Vaughn Whitney Garland

Vaughn-GarlandVaughn Whitney Garland received his M.F.A. in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2003.  He is a PhD candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University in the interdisciplinary Media, Art, and Text (MATX) program. His dissertation is currently titled Place, Participation, and the Digital Collective.

Artist’s Statement

I am a multi-media artist/teacher working with digital media, computer code, online participatory culture, video installation, sound art, painting, and drawing. Using found material from the Internet and mass media, as well as audio and video recorded in the field, I create multi-media and digital installation projects that explore notions of public and private space. In addition, my work seeks to encourage new modes of online participation through community collaboration and practice.

Collecting and uncovering fragmented and hidden information is essential to all my work.  Through the physical act of taking apart and putting back together, I rearrange visual, audio, digital and conceptual information in order to comprehend it in a more real way.  Working in ways that focus on discrete pieces of data—which I refer to as episodes in my paintings and drawings—allows me to piece things together to uncover and illuminate new meanings. My efforts serve to isolate individual episodes, create new relationship between these individuals, and ultimately show the beauty that exists within diverse, shared communities.

In my paintings, the acts of brushing, wiping, abstracting, and isolating parts of space correspond to the ability to question identity and experience. Sets of marks—episodes—which are lodged in the surrounding ground, may stand alone in a layer, or may thrive off of neighboring episodes.  The layers are used to isolate relationships, clarify questions, and denote a history.

The paintings may capture a symbiosis of time, resembling abstracted landscapes, topographical maps, moss ecologies, or sky charts. Or, they also may suggest a type of biological study, chaotic climate changes, and the realization of our present-day fear concerning catastrophe.

The digital works of art follow in much the same was as my painting practice, wherein the episode becomes the focus for evaluation and exhibition.  This is most evident in my sound art where I combine numerous layers of field-recorded and digitally manipulated and synthesized sounds into complex compositions. Even with these works of art, the layers are added, removed, abstracted, pushed and pulled, all in an effort to reveal isolated moments within a seeming cacophony.  It is my hope that the episode—the individual moment of hearing parts within a whole—pushes the audience to deeper moment of listening.

The Second City 2010
Video and Sound Installation
58 minutes, looped

Using screen captures of Google streetview, The Second City follows the desolate, abandoned road, originally constructed to connect the planned community of California, CA with a sister expansion community, now known simply as “the second city.” Developed in the mid-1960s, the landscape of the second city includes paved and named streets; however, homes and buildings were never constructed, as the area’s popularity never matched the expectations of the developer.

The Google street view application is created using series’ of still images taken by a 360 degree camera attached to a roving Google vehicle. Viewers can navigate these images, which are seamlessly linked together, traveling from place to place by clicking forward into represented pace. The 688 images that comprise The Second City are computer desktop screen shots that capture the transition from one still image to the next. Rather than representing the photographs taken by the Google car camera, the video links the transient in-between moments created as the application processes user commands.

The audio component accompanying the video is a manipulation of the soundtrack from the 1959 post-apocalyptic film On the Beach, directed by Stanley Kramer. Most of the dialogue and music from the film has been stripped away, leaving behind mysterious ambient sounds, which have been composed and looped into an eerie, syncopated rhythm. The enigmatic audio belies the film’s storyline, which follows the fate of the people who live in a small Australian town, the last bastion of humanity that will inevitably succumb to a cloud of nuclear fallout. The town’s inhabitants, despite knowing their fate, continue to live as if nothing is wrong.

The introductory imagery—scrolling, nearly illegible text—is an entire chapter from Mark Twain’s seminal work Huck Finn. In this chapter, Huck’s story is enormously affected by two essential watersheds—his introduction to Jim, a runaway slave and his discovery, with Jim, of a dead body floating down the Mississippi river.


The Bunny Book 2010

Do all things need to be documented in order to have a place in the world? Or, more specifically, must a visual object be documented visually, whether through physical means or digital? Since I do not consider this project as an object, how can I justify its need for documentation? If fact, what I think is the essential documentation is the discourse that might be created by people encountering the object, not the object itself. Like Tino Shegal’s recent Guggenheim NY exhibition where there is no tangible object nor document, what is left is the conversation, the experience. I am increasingly interested in this idea, the relationship between an object and the documentation of that object. How may one discuss what is not there? What is left is the abstract thought. What we do not have is the object that plays the role of vessel. Does that make the project invalid?

Given the history of books as printed objects, my project also references concepts of reproduction and originality. This digital book was created entirely using “fair use” or open source images. Conducting Google searches and “appropriating” information from online sources is common, so questions of origin and author are still viable subjects of inquiry. Is my project solely mine, or does it belong to every person who contributed open source images that I appropriated? These are questions still left to be explored.

Over the past several months, in order to develop a conversation, I started a project that would focus interpretation of an art object on a discussion about that object, as opposed to a critique of the object itself. My hope was to engage students in a Media, Art, and Text Lab course by starting a debate about how to classify a visual work of art that would only be documented as an aural discussion. I chose to assemble images and text into a book format only visible on the computer. Even though the book looks lifelike on the screen, it will not exist in material/physical space. The book will only be viewed through a computer program: as a PDF flipbook

The purpose of creating a book is two-fold. First, my project calls attention to the significance the MATX program has placed on the concept of the book, and how the introduction of digital texts has redefined the book. Secondly, the work comments on the reliance of the visual “look” or “feel” of a book: even though this format is digital the book is not. So, why is it that when we look at this grouping of images that mimics a book’s format, do we expect that it exists (or will eventually exist) as a physical object?



The Garden
Experimental Field Recording, 2013

System Overload
Experimental Field Recording, 2013

Machine Cater
Experimental Field Recording, 2013

Sough de Novo
Experimental Field Recording, 2013


Explosive Motor, Wind, Heartbeat, and Landslide
Experimental Field Recording with Video, 2012 (Images collected from web camera)

Into The Fall
Experimental Field Recording with Video, 2011 (Images collected from web camera)