Cybersquatting in the ‘free world’


Media-inspired art exhibit Cybersquatting with a Honeypot will open at Public Space One.

By Lily Goodman

It’s hard for one to know which headline to believe these days. Between “fake news,” countless Twitter feuds by high-profile politicians, and an abundance of contradictory reporting both online and in print, it isn’t easy for the public to discern between fact and fiction — there doesn’t always seem to be a concept of the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth.

Inspired by these disjointed and oft-sensationalized accounts perpetuated by the news and various social-media platforms, artists and faculty members at the University of Kentucky Art Department David Wischer and Jonathan McFadden created the exhibit Cybersquatting with a Honeypot as a reaction to the frenzy of information the public is bombarded with on a daily basis.

With imagery including both prints and installations taken from numerous news outlets and social-media sites, the exhibit débuted at the Freeport Arts Museum in the fall of 2016, with Best of Illinois noting its accurate and artistic portrayal of the “fractured narrative that news cycles create.”

Wischer and McFadden have continued to seek opportunities to show their work together since the exhibit’s closing in Freeport, which in turn, has brought them to Iowa City to showcase Cybersquatting at Public Space One Friday evening.

Wischer, a lecturer in digital and print media at Kentucky, said teaching young artists has given him a glimpse into the trends and fads of social media and the internet, adding to his acute fascination with it.

“[From my students], I learn about a new genre of music, a new subculture, or new terminology every day,” he said. “A lot of my work is about trying to understand and adapt to new forms of communication, while also poking fun at the absurdity of it all. Some of the images I make are confusing, simply because the world is a pretty confusing place.”

Such confusion plays into the story he and McFadden embody through their pieces in Cybersquatting. Despite the two artists differing in terms of artistic style and preferred media, McFadden, an assistant professor of print media at Kentucky, noted their shared interest is what allowed them to effectively collaborate.

“Fortuitously for us, our work, although aesthetically different, is both highly influenced by the internet and pop culture,” he said.

With their interest in media providing common ground, Wischer and McFadden scour the internet for images, use their own photos, and incorporate found objects and vinyl text.

“For me, my prints and installations tend to primarily use photogravure, a photographic print process developed in the 1800s,” McFadden said. “Although [the process] is rather old, I use digital positives of imagery I create in Photoshop from cellphone photography and imagery taken from social media.”

Wischer also makes use of Photoshop as well as Adobe Illustrator, often deconstructing an image and reassembling it in a new way.

“I just spend a lot of time staring at the screens of my phone and computer,” he joked.

But whether they’re using centuries-old techniques or staring at screens, it’s all worth it in the end, as Wischer and McFadden ultimately achieve what they set out to with their joint exhibit. By creating a fragmented cyber world with their enthralling images and installations, Cybersquatting accurately encapsulates the blurred and ambiguous messages of the mainstream media with their articulate portrayal of it — and that’s the truth.


Where: Public Space One, 120 N. Dubuque

When: Opening Friday from 5-7 p.m., runs through May 2

Cost: Free

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