London-based artists Hannah Lees and Michael Pybus have created a place within the ether, which could be considered a visual conversation, an interactive playground, a social experiment, a hybrid exhibition and a space within which to daydream. Busy Sleep is an online collaboration borne out of a mutual desire between Lees and Pybus, to generate a dynamic response to each other’s work, resulting in a kind of mapping of the neural pathways that carry consumer information and manufactured belief systems. Utilising the infinitely scalable format of a website, the material they generate is accessible to anyone, anywhere at anytime over the next six months.
In fact, accessible is the wrong word for it. While much of the imagery of puppies and pin-ups is familiar, even nostalgic, the fragments are assembled in a way that makes their meaning hard to access. As with other freeform online projects such as Lucky PDF, Paper Rad and Every Website is a Monument, navigating this website is an intentionally awkward experience that forces the viewer to experiment. Comprising the unstoppable pulse of animated gifs with a distinctly kitsch flavour, as well as various audio and video plugins, the site begs to be activated but denies a comprehensive user interface.
The project is inherently non-hierarchical as it does not require funding or a team of gallery administrators, nor does its value change with size – whether it be viewed on a smart phone or projected across a specially primed wall. The immediacy of this artistic process gives the content a sense of urgency that could not be conveyed through a gallery show. In a constant state of change for the duration that the domain is live, Busy Sleep is grounded in the present and looks at the derivative and transient nature of internet-use. Essentially an unknown quantity, its edges are ever-elusive as the whole site resists achieving a state of completeness.
With a touch of dark humor, each page reveals a new tangent exploring the futility of saccharine optimism and the elaborate farce of consumer behavior. Pages such as Museums and Legs make us aware of our viewer relationship with the internet; of broken narratives and faults in communication. Atop wallpaper of commercial renderings of legs, flash images from museums in which small glitches occur; each photo includes an object that is not intended to be read – a heater, a fan and a bin. DHLawrence is a page containing a poem entitled We are Transmitters and hundreds of ad-style arrows direct our attention to nothing. Penned by the aforementioned English writer, the poem is, as with much of his work, a response to a perceived dehumanization resulting from modern technological advancement.
The collection of references is incredibly wide-ranging but within the uncompromising dissonance is an undeniably attentive and perplexing eye. The artists have a knack for scrutinizing themes so heavily embedded in our social fabric that we no longer see them for what they are. Busy Sleep invites us to explore and get lost in the limitlessness of virtual space and asks the question – where will it end?
Busy Sleep is an online exhibition by artists Hannah Lees and Michael Pybus available to view online August 6, 2012 – February 6, 2013.