Sharing 'Moments with Jason R. Butcher

Visual artist's new solo exhibition blurs line between biology and technology

Jason R. Butcher has always been fascinated by a not-so-simple question: "What is it to be a human individual?" That curiosity is the inspiration behind Butcher's new solo exhibition, Shining Moments. The installation features a series of small plates that appear to be daguerreotypes but, upon closer inspection, prove to be a combo of intricate etchings and digital prints depicting humanoids in twisted positions. Close by, you can find two fake denture installations that incorporate technology in an erratic way.

Butcher's work focuses on the intersection between analog and digital worlds and how they affect human behavior — in this case, with both handmade and computer-generated images. Currently a professor of animation at the Art Institute of Atlanta, Butcher has shown also work at Flux Projects, with Shining Moments being his second solo show at Beep Beep, following 2012's As in a Mirror, Dimly.

"I wanted to limit myself less in scope in comparison with the previous show, which was nearly all pencil on paper/wood, so that has made things a bit more challenging," Butcher says of Shining Moments.

Butcher talks here to Creative Loafing about human experiences, analog versus digital perception, and coming into his own as an artist.

Tell me a bit about the concept behind Shining Moments.

Shining Moments is investigated primarily through a series of etched plates with quasi-human figures emerging from their environment and/or other figures to find distinction and individuality/identity. Several "electronic" objects ask the same question through different means — both through the use of unique materials, but also posing the question on a different scale and context.

What caught your attention about the relationship between humans and their interaction with technology for this show?

It's remarkable how pervasive technology has become, and I wanted the electronic objects incorporated to have a real human dimension. There are no screens. The electronics attempt to illustrate very human experiences, for example grinding/rattling teeth.

Is the show highly interactive? If so, do you hope that the viewer strikes a connection with both the piece and/or a fellow viewer?

Apart from a particular piece, the show is not particularly interactive in the electronic sense. The experience is intended to be more intimate and individual. The etchings are interactive only in that they sometimes offer a muted reflection of the viewer in their surface.

You used several different media in this show, from analog to digital. Tell me about the creative process behind picking those materials and curating the show.

Material and process decisions were made first, and afterward the images were developed — which was the inverse of my approach to the previous show at Beep Beep. The images themselves are binary and are digital in origin, but the subsequent etching process used could be considered "analog." In order to create the etchings, I print the digitally manipulated photos as reversed negatives and transfer them each to copper-clad black phenolic "circuit boards." The panels are then etched and the transfer removed before the plates are polished, tinned — in order to give them their silver appearance — and finally lacquered. I had been using this process for a few years to create small electronic analog synthesizer modules.

Some of the etchings resemble daguerreotypes but aren't. Was this intentional?

I intended to create images that are somewhat indeterminate in their material and production, but at the same time incorporate the interest I've always had in the camera, printmaking, Xerox machines, etc. One of my goals while pursuing an aesthetic response was to realize various creative and material potentials and include a more complete picture of the work I do. This isn't necessarily an aspect which should be understood by the viewer, but it was important for me an as artist to try to bring together some of these scattered approaches in order to make a more concise and complete statement.

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