Garrett Cruzan uses his art to interrogate the act of looking and the role that looking plays in our being in the world. Given the ubiquitousness of digital devices, and the fact that looking often plays an integral role in accessing cyberspaces, he provides alternate views of a vast social media landscape. Through a process of remediation, Cruzan’s Black Box Series directs our attention toward our relationship with “big data” and the cyber spaces we’ve come to inhabit.
Transferring xerographic images to canvas using a variety of acrylic media, Cruzan layers his cell phone-sourced screenshots until the information they offer is largely unintelligible. This process provides a metaphorical look inside enigmatic black boxes of Computer Science–systems and objects analyzed solely in terms of their inputs and outputs. Through layers of erasure and normalization, a meta-view of tech-dependent Western culture emerges. At the same time, Cruzan’s appropriation of user-generated data prompts us to consider the idea of the artist-as-third-party, asking important questions about authorship, ownership, and rights to access.
Aside from their metaphorical significance, it’s relevant to acknowledge that the Black Box pieces are also metapictures. This view holds because, strictly speaking, the works contain other pictures. But the Black Boxes also have a very particular way of calling attention to the fact that they are themselves pictures, and are presented in a way that has as much to do with imagery as it does the observer. The works reflect common cultural practices in order to provide an occasion for dialogue with the viewer; user-generated imagery has been staged so that an observer observes an observer observing. Through this process, the works promote a very particular kind of awareness in the viewer–that of themselves, as well as their relationship to what hangs in front of them.
Cruzan’s works employ pictures to reflect on the very nature of pictures themselves. By treating representation as a vernacular phenomenon, the artist’s use of social-media-sourced material calls into question both our understanding of what pictures are doing as well as the self-understanding of the viewer. He leaves us with analog cross-sections of the cyber-social fabric we weave ourselves into every time we log in.