One of the most distinguished and distinctive artists of her generation, Bunny Rogers’ engrossing and highly personal practice draws upon an idiosyncratic constellation of cultural references. Often organizing her work into recurring series, Rogers creates immersive worlds that materialize her own inner universe and use the hermetic logic of these associations to emotionally connect with the viewer.
A major reference for Rogers is the world of online gaming and the malleable identities endemic to role-playing and fantasy communities. This interest was not born out of purely conceptual or aesthetic considerations, but instead developed seamlessly from Rogers’ own fascination and involvement with these platforms in her youth. Indeed, her first forays into artmaking can be traced to her nascent experiments on the website neopets.com: an immersive online universe popular in the early aughts in which children created and tended to virtual pets. For Rogers, spending time on the internet as a child was equated with a freedom from isolation and her work thereby evinces an enchantment with online expressions of community. “My Neopets were real to me,” Rogers explains, “I wished that I could visit Neopia and didn’t understand why I couldn’t.” The all-consuming structure of neopets.com—with its branded games that allowed players to win neopoints, the virtual currency needed to navigate the land of Neopia and provide for their NeoPets—fascinated Rogers with its conflation of consumption, fantasy, and care.
Rogers describes the process of logging into Neopets after school as “coming alive again.” The connection she felt with the game and its players alleviated the feelings of isolation and loneliness experienced away from the keyboard. “The participation in an online world made me aware of a bigger community,” Rogers says, “and (it) gave me hope that what I was doing wouldn’t always go unnoticed.” She has made a number of sculptural works inspired by the Neopets who—along with works that reference the Columbine tragedy, the musician Elliot Smith, and the character Joan from the short-lived television show Clone High—have become one of the most emblematic references in her artistic practice. On the occasion of Art Basel Parcours, Rogers creates a towering sculpture inspired by this beloved virtual animal kingdom from her childhood. Not only will this be the first time that one of Rogers’ Neopets is conceived for public space, but it is also the first time that she works on such a large scale. Enlarged to over three meters, one of the virtual creatures who left such an indelible mark on Rogers’ consciousness assumes a physical form to meet us away from the keyboard. Unlike the (contentious) memorializing function of many outdoor sculptures, which seek to uphold values, events, or individuals deemed sacred to a specific place—Roger’s Neopet sculpture is a memorial to a highly subjective inner world. And by situating it in public, she invites us to tap into this intimate space of memory, fantasy, and identity.