‘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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

Serpentine’s 2016 Miracle Marathon

Whilst reading David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous, I thought it would be beneficial for me to attend the Serpentine’s annual marathon talks, this year the subject was miracles. After reading Abram’s analysis of the ‘super natural’ I assumed that these talks would follow a similar rhetoric, that we have become so sheltered and separate from nature that even the most ordinary of natural events will be labelled ‘super natural’ because of our inability to control or fully understand them. The Serpentine talks on the Saturday that I attended included speakers such as Gilbert and George, Sophie Al-Maria and Christo of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and involved talks that not only addressed ‘miraculous’ nature but also unravelled the entirety of civilisation and the world in relation to the miracle.

Carina Namih spoke around the ideas of the Oracle, how it is part of human nature to look for a leader to guide us, the way in which we are now so invested in science and technology that we stop thinking for ourselves but how these two developments mean that our lives are more miraculous than ever. Namih was followed by Riccardo Sabatini who spoke about how science attempts to perfect humanity and makes the borders of a miracle, or what we find to be miraculous, much smaller.

Sophia Al-Maria still from ‘The Litany’ from solo show Black Friday at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Sophia Al-Maria’s talk had very pessimistic undertones, of which I could completely relate to. Al-Maria started by announcing that miracles do not exist, because no miracle can get us out of this situation, she went on to describe her panic attacks when realising the vanishing future ending in the upcoming catastrophe but also maintained that we should continue to look into the face of fear and break out of all of these traps. All of these extremely personal, emotional responses echo my own pessimistic relationship with the future. I also found Al-Maria’s description of her most recent solo show in the U.S ‘Black Friday’ of interest as she spoke about her analysis of how the effect of shopping mall architecture of the shopping mall echoes that of the catherderal and other religious architectures, evoking feelings of both safety and inferiority. This has led me to think about how we worship science in a lot of ways, it is the truth that we believe and follow, and all of the products that we buy and treasure have come out of scientific research, experimentation etc. it is science that has totally infiltrated our lives.

Jussi Parikka showed the video work ‘White Mountain’ by Emma Charles in order to demonstrate and analyse how cold war architectures are being transformed to house data centres. Parikka highlighted the fact that these architectures were designed to withstand apocalyptic bombs and now house digital secrets. It is always interesting to consider how ‘the cloud’ takes up physical space, but Parikka also spoke about how data always requires energy and how wifi has a sound (I often think about all the digital, man made frequencies that are passing through my material body at any given moment). This talk ended thinking about the ‘cult’ of doing things beyond human powers and how corporate engineering has replaced the magic and miracles of the natural world.

Kumi Naidoo’s speech was politically and emotionally invigorating. Naidoo made it clear that we must find ways of speaking about the current situation in a way that does not scare people to the point of immobilisation where they will only pray for a miracle instead of being active and participatory in effecting global change. Naidoo referenced Martin Luther Kings speech on Maladjustment to demonstrate the way in which we should feel about current events taking place, remarking that ‘it is a miracle that Donald Trump is potentially going to be president…it is a miracle that banks and bankers committed mass fraud… these are all unnatural events.’ After recounting the experience of his politically active youth in South Africa and the loss of a friend to activism Naidoo stressed an important message about how we should retaliate against these structures of society: ‘Do not give your life, but give the rest of your life.’ He also went on to say ‘don’t worry about the planet, the planet will continue without us, what we need is to adapt a mutually beneficial relationship to the earth. The technology exists, the need exists but the political will is letting us down.’ He left the audience with a list of what we need to effect global and productive change: ‘moral courage, scientific re-design and a shit load of miracles’ and lastly reminded us all that ‘Struggles are not sprints, they are marathons.’

These talks were very much discussions of the theoretical whereas Christo’s segment was purely focussed on his own work, of which I found incredible in scale of the projects achieved but his stubbornness to look outward of his own practice left me feeling a little patronised. On the other hand Gilbert and George’s performance of ‘FUCKOSOPHY FOR ALL’ was a source of much needed comic relief, but I was not sure if it was entirely relevant to the setting of the marathon as a whole. It was a great experience to be in the presence of a performance that undermines whist simultaneously liberates language, but at some points it felt a little awkward and out of place.

This series of talks was really beneficial for the development of my theoretical relationship to my subject and has helped me identify the ways in which my different areas of interest merge together into an all-encompassing context; the natural world, science, technology and revolution. Not only did these talks reflect my interest in these subject but have also motivated me to be active in this field of interest and artistic discourse, in a lot of ways this has validated my belief in what I am doing and the work that I plan to make.

