My research has focussed on two elements. Digital Beings….. and the Virtual Space they inhabit….. The way I have attempted to represent these ideas has been highly experimental, and the hearty balance of media I wished for at the beginning of the course has yet to reach fruition. The act of researching the alternative to a real being in physical space from the point of view of a physical person naturally promotes a level of balance between the two but practically, in some cases, I’ve found more comfort in digital process over physical. My desire to physically paint has hopelessly diminished over the past 6 months, and instead an interest in combining physical drawings with 3D animation and processing has evolved.
A mixed media approach has always been my direction, however, their integration with one another is crucial. I feel my successes in the previous year have been in one medium, never the integration of many. For both the mini workshop and the Interim show, I’ve produced physical canvases, one oils, one inks (and wool)… the concepts behind these works have differed, “Society of Spectacle” visualised the ‘meta-city’ and its disconnected inhabitants, constantly missing the spectacles in front of their eyes whilst focussing on endless handheld distractions. “Congregation” is a composition of red-blooded empty shells of people each captivated by their own individualised sermon being read to the them by their personal devices. These works have focused on information addiction, which maybe goes hand in hand when trying to decipher the definition of Digital Identity, but then again, each individual represents identity differently, and its definitely a horribly broad umbrella term. After spending most of first year looking at the definition of digital identity in a very singular way, towards the end, I began to realise my interest in the representation of religion. I’m not a religious person, but I’m fascinated by religious art. In my eyes, nothing more important could have happened to humanity than the invention of religion. The ethics, arts and evolutions that have come from it are unrivalled. There are of course some very nasty moments in history where religion can be blamed, but I’m looking at it positively. Many of the worlds treasures would not have been created without a belief in God, and in simpler times, the question of the Unknown may have been a much more frightening prospect.
These thoughts about the online individual, his offline counterpart, how these individuals bunch up together to make communities and their eradication of traditions over facts, have then often been placed in images attempting to visualise the complexity of internet traffic?… The results have been aesthetically complex but conceptually very simplistic. I’ve spread my focus across a number of keen interests, and need to find more depth. Maybe thats the definition of quantitive over qualitative. But do these ideas not all come hand in hand? If we are to look at the stained glass windows of church interiors, the likelihood is the vast glass areas display what appear to be very complex aesthetics, but the stories behind them are intentionally made to be accessible to the masses. Or in fact maybe its the importance of an ethical question made simple to connect with the masses. Either way, trying to present overly complex ideas only promotes exclusivity, which has been, in my mind, the worst aspect of the contemporary art world in the past century. Then again, overly inclusive themes and concepts can be deemed ‘pop’ and sellable in an increasingly financial art world. As with anything, either side of the spectrum is extreme. I read an interesting article by Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones on Ikeda’s ‘Supersymmetry’ and how he believes that although the work was an impressive spectacle, the perceived complexity of it only strengthened Jones’s belief that Ikeda had no idea what was going on in CERN. Particle physics is complex, and therefore Ikeda represented it with aesthetic complexity…. but unlike Ikeda’s work… the complexity of CERN’s research actually means something. This has brought me back to my own work, and visualising internet traffic… Obviously the internet is a busy place, but empty lines can’t represent its manic behaviour, whats its made up of? what times and when is it used? The lines must be textured with media, or better yet, represent actual data.
My work with reactive sensors came to a halt over my sheer lack of experience in the area, yet had I successfully completed my aims with the project, I would not have considered the conceptual significance behind the ability to “turn on” a painting with your presence. At first. I felt the crucial aspect was to reflect the necessity for the individual to make an active choice to interact with their tech, and the internet. Now, its about why they want to. There was an interesting sets of stats released in the news about a week ago claiming that collectively people in the UK use their smartphones 1.1 billion times a day…. the average being around 40/50, and some extremists as high as 1000 times a day. What used to be an extension of communication has become an integral part to the way we think about everyday actions. But what are these interactions? Emails? News? Social Media? etc etc… Another approach is the Angler fish, and its use of light to attract its prey. This may be a route I take a little further. Going forward with the light – distance project, I’d love to create physical versions, however for the time being, and the recent success I’ve had with Leap Motion, I’m going to create it digitally. The narratives of these works will be an intersection of anatomy and architecture, fact over faith, the growth of global communications and the rise of narcissism in the online world.
