I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Art from Digital Detritus: Luke Wyatt

by Chris Sutton
Sept. 13, 2014

The infinite freedom the internet has given humanity has eliminated the phenomenon of the global trend. Since any human being can create his or her reality and personal tastes are not held in the palms of a few controllers, there seems to be almost no need for an artistic visionary to show us the way. Nowadays, all of popular experience can be homogenized and manipulated to suit the individual whim, and the individual can live in their own customized universe devoid of time, space, or practicality contraints. In short, all of the artistic trails have been blazed by past masters and all of the great musings have been made available to anyone interested, so how does the modern creative find that undeniable new voice when there seemingly isn't one to be had? For the burgeoning wellspring of young hopefuls in this century the answer is to comb through the mountains of pop culture detritus we've left in our landfills and turn this garbage into artistic gold. No other genre embodies this sentiment better than the newest wave of video artists from the last decade or so. We've had Tracy and The Plastics live interactive video choreography and Ryan Trecartins hyperactive brain melting sit-com parody I.B. Area as just a couple of the projects that have provided spark and depth to the genre, while Tim & Eric's early experiments in gaudy lo-fidelity discomfort have vaulted them from cult level abstractionists into commercial level industry trendsetters.

Brooklyn based artist Luke Wyatt has taken the aesthetics of this movement and stripped those ideas down to it's most primitive offerings while at the same time showing society a quite unsettling vision of the future. His art reveals an unrelenting obsession with VHS and 80's nostalgia and at first glance comes across as a blatant molestation of the past filtered through shards of choppy saturated effects. Upon furthur analysis however, these violent dreamscapes and repetitive swathes of horror are touched with an infectiously fun energy, and like icons Cindy Sherman and Matthew Barney, use the artists own image to personalize and connect the viewer to his internal senses of humor. Often working under the pseudonym Torn Hawk, Wyatt fillets and violates Reagan-era found footage and introduces the results into your cortex with a blunt rusty shovel. To anyone of a certain age the effect can be like gathering all of your darkest childhood media memories and bludgeoning them in a blender on its highest setting, then forcing yourself to watch the pulpy mess Clockwork Orange style through a broken kaleidoscope.

Despite the cacophony of these psychedelic ramblings, concise themes do present themselves from beneath all of the psychosis. "Bad Deadlift", one of his more sprawling works, offers up multiple images of coffins, boxes, and other claustrophobic situations to create an atmosphere of unfocused fear. Initially, you might feel like you've been buried alive with your nightmares but a sliver of inspiration emerges and conscious messages start to make themselves apparent by the end. "Quadropedio" features Luke working his editing expertise on shots of muscular body parts writhing and twisting to a mechanical rhythm, effortlessly redefining sex as robotic nausea with facetious glee.

His surrealist affluency is not just limited to the screen however, for Luke is equally prolific and avante-garde musically. While standing firmly in the realm of abstract/noise, his music seems to be more esoteric and flexible. For example, the soundtrack to "Burn To Win" sounds like a deliciously zen mashup of the first seconds of Tears For Fears "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" and Don Henley's "Boys Of Summer" frozen in a block of ice, an almost optimistic and soaring result in it's quality and an interesting foray away from his more challenging and edgy material.

Ultimately, The magic of Luke Wyatt is his ability to highlight and beautify the crevasses and imperfections of the VHS medium. People in their 30s will remember frustrating amounts of time adjusting out fuzz with the tracking devices on their videotape players or laboriously trying to optimize the clarity with bulky and messy cleaning solutions. Wyatt, like a true punk, has seemingly chosen to work with ONLY those anomalies and has created entire alternate universes with them. Static, saturations, and grainy pixels are used like Jackson Pollack or Salvador Dali might use their paintbrushes and scenes from long forgotten movies are spliced with haphazard precision like a Linder Sterling collage twisted through a dirty meat grinder. His images will probably never be palpable enough to appease the more uptight artistic palette and this hardly matters, because if the frenetic explosions he's exhibited are any indication of what he has yet to produce, it will take a while for those traditionalist opinions to catch up with with this light speed level talent anyway.


Chris Sutton is a musician, writer, and artist who currently lives in Portland OR, and grew up in Olympia, WA. He plays or has played with numerous musical acts including Gossip, The Dirtbombs, Dub Narcotic Sound System, Spider & The Webs, Chain & The Gang, & Hornet Leg. Chris has been so obsessed with records over his life that he writes a vinyl collecting memoir/blog called Record Lections on Instagram and he is often seen Djing his new discoveries in local bars or posting mixes on SoundCloud or Mixcloud. He is also a big fan of visual art with a special passion for African American folk art, Impressionism, European New Wave cinema, and most eras of television. Most of the books he reads, whether fact or fiction, usually have drawings in them. Chris's best friends are his faithful rat terriers Juju and Queenie.