Scrolling through your Facebook feed, you notice that a man you met several years ago and never contacted again has died in a freak skiing accident. But, your friend has been promoted. You feel guilty and happy. In a different browser — a 4chan thread — a Charmander with a Hitler mustache comes out of nowhere (why are you there in the first place?). There remains that email to respond to, as well. You’ve minimized it so it’s out of sight, but it’s not out of mind.
Kazuki Umezawa, also known as Umelabo, has made a series of “internet landscapes” that vividly captures the schizophrenic experience of the internet. Sprawling, printed collages of found images are coupled with his own designs and occasionally overlaid with layers of paint. Each work presents a dense, meaningless barrage of visual information — for example, chocolate cookies, feeds, threads, disembodied legs, mushrooms, icons, anime characters, fractals, shrines — condensing years’ worth of browsing history into a single frame. Amid this chaos, the specificity of individual images, moments, places, and persons drops away to reveal expansive, jagged shapes, especially when viewed from a distance. Hyper Landscape, currently at the Watari-Um museum in Tokyo, surveys Umezawa’s career to date, with work ranging from early sketches to recent collages. It also provides a window into the rise of online otaku communities in Japan (a term that translates loosely as “nerd” and indicates obsessive interest in media such as manga and anime).
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