Digital Architecture – Another vague term I’ve been using… At the start this was to me the information that makes up the web, and the forms they create when moving. This is still the case, however, I want my work to be more accommodating for people, rather than just residing amongst floating bits of spaghetti….
Its the beginning of 2nd Year, and quite worryingly, I’m beginning to think about my final piece. There a elements of it appearing in some of the work I’ve produced, but the equilibrium is yet to be established both in concept and process. I’m excited to get going, if only I could get into the building! Oh well… More self-obsessed dribble to follow.
I took a trip to Salisbury today. The cathedral is massive and fascinating. There’s currently an exhibition showcasing the Magna Carta, and its free! (they encourage a donation, I must admit I didn’t donate).
Anyway, here are some photos of the building, the people, the windows, the sculptures and whatever else there was to see:
Approaching my third tutorial (4th if I include Keir WIlliams), I had a read through some of the notes from the last ones. The first thing that struck me was an actual sense of progression. Words I’d written, and discussions I’d had with Jonathan, in October, were merely ramblings, but seeing the fact that I’ve put these plans to fruition has given me a sense of satisfaction in the work I’ve done on the MA so far. My post last night was clearly lacking any reflection on my blog, and the things I’ve written. Here are a few extracts from my Tutorial overview in October.
“We talked about the hilarity of media consumption, specifically within the news. How can, what should be the most delicate information, be broadcast as entertainment across the world. I am no angel with this and certainly have fallen into the trap of watching the news daily, but after a while I can’t help but think that much of it is a gross exploitation of sensitive information.”
“We discussed my interest in embedding BBC news live into a painting of a family in their living room. It aims to highlight the growing issue of daily news consumption and it’s effects on it’s audience. In this piece, I aim to mirror project the live images onto a canvas. In the gallery, I’m focused on it’s first impressions, whether the audience take it for what they came to see, art, or whether they begin to use it as another information point.”
Obviously there have been some changes, the most evident being the fact I used an actual TV rather than a canvas. Also, the family in the living room shows my utter dedication to figurative painting at the time. ‘Monitor’ obviously had no such people.
Last minute pre-tutorial Notes:
Religion – Stained Glass Windows – Really need to research this. Links to the ultrasonic sensors as well as clear conceptual link (The light, usually an uncontrollable force,) and stylistic link – bold, graphic display. Often figurative, narrative and of course Religious!
Idea of the window into another dimension – The Television (The Media Space) – Virtual Space
The intent of religious iconography and paintings. Telling Stories. Creating meanings.
Self reflection – social media, internet history.
Nam June Paik vs Daniel Rozen?….. Not sure about Rozen. Still undecided.
Multimedia Cityscapes – This has turned to the creation of skyscrapers out of pieces of information. I want to develop this a bit further.
Although I planned to come into college today, unfortunately I didn’t get the chance, and instead my tutorial was done over Skype.
At first we spoke about my post from last night, and how this level of honesty towards my work was positive. I explained that I’d written some notes immediately before the tutorial (See above). I found that after reading through my previous tutorial posts, I had in fact made positive steps towards fulfilling my intentions. In fact the simple act of doing this, a post last night, and some notes this morning showed me how through small steps I can have such a different insight to my work. At the beginning of the course, this blog was the devil to me, maybe because I didn’t see any legitimacy in what I was doing, or was worried about revealing a thought process. I see now, that the blog does, over time, give an opportunity to better understand the work your doing. When this information is in retrospect, there’s a clearer understanding.
We moved on to begin talking about my research question. I’m going to focus on Religion, yet I’m not entirely sure what aspect as yet, maybe as a practice? Nam June Paik’s TV Buddha is a work that I’ve been familiar with for a while, but like all of Paik’s work, I’ve never properly looked into it. Jonathan explained that he saw the Buddha at Tate Liverpool in 2010, and that this idea of past and present staring back at one another, something that I had written about last night, wasn’t exactly the case. The camera set up should be displaying a live feed. I think some of the reading I did may have looked a little too far into the maybe a second or two delay between the scene and the footage. Nonetheless, its an interesting insight, but its based on old technical hitches.
