With his current exhibition, Strange Roots, conceptual artist Jesse Krimes is intent on folks seeing the unseen. Strange Roots asks us why we consider certain online content truth and why we find it perfectly normal to accept online information as gospel rather than distorted versions of reality.

Krimes, imprisoned for five years as a non-violent offender began creating art intuitively inspired by the socio-cultural-political landscape of prison in the US. To understand the evocative juxtaposition that Strange Roots wishes to exude is to understand the formative experience prison bore on Krimes’ art.

Paramount was Krimes perception of prison as a microcosm shaped by systems of capture, containment, and control.

He says of his experience, “The ways in which we experience images, bodies, objects, and artworks are determined by what such systems conceal or reveal. Being temporarily displaced from general society allowed me to discern the scaffolding of societal structures that had been invisible beforehand.”

Krimes’ exhibits are a progressive, continued expression of this exploration with Strange Roots as “a means to excavate the underlying structures of our digital landscape and its function as a space that reconditions our perceptions of reality.”

In a world of Strange Roots we see that online life is filtered life. Fine-lines cut out and what remains is polished. People become more tribal. This lack of diversity spills offline into a global problem. Homogenization is essentially convenient… until it isn’t.

Krimes asserts that the problem with qualified and quantified algorithms is that it characterizes leaving little to chance. Rather than assuming a formulated network holds all truths, the artist suggests the importance of searching something out of your norm and different from what you believe. Could this potentially uncomfortable experience get you questioning your previously held truths, and further leave you questioning how they came to be to begin with?

Bowdlerization or the idea of the Internet being “squeaky clean” reinforces the inaccurate historical stories and beauty standards we’ve come to accept as true since we learned them as schoolchildren. Or, because celeb gossip gets top Internet billing, we have to specifically search for images and information that accurately depict “subjugation” or “slavery” as part of real history.

Mirroring this concept, Krimes was interested in exploring generalized themes such as “beauty” and “decay.” He’d search the terms and found them to produce idealized, stereotypical, and cliched ideas while ignoring the more accurate and important topics discussed above. What exists as a truth for one, is certainly not a truth for all, and often, only for a very few.

The subsequent “roots” Krimes created of beauty and decay contain intricate root systems foraged from around his hometown in Pennsylvania depicting the central nervous system. Strange Roots is Krimes’ visually permissive gift telling us it’s time to remodel our online behavior, coupled with the need to digitally detox and neuro-rewire our personal guidelines for how we collect tangible, on and offline truths. In this sense, Strange Roots is an opportunity to forfeit how we acquiesce to nonsensical “order” and out-worn systems.

Krimes places responsibility on all of us who may or may not uncritically click on a link and trust what we see and read as some kind of truth. He reminds us that we certainly do not live in some post-truth world and that even trusted sources provide us with only a snapshot of an idea, and, that idea or image is just a very small portion of a much larger picture.  

“My ambition as an artist is to serve as both a witness and an agent for change,” says Krimes. “It is crucially important for me to take chances and risk failure in this pursuit, while maintaining a posture of curiosity in the face of uncertainty.”

Check out Strange Roots in NYC at Burning in Water (running now until November 3rd).

Christine Dionese, co-founder of flavor ID is an integrative, epigenetic health and food therapy specialist. Her personal and professional ethos is where science and discovery meet intuition and wellness. Christine lives, works, and plays in Southern California with her husband and daughter.

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