[-empyre-] Week 2? What is Dystopia, Really?

Byron Rich brich at allegheny.edu
Thu May 14 01:49:20 AEST 2020

The three artists I’ve invited this week are all folks whose practices I admire a great deal. Craig Fahner and I first met way back in 2004 as undergrads at The University of Calgary where we studied under Jean-Rene Leblanc. As a young artist, I really held Craig’s work with sensing systems, music and photography in high esteem. I credit trying to keep up with Craig as one of the foundational reasons for me having achieved anything over the past fifteen years.
Eric Charlton and I have only known one another for just over two years. His work immediately resonated with me as it was everything I wish my own work could be. Meticulously crafted, carefully considered, and imbued with humour hiding darker meanings. It’s bee a privilege to work with him over the past few years and I’m delighted he has joined us this week.  
Alex Young and I have run in the same circles for almost a decade, but only struck up a friendship over the past 3-4 years. Both products of the University of Buffalo alongside many other great -empyre- participants like Jen Gradecki and Derek Curry to name just a couple, we were lucky enough to learn from some of the great tactical media artists, bioartists (shout out to PV!), and theorists. Alex is obviously a product of great teaching as his work as an artist and curator deftly blends history with theory in a practice that, like Eric and Craig, is at once laced with humour that belies often sinister trends in contemporary culture. 
When I think about the work of these artists, absurdity is what crosses my mind. Not that their work is absurd (even though it often is), it’s how their practices lay bare the absurdity of contemporary culture. Eric’s Winner’s Circle, Craig’s Basic Orbital Maneuvers, and Alex’s Monument to the Common Barberry exemplify this absurdity.
I’m going to let them introduce themselves and their work, then dive into a discussion that uses absurdity to explore how we project concepts of dystopia in popular culture. 
Craig, Eric, Alex, give us an overview of what drives you and your practice.

Craig Fahner is an artist and musician from Calgary. Fahner’s interactive media artworks examine the politics and poetics of invisible digital infrastructures. His works have been exhibited in various venues and festivals internationally, including the 2017 Alberta Biennial, the Museo de la Ciudad in Queretaro, Mexico, and the Device Art Triennial in Zagreb. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Joint Program in Communication & Culture at York and Ryerson Universities.
Eric D. Charlton is an American artist originally from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Western Pennsylvania. Charlton’s work is exploring the desire for meaning and the lack of human understanding on a cosmic scale to the minutiae of the everyday. He embraces an open studio practice that centers around a broad definition of objecthood and the absurd acts of humans trying to make sense of the world. He earned his MFA at Syracuse University. Charlton has been the recipient of residencies at Tuner Semester Residency in Los Angeles, CA, Kimmel Harding Nelson, Nebraska City, NE, as well as Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, Farmington, ME. He has exhibited internationally, including the 2020 CICA Museum New Media Art Conference, Gimpo, South Korea, 2019 Miami University Young Sculptors Competition at Hiestand Galleries, Miami University, Oxford, OH, Das Giftraum, Berlin, Germany, Monte Vista Projects Los Angeles, CA, and The Sculpture Center, Cleveland, OH. Charlton currently works at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA, as an instructor of Sculpture and Digital Art, as well as 3D technical support.  

Alex Young is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and curator who explores both humans and other-than-humans collaborative shaping of their environments. Presently, Young’s work explores ruderal futures—or speculative forms of co-creation with species best adapted to thrive in environments distressed by human activity. Young’s projects have been presented at Conflux Festival, Flux Factory, Kiasma Museum, ACC Galerie Weimar, Stadtische Museen Zittau, Spanien 19C, San Diego Art Institute, Beyond/In Western New York Biennial, UB Art Gallery, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, and more. Recent curatorial and editorial projects include GROPING in the DARK (MOCA Tucson) and Ecology of Bad Ideas (Drain Magazine). http://www.worldshaving.info/

Byron Rich 
Assistant Professor of Art
Director of Art, Science & Innovation
Global Citizen Scholar Faculty Director
Affiliated Faculty - Integrative Informatics 

Allegheny College
Doane Hall of Art, A204
Meadville, PA
(o) 814.332.3381

Allegheny Lab for Innovation & Creativity

Co-chair of Exhibitions & Events - New Media Caucus

Reference letters require three weeks of lead time. 

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