‘ALERT TONES’ – Thoughts on the way in which we use sound and sight to navigate the physical world, a reflection on artists and theorists influencing my practice and analysis of recent work shown in ‘IRIS TURNS’ an emerging artists group show at the Barge house, OXO Tower, London.

 

Reflecting on the failure of the work I presented in ‘TARMAC’ I decided to focus my attention on my sound work as it had been the most successful element in my previous works ‘WE FEEL’ and ‘MEMELTSCREN.mov’. Over the past year I have developed a new appreciation and understanding of the powerful influences of sound on affecting experience and space. This encompasses everything from the emotions evoked from the roaring sea, to the effect of pop music being played in the shopping centre.

This contrasted my recent observation of how dominant our sense of sight is in our collective perception of the world. In particular I find this currently problematic because of the proliferation of personal images shared on the Internet. Social media outlets such as Instagram and snapchat encourage users to crop and filter their lives into attractive advertisements of the self. The deception of the lens is a theoretical discourse that has been discussed from thinkers such as Roland Barthes to artists such as John Hilliard since the birth of the commercial camera. Although these discussions have traditionally focused on images used in film and journalism, I believe that they are now more relevant than ever, as every smart phone user has the ability to create untrustworthy presentations of the world and human experience.

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John Hilliard – ‘Cause of Death’ (1970)

Sight allows us to see what is immediately in front of us. If we stand on a precipice, we will see for miles in the direction our body faces. If we stand inside a cave we will be able to closely inspect any part of the cave wall in as much detail as our eyes can account for. Looking is a constant act of choice; by choosing to look in one direction, or at one section of cave wall, we are immediately choosing not to look at all other directions or all other sections of cave wall. In this sense our access to visual information is limited by the position of our bodies and the physical environment that surrounds us. This is the best example I can relay here to describe the limitations of sight that are not possessed by sound.

Standing on the precipice, or inside the cave, one will have access to audio information that is not limited to the bodies’ position or the physical environment. We are able to hear sounds that are happening all around us, whether our eyes are closed or we are facing the opposite direction to the sounds source. This allows us access to information that extends beyond the physical limitations of our bodies and the space they inhabit. Sat in my bedroom with the curtains closed I can hear birdsong, then the siren of an ambulance. Through sound I have access to information about the wider world outside, whilst being physically inside. Sight only gives us access to the immediate environment and is very much dependant on the physical position of the human seer, sound on the other hand is dependant on its physical range and frequency. The difference here is that as sensory beings we do not possess the natural ability to choose not to hear sounds in the same way we can choose not to see. The artificial exception to this rule is headphones.

This new understanding of the neglected importance of sound dramatically effected my relationship with music. I realised that by wearing headphones whilst walking through the park or in the street, I was cutting myself off from audio information that is crucial for navigating the natural and urban landscape. Headphones allowed me to ignore a vast part of physical reality, to shut my ears to the local environment, obliterating my relationship to the rhythms of the world, whether organic or artificial.

The first problem with portable music devices and sound cancelling headphones is that it prevents us from being present. Sound and sight go together to create a narrative; I am walking down a path, I can see trees, I can hear bird song, I am in the park. As I have discussed, sound is not limited in the same way that sight is, so by limiting our sense of sound we dramatically reduce our understanding of our surrounding environment.

The second problem is that we exchange this valuable information about our environment for music that has the ability to radicalise our experience. I find this to be a side effect of cinemas alluring depiction of reality. This new ability to walk around plugged into our own soundtracks completely unrelated to our surroundings ultimately effects our perception of reality and therefore our behaviour. What is most concerning about this is that due to the popularity of headphones and portable music devices, a large percentage of people inhabiting the same physical location are able to have very different experiences of the exact same time and place. This creates an emotional social divide and thus makes it more difficult for people to interact with one another. Just like the structure of cinema and the Internet, this cultural phenomenon forces us to focus on the narrative of the individual experience rather than on the collective, polarising our common social and political abilities.

Ultimately, this preference of the virtual cinematic experience over the ‘organic’ experience gestures toward a much larger issue that has possessed humanity since the first agricultural revolution in 10,000 BC. Since this technological revolution, humans have manipulated natural resources for their own benefits, effecting global ecology. This dominance over the natural environment has had profound effects on the way that we think about the non-human environment; we see fauna and flora as natural resources that exist only to serve us. Today, many millennia later, human arrogance and self obsession can be seen in the abundance of cities, portable music devices, noise cancelling headphones and digital screens. We have slowly but surely cancelled out the natural landscape, replacing it with human invention and imagination. We live in a human-only world built on a practice of decision-making that benefits human kind only.

In his book ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ (2011) Yuval Noah Harari describes how this dynamic between man and nature has accelerated dramatically in the past 200 years; “The Industrial revolution opened up new ways to convert energy and to produce goods, largely liberating humankind from its dependence on the surrounding ecosystem…As the world was moulded to fit the needs of Homo sapiens, habitats were destroyed and species went extinct. Our once green and blue planet is becoming a concrete and plastic shopping centre.” I must reflect here that Harari’s text has been greatly valuable to my practice in terms of thinking about the relationship between history and biology in specific subjects such as the economy, gender and agriculture.

This removal from the organic world of which we originated creates a self-fulfilling cycle of destruction. Once we developed a cognitively superior perception of our neighbours, in this case; the tree, the deer, the rock, our respect for these entities diminished. This then allowed us to exploit these entities for our own needs, thus reinforcing our biological superiority. Our lack of respect for other species and biota has resulted in our disinterest in them. We can no longer hear the birds over the roar of the car engine or the sound-cancelling headphone, so we will not notice if…when they disappear. Our cognitive superiority has blinded us to our moral ecological responsibilities and we have drowned out the rest of the natural world. The effects of a diminishing ecosystem will not be felt by us until it is too late.

