Duncan Poulton’s practice is fed by an obsessive gathering of online content into a vast digital archive. Made intuitively, his moving collages evoke the sensation of hyper-abundance and consider the mental toll of life in the information age.
Duncan Poulton (b. 1993, Birmingham, UK) is an artist based between London and Brighton. He is a hoarder, a selector and combiner who uses the internet as his palette and imagination. Duncan scours website upon website for lost, ‘poor’ and arbitrary images which have been buried by biased algorithms, in a process he describes as an ‘archaeology of the new’ – a real-time archiving and remediation of our increasingly virtual world. His recent works have explored digital waste, obsolescence and the death of privacy, whilst recurring interests lie in ideas of appropriation, ownership and excess.
His making processes bring the analogue virtues of improvisation, aggression and urgency into the digital production space. Works emerge from ‘material’ processes which use software to play with fidelity, complexity and texture within digital image files: images are crushed and enlarged, erased and duplicated in repetitious cycles. Content sources range from Creative Commons amateur photography, 3D modelling websites, iPhone photos of charity shop books, diagrams and patents, graffiti and found drawings.
“[…] internet culture is not so much a medium or material for him, but the essential parameters in which his life and art exist.” – Ravi Ghosh, Elephant Magazine 2022
In 2022, his debut solo exhibition ‘Factory Reset’ was held at SET Lewisham, London, and his work was featured on WeTransfer, WePresent and in Elephant Magazine. Recent group exhibitions and screenings have taken place at Ars Electronica; MOSTYN, Llandudno; Coventry Biennial; Art Licks Weekend, London; QUAD, Derby; OUTPOST, Norwich; MIT Museum, Massachusetts; Eastside Projects, Birmingham; arebyte, London; CICA Museum, South Korea; and Transmediale, Berlin. He graduated from the University of Brighton in 2015, and from 2019-2021 he participated in the Syllabus, an alternative learning programme led by Wysing Arts Centre and arts venues across England.
If you’re watching this now then this is for you
HD Video / 01:00 min / 2022
00:24 min excerpt
If you’re watching this now then this is for you is a video collage made in collaboration between artist Duncan Poulton and writer Sally Beets. The video combines still images and looping GIFs from mini-datasets found trawling the internet, whilst the script is a poem made from the appropriated titles of TikTok videos. The work pays witness to the experience of anxiety and insomnia fed by social media.
HD Video / 04:42 min / 2019
01:42 min excerpt
Stemming from an online search of ‘Why I Quit YouTube’, Content Anxiety appropriates voices from anonymous teens’ YouTube videos. Perhaps inadvertently, these final posts on their now forgotten channels express the vulnerabilities and paradoxes surrounding cultural production in an age of media saturation, perpetual storage and self-branding.
HD Video / 00:32 min / 2018
Pile (Circles) is a looping animation of every circular image gathered by the artist over a year. Images are layered on top of one other in chronological order of when they were found, downloaded or photographed, forming an enormous, invisible stack of digital information – an index of habit.
HD Video / 07:13 min / 2017
01:44 min excerpt
Using computer-generated footage and 3D models found online by the artist, Pygmalion explores how ancient ideas of perfection and beauty have been carried forward into the digital age. From the plaster cast to the 3D scanned copy, it considers the difference between crafted original objects and their weightless, infinitely replicable computer-generated doubles, suggesting that perfection no longer resides in objects themselves, but in the very act of their faultless and permanent duplication.
HD Video / 02:13 min / 2016
Tunnel is an attempt to reorganise elements of found visual data, visualising the process of journeying across the internet using footage gathered through that very process. The original videos’ contexts, meanings and intentions become secondary to their movement and spatial arrangement; they become incidental, a means to an end or points on a virtual map.
HD Video / 10:00 min / 2015
02:21 min excerpt
Entirely composed from appropriated computer-generated imagery, No Body is a macabre creation myth for the digital age. In the video disparate found imagery is composed with apparent continuity, suggesting a single form which is under the perpetual threat of modification and punishment by its unseen creator. Conceived as a never-ending loop, the work depicts the cruel life cycle of a virtual entity who is infinitely bound to its domain, unable to die or delete itself.