Summative Assessment

Statement

By playfully navigating a growing digital archive of information, I hope to address our increasingly fragmented relationship with information following our widespread engagement with online search technologies. I have become especially interested in artificially intelligent ‘personal assistants’ such as Siri, that act as the hosts of these encounters, personalising and actualising our engagement with the virtual. Throughout the development of my practice, I have become increasingly aware of the similarities between my own voice and that of an artificially intelligent personal assistant, leading me to consider the role and authorship of the artist in a post-internet age. In my piece, I hope to explore this by personally adopting the role of virtual assistant, and guiding the user through encounters with assimilations of found text, images, and videos relating to the ‘human experience’ as it might be understood digitally. The content is collected using search engines and online generator tools, removed from its hyperlinked environment, and presented inactively as a stream of information that disrupts the poetic reflections of songs and poems.

A Starting Point

A question for Siri

5 Key Points – Documentation

The Meaning of Life 

Love Songs

Finding a voice

What is love, life, and happiness? 

Creating an interface

5 Key Points – Contextualisation

Dada – Cut Ups

Cecile B Evans

Craig & Thompson

Love – Michael Samyn

A ‘Naive’ Aesthetic

Information as medium

Throughout the development of my practice this year, I have been aware of the overlapping between my work itself and the research/information collected in order to develop it. At times it has felt that there has been very little distinction between research and practice, for example in the text pieces developed through autocomplete and generative information scripts, this has led me to consider whether research and information itself need be a separate part of art practice – or whether the two can come together and be worked with holistically.

I have been looking at a number of artist’s work that blurs the lines between information (particularly relating to the digital consumption of information) and art.

Kenneth Goldsmith, Printing Out the Internet

Goldsmith-Printing-Internet

In this quite controversial exhibition, Goldsmith invited internet users to print off a webpage and send it into the Labor Gallery, Mexico City. While many saw Goldsmith’s work as an irresponsible and ostentatious challenge to the nature of art, Goldsmith comments that those who oppose his art do so out of a fear of the democratic nature of it. Through collaboration and appropriation, Goldsmith is able to challenge the nature of art’s authorship, allowing anyone to contribute and thus become an active member of an art project. As well as this, his work challenges the somewhat private spaces that exist within the web – the world of walls and passwords that prevent a complete and open relationship with the information held on the internet.

Perhaps what I am most interested about in this project is the alternative relationship that Goldsmith is able to forge between the viewer and internet content. By collating internet pages into book form, as he has done in a number of his projects, Goldsmith alters the way that we are able to experience the information, it exists in a physical and much more objective format, disallowing the flow of hyperlinks and connectivity. There develops a much more physical relationship with the information, a relationship that frustrates the connectivity.

In some sense, this is what I am hoping to achieve with the video pieces that I am creating. In my videos the collected information, that has very much utilised hyperlinking as a method of collection, resists the connectivity of the place where it has been found. Instead the information is collated and fed into the format of a song, the song lyric becomes the only means of connection, and the user is frustrated from engaging with any wider context or relationship with any other piece of information.

Chris Alexander, Mini McNugget

Mcnugget

Kenneth Goldsmith references this piece in his writing ‘the artist as meme machine‘. The work consists of found online tweets containing the word ‘McNugget’ that are collated and printed into a 528-page book.  Goldsmith comments that for artists such as Alexander ‘quality is beside the point—this type of content is about the quantity of language that surrounds us, and about how difficult it is to render meaning from such excesses.’

Emoji Dick

This piece, created by a data engineer, takes the novel Moby Dick and translates the work entirely into emojis. The work not only highlights that through the use of information as medium, all can become artists, this blurs the boundary between what is and isn’t art, and who can and can’t produce art. The work also explores the digital relationship with information and language, exposing the new language of a digital society and juxtaposing this with the familiar language of fiction writing. The more I consider this, the more relevant it becomes to my own practice, in particular, the process of translating a more traditional, structured form of communication into a new digitalised form.

 

Frances Stark

Frances Stark explores the use and meaning of langauge in her work, and I am particularly interested in the way that this is addressed within the context of the digital.

My Best Thing, 2011

This piece of Stark’s follows the ongoing conversations between the artist and two Italian men, the artist engages the men in ‘web-sex’ and records these conversations, relaying them through two Adam and Eve-like animated characters on a monochrome green background. The conversations move from explicitly sexual to philosophical, and for me this engagement, coupled with the simplified, childlike animation, offers a reflection upon the relationships that can develop through online interactions. In particular, the conversation seems to flow so stagnantly, which is further emphasised by the monotonous tone of the synthetic computerised voice. There seems to be no hierarchy in conversation topics, and the conversation flows from very sexual language to philosophical – reflective of the range and treatment of information existing online and the sort of discussions that can flow into one another.

