Curated Selection Prize 2014: Synthetic Landscapes curated by Laura Dennis

Lilah Fowler, Tests, 2013

Laura Dennis, the last of our Curated Selection Prizewinners, selects work from the directory that explores landscape in a digital age

Selected artists

Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, Ruth Brenner, Matt Gee,
Lilah Fowler, Robin Tarbet, Susan Eyre

 After everything that’s happened, how can the world still be so beautiful?
- Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

What does landscape mean to artists working in a digital age? This selection brings together a group of six artists whose work explores the artificial or synthetic as a means of interpreting landscape.

In the popular imagination scientific innovation is associated with urban or virtual environments, yet perhaps it is the natural world where the interrelationship with technology exists at a more fundamental level? Our post-industrial landscape resonates with invisible chemical and bioengineered processes, and our contemporary understanding of nature has revealed genetic coding and mathematical sequences closely aligned with computational techniques.

In different ways, each of these artists addresses concerns about the relationship between the man-made and landscape. Together they evoke a vision of the future that is at times sinister, sometimes utopian, but one that is always compelling.

  • Robin Tarbet

    Robin Tarbet, Concrete Fossils, 2010

    Concrete Fossils, 2010

    Robin Tarbet’s collection of Concrete Fossils is a humorous depiction of the archaeological discoveries of tomorrow.  Everyday objects from the digital age have been cast in concrete, and thus transformed into the geological relics of an imagined future.  But as we dig deeper, we discover the underlying meaning of the work - a comment on the pace with which technology becomes outdated and obsolete.  Given the unrelenting forward flow of consumerism, the ‘fossilisation’ of digital artefacts occurs not over many generations, but at the speed at which a new device is brought to market.

    View Robin Tarbet's profile
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  • Susan Eyre

    Susan Eyre, StrataGem(ii), 2009

    StrataGem(ii), 2009

    In the screen print StrataGem(ii), Susan Eyres has created a mesmerising image of geological strata using items of plastic landfill. Shimmering, iridescent layers of waste packaging form the imagined rock structures and gemstones of a distant future. Despite its apparent beauty, the image is unsettling: it prompts us to contemplate the far-reaching impact of human activity upon the earth, and a legacy in which the man-made and natural worlds have become indistinguishable. 

    View Susan Eyre's profile
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Laura Dennis, June 2014

 About Laura Dennis

Laura DennisLaura is currently studying MA Curation at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). Here she tells us about returning to her hometown to study, how her course is going and her secret interest in all things Sci-Fi.

Tell us about your background
I live in London, but I’m originally from Norwich. It’s nice to return to my hometown on the days I’m at NUA. My first degree was in History of Art, which I studied at the University of Bristol. I graduated back in 2003, and then worked primarily as a Curator and Project Manager involved in commissioning art for the public realm. I’ve held positions at consultancies such as Artpoint and Modus Operandi and my most recent role was at the art and design practice United Visual Artists.

Why did you embark on your MA?
I’ve wanted to study for an MA for a few years, but I never found quite the right time… I was still learning a lot in my professional life, and quite nervous about leaving paid employment in the arts during a recession. However, in 2012 I had a baby daughter, which meant that I was able to take a step back from working life. Alongside getting to grips with being a mum, I also started to reflect on my career and how it might develop. Once my daughter started nursery it seemed to be an ideal time to study for an MA.

Why did you choose your MA course?
There were lots of reasons! But I particularly liked the breadth in how curating is understood at NUA. And being able to work with the Arts Council Collection on our end-of-year show is a real gem of an opportunity!

What in particular would you say you have got out of your MA course so far?
Inspiration, self-confidence, practical experience, knowledge… and a growing enthusiasm for the subject.

When creating your curated selection, where did you start?
I started by looking at the profiles of some artists whose work I had seen in the past to find out what they had been working on more recently. This also pointed me in the direction of several artists whose work was new to me.

How did you come up with your theme?
Well I had really bad tonsillitis at the time… it sort of came to me whilst I had a 40° fever. I hope that this isn’t the only way I can come up with new ideas!

What first caught your eye about the work you selected? 
I’m a closet Sci-Fi fan, so anything that’s got a slightly synthetic, dystopian, future-noir feel about it is going to appeal to me.

What has winning the curated selection prize meant to you?
I’m thrilled to have won this award – I’m delighted that the selection panel thought that my curatorial ideas would appeal to the Axisweb community, and I also feel more confident about my potential as a future curator.

And finally, what do you think the role of the curator is?
Oh, that’s simple: to share.

View Laura Dennis's profile >


About the Curated Selection Prize 2014

Earlier this year, we asked MA Curating, History of Art and Critical Writing students from across the country to enter our Curated Selection Prize. The brief was to take a look at the Axisweb directory and curate an online exhibition for the website. To enter they had to select a theme, find six art works connected to that theme and write up their choice for our features section.

The three winners are:

Denise Courcoux
MA Art Gallery & Museum Studies, University of Manchester

Laura Dennis
MA Curation, Norwich University of the Arts (NUA)

Anneka French
MA History of Art and Design, Birmingham City University

They have been awarded £300, one year’s Art Professional Membership and their selection will be published on Axisweb. 


Related content on Axisweb

Curated Selection Prize 2014:  The Artists' Archive curated by Anneka French >

Curated Selection Prize 2014: Possessed curated Denise Courcoux >

Previous Curated Selections >

More about the Curated Selection Prize 2014 >

Browse the directory to curate your own selection >