STEPHEN HALEY | WORLD STANDARD
30 JUNE – 30 JULY 2016
There are two fundamental movements that define our age – immense tectonic forces, they rattle the world and all aspect of being – rapid global urbanization and the dawn of the digital era.
In 1900 only 10% of the world’s population lived in cities. By 1990 that had reached 50% and it is estimated that by 2025 this will rise to 75%. This is an unprecedented situation whose environmental effects alone have many geologists proposing that the Holocene Era is over and the Anthropocene – where human activity is the single greatest determiner of planet’s physical condition – has begun. The concurrent birth of the Digital Age contributes to this condition and is similarly without precedent. In the last few decades, computing has radically reworked almost every aspect of human behaviour and has become so embedded in our everyday, analogue world that Google is practically a second memory and we are all, to varying extents, unpaid office workers.
The Post-modern period promised increasing diversity and heterogeneity, yet similarity and repetition prevail as world standards coalesce. Cities and digital platforms are highly rational, abstract foundations that regulate as well as liberate. We make our tools, then they make us. This is most noticeable in urban spaces where individual, particular Places have been increasingly recast as globalized, generic, rational, abstract Spaces. Thus one city becomes fundamentally much like another –making tourism far easier, even if structural variation is erased. These Spaces, the buildings and the objects they contain, are generally created using 3D and other software programs; constructed as virtual simulations before being constructed in actuality. The map precedes the territory and that map is on a screen.
These works picture spaces and objects found virtually everywhere – both figuratively and literally. Selected emblematic objects were purchased from Internet sites – virtual supermarkets of virtual objects – reworked in 3D software, posed, lit, rendered and then recast as paintings whose surface emulates the computer screen, generic ‘clay’ renders and tonal underpainting. These are images drawn from the new world standard. They are a kind of mirror – paintings of generic simulations that have become actual – virtuality is everywhere.
 The Endless City, Urban Age project by London School of Ecomonics and Deutsche Bank’s Alfred Herrhausen Society, Phaidon Press, London 2008