meaning or purpose in the placement of the images.

A-Girl, Overlay Experiment-10" Digital Print

I especially liked the metamorphosis of the accordion playing girl into static - like information breaking up into a lost transmission.

"Letter Overlay 1278" Digital Print

I wonder if the exhibition could have benefited from showing fewer pieces and on a larger scale. The size of the works, especially the grid pieces, seemed to stay in proportion with the encyclopedia, and blowing the images up would have created more of a disjoint with its origins - more of a "distortion". But then again, the salon style of almost being overwhelmed by visual information/stimuli may really add to the point Bean is making with the work.

"Fish Kiss, Overlay Experiment-9" Digital Print

The strongest pieces for me had interesting juxtapositions of seemingly disparate images. Especially as in "Fish Kiss" above, where the viewer has to really search for an understanding, which may not exist at all considering Bean says the "choices in the work are both personal and random."

"Letter A-Overlay Study-11" Digital Print

Bean goes on to say "these recombined, cropped, repeated, and revised images question our understanding of ideas of the past and the distortion of those ideas into the future." I especially see this in the works pairing dissimilar images. The works become more about visual language emphasizing our culture's preference of looking at pictures to reading the accompanying text, a time when we can document everything visually (this blog being a good example) and use these images in any context, redefining or not defining at all but simply putting forth to be seen.

"Letter A-Overlay Study-13", Digital Print


I'd say, go see the show! it's totally worth checking out and then discussing over a beer or something, but things like my computer's new habit of crashing and flashing the dreaded "blue screen of death" along with a day job not very sympathetic to all my "endeavors" means I have gotten pretty behind in posting and this show actually came down Dec 16th. woops! But you can still see more work on the Beep Beep Gallery website and this makes me think, considering his massive image data base, there is a real opportunity for an interactive website called something like "Encyclopedia Bean."


April said...

Excellent title and by far my favorite review of the show. Please start writing for one of the big publications soon.

mike said...

You can also check out more of Bean's work at www.nebproductions.com