During the development of these thoughts I came to admire the work and ideas of Bernie Krause. In his TED talk ‘The voice of the natural world’ (2013) Krause talks about the importance of studying soundscapes to ‘evaluate the health of a habitat across the entire spectrum of life.’ He demonstrates this with the example of Lincoln Meadow in the US where the process of selective logging (removing trees sporadically rather than in one selected area) was implemented under the assurance that it would not have any environmental impact. Krause recorded multiple dawn choruses before and after the selective logging. Although there is little visual difference between the Lincoln Meadow before and after the logging process, the decline of birdsong is drastic. This demonstrates the valuable information that we miss out on when trusting so dependently on our sense of sight.

Another example Krause uses is how Mono Lake’s Great Basin Spadefoot Toad was affected by the flight path of US navy jet pilots which drowned out and disoriented its chorus. This is a literal and very poignant example of how human progress and arrogance has the ability to drown out the natural world. So long as it is benefiting us, any negative effect of our actions on any other specie is unlikely to affect our behaviour. Krause has also put together a selection of his ambient recordings under the title; ‘The Great Animal Orchestra’ which combines Krause’s intimate field recordings with a human orchestra. This is a beautiful and important project that poignantly places man back into the Animal Kingdom rather than above it.

Pinar Yoldas’ work ‘The Very Loud Chamber Orchestra of Endangered Species’ (2013) is very closely related to the practice and ecological ideas of Krause. In this work Yoldas uses recordings of endangered species to create a rare orchestra that is conducted by input from environmental datasets. The installation of this work presents skulls of each endangered animal, and when the animals cry is triggered by the input of live data, its jaws artificially open and close in the rhythm of mechanisation. This collaboration between data and biology creates a profound emotional experience that confronts the audience with the urgency of human’s continuous ecological impact. Yoldas describes herself as a ‘Post-humanist’, which since has become a line of theory and philosophy that I am often finding my own thoughts align to.

The very loud chamber orchestra of endangered species _ abridged documentation of CO2ncert may 15-17 2013 from pinar yoldas on Vimeo.

In ‘The Great Silence’ (2012) Allora and Calzadilla utilize the techniques of documentary storytelling to reflect on our prioritisation of technological progress over the welfare of other species. The multi-projection installation combines footage and soundscapes of the critically endangered Amozona Vittata Parrott with imagery of Arecibo, the world’s largest radio telescope. Using a script written, by science-fiction author Ted Chiang, from the perspective of a parrot, the film unfolds the alternative narrative of human progress. This script poetically highlights the absurdity of humans fascination with finding intelligent life in outer space whilst destroying the habitats of and ignoring the potential of species we have co existed with for millennia. The dramatic irony that inhabits the centre of the piece is the fact that the Amozona Vittata Parrott and the Arecibo telescope both reside in Puerto Rico. Both the subject matter and style of this work is something that I greatly admire. This documentary style method of making art, which deals with particular narratives in order to talk about much wider global issues is far more effective, in my opinion, than the more commonly used abstract approach. Not only does this work respect the perspective of non-human experience but it also echoes my own belief that man’s interaction with advanced technology is a spiritual and sacred experience that goes beyond scientific understanding or classification;

“According to Hindu mythology, the universe was created with a sound: “Om.” It’s a syllable that contains within it everything that ever was and everything that will be.

When the Arecibo telescope is pointed at the space between the starts, it hears a faint hum. Astronomers call that the “cosmic microwave background.” It’s the residual radiation of the Big Bang, the explosion that created the universe fourteen billion years ago.

But you can also think of it as a barely audible reverberation of that original “Om.” That syllable was so resonant that the night sky will keep vibrating for as long as the universe exists.

When Arecibo is not listening to anything else, it hears the voice of creation.”

I came across this work at the Wellcome Collections current show ‘Making Nature’ which has been detrimental to my recent modes of thinking due to its display of other artworks and artefacts that deal with this subject matter in a similar style.

Allora & Calzadilla (in collaboration with Ted Chiang), The Great Silence from Artribune Tv on Vimeo.

Evan Roth’s recent video work ‘Total Internal Reflection’ (2015) follows the same mode of thinking about the development of digital technologies as sacred and spiritual. In this this work Roth combines the deceptive invisibility of the Internet with sounds and visions that are beyond the human spectrum and locates them in the physical landscape. This video work depicts snapshots from Roth’s global mission tracing the physical locations of fiber optic cable landing sites. Alongside this, Roth has utilised techniques used by so-called ‘ghost hunters’ to collect infa-red footage and radio frequencies that cannot ordinarily be detected by the human spectrums of sight and sound. Not only does this reflect my interest in physicalizing the Internet, but Roth also uses technology in a quasi-spiritual manner to highlight the breadth of audio/visual information that humans as a species do not have access to. This collection of audio-visual material is combined to produce a work that is both visually alluring audibly repellent.

Despite what I previously said about the realisation of sounds impact on space and experience to my relationship with music, there have been several musicians that have also been integral to the developments of this understanding. In particular the works of Brain Eno, William Basinkski and Steve Reich have enriched my understanding of the possibilities of sound as an artistic medium. Through Eno’s work I have realised composed music’s ability to open up and reveal moments, as opposed to the way in which I believe lyric heavy pop music conceals and masks real time and moments. I believe there is a time and a place for rock music, where it can harvest unbelievable emotional and political power. But I personally feel that this power is exploited and lessened when it is removed from its historical context and location and listened to in privacy, on headphones or in the car, it becomes a commodity. The power of ambient music on the other hand, lies in moments of solitude where it has the ability to amplify the transience of time and space.

Through both Reich and Basinkski’s works I have been exposed to the discourse of process music and musical minimalism. Manipulation through controlled encouragements of chance has always been a strong element of my work making process. This was encouraged several years ago when I can across the print work of John Cage. It seems that Reich in particular has also been heavily influenced by the same line of thinking. Both Reich and Basinkski have used the material limits of sound equipment to create melancholic works that reflect on the technological capabilities of man. In particular here I am referring to Basinkski’s ‘Disintegration Loops’ (1982) and Reich’s ‘Pendulum Music’ (1968).

