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Foam presents the work of multi-disciplinary artist Dominic Hawgood
CG visualisation, 2019 © Dominic Hawgood.

AMSTERDAM.- As part of the Next Level exhibition series, Foam presents the work of multi-disciplinary artist Dominic Hawgood (1980, UK). In this exhibition, titled Casting Out the Self, Hawgood visualises the effect of the drug dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which he personally experienced as a transfer into the digital realm. His work creates a hallucinatory effect: photographs seem to move, flat surfaces reveal hidden depths, and the perception of space turns out to be an illusion. Hawgood researches and appropriates elements of computational photography into his work, leading into intriguing site-specific installations and sculptural elements that refer to both spiritual ceremonies and the digital rituals of computer graphics. Through lighting design, Hawgood creates a unique atmosphere that transforms the exhibition space into a twilight zone between physical and digital reality. Hawgood not only pushes the boundaries of the medium of photography but also expresses a highly innovative approach to exhibition design.

The growing popularity of psychedelic drugs in the west reveals a growing thirst for spiritual experience in a highly digitised world in which we find ourselves increasingly disconnected with our environment. Dominic Hawgood responds to this development by connecting rituals associated with spirituality with the ‘rituals’ of digital practices such as CGI (computer-generated imagery), photogrammetry and 3D-rendering – new technologies that are fundamentally changing the nature of photography and altering the ways we experience and understand the world.

In this first major solo exhibition, designed specifically for Foam, Dominic Hawgood creates an immersive environment that plays tricks on the visitors’ perception. Dispensing with the usual museum lighting, his stylized application of LED lighting produces a minimal, scientific, yet seductive atmosphere. The pink, purple and blue colour palette of the exhibition references image-based lighting techniques found in 3D computer graphics, such as ‘normal mapping’, which exploits colour information within photographs to compute surface detail within software. Ritualistic objects used in spiritual ceremonies are combined with instruments that appear in visual computing research papers: a circle of light columns appropriates a scanning rig used for photogrammetry, and takes up the shape of a sacral altar setting in the exhibition space. A recurring element throughout Casting Out the Self is the Buddha: besides a popular spiritual icon, it is also one of the first objects that was used in the mid-nineties by Stanford University for 3D scanning tests. As a result, the Buddha has become a ‘render primitive’: a frequently used and historically significant 3D test-model in the world of CGI. Hawgood incorporated the innovative techniques of computational photography into his artistic practice, testing our perception of what we acknowledge to be real.

In the ceremonial atmosphere of the exhibition, spirituality is endowed with digital features so that digital reality also appears to be idolised. In this way, Hawgood accurately captures the ambivalence of the digital world we live in: the magic of infinite possibilities contrasts sharply with our brief attention span, information overload, persistent distraction, loneliness and seclusion.

Dominic Hawgood’s work is based on photography, but he concentrates on site-specific installations. His work comprises both moving and stationary images, for which he increasingly uses digital media. Since graduating from London’s Royal College of Art in 2014, Hawgood has had solo exhibitions at TJ Boulting, London; Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin; and the Digital Festival X British Science Festival in Brighton. In 2014 he won the British Journal of Photography International Award. In 2015 he was selected as Foam Talent and his project Under the Influence was included in the traveling Foam Talent exhibition. Dominic Hawgood lives and works in London.

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