Petra Cortright’s floral digital paintings command a lot of attention these days, but given the choice, I’d pretty much always look her system landscape GIFs from 2007. Perhaps it’s just a preference for her choice of media, but I also consider the work more important for its early example use of the computer environment as a compositional device. We see that a lot more commonly now—new and established artists like Camille Henrot, Sondra Perry and Saul Chernick have all used the commuter screen to frame their work with great success—and with good reason. It has a large presence in our minds and shapes how we see the world. Cortright was sensitive to this earlier then most.
Unlike most landscapes, which suggest passage through them, many of the animations in this series show us the places, but prevent us from entering. At every mapping stage there are broken notices like “Try Again.” and “Door is Closed.” Later in the sequence, the images switch to small growing flowers surrounded by wire frames that size up as the plants get bigger. By the end the windows have become tiny. “Connected” reads one, followed by “Disconnected.” Ten “Cloud Forest”, then a seemingly endless number of tiny squares with landscapes, each reading “Away Message.” “I’m back!”