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.
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.
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>.</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.