Poets on the Pyre, 2015

http://theenemyreader.org/poets-on-the-pyre-iv/

Stark herself has noted a harshness in the tone of her latest Instagram movies, a tone instituted partly through keen pacing and a driving rhythm. Indeed, aural and visual pulse and rhyme are of prime importance to all of Stark’s video and digital works. She conceives of the new Instagram movies, however, as a uniquely raw, knowing form of visual poetry — ‘rapping’ with images — the stakes of which are high. A writer herself, and an artist immersed in emerging (sometimes short-lived) modes of communication, Stark senses ‘that the fate of the poet or intellectual is an uncertain one.’ Her corresponding definition of poetry is crucially as well as historically expansive: the etymological root of poem is the ancient Greek verb for ‘to make.’ Despite being rigorously composed, whether as individual images or slide by slide, Stark’s Instagram works corroborate the uncertainty that both haunts and guides today’s ‘poets.‘” – Art Institute of Chicago

This piece by Frances Stark further explores sexuality and the web, she makes subtle innuendo’s that flow into one another – creating a fragmented narrative set with an explicit rap in the background. Following the comments above, it can be recognised that there is a poetic element to the work, one that is reminiscent of the flow of materials that appear on social media sites. Stark appears to be responding to the growing use of the internet/social media as a mode of communication – highlighting the poetic nature of this. It is an interesting response actually, and one that has challenged perhaps my own attitudes towards my work, I am very much focused on the same issue of the changing method of information communication – but Stark’s work to me offers a commentary, not on the fragmentation of the language of the internet, but of a new form of poetic communication that has a unique existence of its own.

Net Artists – Interactive Websites

As I begin to build my website, I am considering other net artists that make use of interactive, online spaces. Reading ‘Internet Art’ by Rachel Greene, which outlines artist’s engagement with the internet, I am particularly interested in how they present and engage users with their work, how they curate content and prompt interactivity.

Jodi.org

http://wwwww.jodi.org/

Interacting with this site is quite uneasy, you feel as though you’ve entered into the background workings of your computer – and although some functions appear somewhat familiar, you have to frustratingly navigate through frantic clicking around the page in order to move to the next page. However, the more that you navigate through the work, the more lost you feel inside this strange space – it is sort of like the back of a tapestry perhaps, you recognise familiar shapes in part but feel unable to grasp where you are in the whole. I think this re-shaping of a familiar interface is interesting, and the work drastically changes the role of the user, making them quite redundant amongst the frantic flashing of functions that are difficult to make sense of. Relating this to my practice, I am interesting in this disruption of the familiar interface, and the redundancy of the user – I intend to explore how I can challenge our interactions with the internet by engaging in this sort of disruption.

Zombie and Mummy – Olia Lialina and Dragan Espenschied

http://www.zombie-and-mummy.org/

The work opens with a list of animated word art, each acting as a hyperlink to another page of the site. Throughout the site, a new story involving the returning characters ‘Zombie and Mummy’ is presented within each page – set in front of a different background relating somewhat to the hyperlinked text. The work to me highlights a certain banality of information on the web, and I’m especially interested in the sort of relationship this work creates between the viewer and the presented information. The consistency of Zombie and Mummy as characters offer a certain safety whilst you move through the site, each encounter develops a sense of a master narrative that is contrasted by the fragments of found objects/images that are presented alongside the stories.

My Boyfriend Came Back From The War (MBCBFTW) – Olia Lialina

http://www.teleportacia.org/war/wara.htm

As the user engages with the various hyperlinked elements on the site, a loose narrative of a young couple reunited after being separated by war begins to develop. The work highlights the capacity of the web interfaces to play a part in a more sensitive and subtle narrative, dealing with issues of love, longing, relationships, and also unveils the user as an operator of such a narrative, and can only move forward through the intervention of the user. In relation to my own practice, I am interested in how the piece takes ownership of a digital space, engages the user, and utilises the technology of hyperlinks in order to develop a new way of communicating timeless narratives. The relationship between a human narrative and the digital, here are complementary and open up a dialogue that explores the human experience with a new language.

Exploring the work of these interactive net artists, I have been able to identify the possibility of narrative within the context of internet art. The narrative that unfolds does not make use of our familiar relationship with language, but highlights the new potential that digital art has in communicating elements of both the human and digital experience, which increasingly frustrates a clear distinction or boundary.

Joseph Kosuth

I feel like I’ve come across Conceptual artist Kosuth’s work far too late into this project, but looking into it now, it is helping me in many ways to realise some of the important concepts in my own work.

Kosuth’s work takes the study of linguistics as its central concern, and in particularly the process of signification. This is something I was interested in exploring last year, but this year I have decided to move away from these concepts as I felt my understanding of them was too limited to be able to explore this fully. What I am taking forward, and where I see the ideas of Kosuth playing out in my own practice is this idea of how one concept or word can manifest itself in many ways. In particular, through search technologies hundreds of thousands of different results are generated and collect around one search entry.

The way that one signifier is defined within such a network is no longer set at a fixed point but becomes lost within a web of definitions. This is a fairly superficial consideration around ideas that would require a lot more research, but currently I have found it helpful to just consider some of the crossovers between my work and Kosuth’s.

