Search Engine Art
Gretchen Andrew is a search engine artist and Internet imperialist whose HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO and #accordingToTheInternet projects look at the Internet as a tenuous form of authority that can be used to understand, manipulate and imperialize definitions. Her search-based practice is accompanied by a painting practice that is used as an image source for her related Internal Imperialism. We caught up with Gretchen on a few of her projects including search engine paintings, Interior, a solo exhibition in Inglewood, CA, and her HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO live in LA without a car/#8milesonLaCienega Instagram project.
Selections from Hackney Wick
Selections from Naked Woman
Selection from Malignant Epithelial Ovarian Cancer
Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your project Interior.
Gretchen Andrew: Interior was an exhibition about what it means to confront otherness through art. In retrospect, it was also about the things that we can get lost in because they don't originate in our own minds. I'm a proponent of this sort of escapism and have recently been more conscious of my own desire for it. Interior was a solo exhibition at Whitcher Projects run by Lisa Pomares and her husband Charles. They have become two of my favorite people to be around, making their support of my work even more meaningful. Charles made [the above] video, and I'm thankful for what he was able to capture.
AM: How does it compare to your other work?
GA: In Interior, I presented paintings as raw emotional objects without my digital art, which can admittedly be distracting. Last year, I had two exhibitions of which I am very proud: one entirely painting and one entirely digital. This gave space for each practice to breath, but now I'm interested in bringing them back together. I'm doing this through my “search engine art”, where I hack search results for places, people or ideas to be dominated by my paintings, using the authority of the Internet against itself. For example, I'm making a series of paintings about the London district of Hackney Wick. The goal is to replace the fancy real estate listings with my painting. Having the power to impose my own perspective on what this place is, just because I know how, is a reminder of the ways this happens in more sinister ways all the time.
AM: How did 8 Miles on La Cienega come about?
GA: I was so lucky to have the hospitality of Stefan Simchowitz and his family while working 8 miles away in Inglewood. It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn't think this way, but I just figured I'd run it. Then it happened that at the end of 17 hours in the studio, I was exhausted in one way but energized in another. So, most nights I ended up running the 8 miles back. LA on foot is a total adventure. Where there are sidewalks, they often end abruptly, but there's a curious life there that I wanted to document. I did this through the hashtag #8milesonLaCienega. Here are some of the strange, weird and totally LA stuff I saw while traveling on foot to and from creating work at Whitcher Projects over 35 days:
AM: What is your biggest inspiration?
GA: Spending time with other artists. Painters like my mentor Billy Childish but also those working in other mediums like fashion and music. From the outside, creative work looks like freedom, but it is almost entirely built on discipline. Getting to know the practices of others makes me more consciously celebratory of my own freedom.
From the outside, creative work looks like freedom, but it is almost entirely built on discipline. Getting to know the practices of others makes me more consciously celebratory of my own freedom.
AM: What role does Los Angeles play in your work?
GA: I've found that the physical space in LA can lead to emotional and creative space. Though I was living in London, LA became the deeply connected to the hope I have for my work. It is home to the first people that started to really join me in it's risks. I met the Simcor team in LA, and the mutual trust and excitement we have is central to my ability to focus on the work instead of the all too common concerns of career and market. They have also connected me to the other artists around in LA: Joey Wolf, Petra Cortright, Marc Horowitz and Kour Pour. Knowing peers and contemporaries whose opinions you respect helps the work evolve while keeping the wolves at bay.
AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
GA: I've just written a manifesto after a friend reminded me that while it isn't my job to make work people like, it is [my job] to educate them on why they could like it. My Fuck the Space Above Your Couch manifesto is a way of celebrating the people that already support what I do while letting the similar-souled know there's something to join. The painting themes get to live in this world of raw emotion, while the digital aspect of my practice address the themes and implications of Internet authority: the way the Internet classifies and defines the world, such as through search or the user generated nature of YouTube’s “how to” videos.
AM: What music is currently inspiring you?
GA: I usually listen to audiobooks while I paint. Speaking of LA, I’m on a big Bukowski kick. But when I listen to music, I go for artists whose music feels like literature. 99% of the time, I'm listening to Craig Finn or Conor Oberst. Both have brilliant new albums. Particularly, I’m obsessed with Finn’s song, Be Honest.
AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
GA: Right now, I'm working on bringing the painting and digital art halves of my practice together through my Internet Imperialism project #accordingToTheInternet. In one aspect of this project, I am making paintings about and imperializing the Internet definition of, ovarian cancer, which my mom has been fighting for three years. Googling medical conditions is the worst idea ever! And the image results for ovarian cancer are very clinical, having nothing to do with the experience, which for me is marked by a secondary fear of my own body. By hacking the search results to be of my paintings, instead of medical diagrams, I hope to expand the definition and serve as a reminder that all images, including diagrams and photographs, have bias and perspective. Expect the paintings to stay darkly hopeful. I'm also leaving London, which has always felt temporary but indefinite. I'm feel pretty over living that way. Maybe see you back in LA soon.
Gretchen Andrew is a search engine artist and Internet imperialist whose HOW TO HOW TO HOW TO and#accordingToTheInternet projects look at the Internet as a tenuous form of authority that can be used to understand, manipulate and imperialize definitions. Her search-based practice is accompanied by a painting practice that is used as an image source for her related Internal Imperialism. She has completed projects or exhibitions with The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, The V&A Museum, The Photographer’s Gallery, The Barbican, The British Film Institute, The Lumen Prize for Digital Art, The British Arts Council, The White Building, Ace Hotel, Arebyte, and The London Film School. She recently spent two months in Los Angeles working on her exhibition at Whitcher Projects. You can find more of her work at gretchenandrew.com.