‘LSTV’ and development of work from September – October

As an induction into my Second Year studio unit, in September we were given a project to respond to a piece of Art on display in London, in order to change our way of working whilst expanding our knowledge of artists. I was given Sigmar Polke’s ‘Untitled (Square 2)’, 2003, which is displayed at the Tate Modern in the room ‘Painting after technology’. Although I usually try to avoid looking at traditional methods of painting, within this composition I found an interest in the contrast between fluid and the static because of the layers of different painting technique. The free flowing paint caught under a systematically printed image, and the colour palette of this painting had a great affect on me, I found the metallic and yet dulled hues soothing and complimentary whilst simultaneously dark, generating a sense of mysticism.

Sigmar Polke, Untitled (Square 2) 2003

From my initial research I became interested in the philosophy of Metaphysics, as I found that in its theories it contains questions I have often asked myself. The basic questions of Metaphysics helped me form my first response to Polke’s work as they gave me a basic reason to make art. These questions are: 1. Ultimately what is there? 2. What is it like? To start generating work I tried to answer these questions visually. My initial response consisted of a black and white macro image of moss, enlarged onto 16 A4 pages. Onto this I projected colour footage of the moss and it’s surroundings. In this way I tried to answer the questions like this; 1. What is there? This piece of moss. 2. What is it like? It is green, growing in a wall, there are bushes growing above it etc. This idea of static and movement was clearly inspired by the layers in Polke’s painting, whilst still trying to visualize the merging of reality and then humans perception of reality. The projection onto the image made it difficult for either element can be understood at all but when they were separated they can both be seen clearly. I find this confusion caused by the layering of the objective and subjective over one another to be an interesting idea – is it impossible for human’s to objectively observe the world around us because we are a part of it?

Initial response to Polke and Metaphysics research
Initial response to Polke and Metaphysics research

I then went on to look at the works of Gustav Metzger, Stan Brakhage, Len Lye and Oskar Fishinger. The contrast between the technological and the organic is what drew me towards Metzger’s work, in particular ‘Liquid Crystal Environment’ (1965/2005). The way his work naturally transforms over the duration of it is display is something that I feel is central to my own way of making work. Not only is his work transformative, but also it is politically engaged and deals with the environmental whilst being extremely physical in its presence.

Gustav Metzger, Liquid Crystal Environments, 1965/2005

Research into Stan Brakhage led me to experiment with out of date film, making gifs with a Nishika camera, creating multiple still images into ‘moving moments’ of distorted colour. I also experimented with digitally manipulating photographs damaged by a broken camera, transforming the colours and visibility within the composition.

Stan Brakhage, Film from ‘Mothlight’, 1963
Nishika gif experiemnts with expired film
Nishika gif experiemnts with expired film

Play with colour and animation led me to look at Len Lye’s films. I was instantly immersed in Lye’s use of repetition and bright block colours. This interest then led me to ‘An Optical poem’ by Oskar Fishinger. The circular forms pulsating and transforming took me out of reality for a few minutes, absorbed me into the screen on which I watched it, creating a mental transgression into the bright and infinite technological world.

Photo manipulation from damaged film
Photo manipulation from damaged film

Len Lye, Rainbow Dance [still], 1936
The colour and forms in these animations and the influence of Polke led me to experiments with paintings. I generated these by making multiple backgrounds at once and then creating layers of varying colour palates and textures on top. After all the layers had dried I would attempt to make sense of the free flowing paint with ink drawings on top. From this I found a colour palette that I wanted to work with; Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. This started off as a visual interest and then transformed into a conceptual process. Using the acrylic versions of the printer inks to talk about tensions between technology and painting.

Paint experiments with colour, composition and texture
Paint experiments with colour, composition and texture

I was then recommended to look into the MoMA’s 2015 exhibition ‘Forever Now’. This introduced me to the term ‘Atemporal’ which describes ‘The strange state of the world where due to the Internet, all times now exist at once.’ This helped me think about the cross overs between the tradition of painting and the immediacy of digital/man made imagery. I then looked at different ways of painting and began experimenting contrasting these highly artificial colours with natural marks. I would use the negative space of a burnt piece of paper as a template, transferring the paint onto the paper with a sponge to create delicate but sharp edged forms. I also experimented with layering paints to recreate the spectrum of colours that create images out of a digital printer.

Experiments with Yellow, Cyan and magenta using burnt paper as stencil
Experiments with Yellow, Cyan and magenta using burnt paper as stencil

This influence in our perception of colour and the spectrum bought me to Olafur Eliasson and his study of colour. From his work I became more interested in installation space and was reminded of my interest of audience’s participation as a key aspect of the work.

Olafur Eliasson, Your uncertain shadow (colour), 2010

To develop my work for the October Crit show I began painting in block colours focusing on the form of the circle as this allowed me to easily create patterns and illusions. Reading Aldous Huxley’s ‘Doors of perception’ was also a great influence in my work at this time, especially where he describes the effect of bright colour on our ‘antipodes’; “Bright pure colours are characteristic of the other world”. Despite this Huxley evaluates only a page later “by it’s amazing capacity to give us too much of the best things, modern technology has tended to devaluate the traditional vision-inducing materials.” I felt a real connection to this analysis of colour in the everyday as I have often thought about why we do not feel the complete awe at colour and composition that our ancestors would have done.