Cut Ups

The use of the cut up technique originated in during Dadaism and questioned the role of the author by removing their voice from the production of a piece of work. The growing interest in chance and an alternative approach to the generation of art follow an art that was entering into a time of ‘post production’ whereby the originality and authorship of the artist was beginning to be made redundant.

William Burroughs

This year’s body of work has meant that I am returning to the work of William Burroughs, who I looked at last year, and his use of the ‘cut up’ technique. This Dadaist technique was popularised by Burroughs after the 1950’s and involves intervening with a piece of text and cutting it up and then reassembling. Though known predominately as a writer, Burroughs scripted a number of Dada films using this technique. The use of film in this process also highlights the influence that ‘mechanical reproduction’ has had on the way that we address artistic practice. At this point, Benjamin’s ‘Art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ essay may be referred to, in particular, this address of the loss of originality following mechanical processes that remove the image from the original source and allow it to move into new contexts.

Through the use of this technique, material is able to find itself juxtaposed alongside that which it would not creatively or logically find itself near. This creates an ambiguity that allows for an open interpretation. It also removes context and therefore changes the way we relate to the information.

Hans Richter

Richter is another Dada artist whose work disrupted the rythmic flow of film making by engaging film with a process relating more closely to collage. I am interested in this disrupted narrative in his video pieces, and in particular this cut up/collaging approach to film making.

 

I am beginning to recognise just how much of my work is rooted in the approach to making adopted by the Dada artists. The art of Dada very much takes chance and randomness as the means of expression, creating texts through the use of instructions and chance encounters with words. In her overview of internet art, Rachel Greene comments that net-art is very much rooted in Dada, and identifies that such instructions are passed into net-art in the form of code and algorithms.

I recognise this in my approach to the automated poetry, and also the ‘google scripts’ in which I have used a set of instructions in order to create text pieces. The element of randomness is replaced by algorithms that dictate the search results that appear. The poem generator tool that I have used to create the automated poems, use a readymade tool but also allow me to further engage in this process of text generation through a series of instructions and prompts. Similarly, the development of my video pieces follow a similar set of instructions.

Contemporary Cut Ups

Cassetteboy

Cassetteboy’s video’s are popularised by social media, and although his videos are intended as parody, are quite contrived and do involve some level of directed narrative, I’ve included his videos in this post to highlight how the use of the cut-up technique is continuously engaged within a contemporary context.

Negativland

Negativland is an experimental music group who engage with the cut up technique. Again, perhaps not one of my strongest point of contextualization, but their work is a clear example of how the cut up technique can be used to disrupt and subvert an intended narrative – emphasising the vulnerability of content within an age of mechanical reproduction, especially a contemporary digital age.

A ‘Naive’ Aesthetic

With many of my projects, I often work in quite a familiar way, and I have often notice that in my mind I draw a line between the things that ‘should’ inform my work (i.e. theory, philosophy, contemporary artists, art history), and things that ‘shouldn’t’.  I have come to the understanding that this is quite an unhelpful way to work, and in many ways actually goes against some of the dominant ideas in contemporary art, and its blurring boundaries between art and the everyday.

This does not mean I’m abandoning the things that in the past I recognised as sources that ‘should’ inform my practice, however, this year I have been really trying to break outside of this and turn to an aesthetic or set of ideas that are familiarly presented to us in our everyday use of the internet. The starting point for this project was Siri, and her flippant answers to the question ‘what is the meaning of life’, since then much of what has informed both the formal and conceptual elements of my practice has been the material that I have often come across on the internet, which in my mind I describe as a sort of ‘naiive’ aesthetic. I guess what I mean by this, is the sort of aesthetic that is quite common on youtube or facebook, badly rendered, poor quality images that accompany a ‘deep’ musing, or presented as an alternative music video for a ‘poignant’ song. Such things have quite an obvious sense of plagiarism, and just generally lack much self-awareness in their production.

I am interested in the way these sorts of images and videos, superficially throw about ‘meaningful’ sound bytes and ideas. Much of my video work is presented in a similar way, comparable to the sort of ‘lyrics’ videos that take a song and provide an alternative video made of quite obviously plagiarised material.

 

I am enjoying working with this sort of aesthetic, and it has helped me to move out of a rigid approach to the formal qualities of a piece of work and draw from a wider range of sources.

I have also found myself drawn to the ‘retro’ website designs from the 90s, and particularly the underdeveloped look that seemed to have developed from an excited use of web tools, gifs, images, and video, and a very undeveloped sense of professional web design. Again, it is this sort of naive aesthetic that has really informed the way that I am approaching the formal elements of my video work and website design.

I have also come across a site named ‘the world’s worst website’, a website that looks at all the things NOT to do when designing a website. Its quite amusing, and demonstrates the progression of web design away from the poor quality 90s vibe.

http://www.theworldsworstwebsiteever.com/