This exploitation of sound technologies limitations was also used by Alvin Lucier in the work ‘I Am Sitting in a Room’ (1981) which has recently come to my attention. This work traces the disintegration of the human voice that occurs when it is captured using recording devices. Lucier re-records this recording of his voice multiple times in the same location causing the technological qualities of the recording device to combine with the resonant frequencies of the room, creating a soundscape of unrecognisable, free flowing organic noise. This work reflects the ideas around language that I was working on in earlier works after reading the David Abram’s ‘Spell of the Sensuous’ as I believe that this work also focuses on the limitations of languages and Lucier uses these flawed technologies to liberate speech back into sound. This work also reflects what I was attempting to do in ‘MEMELTSCREN.mov’ with the translation of organic matter into artificial man made structures. Here Lucier proves this to be a self fulfilling cycle – when these recording technologies are used in accelerated manner, manipulating their intended use, the unpredictable output reflects an organic sensibility.

‘ALERT TONES’ originated with the idea of creating a soundscape out of smartphone ringtones that could be mistaken for the soundscape of a rainforest. I felt this was vital to demonstrate my reflection on how we have drowned out the rest of the natural world with our own self-obsessions. In this sense I wanted to make a comparison between the calls of animals to the replacement call of humanity, a noise that is identified by artificial sounds radiate from electronic devices. The deception of digital sounds as natural phenomena was something I have been interested after hearing multiple stories of people confusing bird-song alarm tones for actual birdsong outside. The part of these stories that I find so compelling is that at some point the person deceives reflects; ‘what beautiful birdsong!’ only to find that it is a pre recording of a healthy sounding bird community. This highlights the lack of such bird communities in areas where smart phone users generally reside.

After seeing Laure Prouvost’s work ‘Hard Drive’ at the British Art show 8 (which I wrote about previously, here)  I was keen to experiment with this use of interactive synchronisation with disparate electronic elements. My initial idea was that the viewer would enter a dark space, on their arrival a motion sensor would trigger the start of my composition. I knew from the beginning that I wanted the composition to begin quietly and slowly build up. At the pinnacle of tension in the composition I wanted the faux animal noises to cease at the same time a bright light flooded the space, revealing to the audience that the space they have been inhabiting is in fact a greenhouse. As the audience became accustomed to their surreal surroundings I wanted the voice of Siri to speak, slurringly and incomprehensibly. This shift in the soundscape was meant to create a sense of technological malfunction reminiscent of the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey when Dave unplugs Hal. Ultimately, I wanted this moment to be physically and emotionally revealing, just like the power of ambient music.

Due to many technological difficulties this idea could not be executed to quite this standard. Fortunately, the sound work was very close to my original idea but the physicality of the lights and greenhouse had to be abandoned. My first test of this work used a projector to light up a wall with white light when the composition shifted. This was effective in that it transformed the room radically, but the rigid rectangle of the projection was a problem along with the impossibility of hiding the projector itself.

For the presentation of this work at the Bargehouse show ‘IRIS TURNS’ I swapped the modern projector for a CRT monitor. I originally intended to have this facing the wall so the wall was lit up ambiguously in the shifting moment but during the set up I found it much more effective to have the monitor facing the audience. This monitor was not as bright as the power of the projector, but I believe that it lit up the room with a more sinister light. I also feel that the use of this out-dated tech was more appropriate for the context of the work as it develops what I attempted to do with the digital photo frames in the work ‘UPDATE/OUTDATE’. Alongside the clear ecological focus demonstrated by the manipulation of digital sound into animal calls, I feel that the disintegration of the screen in the second half of the piece demonstrates my ideas about our wasteful relationship to digital technologies.

To attempt reclaim the atmosphere I wanted to create with the implication of the greenhouse, I used black PVC strips to black out the space and separate it from other works in the exhibit. I felt it important to use this material as it has connotations with many human-animal environments such as the butterfly house and the butchers. An unexpected addition to the piece was small green and red lights that flickered in time with the composition from PA system that the audio played through. I felt that this was a subtle visual supplement to the piece that was welcomed in this space that aimed to reflect on technologies ability to be poetic.

I feel that the most successful element of this work was the sound itself. At first I attempted to create the sounds by rerecording one ringtone at a time, until it became unrecognisable, much like Lucier’s process. This did not create the deceptive soundscape that I desired so I experimented with manipulating the audio digitally. Firstly I tried reversing and slowing the audio, then playing the same audio still reversed but slightly faster. I repeated this process until the audio was playing at normal speed. This experiment still did not have the desired affect. Finally I collected many more alert, alarm and ring tones from multiple different mobile phones. Instead of listening to the sound and then deciding if I would use it or not I reversed and slowed all of the ringtones, using these sounds to create my faux natural soundscape. During the composition the soundscape gradually transforms from rainforest environment to unforgiving digital racket. A sound byte of Siri then interrupts the eventual silence, admitting; ‘I’m not sure I understand’. I layered this audio to create a second build up in the composition that then gives way to a slow droning noise and the sound of a chime. This technique of non-musical audio sampling to create ambient music can be seen reflected in the works of Reich such as his piece ‘It’s Gonna Rain’ alongside many other examples often seen in popular music.

When listening to the variation of ring, alarm and alert tones all reversed and slowed down there were many ambient tracks that arose without any manipulation on my behalf. I selected and cropped these minimal tracks, which often were not appropriate to use in the ‘ALERT TONES’ composition and uploaded them to soundcloud as the start of a new project. I hope I will collect more such tracks that I have unintentionally come across, as I feel these ‘songs’ reflect the process and work of musicians such as Baskinski.

