We are all acted upon by the media. Our bodies are constantly assaulted by photographic imagery. We learn to love and indeed desire the chaotic intersections of High and Low culture forms. An extraordinary statistic is that on May 18 2010 some 24 hours per minute of video material was uploaded onto the website You Tube. This piece of minor arcana is a perfect way to illustrate the almost pathological obsession to document every aspect of contemporary life. It also demands questions about who is the audience for this material and how do they make sense of this vast mountain of unmediated visual data. Can we make sense? Information overload is de rigueur this century. In this virtual world there is no such thing as a unitary engagement, everything is polyvalent mutable. Network theory, spurred by the growth of the World Wide Web is now the Queen of Science, unlocking new knowledge across an array of disciplines. Miniaturization while intriguing continues to distance us from new technologies. This is a small glimpse of the rich vein of material, the terrain that Scot Cotterell mines.
Cotterell enjoys the possibility of a gestalt encounter with images. He draws together, samples and records diverse images and sounds from diverse sources. The only link in this hoarding is that the data has been mass-produced and disseminated across the various forms of available media. Like cultures on a Petri dish, eventually elements of this disparate organic mass coalesce to suggest a grouping, a subliminal taxonomy that can be manipulated to make strange the confused spaces of the present. White noise is a constant element in Cotterell’s work, an almost independent entity that creates a totality of sensation for the viewer, what the artist calls “a non-specific state”.
Each work that emerges from this haptic process has a different gestation period with different levels of research and, of course, a different resolution. The artist often makes working drawings and sketches for projects. In the light of the consistent choices of raw material, it is surprising Cotterell admits that critique (social, intellectual, psycho-sexual economic etc) is not the main purpose of the practice. Cotterell’s work primarily refers to the archaeology of video, the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He shares concerns with such artists as Joan Jonas, Nancy Holt, Vito Acconci et al who worked with formal processes, linguistic and mechanical strategies to secede from the traditional pictorialist worldview.
However, of late, Cotterell enjoys to play with the power of content- those ambient conditions that so troubled Clement Greenberg. For example in Guitar Burn 2007, the trigger and star was a guitar that resided in his mother’s wardrobe, a simple acoustic affair re-made via a media myth- it becomes not just any guitar but an iconic Fender Stratocaster- Jimi Hendrix’s instrument of power and now the world’s most popular electric guitar.
If I die in an MRI 2008, is 4-minute work developed from samples of “Ghost in the Machine” 1993, a schlock horror Hollywood film that explored how computers have the potential for independent intellect. The flashing white lights, tunnels and passages, are not only repeated formal devices but are also the classic signs of entering the death state.
For Shotgun, Cotterell presents the ironically macabre 20 Deaths that are(nt) mine 2010. Displayed in an acutely angled enclosure (possibly after Bruce Nauman) so that the audience has to negotiate their entry and exit into the work. On the exterior walls of this structure are sly decorative hints of what is contained inside.
Inside this corral is a single channel projection derived from one of the world’s most popular video games, “Burn Out 3”. Put simply, the purpose of this game is to create as much damage as possible. There is an option where the viewer can slow the vision to truly savor your own or your opponents’ demise. The mediated frigidity of the original imagery is shifted by the use of orange red green filters across the screen. These filters refer to another popular fad, 3D. While there is an immediate echo of Andy Warhol, Cotterell’s work is not a document of a real car crash rather a collage of algorithmic pixels designed to simulate car crashes in exotic locations, albeit accidents that are not too messy. The audience/game player is placed in a safe sanitised distant relation to the trauma event.
In 20 Deaths that are(nt) mine, Scot Cotterell wrestles with the tension between formalist concerns- construction, duration, colour, finish, and the effects of the banal yet perversely attractive imagery. There is a ritualistic engagement with entropy but this loop gives no beginning or end point. Here once more writ large is Eros Thanatos.