An Extract from Life Online: Researching Real Experience in Virtual Space
by Annette N. Markham.
“Although cyberspace is nothing more or less than a network of computer systems passing digitised strings of information back and forth through copper or fibre-optic cables, people who connect to this network often feel a sense of presence when they are online. Even in purely text-based online contexts, people establish and maintain intimate friendships, romantic relationships, and stable communities. This sense of presence can be quite visceral:
‘So much for leaving our bodies out of this… This gathering is not restricted to the Net, and therefore to the text of the Net, but extends to the flesh, the physical body. In this rare case, uncannily, even though online, we feel we meet in the flesh…. Everywhere we rub shoulders with each other. Everywhere users present themselves to each other, freely saying and doing what they choose. (Argyle, 1996, passim).’
Online communication does seem quite extraordinary. By logging onto my computer, I (or a part of me) can seem to (or perhaps actually) exist separately from my body in ‘places’ formed by the exchange of messages, the technical basis of which I am only beginning to understand. I can engage in activities with people of like interests around the globe using nothing but my computer, my imagination, written text, and the capacity of digital code to process and mediate aspects of my life online.
Telepresence, as this is called, is not unique to computer technologies. Indeed, a good novel, a familiar scent from the past, or a long-lost journal can transport a person to another time and place. For many of us, however, the feeling of being somewhere other than in the body with some other non-embowed yet presumably living being – particularly to the extent Argyle describes above – is a new and unfamiliar experience.”
I managed to go along to Gormley’s new show last Thursday. It was another packed viewing but luckily just enough space for everyone. The works were phenomenal. I’ve always been a huge fan of his work and his switch to 2d works beautifully. I’m definitely biased as I’ve been inspired by his work for years.
The oil paintings (literally) try to show the relationship between man and oil. He was covered in the oil, suspended from a height above the paper, and dropped. The outcomes are these beige impasto figures in semi-religious poses. In two of the pieces, the oil was pretty much still dripping behind in the frame. There’s an obvious playfulness with line and drawing techniques that aren’t evident in most of Gormley’s work. It really is a nice change. Although the large works caused the most excitement. I was a huge fan of the smaller A4 / A5 works in the second gallery space. They were linear drawings, with almost perfectly straight lines, without the use of a ruler. In the middle of the chaotic lines was Gormley’s shadowy figure. Other works were printed from wood cuts, the pattern still visible in the final pieces.
To make things more interesting, he recently had an operation on his leg, and therefore was sitting in the same spot during the entire viewing. You could hear everyone around us questioning whether it was an accident during the making of the pieces. Some even looking for bends in the leg imprints…. sadly it wasn’t something quite as exciting.