How do you make art? Let's google it and find out.

The title for this year's Google Exhibition, which is part of the Sydney Fringe Festival, seems particularly fitting. The artists selected to take part were required to type "distorted reproduction" into the Google search engine, at the same time, on the same day, and choose a site as the starting point for their piece.

As our lives become more and more entangled with the online world, we may ourselves be experiencing an increasingly distorted reproduction of reality. The way we think, act, and interact with each other has changed dramatically over the last few years. So much so, in fact, that psychologists and scientists alike believe this is changing the way we think. There are even concerns that children spending a significant time online may be affecting the normal development of their brains.

A few years ago the people at Hardware Gallery were questioning, how do you make art? They decided to google it, and so the Google Exhibition was born.

As you enter the exhibition, you are struck by the sheer calibre of the works, all of which are not only wonderfully produced but exude a deep personal expressiveness. Perhaps the unique conceptual starting point, choosing a website which resonates in some way, is the cause.

Several of the artists chose the same sites, and four main themes dominate: how our memories distort past events; how the insectiside Tebufenozide interferes with the growth, development and reproduction of the codling moth; how images can be distorted with technology; and a psychology test where participants copied a drawing of an owl, which was passed to the next participant and so on, until the drawing had mutated into a cat.

Naturally many of the pieces were fairly abstract, such as Kate Deacock's Optical Blur, which was inspired by a series of conical diagrams describing the effects of light on vision. It is a series of red squares, with darker red circles within. The paintings, of increasing size, hang in a row and are quite striking. One of the most moving works was the series of paintings by Deborah Keogh, which refer to a study on memory distortion. The paintings are of her mother, who died when she was young and of whom the artist remembers her clothes and habits, but not her face. Hence the three paintings of women wearing different dresses in each, all headless.

Several of the artists produced series of works, as opposed to just one piece. I wonder if this is itself an indication of how the internet is affecting our concentration and ability to focus on one thing, instead tending to think about multiple ideas within a short space of time.

By far the most interesting aspect to this exhibition is how it poses the personal against the virtual, which becomes apparent as you read each artist's blurb describing the development of their idea. Also the adage 'nothing exists in a vacuum', oft quoted in relation to the creative arts, has perhaps never been truer than today with the world wide web offering us instant access to any number of artistic references.

It is a shame that there isn't a PC in the room to look up the websites chosen. But if you have smartphone, you should definitely type in the web address listed with each piece and have a look at the source of inspiration. To add extra depth to your experience, you might like to do a Google search for 'distorted reproduction' yourself before you go and have a look at the results.

See our list of the 10 best things to see and do at the Sydney Fringe.

Published on September 17, 2012 by Leah Thomas

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