Can You Hear Me?

1 January – 31 December 2017


Redefining transmittance
and evading the digital cacophony

Some 17 million historically-significant photos – including Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment and JFK Jr. saluting his father’s coffin – were acquired in 1995 for commercial purposes from the Bettmann International Archive by Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. The rights were sold on again in 2016 to a Chinese stock photo and licensing company. To who does this heritage of data really belong?

Our seventh annual curated online exhibition asked what role artists can play in transmitting data of political or social importance and whether digital processes can reveal new perspectives. Post-Truth (‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’) was named as The Oxford Dictionary’s word of 2016. In light of recent referenda and elections, we presented two artworks that reflected the current emotional climate in UK and American politics, the diminishing public trust in factual evidence, polls and the shifting perceptions of the establishment.


Anna Brownsted
Jessica Harby



Anna Brownsted is an American artist currently (2018) resident in the UK. Diplomat was a series of short meditative films capturing unpredictable ‘remixes’ of a warped long-playing record. The record, issued in 1964, was a heat damaged and almost comically warped memorial album for the then-recently assassinated American president, John F. Kennedy, featuring several of his most famous speeches. Each time the album was played, it revealed a slightly different variation of the words due to the record player needle bouncing across the surface of Kennedy’s Oath of Office and Inaugural Address, partially erasing the fabric of the recording medium in the process. What initially seemed to be a single short film was actually 100 short films – one for each of JFK’s first 100 days in office – beginning with a randomly selected short.

Jessica Harby is an American-born artist who was considering becoming a British citizen. In Referendum she turned over her citizenship decision to the public by inviting them to vote. The artwork reduced the practical and legal arguments for citizenship to a flood of visuals concerning the country of her birth and the country she now calls home. These two animated GIFs cycled rapidly through images associated with the United States and United Kingdom, together with a pertinent quote from Rebecca Solnit’s book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Would the visuals have an effect on the viewer’s decision? Underneath was an interactive ballot where the viewer was invited to cast a vote that will influence Harby’s choice of citizenship at the end of the year.

Fermynwoods would like to thank Gary Thomas (Associate Director, Animate Projects) for his assistance in selecting the artists for this online exhibition.

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