Devout Mash-Ups

Iconoclashes at Mulherin and Pollard is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: Two artists get a program to merge our idols.

This very strange image shows a moment of desperation as a computer tries to stitch together two digital photos, of an Egyptian priest figure and a carved antelope head, that were never meant to live as one. It is part of a witty show called “Iconoclashes” by the artists Erik Berglin and Clement Valla, now at Mulherin and Pollard gallery in New York.

The artists accessed digital photo files for objects at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, selected only those keyworded “god” or “religion”, then let Photoshop’s “merge” tool loose on them, telling the program to assume the images were parts of various panoramas, and to hunt for the bits that it should stitch together. (The white divot at bottom right comes from an unresolvable conflict between the edges of a vertical and a horizontal image.) As the artists put it in their essay, they ended up with “chimeric deities, hybrid talismans, and surreal stellae”. The photos work as a kind of send-up of syncretic religious ideas, often presented as a solution to the world’s conflicts over the sacred. On the other hand, Photoshop’s relative success in finding some kind of order in the mess, and producing vaguely credible objects, seems to argue for a certain underlying uniformity in human thinking and making.

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