PRINT May 2021


IN A YEAR THAT HAS FELT LIKE one long, Zoom-facilitated meltdown, techno-futurism no longer seems like a cutely menacing abstraction. Luke Libera Moore’s photos speak to the neurasthenic stupor isolation tends to induce, documenting the anxiety and fascination we bring to narratives of personal and scientific progress. If the rituals you’ve developed around your digital life seem ineffectual against a mounting sense of dread, his work will make you feel seen.

The works presented here include two thermal images of still lifes, which the artist created by heating and cooling the various photographed elements to different temperatures. Their atmospheric ambiguity contrasts with the directness of Become Today, 2016, a beady-eyed chicken cutlet that is, in the artist’s words, a “rumination on what I might call the burden of embodiment” but also “an inviolable yet malleable symbol that spreads like a meme or a cultist ideology.” Pepe the Frog brought to life by David Cronenberg? Maybe. For some of us, there might also be an undercurrent of Cronenberg’s 1996 film Crash in Libera Moore’s assemblages of found plastic and retrofitted gadgets. Much of this material is apparently detritus from car accidents—debris that the artist gathers on his bike rides around New York, where he lives. It’s worth noting that Libera Moore counts J. G. Ballard, who wrote the novel on which Cronenberg’s movie is based, as one of his many influences (alongside the likes of Cindy Sherman and manga artist Katsuhiro Otomo).

To photograph the startling, precise sculptures seen in the following pages, Libera Moore used the commercial technique of focus stacking: shooting an object at incrementally increasing focus distances, then merging the multiple resulting images into a preternaturally sharp composite. This approach raises existential questions similar to those posed by the algorithms that endlessly scrape and recombine troves of digital imagery, e.g., the videos informing a deepfake or the automated landscape photographs stitched together to form Google Street View. As the artist explains, the technique “distances the image from both our typical understanding of what a photograph looks like and how we see generally.”

Dawn Chan

From left: Luke Libera Moore, Become Today, 2016, digital photograph. Luke Libera Moore, Sample, 2021, digital infrared thermograph.

From left: Luke Libera Moore, Biocode, 2021, digital photograph. Luke Libera Moore, Carbon Console, 2021, digital photograph.

Luke Libera Moore, Uncertainty Model #1, 2021, digital photograph.

From left: Luke Libera Moore, Meta-Transaction #1: Morning Sacrament, 2020, digital photograph. Luke Libera Moore, Accident (Entropic Model), 2021, digital infrared thermograph.