Ultimately, I am satisfied with the presentation of my ideas and with the eventual presentation of this work. I do believe though that this works power lies in the knowledge that the soundscape is composed entirely from ringtones and alert tones from mobile devices, and it was difficult to present this information clearly to viewers. The inclusion of Siri may have indicated this slightly but I feel that it needs to be much more specific for the implications of the work to be truly realised by its audience. I also believe that it is a great shame that my more ambitious plans for the work, including floodlighting and a greenhouse, were not possible but I hope that these elements may come into play more sophisticated roles in my degree show work.

In terms of the success of the work at ‘IRIS TURNS’, it was interesting to find that a few minutes walk away from the Barge house, at the Tate the work ‘South Tank’ by Wolfgang Tillmans was being shown. This artwork presented an immersive experience in which the audience walk into a space dotted with very ordinary chairs that sprawl across the space. It is not clear for a long time what the audience is being exposed to. The installation shifts from lightshows in time to bombastic music, to the grumbling of field recordings. The installation stays mainly dark throughout the 90 minute duration of the piece, with the occasional use of projectors to display an array of seemingly disconnected imagery.

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Wolfgang Tillmans installation ‘South Tank’ (2017)

The current work of Philippe Parreno being shown in the Turbine Hall; ‘Anywhen’ I also feel reflects my current interests. The installation of Parreno’s work is physically kinetic, with speakers, lights and screens all mechanically setting into motion at the dictation of information triggered by micro-organisms. Not only do I find this ambition awe-inspiring but Parreno also utilises an array of soundscapes to challenge the audience’s perception of time and space. The provision of blankets encourages visitors to lie on the floor, physically stopping all other distractions that the gallery environment might initiate. On the other side of the Turbine Hall huge speakers have been installed. These speakers sporadically play the sound of rain, a large carpeted space is provided for visitors to sit and listen to this sedative soundscape, which drastically transforms the commonly hectic environments found in central London.

The unnerving atmosphere caused by the constant and unexpected shift of audio and lights in both of these works, along with the manipulation of soundscapes, is something that I had tried to attempt with ‘ALERT TONES’. The fact that the timing of these exhibits at the Tate coincided with my own work being shown in London has given me a boost of confidence in terms of the mediums I am approaching to demonstrate my ideas.

‘TARMAC’ Emerging Artists group show at Lewisham Art House, London

During the making of ‘memeltscren.mov’ I was thinking about other ways in which I could manifest the immaterial aspects of digital technology into physicality. This resulted in two pieces that were shown in the group show ‘TARMAC’ at Lewisham Art House, London. Both these works were developed alongside the writing of my dissertation titled; ‘The Internet: An online utopia or an extension of a dystopian world?’ so are therefore very focused on the ways in which we navigate this new virtual landscape.

Last year I visited the White Chapel Gallery’s exhibition ‘Electronic Super Highway’, which was heavily influenced by the ideas and work of Nam June Paik. Paik’s vision of the Internet in the 70’s as a ‘spring board for new and surprising endeavours’ that would ‘enrich the quality of life itself’ is something I have found highly problematic. Along with many other thinkers during the period before the public release of the Internet, Paik heralded the Internet as a virtual saviour for us all. I believe that this point of view has allowed us to produce and consume the developing digital technologies with little moral consideration or ethical hesitation. I believe that the Internet is currently a utopia for the ego, allowing us to indulge in our own desires like never before. This obsession of the self and obtaining untapped emotional pleasure has, and will continue to, butcher our ties with our physical surroundings, turning us into staring, thumb swiping, commercially mouldable lumps of flesh.

‘INTERNET SEARCH HISTORY’ was an attempt to physically address online indulgence. Firstly, I was asked by the group I was exhibiting with to do a text piece for the entrance for the gallery after the work that was shown at ‘No Ordinary Disruption’ at the Flying Dutchman. I started off by thinking about vinyl lettering on the wall after doing much research into the work of Lawrence Weiner. This quickly transcended into an interest in how the audience would interact with the work. Through my dissertation research and previous work with screens I knew it was important for me to somehow mimic the interaction we have with screens but on a much larger scale, without using a screen.

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This is how the three blue banners heralding the large pixelated letters were developed. This shade of blue is recognisable as the digital screen-of-death blue, so in some ways I wanted to utilize it in a way that would symbolise personal loss, technological frustration and digital apocalypse. This also refers to recently out dated computing technology, acknowledging the pace of technological developments. I wanted the letters to be unreadable when close up, revealing only an array of randomly collected pixels, but readable from further away. This worked in the sense that the letters were blurred and could only be read easily when a photo was taken, but the banners were not big enough to create the exact effect that I wanted.

Initially I aimed to present my own writing, but this ended up being condensed into the three words ‘Internet Search History’. Putting these on separate banners I felt amplified the way in which these words all have their own very broad and separate meanings, but when bought together into this modern triptych they not only deal with the specificity of the personal, but also acknowledge the breadth of mans invention of the Internet to search and archive a seemingly infinite amount of data.

These ideas also stemmed from Boris Groys’ writings on the Internet and memory. In this sense I was eager to explore the idea of the Internet as collective memory, and the cataloguing of Internet searches as personal memory logs. Internet Search Histories are often seen as private places, logging personal interests and preferences, which is why advertising and marketing use html cookies to legally gain access to this intimate information in order to create more accurate statistical data. This is where I feel the liberal ideology of the 60’s vision of the Internet, where we are all free to pursue our own interests and pleasures and the capitalist dogma collide, and therefore why I felt it was important to present this very specific artefact.