This piece is particularly interesting because Paik didn’t really plan it. It was a last minute decision to fill space in the gallery. Jonathan made the point that he was so embedded in his practice that even though it was put together quickly, the thoughts behind it were the result of this practice, that had spanned decades. We spoke about how it certainly does connect with Rozen’s mirror works, Weave Mirror, Wooden Mirror, and most recently, the Penguins. My reluctance to use him in my research paper comes from how gimmicky this work comes across. Its something I’ve been thinking about with my Arduino project. Artists, whom aren’t necessarily brilliant technicians, certainly find use with new technologies and specifically electronics, however, Rozen seems to focus on this idea of the mirror, and creating pixels with actual objects. When I was first made aware of the Wooden Mirror I thought it was brilliant, but after seeing other works, that are just the same but with different materials, my enthusiasm dropped significantly. Jonathan made the point that he has other work, and I don’t know it, so until I look further into it, I can’t be too critical.
There is clearly a connection between the works. Jonathan mentioned the ‘gaze’ and the idea of gazing into something, and that giving something back to you. Its obvious in the Buddha, and in any mirror I guess. Jonathan mentioned that this does fit in broadly to what I’m interested in. He went on to mention that it’d be an ideal subject for the research paper as it does shed light on my work, without talking about it specifically. As a sidenote, this idea of the gaze is also relevant to one of my favourite painters Edouard Manet.
This idea of the gaze, Jonathan linked to Narcissus and the understanding of self-identity, which is most definitely relevant in today’s social media world. The sense of forced self-reflection and absorption couldn’t be more relevant, and is certainly an important factor in the definition of digital identity. Its this dedication to something, even though, for many its themselves, that moves me to look into Religion. These feelings that people feel the necessity to update their profiles and share their lives is comparable to a religious practice.
Jonathan began to talk about longevity and made an incredibly important point. Work like TV Buddha naturally focuses on the longevity of the reflection. As its technically been going since the 1970s, this element is integral to the work itself. He went on to compare this to religious practice. It isn’t about the initial gratification, but what religion gives you over a long period of time. Putting this into a digital environment, I’ve had facebook for 10 years, and therefore connections to almost all the friends I’ve had over that time. My social life almost relies on it to keep those connections, as obviously peoples lives move apart from one another. At one point in the future I hope to be in touch with some of these people, and therefore will always have this connection to the site. I’m emotionally tied to it. We didn’t talk about this, but it ties in with the meaning being created through the longevity of the connection, such as is with the Buddha and his reflection.
Religious practice takes time.
Jonathan told me of another work that looks at the gaze. It’s called The Venetian Mirror, and in fact exhibited alongside Rozen’s Wooden Mirror at the V&A. Here’s a Video:
Its a very interesting work. A flat screen TV is suspended in portrait from the ceiling. A member of the audience is invited to sit on a stool behind the TV. Whilst the audience look at the TV. A camera captures the person on the stool, however the shutter speed is particularly low, and for someone to have their image fully displayed on the TV, they would have to sit still for several minutes. It certainly shows similarities to actual portrait work where the sitter would be there for hours.
Again this idea of longevity came up from this work. I mentioned that it reminded me of Damien Hirst’s ‘A Thousand Years,’ 1990, which we both agreed was one of the few of Hirst’s works that was actually any good. I’ve always liked this work, and its definitely my favourite of his. Well, it says it in the title. Longevity is essential to its meaning. It reflects the circle of life and death, and thinking about this now, it’ll be interesting to see again and again over time. It certainly links to Paik’s interest in Time Art, and particularly the Buddha’s 40 year gaze.
I then related these ideas to my recent post ‘Anglerfish, Candy Crush and Ultrasonic Sensors.’ Specifically the nature of Candy Crush as a game. The fact that you only have a certain amount of lives a day, and if you lose them, you either pay or you have to bother someone else to get the game, for some reason makes it more interesting, and addictive! Clearly this isn’t really related to Hirst’s work, but the concept of longevity certainly exists. No one just plays one game and leaves it, just as the scale of meaning for a work like ‘TV Buddha’ or ‘A Thousand Years’ isn’t detected in one instance. Its the history of these works, that they themselves create, that projects the scale of its meaning. Its funny to think that multiple generations of people will live and die before Hirst’s piece finishes, perhaps it can be seen as the longest existing piece of performance art, and the first piece to employ flies as the performers. Anyway, after mentioning Candy Crush, we went a little off track, as my often pointless connections do.
