Sian Fan, Spore, 2020, presented by wherestheframe?

The Credit X Film Programme, presented by Modern Forms, is a 12-month, 12-film series of video artworks shown via galleries in the Credit X network, curated by Mazzy-Mae Green, Nick Hackworth, and Greta Voeller, with each film to be shown alongside a text from one of the curators.

The programme’s fourth screening is of Sian Fan’s Spore, which is available to watch from 21 April – 21 May 2022.

Text by Greta Voeller

“Everything is connected” says pioneering ecologist Suzanne Simard when studying the social behaviors of trees and their communication through the fungal network below ground. Indulging on this statement, I often refer to Simard’s analysis of interconnectivity beyond the context of natural sciences. Her words seem particularly pertinent in Sian Fan’s artwork titled Spore. At first glance, digital particles roam within the screen in organic discordance, like an organism floating in water or catching a glimpse of a landscape caught in an act of evolutionary transition over decades. Upon further inspection, it appears that Fan is playing on various planes of human experience; her practice feels like a labyrinthine spider’s web of intersecting cosmos. The interdisciplinary artist disrupts the hyper-, inter-, and über-connected digital sphere, establishing seemingly organic encounters familiar to natural settings, in an overabundant, mechanical virtual context. Her work Spore is synonymous with this, being a looping NFT whose hypnotic dynamism through repetitive patterns opens a contemplative state, exploring the tension between the natural and the digital. “I think NFTs are an interesting space for art to engage with. In the one sense, they create a setting where digital works can exist in as close to a purely digital form as possible, and on the other, they have a vast potential to develop alongside our growing digital ecosystems and become even more entangled with our physical realities.”

Through this piece, Fan creates an in-between space, an idyllic nirvana for the viewer’s escape. “Spore is my genesis piece, representing my curiosity and first immersion into the NFT space. It felt quite different to works typically associated with NFTs or crypto art, as I was interested in challenging and rendering something with a more reflective quality.” Through the photogrammetric scans of plants and flowers, the artist creates computer-generated textures that merge into one another, deeply recalling plant symbiosis. Here, the virtual stimulates the natural. As we observe Spore loop repetitively, it mesmerises the viewer into a state of trance and visually appears to be growing and evolving with every cycle. “The work is designed to subvert our expectations of digital experiences, instead offering a meditative remedy for our ever-increasing screen time.”  

Fan’s piece is emblematic of a contemporary thirst in art and social practices, to move beyond a technophilic focus for innovation, and instead look towards nature and restoration to (re)shape the world around us. This can be famously observed within the symbol of contemporaneity – the internet – which is in fact built like a plant: entirely decentralised, widespread, and made up of identical and repeated nodes, without specialised organs. Curiously we can also observe the opposite in processes of linguistic contamination; in analogy with the much better-known World Wide Web (the network that connects billions of people on the planet), Wood Wide Web is an expression used by scientists to indicate the dense network of underground interactions between fungi and plants, known as mycorrhiza (mycelium). The chosen title of Fan’s work Spore perfectly fits this eco-digital entanglement and alludes to being a fragment of a larger interactive system: a unit with reproductive or evolutionary capabilities, where pixels are compared to spores as tiny pieces creating a larger whole. “I often use botanical references within my work as representations of life, consciousness, and spirit. To me botanics speak to the intangible essence of being alive, having a soul and of being connected.”

For more information on Spore, please contact wherestheframe?.

View the Collection

Conrad Shawcross, Yarn, 2001

Zak Ové, The Invisible Men, 2016

Christopher Orr, Some Time of This Day, 2007

Children of the Light, Silver Sphere, 2022