Evan Roth’s work ‘Internet Cache self portrait’ series that was shown at the Electronic Superhighway exhibition influenced the materiality of this works conception. Initially I also wanted to print this work onto vinyl as I felt it was important that it existed on something heavy and tactile, but due to costs and practicality I opted for the PVC banners. Roth’s work has been hugely influential on my own practice, as I feel that he sophistically deals with the very ideas and questions that fuel my own practice. In reflection I can now see that my banners and Roth’s ‘Internet Cache self-portrait’ are suspiciously similar. In Roth’s work he revealed his browsing habits through algorithmically displayed images into physicality by printing them on vinyl. It seems that my piece of work was just unproductively condensing these ideas. At the time I did not notice that I was not simply being influenced by Roth but was actually going through the motions of the exact same idea and executing it to a much lower standard. I do feel though that I developed these ideas independently of Roth’s work, which demonstrates to me that my ideas and opinions are apart of an on-going and relevant discussion.

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Evan Roth ‘Internet Cache self portrait’ at the White Chapel’s 2016 exhibition ‘Electronic Superhighway’ 

There are notable differences between the works though. I chose to print the work over three rectangular banners in an attempt to physicalize Internet tabs, making it possible for them to be overlaid, separated and re combined. I feel that the materiality of the banners also provide connotations of both protest and advertising, which I believe to be an interesting collision of opposing interests. This represents the way in which the Internet can be used for political liberation and open discussion, whilst being primarily fuelled and influenced by the dogma of capitalism.

The idea of protest that I wanted to inhabit the work I believe to be a very important part of the discussion about how we use the Internet. As our actions are being monitored more than ever before, along side the careful catering to our personal likes and dislikes, the most effective form of protest is passivity. Instead of taking to the streets with banners and signs, the most effective way of showing dissatisfaction with the current abilities of the online is to not use these mediums just as if we are not impressed by the ethics of a company or service the most effective way to harm it is by collective and individual avoidance. This is an idea that is not completely formed or researched at this stage but I believe it can be recognised somewhere within this work, and that is what sets it apart from being a shitty replica of Roth’s portraits.

The second piece of work was titled ‘UPDATE/OUTDATE’. Originally I acquired multiple photo frames to show a collection of short screen recordings such as ‘the lovers’. The aim of this work was to show how online advertising interacts with online content on creative sharing platforms such as Tumblr. In this example I felt that the anonymous image on the left which stages a romantic setting between two lovers and the condom advert on the right created an interesting dialogue. The static image on the left, which could be any thing from a still from a pornographic film to the work of a professional artist, depicts a romantic fantasy like intimacy between two lovers, whereas the advert on the right uses domesticity and banality alongside humour to promote its product. I think I found this interesting because the similarity of the images highlights how anonymous images on the Internet are liberated from their original purpose when shared just for their aesthetic qualities and value, creating and evolving new meanings and understandings.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/193978467″>the lovers</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/amberclausner”>Amber Clausner</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Unfortunately this didn’t work as the photo frames I bought did not support the files that I wanted to show on them. During this technical frustration, I entered a SD card into one of the photo frames that had been left in another of the photo frames that I had purchased second hand. The 1GB SD card contained hundreds of images of a white, middle-class family. By chance, when I entered the SD card into this photo frame, all of these accidentally acquired images glitched unexpectedly. I then became obsessed with this as a looping slideshow as I found that each image glitched differently every time it appeared on the slideshow. This was just a coincidence between two opposing technologies and I would have no idea how to re create or force it but I felt it was important to show this at Lewisham in order to comment on the rapid development of technology which annually renders many working pieces of tech useless, contributing to vast rates of waste and consumption in the ‘developed’ world.

The photo frame I felt was an especially important tool in regards to this discussion. The research for my dissertation was focused primarily on how the past predicted the future, which inevitably included William Cameron Menzies 1936 film adaptation of H. G. Wells’ 1933 story ‘Things to Come’. In the 2036 that they both imagine, screens have replaced windows. Anne Friedberg discusses this prediction in ‘The Virtual Window’; “As flat-screen technology improves and screens replace real windows with a kind of “inhabited TV,” a “windows environment” may give was to virtual “window-walls,” an image not far from the shape of H. G. Wells’s Things to Come.” The reason I found the photo frames so interesting in this context is that they are this prediction come to fruition but in a low quality, kitsch, out-dated way.

Digital photo frames are rarely come across in use, they are the classically dis-regarded Christmas present, used once on boxing day then left to gather dust in the loft. They herald the idea of unlimited digital benefits – ‘Show off your holiday photos all year round’ – but the reality is that not many people are organised to archive and edit their banal photographs for constant public display. They also symbolize the cross over from analogue to digital photography. As physical photo albums gave way to Facebook photo sharing, there has been a loss of physical photo collecting. The digital camera allows us to take (seemingly) unlimited amounts of photos, which causes us to take more photos then we would ever need. These photos then lay dormant in files on our computers, taking up unnecessary digital space that we have become sentimentally attached to. After the initial hype of digital photography’s benefits consumers began missing the physicality of the photo album and I see the digital photo frame as a domestic and commercial object that attempted to reclaim that.

Ultimately I do not think that either of these works are particularly successful. Although they manifest many of the ideas and research that I was working with for my dissertation I do not think that they were engaging or informative to an audience. I also believe that the failure of these works shows that I am much more comfortable and successful when working with film. I realised after setting up the exhibition that the lack of audio was why I felt so dissatisfied with the work. Recently I have been considering how problematic it is that our culture is so dependant on the sense of sight, and therefore have realised how important it is to engage with the other senses. In this regard I have learnt that I want to develop my use of sound in my practice and move away from sculptural and pictorial content.

Reflection of ‘POLITICALLY EMOTIONAL/EMOTIONALLY POLITICAL’ and ‘No Ordinary Disruption’ at The Flying Dutchman, London

Having found myself consistently writing during the summer months I started to disregard images and objects and found it increasingly difficult to think about the possibilities of making. This led me to my recent experiment ‘POLITICALLY EMOTIONAL/EMOTIONALLY POLITICAL’, which was born out of anxiety about making work for a show I was in from 26 -29 September; ‘No Ordinary Disruption’. The making of this work was spontaneous and my only aim was to get across my dissatisfaction with the art world, but the writing took on a life of its own as I kept adding more and more thoughts to the word document. I left the text mainly unedited as I feel that it is within this honesty that the strength of the work manifests itself. I did re-structure the ‘stanzas’ in a way that makes the first half politically engaged and the second half is focused on the emotions and the body. To present this work to an audience I screen recorded myself scrolling down the word document with the down arrow key and a metronome to guide me.

