June 22, 2020

Will Penny and Meg Elison

Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Will Penny, 001_HOME.JPEG2020. Touchdesigner workspace screen capture. Courtesy the artist.

Meg Elison. Photo: Debbie Reynolds, Libre Images.

The University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) and the Contemporary Cress present WHERE 2 BEGIN with artist Will Penny (Canadian, b. 1984) and science fiction author Meg Elison (American, b. 1982). Both a digital commission and a physical installation in Chattanooga, TN, WHERE 2 BEGIN is an intentionally open-ended and nonlinear exploration of what it means to be an artist navigating evolving ideas and artistic inspiration in today’s socially isolated post Covid-19 setting. Penny, working from his studio in Savannah, GA, is sharing self-described “fragments and byproducts of digital experiments” via the website The in-process experience and end result will be a curious and playful approach to thinking and artmaking, mirroring Penny’s fractured studio mindset over several months.

WHERE 2 BEGIN launched with live, ground zero content on Friday, June 5. Daily through August 29, the project will reveal itself as an almost diaristic, fractal self-portrait that prompts interactivity with others in both digital and physical space. Constantly self-accumulating and aggregating in real-time, the uploaded digital web content is physically presented in Chattanooga via oversized monitors installed in the windows of the Contemporary Cress gallery windows downtown (123 E. 7th Street) for passersby 24 hours a day.

Penny’s continued interest in manipulating metadata is evident in the wide range of online source material he pulls from to create video content: he acknowledges and complicates a digital class system, made evident through ranges of “high” and “low” source materials from custom design backgrounds to co-opting nature livestream footage. Similarly, citizen/user behavior on the website will evolve and expand according to engagement patterns, as our digital “normal” now promotes the realities of daily living supported through personally-constructed algorithms vis-à-vis digital interfaces.

Additionally, science fiction and horror author Meg Elison (American, b. 1982) was commissioned to contribute a new narrative, titled ARTSAF, that will be published in sections over the coming months to accompany Penny’s work. The final text will be available in its entirety at the project’s end. The collaboration between Penny’s artwork and Elison’s text expands the conversation around artistic experimentation, general social uncertainty, and the irony of relying on digital communications and shared consumer technologies to create communities of coping through a global pandemic as our collective desires in a fully immersive media landscape have come full circle in our post covid-19 setting. WHERE 2 BEGIN calls us to question which types of experiences are most “authentic” and how do we collectively and individually prioritize physical versus virtual realities.

We encourage you to bookmark and check the site often this summer:

About Will Penny (Canadian, b. 1984)
Will Penny’s artworks dissolve the traditional boundaries of art and design: he explores tensions between the tangible space a painting inhabits, the impact of digital technology on fabricated forms and illusionistic environments. By creating systems of interactivity with digital technologies, his work confronts the way information is generated, transmitted and received. Penny was raised in Southern Ontario and currently resides in Savannah, Georgia. He received a diploma in Fine Art from Fanshawe College in London, Ontario and holds a BFA and MFA in Painting from The Savannah College of Art and Design, where he currently serves as a Professor of Digital Communication.

About Meg Elison (American, b. 1982)
Meg Elison is a science fiction and horror author, as well as a feminist essayist and cultural critic. Her series, The Road to Nowhere, won the 2014 Philip K. Dick award. She was a James A. Tiptree Award Honoree in 2018. She has also been published in Uncanny, McSweeney’s, Shimmer, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Catapult, Terraform, and many other places. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Connect with her on Twitter at @megelison, Instagram at @meghanelison and

For more information and to learn about upcoming exhibitions, visit and contact Rachel Reese, Director and Curator, Cress Gallery of Art: rachel-reese [​at​] The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is an equal employment opportunity/affirmative action/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution.

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