Pattern and form experimentation with circles of block colour.
Pattern and form experimentation with circles of block colour.

Through reflection of this research I decided to make a ergonomically scaled installation that explored painting, colour, technology, the kitsch and human experience of forced perception. This is where ‘LSTV’ was formed. This consisted of an interior and exterior made from Acrylic and pencil on Canvas, black out fabric, Wood, AstroTurf, TV monitor and a Glass mannequin head.

The exterior consisted of a pattern made from the colours Magenta, Cyan, Yellow and Black. This pattern of dot painting had to be strategically planned before it was painted, I first had to plan it digitally on photoshop before I could start physical work. This process echoes that of Michael Williams digital and handmade paintings, whom I found in the ‘Forever Now’ catalogue. I was particularly interested in Williams’ choice of always creating flat imagery because of “the fact that he usually encounters artworks on the Internet or in books, rather than in person.” I wanted to subvert this in my ideas as I wanted to be sure that the viewer was completely present to view my work and in this way it would be impossible to photograph the piece, I felt it was important that the work could only be experienced truly when you are in front of it.

Michael Williams, work from ‘Forever now’ Exhibition at MoMA, 2015
Surface of Canvas painted in Acrylic
Surface of Canvas painted in Acrylic

Again, this work was very physical, the 5×5 meter canvas was much bigger than me so had to be made in stages, using hand drawn grids to guide me to where I should print each individual circle (applied with 10x10cm sponge). These pencil marks on the canvas were not removed once the paint had dried as I felt they became part of the work, these artificial dots sit between man made and mass production and the pencil lines highlighted this tension along with the reality of human error. From afar the canvas still looks as though it may have been mechanically made, but as the viewer gets closer to see the interior of the installation this pretence is abolished.

Canvas detail
Canvas detail

The ideas of over exposure to technology dulling our minds to a point where the ‘other world’ that Huxley references throughout his Mescalin experience is no longer accessible, is where the assemblage formed for the interior of my installation. Here I combined a glass mannequin head, Plastic grass and an old TV monitor stuck on white noise. These objects are all man made but particularly unaesthetic. They are objects whose function is to be the backdrop for other man made aesthetics but when placed all together they create a very bleak assemblage manufactured from evolving technology. This interior installation could only be viewed from one hole cut out of the canvas disguised as one of the painted black circles. This forced the viewer to interact with the piece physically, circling the structure to search for the hole, and then bending down to look through the it. This was followed by a mental interaction in the viewer where the contrast between interior and exterior aimed to transport the viewer to a very different place than the room/time and place that they were viewing my piece in.

Initial experiment with 'technological' assemblage
Initial experiment with ‘technological’ assemblage

In the crit feedback the comments revolved around the effective contrast of the bright and positive exterior and dark and disturbing interior, and how this could symbolize the transformation from childhood to adult hood. The disguise of the hole within the painted canvas also created a real moment of realization within the piece, a realization that there is ‘more’ and that this piece is not static. I was also told that my piece reminded people of advertisement because of the bright colours and positivity of the exterior from far away in comparison to the point where first the hand drawn lines and the imperfections of the circles can be seen, followed by the dark and bleak interior.

I feel that this piece was more successful in its interaction with the audience than ‘ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME’ because of its much larger physical presence. Its height meant that viewers couldn’t see over it, making it obstructive and forcing the viewer to confront it. But I do feel it was also too confusing, there were a lot of things in this piece to try to pick apart, also the disguise of the viewing point made it a secret when the work is meant to be for the viewer, and many did not know that it was there. I am pleased with this idea of transformation that occurs in the work, transporting the viewer from reality to an interior of strangeness using installation and contrast. The change of physical perception is something that I am going to work with again due to the success of this piece, the hole in the canvas allowed me complete control over the physical perception that the viewer had of the piece. Ultimately I want my work to allow moments of realization and moments of change in my audience by giving them a physical space of reflection. I want work to talk about human experience, the fears of death, realizations of something ‘bigger than us’ and other overwhelming moments of realization we face in our lives. These transformative and scary moments can sometimes only be consoled with humour and the absurd, which I feel is also very present in my work. I feel I would be happier about this work if it talked more about the political and environmental and had more influence from the audience. The idea that the audience could physically change outcome of the work was what was more successful about ‘ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME’, it gives the work a sense of immediacy and ephemerality to it, whereas ‘LSTV’ forced the viewers to be more present but did not completely include them.

'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015
'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015
'LSTV' 2015
‘LSTV’ 2015