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Parody Patent Drawings Highlight Silicon Valley Greed

Artist Jeremy Bailey showcases the absurd ideas he has patented in the new Whitechapel Gallery exhibition, 'Electronic Superhighway.'
February 1, 2016, 5:50pm
Images courtesy the artist

At London’s Whitechapel Gallery, over 100 artworks are currently being shown in Electronic Superhighway, an exhibition which aims to get a sense of how computer and Internet technology have influenced artists from the mid-60s to the present. All told, the range of media artworks by over 70 artists cuts across multimedia, photography, drawing, film, sculpture, and painting. Cory Arcangel, Amalia Ulman, Constant Dullaart and others are showing works alongside legends like Nam June Paik. But what kind of new (and old) media art retrospective would Electronic Superhighway be without “famous new media artist” Jeremy Bailey? One certainly not as whimsical nor playfully satirical.

Known for an outlandish blend of YouTube-esque vlogging and performance art often peppered with augmented reality objects, Bailey decided to switch gears by showing a series of 12 patent drawings. These include a patent for an apparatus that displays an augmented reality sculpture on the internet (as seen in the video below); an augmented reality “primitive skeleton”; and an apparatus for the “display and control of thought driven drawing and media retrieval on the internet.”

“I've been doing patent drawings since 2011 [and] I started doing them when I noticed journalists reporting on what companies like Apple and Google we're patenting as fodder for what products they might release next,” Bailey tells The Creators Project. “Now I draw all my software performances as patent drawings and sometimes speculate on future works. I only created one new patent for the Electronic Supherhighway show, but this is the first time they've all been seen together.”

Though Bailey is taking the piss out of the Silicon Valley companies who voraciously patent software (and the tech journalists who craft clickbait in response), he's clearly also drawn to the aesthetics of actual patent drawings. When he looked at big tech company patent portfolios, he saw “pretty crude, awkward drawings” clearly rendered by humans with varied skill levels.

“I love that these huge glossy companies are revealed in these drawings for what they really are—collections of flawed individuals just like you and me,” Bailey says. “My work is all about celebrating human vulnerability in contrast with technology, so for me they're an obvious extension.”

“My great grandfather was actually an inventor with a few patents granted in the UK—it runs in my blood,” he adds. “One of my favorite patents is for an invention I haven't figured out how to make yet, a dolphin shaped e-cigarette that's also a synthesizer flute, video projector, and bubble machine.”

Though many might visit the Electronic Superhighway exhibition because of the new and young talent involved, Bailey is intent on recognizing past media artists. For him, Electronic Superhighway places recent internet-based works and artists in context with their historical counterparts.

“There's a tendency to think that this millennial generation invented internet art, but many of them, including myself, have been drawing from a rich pool of incredible influences dating back over 40 years,” Bailey says. “I'm really hopeful this is the first of many survey shows of this sort to highlight this amazing history.”

Click here to see more Jeremy Bailey’s work.


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