We picked up after I mentioned that religion did play a part in my project proposal, however, not quite as much as i’d like now. History and religion I think have always been what I’ve loved most about paintings. Whether its Realist and political such as Courbet, Millet or Manet (the first two of which also step foot in religious subject matter) or the grand, ornate ceilings and large canvases of the Renaissance. After reading through my previous tutorial notes, I noticed that Jonathan had hinted stained glass windows to me, which is now beginning to really make a lot of sense, and as I aim to continue on this context of religion, I will definitely be drawing inspiration from it.
Jonathan explained that the interesting part of the windows is not just the narrative form of the image but the fact that there’s an external influence on its aesthetic, and experience – The Light. This light is in itself is a metaphor for insight, and something larger, and uncontrollable, perhaps God. The juxtaposition here would be that if I succeed in using sensors to control whether paintings are viewable, the viewer would have that control. This also reflects an understanding and control over unattainable information that would previously be left for prayer, and how digital technology gives the opportunity to find and use that information.
Jonathan told me to look into CODEC, a research center based at Durham. Its not art based research, its philosophy and theology. They actively look into how the internet and other technological elements of the modern world change the face, and / or interact with religion and specifically Christianity. It seems it may be worth researching their endeavours, and maybe even getting in contact. Potentially very interesting and valuable.
“A codec is a device, either physical or virtual, hardware or software, for translating, re-coding, re-engineering the analogue and the digital. CODEC is not an acronym: it is a name.
We want to see how the contemporary world interacts with the world of the theology and religion – particularly the Christian faith story.”
I explained that I was aiming to meet with Ed to discuss continuing work on the LED circuit, but because of the strain for some of the 2nd years, as they approach their final show, it seems that it might have to go back on the shelf. It’d be ambitious to believe I can create it in 3 and a half weeks or so. Jonathan sees it not too much of a problem if the full installation was ready for the interim.
Developing Maquettes is still an important part of the work. I’ve been advised not to run away from the painting. My issue has been finding the figures. I can use 3D models to manipulate the poses but there’s no expression, or realism to these. They’re more akin to Greek sculptures from the Doric period. Though I’ll try to use some of the figures from my recent trip to Athens, as well as some photos of Greek Gods themselves. There are a load more photos to go up, some of which will tie in nicely with some of the discussion we had today.
As a final point, I mentioned my continued interest in the possibility of virtual space, and the creation of non-locations etc. Jonathan believes I should continue to look into it, alongside Digital Identity, and let them influence each other. I need to remain open to exploring the cross between the two. I really just need to continue making work, and specifically one for the Interim show, update my project proposal and develop my research question for the discussion with Gareth and the class next week!
Overall, I found the tutorial very useful, and will implement some of these ideas further with my work.
P2 – “What is perhaps most striking about contemporary technology is not dimly the marvel (or horror) of one or other technical achievement. – space travel, the Internet, the cultivation on animals of organs for human transplants – but simply the sheet pervasiveness of technology in everyday life. Television, the mobile phone, and the Internet – the ‘information bomb’ (p. Virilio, the information bomb London: verso, 2000) – coupled with the seemingly irresistible expansion and sophistication of travel (above all, the car and the plane, with space tourism now starting to become a reality) make technology the omnipresent medium and condition of contemporary living’
P3 – ‘I have my world in the palm of my hand and I take it with me wherever I go’ – a famous quote for a mobile phone adept in the early 2000s. “This is to only a statement about technology. It is a statement about the self-image and the identity of the person using it: as the originators, the users, and the objects of our thinking, as if it were a mere supplement to the real questions of science, questions one used to see in book-titles along the lines of “Man’s place in the Universe”
Digital Technology – “It is something we ourselves are constructing and transforming through a technology that can no longer be regarded as merely an instrument intervening between ourselves and our environment.”
Aldous Huxleys Brave New World.
Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere.