Between the Physical and the Digital

The main two ideas that surround this project are as follows:

  • A fragmentation of our relationship with information following an engagement with search technology
  • How this is ‘actualized’ through the employment of interfaces that makes the digital space more tangible and ‘real’

The video’s that I have been working on address the first concern, and the second is in part being addressed through my own animated presence within the narration of the fragmented information scripts. However, following the research I have done into artist’s that engage with the internet in their work, I am interested how I could develop this idea of the interface within my own practice.

I have started to play around with some layouts and ideas of how to present my work interactively using Powerpoint. Although quite cumbersome and unrefined, it’s a starting point to consider how I could engage this work as part of an online interactive experience.

So far, many of my ideas take the human body and its functions as a model and the linked pages sort of correspond loosely to this basic model – incorporating images, textures and icons that offer a digitalised counterpart to the physical. The slides include hyperlinked lips and hearts that take you either to other slides or to external sites. The lips for example, when clicked on, take you to web entries relating in some way to lips or kissing. What I’d like to do is to create a space that uses image, text, and video to draw parallel to the body, a space that feels very physical and ‘fleshy’, yet acknowledges this restriction in its digital nature. Throughout the whole work I would like the animated ‘me’ to narrate and be present as an assistant. I hope to see this develop into an online space,


Developing a voice

One of the most frequent comments that I have had about the video work that I have been making is that the text to speech synthesised voice is very difficult to follow because of its familiarity.

It, therefore, doesn’t quite have the ‘uncanny’ nature and presence that perhaps would lend itself to the content of the work better. Although I did quite like the effect that the autmoton style voice had, it’s connotations and synthetic nature, I realised it was worth experimenting with a few more styles of narration.

Considering my use of an animated version of my own face, I felt the most natural next step would be to use my own voice.

I wasn’t at all happy with the use of my natural voice,  I didn’t think it sat well with the animation as it sounded too ‘human’. I then tried a slight alteration of this voice using the sounds editing software audacity.

I am a lot happier with this voice, it has a humanity to it – more so than the text to speech, but this humanlike voice is disrupted by a slight mechanical effect. My only thought at the moment is that perhaps it is quite childlike – I am unsure how this will come across in relation to the content that it will be narrating. I have a gap crit soon, so it will be interesting to see how people relate to the voice.

I Wanna Feel

Developing on from my last video work, the video created from the song ‘You Can’t Touch This’ by MC Hammer. I selected this song just because the thought of the lyrics in the context of the ideas that I am exploring was quite amusing. I continued this idea through to my most recent video work, in which I use the song ‘Look Up And See Infinity, Look Down And See Nothing’ by Mayday Parade in order to generate the ‘script’ for the video.

I identified that I wanted a song with lyrics that held a sense of longing to touch in it, this idea has largely developed from the number of films that I have seen relating to artificial intelligence. There is a recurring idea in each of these films of a barrier between the digital and the physical spaces that the user and the computer occupy. Through employing song lyrics about this longing to touch, but ‘translated’ through a gathering of information performed by the computer, I hope to reflect on this space that prevents the two from meeting fully.

The ‘script’:

i want to feel

In this video piece, I have been a little bit more creative with the presentation of the archived information that I have collected. In the ‘You Can’t touch This’ video I was beginning to incorporate more of the content associated with the search results of the individual lyrics, including  pop-ups, video, images, text, and advertisements, but this was done quite timidly and I was still focusing predominately on the text to speech reading of the search engine results. I think the busy-ness and excessive amount of information within this video piece demonstrate my intentions a lot more clearly.

Naturally Speaking

Naturally speaking is an experimental essay commissioned for the book ‘You Are Here: Art After the Intenet’ and written by Tyler Coburn. The piece explores the evolution of language following the introduction of speech recognition technologies through an intervention and adaptation of the training program for Macintosh speech recognition.

I am interested in the work’s exploration of speech, its purpose and transmission within a digital space. In this setting speech is reduced to noise in ordered to be rendered digital and understood as data. The work raises interesting questions about the nature of communicating in a digital age.

Considering this alongside my own practice, especially some of my most recent pieces where I have been performing predictive text ‘scripts’, I am interested in the relationship between speech and information. The language that goes in and comes out of the digital space,  and in particular the attempts made by the ‘computer’ to synthesise speech and to render itself communicable to us.

The essay has also been performed by Susan Bennett, the voice of Siri. This adds a new layer to the work, further questioning the relationship between the real and the synthetic voice and its relationship to text and speech.


Michael Samyn – Love

This work is documented as one of many influential ‘net art’ pieces by the organisation Rhizome. The piece takes place online and consists of a series of seven interfaces. The work was made in 1995 and so has quite an early net aesthetic. I am interested in the content and presentation of the work, and the way these two elements interact. Particularly I think that the conversation happening in this piece between the aesthetics of the web and the concept ‘love’ is intriguing. The idea of love is broken down into quite superficial or ‘surface’ level imagery and dealt with quite instinctively, but is also translated into a digital network. The interface seems to talk about the concept of love and its many different branches, dealing with quite ‘innocent’ forms of expression to erotic forms. There is a sense in which the exploration of love relates to a ‘real world’ exploration, but simultaneously breaks the concept down to fragments of information connected by a web interface.

Much of Samyn’s other work, in which he collaborates with his wife, explores the unfolding of sex and love in the context of the internet. It offers a new platform for such expressions but I am interested in what this space both adds to this dialogue, and also what it takes away from it.

In an interview for Rhizome Samyn writes about his work:

My art is research. I don’t want to be “critical” as such. I want to
analyze things and present my results. Those results should help the
viewer to deal with contemporary society better.

A lot of my work is about this strange coexistence of natural and the
media worlds, which you can probably extend to the “real” and the
“fantasy” world. Both seem very real to me and influence each other.

In many ways I can relate to these ideas about creating art in response to the web.

Formative Assessment

Personal Statement (revised – also in need of further revision)

By playfully navigating a growing digital archive of information and assimilating found text, images, and video, I hope to address our increasingly fragmented relationship with information following our engagement with digital ‘search’ technologies. I am also interested in the synthetic intelligence that acts as the host of such encounters, personalising and actualising the conversation between the digital and the physical.

Degree Show Proposal

For my final degree show exhibition, I intend to work towards creating some sort of online/computer interface that will accessible through a monitor, or several monitors, in a well-lit space (preferably lit with artificial light). The computer interface will host the conversation between the viewer and the video work, the video pieces will have already been created and therefore the video work will not be ‘live’, but there will hopefully be an element of interactivity within the work. I do also like the idea of the work being available on personal devices and so hope to host the work online and provide some sort of link in this space in order to invite people to view the work on their devices. I also hope to have a ‘gallery assistant’ in the space, this assistant will be my doll Cayla, a smart doll connected to the internet. I am currently working on hacking her and reprogramming her responses so that she is able to talk about my work with people in the show.

5 Contextualization Posts

5 Documentation Posts

I wanted to include this video clip here as I feel it quite helpfully illustrates one of the key concepts in my work.

The Artist is/n’t present.

In response to the consideration of the role of the post-internet artist, I began to consider my role and voice within the work that I am creating. Although I am continually looking at artists that use found footage in their practice, and work towards finding a more articulate way of developing my ideas, I thought to respond fairly instinctively this question by using myself as the interface.I have sourced a piece of software that allows my face to be modelled, animated and voice synchronised using a similar text to speech interface that I have already been using.

The work allows me to become an eery presence in the work, it is not me, but it is.


I realised that because of the lack of coding knowledge and time to learn it, the work I am producing is largely manual and laboured by me. I initially I felt this was problematic, as I was interested in talking about AI but had limits to being able to use it. I then began to recognise that what I am largely doing is adopting the role of AI, drawing on the processes that I imagine it may follow and calling up the information that I collect as I follow paths around the internet.

The inclusion of this animated version of myself is a comment on this perhaps, and a starting point in order to consider my role in the work.

This is the most recent experiment, it is pretty underdeveloped but is a taster of what I intend on continuing with.

This is a foundational text piece for the video piece.

You Can’t touch this – script