April 22, 2023

Xylophobia: Online

22 April 2023 – 22 April 2024

Welcome to Xylophobia: Online – a new exhibition of digitally based work which takes its name from the fear of wooden objects, forests, or wooded areas. Responding to the increased needs and fears of outdoor activities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the featured work presents explorative, experimental and conceptual spaces at this intersection, whilst inquisitive and mindful of the environmental impact of creating and presenting artworks using digital technology.

Imagined and digitised forests, physical wooden objects and speculative graphics processing units, forest inspired audio mixes and digitally fermented film-based work. Visitors are invited to engage with the works and consider their own relationship with the environment, both physically and virtually.

All commissioned work by artists Ama Dogbe and David John Scarborough, Spencer Graham, Zhengyang and Zhengzhou Huang, Felix Loftus and Greg Orrom Swan used The Networked Condition carbon calculator tool to help plan, shape and evaluate the work, with the footprint of each published below.

Ama Dogbe and David John Scarborough

This work took 28kg of carbon to produce

Xylophobia / Shinrin-yoku

Spencer Graham

This work took 11.34kg of carbon to produce

Zhengyang and Zhengzhou Huang

This work took 75kg of carbon to produce

Avoid an ash, It counts the flash
Felix Loftus

This work took 5.46kg of carbon to produce

A Suggestive Wax Suggests A Wane
Greg Orrom Swan

This work took 112.14kg of carbon to produce

Ama Dogbe is a British-Ghanaian artist whose work engages with a range of personal and societal themes through digital mediums including experimental film, animation and video games. Her recent work used interactive virtual world building as a tool to explore modern challenges and dilemmas. As a 2022 Virtual Bodies Resident Artist for BOM, Ama explored ideas of societal pressure and assimilation in diasporic communities.

David John Scarborough is a British-Australian artist, curator and Co-Founder of Modern Painters, New Decorators (MPND). David creates projects to think through his relationships with materials, place and heritage. He makes exhibitions, publications, videos and music. Previous work has included an interest in the fantasy notion of imagined universes and hopeful worlds as sustenance during Covid-19 restrictions.

Spencer Graham is an artist based in Northamptonshire, UK. His practice revolves around a deep interest in music, and questions ideas relating to materiality and place. Utilising and sharing very specific collections of music, acquired according to self-set constraints, he considers how we access, consume, use, and most importantly, listen to music. Previous work has included collecting photographs of people with their original (1983) pressings of New Order’s 12″ single “Blue Monday” and an ongoing exploration of how the “techno city” of Detroit is represented in flyers, posters, music journalism, record sleeves and CD inserts.

Zhengzhou and Zhengyang Huang are a group of artists working with alternative techniques, speculative systems and imaginary avatars. With their practice they try to situate themselves in the current reality layered with data tracking, digital policies, and algorithmic decision making. Throughout their works they hope to navigate through layers of mediation that segment, percolate but may also connect our identity, knowledge and memory. They have shown their most recent series of works about alternative technologies, Air, Water, Fire at Society for Literature, Science and the Arts Conference at University of Michigan and the Last Online Show at University of California, Los Angeles. Zhengzhou and Zhengyang are currently based in Los Angeles (US).

Felix Loftus is a computational artist, technician, and creative educator, specialising in low-power digital photography and interactive fiction games. He explores how technology can be a tool for re-enchanting and restoring relationships to the land and to the more-than-human world. Felix has researched into environmental justice in tech with the Sustainable Darkroom – an artist run research, training and mutual learning programme, to equip cultural practitioners with new skills and knowledge to develop an environmentally friendly photographic darkroom practice; and co-organises SE(e)-ing, a photography project in South London connecting young photographers with housing activists through creative workshops.

Greg Orrom Swan is an artist, designer, and lecturer who looks at how ancient geology and current biology intersect, at both systemic and microscopic scales. He works across installation, digital media, and experiential art. He applies a molecular gaze, aiming to highlight how humans are not separate from the living world, but both distinct and similar to the nonhuman parts of our world. This poetic and conceptual space allows him to attempt to communicate the often strange and lurid connections between the different assemblages of humans and nonhumans, highlighting a shared ancestry. Currently lecturing at University of the Arts London, he has previously exhibited at the MoMA, NYC, London Design Festival, CPH:DOX international film festival. Greg has presented work at symposiums such as Ūmėdė Art+Tech Symposium, Vilnius; State Festival, Berlin; and shortlisted for the Lumen Art+Tech Prize, BioDesign Challenge, and the Bio Art & Design Award. Alongside exhibiting, Greg previously co-founded the bio-technology research start-up Olombria, which looked at future pollination systems using natural chemical signalling and pollinating hoverflies to supplement declining bee populations.

Read more about the works in the following series of Fermynwoods Focus posts:

Xylophobia: Online was funded by Arts Council England as part of Xylophobia, Fermynwoods Contemporary Art’s two-year programme addressing issues of place and belonging which go to the heart of community feelings of exclusion from both the art world and woodland spaces.

Artists were selected by the Fermynwoods team and Ruth Catlow – artist, researcher, curator and co-founder of Furtherfield – London’s longest-running (de)centre for art and tech, who develop global, contributory projects that facilitate art activity simultaneously on the Internet, the streets and public venues.

The Networked Condition is an ongoing exploration of the often hidden environmental impact of the creation and delivery of artworks using digital technology. This research led project is a collaboration between Fast Familiar, Abandon Normal Devices and Arts Catalyst, and part of Julie’s Bicycle Accelerator Programme.