This was displayed on a small screen at the exhibition, and I made the decision to place it half way up an unused stairway within the gallery space. My aim was to create an intimate space between the viewer and the work and this stairwell was completely without light and narrow, meaning only one person could go up to view the screen at once. I felt really nervous about this piece before showing it as I know that a lot of the writing is very naïve and quite pathetic, but it was this sort of ‘teenage rant’ that I felt everyone could relate to. It was good to get this work out into the world quickly, but I think the screen was much too small and the format possibly difficult to access. In feedback from my peers and tutors I was told that the simplicity of black text on a white background was successful because it did not let the mind get distracted from the imagery in the writing. I personally think that the scroll through the text works because it conceals how long the text might be, something that would put a potential viewer off, but a screen of capital letters seems to be easy for most to digest for a couple of minutes. Ultimately I have been told I need to aim much bigger, in the next week I plan to create a multi projection installation to immerse the viewers in my writing and I also plan to work with vinyl and graffiti.

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140 per minute; Rave Culture and Art in 1990’s Poland – at Open’r music festival, Gdynia, Poland.

Referring to the beats in classic techno dance music belonging to 90’s cyber culture, this exhibition explores the relationship between politics, technology and art at the end of the 20th century. In his book ‘After the Future’ (2011) Italian theorist Franco Beradi (Bifo) refers to the 1900’s as ‘the century that trusted in the future’, but notes the negative shift in this belief starting in the final decades of the 20th century, ending with cyber culture in the 1990’s. Bifo describes cyber culture as a new type of utopia, one that differs from the utopia of progression and expansion imagined by the rest of the century;

“The Net is the utopia of an infinite, virtual space where countless trajectories of billions of intelligent agents meet and create their economic, cultural, and psychic reality.”

This too, reflects rave culture also taking place in 1990’s Poland where electronic music parties;

“began to appear in Poland together with the political system change in the early 90s, often voicing the naive, but nonetheless authentic optimism of opening up to the world, its civilizational and technological advancement.”

Bifo believes that the previously imagined utopia’s, so focused on economic and special growth, have caused the inevitability of environmental catastrophe, and pre empting it; our modern obsession with dystopia. This is embodied in the work of Janek Simon, whose work ‘Robot VJ mixing channels 1 and 2’ was included in the ‘140 beats per minute exhibition’. Simon’s practice strives for autonomy from our commodity dependant civilisation with works such as ‘Home made digital watch’ (2005), as well as works which physically predict the apocalypse such as ‘Slight Earth quake’ (2004) (a shaking glass of water) reflecting the importance of our own preparation for the end of the future.

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View of the “140 beats per minute” exhibition, photo: Bartosz Stawiarski   

Perhaps most efficient at transforming the viewer into the visual dimension of the 1990’s were the spatial installations by Andrzej Miastkowski; ‘That which appears everyday and makes itself’ (1997) and Piotr Wryzykowski; ‘Global Social Organism’ (1996). The first of which consisted of a black-lit room with walls decorated with small fragments of neon yellow, surrounding an intricately adorned shrine in the centre of the room. The added element of sound, a soothingly hypnotic pulse, (which was unfortunately rather drowned out by the wailings of Bastille taking place on the main stage at the time of my exhibition exploration) created a juxtaposition between the senses, a tension that mimics that of the 90’s rave culture; both stimulating and soothing, a comfort and a threat.

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Andrzej Miastkowski, Wspólnota Leeeżeć, “To, co widnieje każdego dnia i czyni się samo”, 1997, photo: Bartosz Stawiarski

Wryzykowski’s installation consisted of a spinning disco ball in the centre of a black room, the lights of which reached into every corner of the installation. Considering the admirable number of Wryzykowski’s artistic and politically active successes, I feel as though this was a rather bland representation of a truly inspiring artist.

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Piotr Wyrzykowski “Globalny Społeczny Organizm”, 1996, photo: Bartosz Stawiarski

Fortunately Wryzykowski’s greater achievements were showcased in ‘Test na Cyborga’ (Cyborg Test) (1996) by C.U.K.T, the Polish art collective he co-founded in 1995. This piece was the personal highlight of the exhibition for me, a documentation of a happening performed by both the collective and the general public. C.U.K.T set up raves open to everyone willing to exchange information about their weight and size of their body, they then had a number relating to this information branded onto their left hand with permanent marker, and had this hand photocopied. A selection of these photocopies were shown alongside the contract filled out by the rave goer and three screens documenting this process. For me, this trade between experience and personal information predicts and reflects the workings of modern social media, and poses the question; why do we perceive things as ‘free’ only if we are not exchanging money for it. With further research into this collective and their activism, (in particular their creation of Wictoria Cukt, a virtual presidential candidate for the 2001 Polish election that had the potential to electrically embody all of the views of all of the people using the infinite space of the internet), I realised that this collective’s core beliefs are in fact very close to my own. Their anti-institutional attitude puts life at the forefront of activity, not art, something I believe is sorely missing from the practices that surround me in 2016 Britain.

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C.U.K.T, “Test na cyborga” (fragment), Warsaw, Zielona Góra, Düsseldorf, 1995, photo: Bartosz Stawiarski

In all, this exhibition remained faithful to the works on display, being confined to their specific timescale was vital for the audience to understand the anthropological significance of the works, which I sometimes feel can be lost with decade specific exhibitions. The midst of Poland’s biggest music festival was the perfect setting for this educational exhibition, although afterwards I would have been quite partial to a bit of hard core techno music, of which was lacking at the festival as Bastille was STILL playing, so in a way this exhibition commented on it’s location itself – the commercialized world of music. Ultimately the selection of works on show walked me through the setting of 90’s culture that I had read about in ‘After the Future’, visually demonstrating those feelings of scepticism and celebration prior to Y2K.

