At what point does the idea of “progress” implode? And what role does art play in this progress, through its processes of making? The recent work of Australian duo Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy, which depicts scenes of disaster through explosively colorful pieces, raises these questions. Documents of destruction—NASA footage from the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, images of oil-fuelled eruptions through history—are transformed into fire-bright representations.
The pair’s second solo show “Architects of Destruction,” currently on view at Gallery Wendi Norris in San Francisco, consists of three seemingly divergent media: the playful Lego brick, the crafted cotton cross-stitch, and the tech office-referencing whiteboard. Between these media the viewer can trace the basis of the artists’ practice: a handmade aesthetic with the visual cues of digital culture. Tessellated Lego bricks make up a physically-present object—a shallow wall sculpture in relief—whose final stage is akin to a lo-res digital render. The tools of childish construction are used to recreate events born from progress, but ending in flames, and bring the sublime reaches of outer space back to a familiar base. The large hatches of cross-stitch at a distance look almost pixel-like, so that through hand-darned thread, the theme of technological progress is woven. The slow, time-intensive act of sewing is meanwhile held up as an antithesis to the rapid rate at which we consume the fossil fuels behind these explosions. Whiteboards, conventionally a medium for pre-planning, feature drawings with art historical reference to Albrecht Dürer's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1498), to interrogate just how much power the human hand holds in the cause and prevention of future catastrophe.
Just as the work of art is assembled, it seems, it may come undone. Art and technology both are shown to be fragile, but also somehow spectacular. For whatever media they work in, whichever calamity they choose to depict or predict, Cordeiro & Healy’s latest exhibition bursts with a vivid positivity—that of the act of creation.