Today, we have a guest post from Marion Piper on the work of Ryan Swanson, which she kindly submitted. Please enjoy!
Text by Marion Piper, artwork by Ryan Swanson.
Far too often I stumble upon art that makes me angry - not because it's bad or incomplete, but because it lacks complexity. I'm impressed by technique but not for the sake of aesthetics - just because it looks pretty, doesn't mean it's interesting.
The current atmosphere of disembodiment appears to impose on every aspect of daily life: from the alarm clock that wakes us up in the morning, to the myriad of networks we maintain online throughout the day and well into the night. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a slave to consumer culture but I do worry that perhaps we've come too far to disconnect completely. Body and machine are slowly fusing in a replicant-esque fashion: what will we lose as people if this continues?
Chicago-based artist and designer Ryan Swanson eloquently visualizes the background role the human body now plays in our contemporary world. His digital collages exhibit contorted figures fragmented by bright colors, lines and jagged shapes. The rules of photography don't apply here: Swanson combines elements of design and collage to reduce the body to a clothes hanger, a mere tool for hegemony.
Whilst Swanson's style is super cool, it is slightly disturbing. The fetishized, decapitated body is made subservient to consumer culture: a slave to fashion, design, art and opulence. Adorning our bodies with the generic symbols of our culture is a commonplace activity, and we're not naïve about it at all. Swanson stylizes objectivity through collage, initiating a conversation about the mass media that has pervaded critical dialogue since the Dada movement of the 1920s. This time around though it's more about the politics of the body, rather than censorship.
The gestures of the body are extended through design principles: patterns replace faces and limbs, emphasizing the
polymorphic body. Rather than being didactic, Swanson points out that the pieces are already there; it just depends on the order in which you choose to arrange them. The cut-and-paste sensibility seen here overtly references the mechanics of image making: just like our lived reality, this image is constructed.
Even Condos Can Crumble (2009)
fuses digitally manipulated magazine papers and iPhone photos together in a limited color palette. The granulated greyscale form found in aestheticised magazine images replaces the fleshy pink body, removing all sense of individuality and uniqueness. The body is now another object, another element to manipulate within the image frame. Cut into pieces by tyre tracks, the female form becomes yet another surface to mark.
In other works, the muscular male torso is treated similarly - functioning as a lamp in one image, a couch in another. Clever titling and select imagery makes Swanson's work jump off of the screen - intricate AND pretty, I hope to see more of his work on gallery walls soon.