Recent work in progress

At the moment I am working on several different experiments. Using one of Zoella’s ‘What’s in my Handbag?’ vlogs I am working through the technique that Lenka Clayton uses in ‘Qaeda Quality Question Quickly Quickly Quiet’. I don’t plan this to be a piece as clearly this is literally copying Claydon’s idea but instead I see this as a task that will develop my ideas and my editing skills. In feedback from the crit exhibition I was told I needed to start working with the material I am commenting on in a more direct way so this is an attempt to start doing that. Using Claydon’s technique heightens the importance of what Zoella is saying in her videos (looking at the public analytics of this video on Youtube I have found that it has a total viewing time of 48 YEARS, which demonstrates how widespread this information is).


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/85120585″>Qaeda, quality, question, quickly, quickly quiet</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user11733176″>Lenka Clayton</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

To make this re edit of the video I have already had to watch it multiple times despite only being on the letter E, so not only is trying to cut the exact moment she says ‘a’ or ‘and’ frustrating but also watching the same thing over and over again. This experiment also focuses on language in a way that I have never explored before but am very interested in. Language is something that I feel we take for granted all the time in society but talking to each other and expressing ourselves through language is the only way we can evoke real change in society. I feel that language in its every day use is mistreated, we don’t take advantage of this fantastic mode of communication, instead we often waste it on bitching and moaning (which builds up human relationships but after these relationships are built moaning should be abolished).

This realisation led me to start recording myself whilst walking places on my own. I have got into the habit of recording myself speaking into a microphone that I disguise as a phone. I record myself saying out loud the thoughts in my head, the things I observe as I am walking, what I have observed that day and my after thoughts of these events and what I am doing later or just how I feel. I thought that maybe by getting all these things out I would maybe then have more time when I got to my destination to talk about real things to people, to use the power of communication more effectively. I guess what I am trying to work out is if I get out all the bitching and the mundanity in my own head then I would not need to talk about it to other people.

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Emma Hart installation view ‘Big Mouth’

This experiment was inspired by Emma Hart, in particular a piece that she had in a recent exhibition ‘Big mouth’ where she had a radio playing out clips of her talking to herself. I found this piece to be funny but also really touching as I really gained an understanding of this artist even though I have no idea what she looks like etc. In this way I got to know the artist much more that a painted self-portrait. I have also been inspired by the work of Alison L. Wade, in particular her work with voice mail machines. In an interview I read with Wade she talked about how, if a voicemail machine has more than 10 messages left on it you can begin to build up an image of the person without ever hearing anything from their perspective. For years I have been collecting shopping lists which do a similar thing, so possibly now is the time to start incorporating that into my work.

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Alison L. Wade ‘Beep’

I have experimented pairing these audio recordings with webcam videos of me in the evenings sitting at my computer editing, showing the mundanity and boredom that I feel surrounds my life at the moment. This is neither interesting to watch or listen to and I am not sure where this is going but I am enjoying doing it. I am worried that it is more narcissistic and self confessional than I wanted it to be. I tried playing one of the voice recordings to a close friend and actually found it too painfully embarrassing to sit through. This is interesting as everything I said in the recording I would say to my friend, but watching her listening to it knowing that I was talking to myself at the time made it really uncomfortable. I don’t think I would be able to display this as work. No one would care as it is me just sharing my human experience and also I would find it too embarrassing (also in a lot of the recordings I talk about my course and sometimes the people on it so that would just be a huge terrible mess really). This is more of a personal project that I hope will help me to make more expressive work, or at least help me realize what it is that I am actually trying to make work about as these are really stream of consciousness recordings.

The other thing I am working on at the moment is a painting as I recently learnt how to stretch a canvas and began thinking about what I wanted to paint on it one night. These thoughts turned into a crazy dream which led me to stand in front of the canvas the next day, paint brush in hand. I had no idea what I was aiming to paint but using a strict colour pallet of only, primary magenta, yellow and blue I began painting faces. These are not realistic faces but instead are made out of block colour that creates the forms that we can recognize as a face. These paintings are reminiscent of Picasso’s painting style along side many other expressionist painters which is interesting. There is no real substance to this painting, but again this is something that I really feel like I need to work through after using these paints in so many of my recent works.

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Canvas painting (detail)

I feel that these faces have come from an internal loneliness that I am experiencing at the moment. Again this is another process piece that is taking a long time to complete, and when I am painting I begin creating narratives for these anonymous portraits so in a way this is a real expression of myself at this time. There is clearly something about these colours that interest me as well, and I feel like this comes the plastic aesthetic of them. I have no idea how I will complete this painting but I am enjoying the process and the time it is taking.

All of the experiments I am currently working on are process based and time consuming which seems to be the basis of many of my works. Reading Seigfried Kracauer’s essay ‘Boredom’ recently has also encouraged me to fully express this in my work. Ultimately these experiments enforce the diversity of my practice and interests where I am working with, painting, colour, found footage and audio.

Subversion 0.5

Between the 2nd and the 4th of December myself and a group of 5 other students studying at UCA Farnham organized an exhibition at hARTslane gallery in New Cross, London. The Private view took place on the evening of the 2nd, the turn out wasn’t huge but we had attendees studying at Goldsmiths and Central Saint Martins and the experience of this project has been invaluable.

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Subversion 0.5 poster

The exhibition space itself was fantastic; it is not your conventional white space, the exposed brickwork and wooden beams created a whole new backdrop and context for our work. This space is affordable and the owners gave us full reign over the space, handing over the keys and leaving us to it. Opening up the gallery space in the mornings was a really exciting experience for me, I felt a pride in actually having done something in the ‘art world’ and it gave me an insight into the responsibilities and organization of artist run spaces.

