Through a constellation of artworks, "4.5 Billion Years" explores relationships between humans, land, and time, and the transformative power inherent in the inscribing of meaning into space. Encounters with the earth's terrains, their ancient age beyond any comprehensible sense of time, radically rearranges space that is already under transformation: over geologic eons, volcanic eruptions protrude islands from oceans, and mountains and plains erode into vistas and fertile soil. In the exhibition, artists survey and examine these symbolic and cultural meanings, mapping plant migration and dispersion, constructing imagined structures and forms that reference landscapes from the subconscious, and excavating core samples that reveal layers of social narratives. Beyond sedimented cultures, works also mine data banks of artificially generated images that provide the ephemeral pixelated surface to reflect back a reimagined world. Through painting, sculpture, photography, and moving image, the works in "4.5 Billion Years" unfold an ever-changing expansive natural terrain where past histories shape the present, bringing to light the dissonance between an unfolding natural topography and a politicized iconic landscape.
Jennifer and Kevin McCoy explore the geologic compositions of constructed digital landscapes. In geology, the term phase diagram describes graphical representations of the physical states of a substance under conditions of temperature and pressure. In this series of works, the artists use StableDiffusion, a deep learning, text-to-image AI used to generate detailed images from text descriptions. They begin with creating forms that echo silhouettes of geological formations, and then proceed to activate distinct elements of each collage with image processing. The layers of images of rocks, mountains, water, and sky appear like striations across the screen, with each layer scanning through an image chosen from databases of AI-developed source images. Here, established media processes like photography and collage are juxtaposed with the swiftly developing technology of AI, and the landscapes reflect back this AI illustration of the natural world that exists in the uncanny valley of distant memory. In an interview, the McCoys explain, “We want to make a connection between the earlier aesthetic sensibilities and the new kind of image that is essentially a statistical image, an ‘averaged’ image created through mathematics.”