The Pegasus Project
Walking into the RCA Visual Gallery on Victoria Street in St. Johnís as of late, one might find themselves greeted by some strange sights. Those of an uncountable number of trading cards hanging from the ceiling by coloured threads; low-res television images printed by inkjet onto paper, and assembled into a canvas tribute to the sitcom "All in the Family"; and of a six by six foot canvas filled to the brim with words, phrases, and doodles in black felt-tip marker. All seeming rather silly, sarcastic, random, and meaningless. The strangest sight, however, would be that of the projection screen: Ben Evans' website (of sorts), The Pegasus Project. The Pegasus Project, the meat of his exhibition (on show until the 28th of March), is projected against a blank wall of the gallery, to be explored in all of it's confusing glory through the clicks of a mouse, sitting atop a pedestal in the center of the room.
Newfoundland artist Ben Evans' new exhibition, The Pegasus Project, takes it's name from a "painting" by the late Jean-Michel Basquiat called simply "Pegasus". Pegasus was a canvas filled with tiny quotations, phrases and cultural references. From the crude to the cultured, and small drawings or doodles. Evans, as he puts it in his artist statement (to be found on the site), saw this piece not as a "painting" but as a "new form of poetry", of expressing one's relationship to the confusing modern world, and the information with which it bombarded us all.
As such, Evans' website is laid out in much the same way. At first glance in seemingly confusing manner. It consists mostly of images taking the dimensions of trading cards, from a series relating to the Kennedy assassination to children's puppets having a philosophical debate. To crude computer drawings of astrological signs, a short story based on the Tarot; and so on, and so on. It also includes an appropriate backing soundscape and sometimes even video.
Each series of images is grouped together by what are called "Synchronous Links" in a small menu underneath them. Hops from series to series can be made either through the "maps"- small chunks of a larger, "Pegasus"-like piece by Evans upon which the doodles and phrases are links to images elsewhere on the site. Or "Asynchronous Links", links made between images contained in different series which are somehow interrelated.
No artist statement having been provided with the exhibition, one must "earn" access to essays Evans himself has written, relating to the site's intent, through the site itself by exploration. A series of possible questions the viewer might ask can be found on the site. The answers are found by following paths provided by Evans. Viewers are awarded for the effort of finding and reading Evans' answers by being given immediate access to any series of images on the site.
The intent of this exhibition could easily be misconstrued, at first, as an ironic one. Many of Evans' images are humorous and seemingly smack of sarcasm. For example, those of the television puppets engaged in a philosophical debate -- one image depicts a plush monkey, stating quite matter-of-factly, "it seems to me that we are doomed to forever imitate failed revolutions in a kind of pathetic self-mockery!". This seems to me, in fact, to be a satire on punditry, of the divergent and sometimes nonsensical philosophies and views thrown our way as a means of making sense of things. When in fact, they make existence only all the more confusing. All of the seemingly divergent series of information on Evans' site are, in fact, meant to reflect how we now gather information in our daily lives- in bits and scraps, sound bytes, always taken at face value. The real "message", of sorts, of The Pegasus Project is one of the personal responsibility to assemble and attempt to make sense of all the flotsam and jetsam, a message of the responsibility of self-education. Quite serious stuff indeed.
While seemingly quite large and imposing at first, the seams of Evans' website start to show after a couple of hours of surfing. The initial feeling of being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content on this site has passed. The Pegasus Project is no longer illustrative of it's own point. It becomes as familiar as the lines on the palm of one's hand, and no longer symbolic of the existential ideas it initially inspires. It is something of a space quite limited, in fact, which only suggests the infinite. As such, it is a project that is continually growing.
While The Pegasus Project exhibition currently being shown at the RCA Visual Gallery is, in it's own way, a "whole" piece, Evans is constantly working on the next version of the Project, and finding new meaning(s) in it. Only when the Project is as expansive and seemingly boundless as one of the mediums it attempts to symbolise- the internet- will it truly succeed in it's aims. For the moment, it makes for an interesting afternoon or two, a few good chuckles, and a moment's reflection. It shows a lot of promise for the work Evans might pursue in the future.
"The Pegasus Project" is being exhibited at the RCA Visual Gallery, 3 Victoria Road, St. John's Newfoundland, until the 28th of March. It is available for purchase on CD-Rom at the Gallery and can be viewed on the website at www.pegasusproject.ca.