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Putting up Posters in gallery space

At the Private view I had the opportunity to talk to a second year Fine Art student studying at Central Saint Martins. It was interesting to hear that the tutor time is so limited at the highly regarded UAL institute, comparing this to my own university experience at UCA I felt extremely grateful with my own tutor – student relationships and realized the support I receive is really quite incredible.

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Outside Gallery view

Although there was only 6 of us exhibiting, we managed to comfortably fill the space with our work and unlike our last London show ‘Raw and Unseasoned’ we were able to curate the exhibition in a way that evoked a considerate dialogue between the works. The first room with Laura Rowe, Abi Miller and James Fish’s work had a strong focus on materiality and process. Leading viewers into the second room was my own piece, which continued the conversation of process with my ‘LSTV’ canvas lit up by my muted ‘What’s in my bag’ vlog shown on the painted TV. This second room focused on film presented in a number of different ways; projection and audio, constructed screens and painted monitors. The theme of this curation in the second room talked about technology in a number of different ways, and personally I felt this worked really well.

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Gallery layout and curation

For me the most successful piece of work in this exhibition was John Connor’s piece ‘The life of Nikola Tesler’. Originally John was thinking of displaying this on a monitor but due to technical difficulties he ended up displaying it on the projector with the audio of the film dominating the space. At the Private view this is the piece that got people to stay at the exhibition, as it was durational and we provided seats for people to be able to spend time with the work. As this piece was located in the back room of the gallery, walking in you could here the strange audio narrative of the piece without being able to see it, which drew people into the back room. This piece felt confident and was a great piece of parody narrative that made many viewers laugh and created a relaxed atmosphere in the space, which I think worked really well against my own piece.

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John Connor – ‘The life of Nikola Tesler’

In the recent crit exhibition I felt that the most successful works were those on the show reel and I hope that in the future I could organize a show just focusing on film based work. John and I spoke about the difficulty of a show that consisted solely of film based works, as to have audio playing in the space would be problematic but to expect viewers to put headphones on for each piece is unrealistic. Using a show reel is also an issue because it makes a lot of works really inaccessible, but I hope in the future I can attempt to tackle these curational issues in an exhibition focusing only on film works.

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Installation view

My own piece of work in this show was a little disappointing as I don’t really feel like I pushed myself to create something I was excited about, I only really recycled elements of previous works. I used my ‘What’s in my bag?’ vlog but this time without any cuts, I did speed this piece up by 200%. At this speed you are still able to understand everything that I am saying but my voice is extremely high pitched and just sounds ridiculous. I didn’t have the audio playing out loud as I felt that this highlighted the fact that what I was talking about isn’t worth listening to. I had the monitor showing this footage facing the spotted canvas that I had experimented hanging in different ways. When people spoke about this piece to me they mainly marveled at how long it must have taken me to paint the canvas. This is interesting as durational and frustrating processes is something I work a lot with at the moment to attempt to cure my own boredom.

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At night the light from the monitor screen lit up the canvas, reflecting the way that screens shine on our face when we use our laptops and phones in the dark. From this exhibition I have realized that I need to move away from this canvas and vlog work, which I am doing at the moment but possibly I should have made something brand new for this show so that I could have learnt more about the mode of display of this new work.

For me this exhibition was more about the experience of showing independently from the institution in London, and although we had no spectacular turn out it was an amazing experience. Over these few days not only did I learn about curation, gallery spaces and organizing private views but I experienced commuting and staying in London to open up the gallery in the morning I got a small taste of London life which has changed my perspective on London as a place to live in a surprisingly positive way.

hARTslane gallery is a great place to exhibit and I would really recommend it to any students or upcoming artists that are looking for an affordable space to display their work in London. I hope I do not let the success of this exhibition fade away and use this to propel me to organize more exhibitions next term as I am now incredibly excited after having a taste of what I can achieve in London.

Post-painting

From painting the canvases for ‘Loading…’ and ‘LSTV’ I had marked a table in my house and whilst scraping it off I began making patterns and working around the different textures that I had unknowingly made. The table was covered in paint quite thick and it was possible to see the imprint of the canvas between the table and the paint, creating a piece that documents the evidence of a performance. If I ever find myself painting another large scale canvas in this repetitive process I will paint a board white to use underneath to capture these accidental marks as I was upset that I could not keep the outcomes of this piece.

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Acrylic paint on vinyl table

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Detail

I used some of my close up photographs of this removal process and the textures left behind by the paintings as backgrounds for new paintings. I experimented with painting over these colourful compositions with white to create new spaces and forms, and to possibly use for the background for line drawings. As pieces on their own I think the use of white is quite interesting for disguising or neutralizing a space, I also experimented with painting AstroTurf white in an attempt at disguising it’s materiality.

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Acrylic paint on A4 ink jet print

Scraping the paint of became easier as lumps of it formed on the sponge I was using, this created very small formations of flaky dried paint. After seeing Tetsumi Kudo’s work at Hauser & Wirth I played around with using AstroTurf as a backdrop to these abstract forms. I noticed that close up they looked like moss or even lichen, and the AstroTurf composition encouraged this comparison.

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Paint form

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Experiment on AstroTurf

Using a macro lens I photographed these forms, cropping them to look much larger than they really are. Blowing these up and printing them on A3 I arranged the images on the wall next to the paint forms. This felt quite resolved in some ways as the comparison between the 2D image that shows the details of the object in comparison to the very delicate form next to it demonstrates the objectivity of the camera. The photograph gives aesthetic insight into the object but does not give us the rational information about its size. I found this comparison visually quite successful here even though this feels rather too polite but still this piece too thinks about the natural and artificial in a new way.

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Macro experiment

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2D and 3D display

I have noticed that in a lot of my work I tend to try and use all outcomes of a process, the marks that are made elsewhere as a by product of making something always seem to interest me, and I often cannot see them as separate from the intended piece of work.