Where From Here?

Clever internet sourcing may be a common practice for a younger generation of artists, but rarely is it deployed with as much sinister aplomb as in the work of Cliff Evans. In Evans' skilled hands, a veritable parade of pixilated characters - from trade show women to stormtroopers, politicians to smiling couples - are reconstituted as the spokes, gears and pistons of ubiquitous, twenty-first century war machines: at once eerily futuristic and all too reminiscent of recent neoconservative empire-building initiatives. The resulting look of these photomontage animations is "excessive, flat, quasi-random, and circuitous," Evans describes: "all qualities inherent within the environment of the web." In Road to Mount Weather (2006), a three-channel installation spanning a 32-foot wide screen, fragmentary image groupings produce an unexpected narrative, increasingly assembling into secret military sites, underground testing facilities and others domains of the political id. Complicating what could otherwise be the somewhat conventional propagation of conspiratorial lore is Evans' self-conscious conception of his own authorial role. The artist alternately labels himself "a co-conspirator with the powers presented" and "a paranoid heretic attempting to subvert the powers of control," a bifurcated position he believes to be inevitable to a creative process reliant upon the appropriation of countless photographs - and, implicitly, lives - from the internet's vast reserves. In a way, Evans-as-author performs an overly dramatic version of our own complicity, as virtual navigators and political subjects, with the powers that be; but in lieu of fatalism, he offers animations too epic and interpretatively open to not suggest that there are more than a few routes into the future. - Tyler Coburn

Image: Cliff Evans, Road to Mount Weather (Image Stills), 2006