Sam was commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art to restyle their website as part of the project Toggler along with four other digital artists. The Toggler feature allows artists to explore, demonstrate and celebrate the potential of creativity in website design. Visitors are able to view fermynwooods.org website through different lenses by toggling between styles in the drop-down menu.
FCA: Can you tell us a bit about your practice?
SFR: My practice covers traditional & digital drawing as well as hybrid printmaking which is fusion of different print disciplines including use of CNC tech like lasercutting. I own a CNC plotter which allows me to large wall vinyls and stencils for painting and printmaking. Broadly speaking I’m interested in the history of visual cultures, particuarly media that’s commonplace or grotesque (think clipart, video games, roadsigns, comics, children’s drawings etc.) The relationship between text and image has always held an interest so references to graphic design and illustration find their way into my drawing quite often.
FCA: What interested you in the Toggler commission?
SFR: The idea is simple but has so much scope. It’s a tonic to the standardising effect of platform media like Instagram which doesn’t permit you to customise or adapt how your audience experiences your work which I’ve always found stiffling. Normally we think of web layouts and fonts as only doing their job properly if they’re invisible. Being able to use a discreet process with lots of hard rules for experimentation felt very expressive.
I’ve been describing the Toggler project to friends as like having guest ales at a pub, or a guest DJ at a music venue. The architecture stays the same but the sensory element changes.
FCA: Can you explain the ideas behind your approach to Toggler?
SFR: I set out to make something that was still fully legible and functional but as distant from Fermynwoods’ house style as possible as a result it ended up looking like a bit of a MySpace or Geocities throwback which I don’t at all regret! I wanted to make a stylesheet for Toggler that had a propagandist appearance or might be a conspiracy theorist’s apocalyptic blog. I included some references to medieval manuscripts such as the pilcrows and the fleurons. This is part of a speculative style I’m tentatively dubbing “𝕬𝗻𝘁𝗶-𝕱𝗲𝘂𝗱𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘁 “. This is part of a larger continuing project I started earlier this year: I began to notice in critical writing how terms like “technofeudalism” were being used to categorise alogorthmic management and the so-called sharing economy. Similarly, I saw the “Dark Ages” being employed as a metaphor in discussions around inequality, climate catastrophe, the political lurch toward hostile essentialism and inexplicable conspiracy theorists like Flat Earthers.