Digital Bust Manipulations by Robby Bennett

This is a review of a series of 2015 works by Australian artist Robby Bennett.


We shall not have succeeded in demolishing everything unless we demolish the ruins as well. But the only way I can see of doing that is to use them to put up a lot of fine, well-designed buildings.

– Pa Ubu, Ubu Enchaîné

Robby Bennett’s recent [untitled instagram bust] in the series of digital bust manipulations (displayed on Instagram) is a striking example of the series. A marble bust dissolves under the influence of mutating, skittering glitch. This dissolving is captured not as a process in flux (or even as a process at all) but as an end result, a finality.

These busts do not simply smash existing forms: they are a dismissal of them. The microcosmic error is brought forth and cast – what is momentary, beneath the level of perception, suddenly becomes not only visible, but permanent: all that was air becomes solid[1]. The monstrous, horrific glitching and throes of error are not merely brought into the light – they are then frozen, etched in stone – in marble.

It is no accident that the site of this glitching is the model of classical permanence: the marble bust: permanence, classicism and form as both model and manifestation. The chaos of the digital bust manipulation denies these principles at their core, yet this is not where the transformation ends. The classical is reinforced, remade: repudiating the perfection of Greco-Roman sculptural form yet elevating its opposite – the uncharitable error – into the same sphere; a new form.

Coincidentally, these busts can primarily be viewed on Instagram, another site of impermanence made permanent, another re-ordering of the order of images – the “classicism” of the photo album mutilated and re-established, much like the busts themselves.

These works describe the hour that the statues of the old gods are crumbled and sunken; the canvases float and swell in the bilge-water, fires burn on distant hills. From this moment of ruin, huddled round decay as refuge, a turning is expected: we await a new dawn. None comes – and when it does, it is the grim rays of light falling on the destruction, the new geometry…chaos refigured, reformed, beautiful…


Laurence Barratt-Manning / April 2015

[1] Works that, to me, utilise a similar (although distinct) technique are the “scrambled porn” .gifs circulated online. In these clips, the moment of penetration or ejaculation breaks down into pure glitch, the image becoming derealised and horrific just as it promises a ready-shortcut to interpretation. As the “real-world” consummation is denied, the artistic consummation is completed.