November 14, 2014
From the height of a pedestrian bridge over a railroad track in Toronto, artist Laura Moore saw the remains of a computer monitors gazing screen- or face-up at her from the tracks. The happenstance experience provoked a number of questions about contemporary society’s rapidly changing relationship and progressive entanglement with technology. Mainly the artist wondered: Why was this monitor marched up a steep set of stairs only to be hurled onto the steel rail lines below?
This question traces the intriguing juxtaposition between the old but still-used technology of the railroad and the swift obsolescence of the computer, that ever-new technological engine of commerce and information. These intertwined concerns reside at the heart of Laura Moore’s stone and wood sculptures, drawings, and photographs. Moore uses largely enduring materials, most often stone, to explore the relationships between technology and landscape, scale and permanence, and monumentality and disposability.
Moore’s limestone sculpture One Man’s Junk (2014) is an ongoing series that pays ambivalent homage to discarded and outmoded personal computers and electronics. These hand-carved sculptures are interesting on a number of conceptual and material levels. Not only do the material properties of stone highlight the tension between technology and permanence, they also foreground the often neglected ecological consequences of technology’s rapid expansion; as each old computer, VCR, radio, mobile phone, and so on is outmoded, it is discarded and inevitably ends up in a landfill or an ocean.
The visual and physical weight of these carved computer monitors, and the artist’s precise hand carving, gives the work an innate timelessness that many sculptures only hope to achieve—Moore’s One Man’s Junk truly is a monument to our time. Like many monuments, these PC sculptures begin to blend into the surroundings to become part of the landscape itself; which, interestingly, mirrors the way in which computers now blend seamlessly into the human landscape as parts of the cultural ecosystem.
Well before her experience with the discarded computer monitor and the railroad bridge, Moore was working in stone, with similar ideas in mind. Ghetto Blaster (2011), another hand-carved limestone sculptural replica, deals with similar notions of technology vs. landscape, permanence, and monumentality. What also becomes clear in looking at Ghetto Blaster and Moore’s other carved replicas—defunct simulacra—is her interest in the relationship between mass-made consumer goods and the often romanticized and rarified touch of the artist. While the weight, one-to-one scale, and slickly reduced forms are compelling, her not-so-subtle critique of contemporary consumer throwaway culture is perhaps more notable.
Another work, Arrow Keys (2007), is part of the series 1:12, in which the artist made a number of stone sculptures of objects—an ink stamp, batteries, and various keyboard keys—at twelve times their original scale. Arrow Keys and Enter Key (2007) both invoke Moore’s overall interest in technology and permanence, but these works (and others in the 1:12 series) use an inflated scale to convey other ideas about how the human body relates to common objects. What happens to the intimacy of the handheld when keyboard keys, cell phones, batteries, and watches become oversized and unwieldy?
Laura Moore uses recognizable forms and art-historically significant materials for uncommon purposes that humorously, critically, and constructively offer new ways of looking at the technologies and mechanisms of contemporary consumer culture.
Written by A. Will Brown