Cheryl Sourkes "Networks"
The history of photography overlaps exactly with the history of sociology. It is as if from the beginning the camera lens has been a mirror of the expanded consciousness that sees human reality not in terms of individual subjectivities but in the manifestations of group behaviour. The camera has been the essential tool to externalize this shift in perception. It has allowed us to share what we see and to see more than we could ever individually imagine.
In her new photographs, Cheryl Sourkes turns this empirical camera eye onto the digital realities reshaping contemporary society. Her photographs show a disappearance of interactive public space. In them we see mediated engagements of social connection, a social space tempered by close focus on hand-held digital devices. With their pixelated disappearances of detail, the images literally manifest a rending of the social fabric in their rending of a conventional seamless picture plane. They document an evolving sense of human isolation that arises from the wholesale personalization of social networks. People are more connected than ever but in ways that separate them from one another. They are islands in a sea of connectivity. Public space becomes background as if the grand communal sociological impulse that once shaped modern society is now in a process of reversal. Images of telephone booths, doorbells and personal mailboxes as abandoned sites now overwritten with graffiti attest to this change. She shows us that we communicate differently now and that this difference has implications for our shared social future.
It is a future where the concept of "selfie" looms large on the horizon. Sourkes images fret over an evaporation of traditional social connectedness. She makes us wonder if we are witness to a new era of extinction—a sea change in the meaning of the word "social".
Although many of the ways people stayed in touch during the twentieth century are still in play, most traditional methods have experienced significant decline. The Internet now mediates the greater part of social interaction, and there is scarcely a public space that is not inflected by the virtual world. In Networks, these shifting grounds are the point of departure.
The exhibition consists of two complementary parts: Connection and Connext. Representing a quickly fading past, Connection’s three aspects—Doorbell, Mailbox, and Phone Booth—use intimate framing and altered scale to refresh reception of these well-known, if tired, communication mechanisms. Connext reflects an emerging present, documenting individuals in thrall to their mobile devices. As a result of a post-photographic algorithm, the pixels of these images spread out into abstraction. Uncertain boundaries within the picture plane parallel those between public and private spheres. Additionally, a time-based component based on material captured from popular websites—the types of websites that people represented in the photographs may be browsing—contributes to the feeling that the handheld device has inadvertently turned its users into a variety of cyborgs that share a collective consciousness.
Cheryl Sourkes is an innovative lens-based artist living in Toronto while remaining connected to art scenes in Montreal and Vancouver - places she previously called home. Her work investigates the visual dimension of new technology, especially social and cultural developments associated with the Internet. It foregrounds communication modalities in the virtual realm and problematizes codes, time, epistemology and conventions of representation. Cheryl Sourkes reads the current moment and consistently makes prescient work that anticipates future realities. Her still photographs and time-based installation pieces have been seen internationally and are included in many public and private collections including National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery and Seattle Art Museum.
About Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects
Launched in 2016 as part of the new Dupont St. gallery scene in Toronto, Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects was devoted to an exhibition program of contemporary Canadian art. Founding editor of C Magazine and editor of Canadian Art from 1996 through 2015, Richard Rhodes brought his expertise to exhibitions by emerging and established artists from across Canada. His informed critical eye launched and nurtured numerous careers in the Canadian art world over the past three decades. A photo diary of his continuing interests and work can be seen on Instagram at @c4rhodes. The gallery website will continue to be viewable at: www.dupontprojects.com.