“Deep learning” is a branch of artificial intelligence that allows a computer to learn to identify and categorize data without human supervision, a kind of technology commonly used in image recognition, facial detection, computer vision, and natural language processing software, among many other things. This series is titled Shallow Learning in contrast or opposition to that term.
Two commonplace yet sophisticated digital tools that recognize or “see” photographs were central to this work. Each of the images in this series is a composite that started as a single image from a past project. These leftover images, which had never been published, exhibited, or posted on the internet, were used as search criteria in Google’s “search by image” feature. This function of the search engine is typically used to track down the provenance of an image found online, but because the images I was searching for did not exist online, the search engine instead offered a selection of visually similar images-- algorithmic guesses at what these pictures showed. I then selected one of these “best guesses” from Google, placed it next to the original image on a blank canvas in Photoshop, and filled in the area between the two images using the “content aware fill” function.
Transition is a series of small photographs printed on aluminum that I shot at an unauthorized, skater-built (D.I.Y.) skatepark on the edge of town, as well as in my studio, where I made still lives out of the leftover building materials and ramp-forms. The work is about skateboarding and the site itself in some ways, but it’s also about the production and subversion of space, creating environments, taking matters into your own hands, manipulating materials, and discovering unrestricted forms of creativity and expression.
My initial interest in this place as subject matter for photographs was the striking contrast between the uselessness and abandonment of it as a commercial or industrial space --it was a ruin-- and how it was being used in its secondary appropriation. I focus my images on the details. The central figure in this series is a concrete embankment added by the skaters to a corner of the lot. I consider the material, formal, and conceptual qualities of this object and the gesture it represents emblematic of a sophisticated spatial practice at work: through a few minimal concrete additions and an all new vision of what could be done there, the skaters had transitioned a chunk of urban blight into a space of freedom and adventure. In these photographs I adopt the same mentality as the skaters, discarding the precepts of photographic representation the way the skaters had discarded the precepts of the urban ruin, hoping to create a new space and a new way of seeing in the process.