Archival Analysis - Grayson Cooke and Material Memory

By
Madeleine Pierpont

Especially in today's digitally driven world, the way we intentionally and unintentionally leave records of the past has become more complex. Even our basic daily activity - whether online or off - creates some kind of footprint. This begs the question: what kind of archives are created out of our human and environmental histories? New Zealand born and Australian based artist Grayson Cooke is fascinated by the notion of 'the archive' and offers a variety of investigations into it with his artistic and scholarly projects. While some of his earlier work focuses on the human and bodily archive, his more recent work has shifted to an exploration of geological and environmental archives. His 'Invalid Data' photographic series and Open Air film consider "archives of archives" as Cooke puts it - that is earth's natural archive evidenced in its geological and environmental changes and the databases that document those changes. 

While Open Air combines satellite imagery of Australia with aerial photography of work from painter Emma Walker, each Kati Thanda 2017 03 12 and Darwin 2018 01 27 from his 'Invalid Data' series draw on data from an initiative called Digital Earth Australia (DEA). Because DEA's pursuit is to collect aerial data of the earth's landscape, the project is left with a mass of cloud-covered imagery that it cannot use. Cooke cleverly uses this discarded data of cloud coverage in combination with infrared light processing to produce stunning images of Australia's cloud formations. Each of these works highlights the diversity of textures and colors present in the Australian ecosystem. In Cooke's own words, they also "explore different ways of figuring the complexity of the Earth system, including the enormous influence of human activities on that system."

Grayson Cooke, Darwin 2018 01 27, Edition of 5


Cooke's artistic practice is even more enriched by his academic research into similar areas of intrigue. As an Associate Professor of Media in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University, Cooke regularly publishes articles on the intersection of art, media, and the environment. His article "Archival memory and dissolution: the after image project," provides insight into Cooke's thinking around archives and "how we relate to archives as material memories." 

Grayson Cooke certainly stays busy! Aside from his scholarly and artistic pursuits, he has kept up a Covid-19 journal of sorts in which he shares some of the projects that he has been working on at home. No doubt channelling the extra hours spent inside into creative experimentation, Cooke has been playing his "tar" drum and creating time-lapse videos. To explore his Covid-19 journey, you can visit Grayson Cooke's website here.

You can take a look at Open AirKati Thanda 2017 03 12, and Darwin 2018 01 27 on the artist's page in Electric Artefacts' Inaugural Show here.

Portrait of Grayson Cooke
By
Madeleine Pierpont
,
Curatorial Assistant, Lumen Art Projects

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