The images included in this series have been corrupted by the artist, who randomly inserted computer code, song lyrics, literary passages and personal confessions into them. The source images, which Gray has taken over the last ten years, are digital photographs depicting various fundamental terrestrial elements. Initially Gray had no artistic purpose for them, but he began to revisit the images because of the natural quality they all seemed to possess, representing as they did landscapes which had not been altered by the human.
At the same time, these are digital images. Even though they depict a ‘natural’ landscape, they are in fact produced by human-made digital code. The artist began to explore the digital information that underpinned these images by opening them in text-based code editing software. The information makes no sense in this form, with some letters of the alphabet mixed in with unknown symbols and then joined together by abstract syntax. Through this, the images juxtapose their subject matter (nature) with the binarism of the code (culture).
The artist began the process of corrupting the code by entering simple words that resonated with a given image. He then reopened the image in an image viewer to see the results. Sometimes the image wouldn’t open again, but if it did then usually something unpredictable happened. Gray then progressed to entering passages from popular Australian culture – finding, for example, that inserting the name ‘Miranda’ can split rocks. From there he began to enter personal confessions into the code. The first confessions were short sentences that referred to past events that had never been acknowledged. Sometimes these had no effect at all on the image so he repeated the confessions over and over again, until he saw them manifested on the surface. There is an element of accidental decay to these images that is similar to the entropic process found in natural systems.
Mike Gray is a photographic artist from Perth, Western Australia. Some of the themes explored in his work include applied machismo, uncanny suburbia and post-colonial Australian identity in relation to the idea of Terra Australis. Gray has exhibited in a number of galleries across Australia and internationally. He has also appeared in many publications and has work in numerous collections. Currently he lectures in photography at Curtin University.