Shifty Packets

September 12 – October 26, 2013
Colleen Wolstenholme : Shifty Packets

Information & Neural Systems:
Colleen Wolstenholme’s The Shifty Packets of the Digital Realm

What happens when the digital and analog duke it out? Who would win in this match: the printing press versus a high-speed internet connection? Or do we have to choose? What happens when you toss neural chemistry, especially abnormal psychology, into the mix? Colleen Wolstenholme studies the brain for her PhD research at York University. Her current exhibition at Art Mur consists of drawings and models that engage in the process of this research. The exhibition is about process rather than product, and ideas as much as form. These are experiments, much like the chemistry of our brains, much like the rapid progress in digital technologies. Our neurons are like switches, synapses dancing. The title of this show is The Shifty Packets of the Digital Realm, denoting the moving targets of our internal systems and external technologies, and how the analog (modernist) is being replaced by the digital (mechanized), altering human society, culture and our collective thought processes.

Wolstenholme is a brave, confident fabricator. She is new to electronic engineering, and some of the works in this exhibition are testaments to this recent endeavor. Her work has always been multi-modal, maximizing many mediums. She conjures a hyperbolic nostalgia for the cult film Valley of the Dolls (re-framed from an ultra-feminist perspective), Pop Art, and the colourful, clean aesthetic of Canadian art stars General Idea. She can be a minimalist and a maximalist, sometimes in the same piece.

The artist dispenses viewers a cornucopia of pharmaceuticals that seem to be potent medicines, candy confections and cast placebos all at once. She gestures to an understanding of all kinds of different drugs and how they work on the the brain, increasing awareness regarding mental health issues and acting as an advocate for people that take drugs to ease their diseases. Whereas her earlier work was grounded in images, Wolstenholme now moves to abstraction and concept in her art, delving deeper into the brain and its inner workings.

Wolstenholme will produce a larger installation reflecting her corpus of research in 2016.