PENNY McCARTHY

Laptop Dust

In the Spring of 2020, when the constraints of Covid-19 lockdown so severely contracted my thought-space that my laptop seemed more than ever like a portal into other worlds, I recorded the dust on my screen in a series of images.

I had back pain and was unable to work in the studio or do any of the research I had planned, so my days were spent on zoom, or reading books, or zigzagging between newsfeeds. Everything felt reduced. There were times when I had reached a point of frustrated pain from which the only distraction was provided by my fingers on the keyboard. The fingertips are another kind of screen: a way to register things, acting as a meniscus between the inside and outside of the body, folding together different elements. This is also true of drawing: it’s hard to know where the touch of fingertips stops and vision starts.

The Laptop Dust series is a diary, a record of attention to looking. Although some of the screen images sit somewhat oddly with the drawings I made, each image of the screen corresponds loosely to the period of time spent researching, looking and thinking about the resulting drawings. They are part of the work’s narrative then, but not all of it. As things transpired, the sheer enormity of events in 2020, inflected my project in ways I couldn’t have anticipated because so much time was absorbed by the daily news feed. The image presence of the dust on my screen chronicles the stretch of time of making each drawing, existing in tandem with the drawings, perhaps encapsulating elusive aspects of practice I cannot put into words.

The photographs look like galaxies, auroras, unstable fata morgana events. All sense of scale is lost. The screen is a palimpsest, written over and erased many times, yet still there are traces of actions that are like messages from a lost past.

In one image, it seems to be raining, watery greys and dark streaks dissolving into green smears of distant trees. A delicate stormy yellow, the colour of early evening gives way to a sky patched with white. Another image seems to be decorated with the broken shards of a chandelier. Shooting stars everywhere, and sunlight with dust in it. Hundreds of tiny coloured lights glowing, a city at night seen from the air. A detail of a really pretty paperweight. Slug trails of minerals and mucus. A close-up of grass or is it short green fur?

Pandemic images, slippery, uncertain, without depth or perspective that capture the darting ambiguities of interpreting the screen, a frantic exchange of touch and thought. Images, washed in silver light that are not really images at all but rather a record of shifts of mind — disordered, chaotic, hollow, reflections.

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