Sunday, 24 April 2016

Midnight Special, Coding and Kanye

It’s a bit weird being back, some things have changed whilst other aspects of my life are exactly the same. It feels weird to reflect back on all that’s happened in the last two terms, the progression that’s occurred and everything that I’ve learned. It’s all very strange.

So I’m still doing 30/30 and have only 6 days to go, which is kind of great; the ‘home stretch’. It’s been a weird process, one that’s not been entirely pleasant. I’m sure if I hadn’t of been doing this then I’d have finished my essay by now among other things. Although that may be the case, I feel that I’ve learned a lot about my practice form this process, as well as a few more things to add to my cv, which is never a bad thing. I’ll quickly run through all the work I’ve made so I can get onto my week being back at uni.

Monday’s piece was created in response to the brief make something that has an expiry date. I began by thinking about the concept of time, and the things within my life/our society that we closely associate with that. I eventually came to the conclusion to use the Countdown clock to create a short video piece, as it’s incredibly synonymous with many generations of people from the U.K. This work was my second piece to get featured on the thirty website too, so that was exciting.
On the 19th I decided to just use some footage from the previous day of working (where I’d created a very simple video game world). It was an incredibly barren landscape so I decided to set the video piece to Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely. This also got featured. It was created in response to the brief make a diagram of your work, which the piece was slightly conforming to, as the world was made up of previous images of work that I had then pasted onto various structures within the landscape.
On Wednesday I chose to create a very basic thing after receiving the brief make a determined failure, give yourself the room to make the work badly and find interest in the mistakes. I took some simple gameplay footage of a woman being thrown out of the window of a building via a glitch. I then overlaid the classic sound of dying Mario. The video then rewinds incredibly slowly, coming to a head just before the woman is bounced out of the room. The sound is slowed so much that it sounds like the woman is screaming insistently.
Instead of conforming to day 21’s brief; try to make a work where you contradict your aesthetic taste, I decided to work with my aesthetic, only ‘amped up to the max’. I used the brief to make another small video game world, this time adding in swaying people and a robotic voice saying ‘aesthetic’ every time you took a step, alongside playing a song by Blank Banshee each time you jumped. It was fun to make.
For day 22’s brief read an old statement, one you’ve written about your work in the past, attempt to make a piece of work directly from that statement, is there any sense in it, or continuity? I delved into my work archive and re-made my summer project from the year before last, before I’d embarked on my foundation course. The piece was centralised around a day in my life, where a sculpture was made in response to each day, with the different tape attached to the sculpture representing different activities. I decided to go back and explore the mind-set that I was in during that time. To re-make it I took various images from Google depicting different aspects of my daily life, art for example. I then re-sized each of these pictures in Photoshop on a singular page to reflect how long I spent on each activity. I then took this image and put it into Google Sketchup, creating a short video piece set to the intro song from Mad Men. A few cannabis leafs are also involved. It was very weird to think back to this time, a mere year and a half-ish ago; how much has happened since that time, what’s changed. It’s all very worrying; this obvious idea of time. There always seems to be this longing inside of me to revert back to an earlier time, be it last week or last year, where things were ‘better’ than they are now. Things always seem to be better after reflecting upon them; all obvious thoughts but important nonetheless.
Yesterday’s work consisted of a still image of a billboard featuring pictures of Kanye West’s face exploding out of it. This was another video game based experiment; whilst attempting to create a fire in Unity I discovered that you could use any image you wanted. So instead of a fire, I used Kanye’s face. I then put this to one of my favourite songs of his, Good Morning. I feel that it was at least a vague success. It was made in response to the brief presentation is key, play with how you mount / display / install today.
I created todays work at around 2 o’clock this morning, with the very simple brief being learn a new skill. I began by googling ‘skills to learn in a day’ which brought up various ideas. One that caught my eye was ‘learn the gun rules’ or something along those lines. After discovering what the ‘gun rules’ were, I then recorded myself saying them into my phone, which later transformed into a computer generated voice saying them. To accompany this, I created a compilation of ‘gun fails’ on YouTube. I then overlaid the ‘gun rules’, named it The Ten Commandments of Gunny and was finished. You can’t not reference Peep Show when making a work centred around guns. I feel that the outcome is adequate enough for making it during the early hours of the morning.
Aside from 30/30 I’ve been back at uni this week, which has mostly been taken up by finalising what I’m going to show next week for the exhibition on Friday. Luckily I had kind of worked all that out last term, apart from a few odd things. I’ve been re-thinking my use of the tripod a lot and have bought three fake surveillance cameras to stick up around my space, forcing that idea of surveillance even more. I’m not sure if it’s needed or not, I just like the idea of creating my own space within the exhibition, a ‘controlled space’ if you will; thinking back to Neïl Beloufa’s work at the MOMA and how he made his own world within this huge institution.
I’ve also decided to use my didactic video on Bitcoin, somehow situating it beside my screengrab work, or within it, displayed on a kindle or IPhone, not entirely sure yet; different formats have different connotations, although using the kindle will be a much more transparent way of displaying the piece. I think it definitely fits in with the main subject matter of the installation, this ‘new world’ that’s being created in today’s society.
I wrote a little bit about my work for the ‘press release’ that’s going to be handed out at the show, talking about the general ideas embedded within the installation alongside my artist statement, which is here:

Bob works predominantly in film, sculpture, installation and other digital mediums. Surveillance, the internet and the consumer capitalist culture within today’s society are the main issues surrounding his work, exploring these themes using a range of tools and technologies, which are relatable but not restricted to art.

The installation laments the death of a ‘pure internet’. An internet infected by large corporations feeding our consumer culture that’s enabled the multi-headed government to monitor our every move throughout the virtual and real world. You’re invited to charge you phone and connect your laptop to the ‘data towers’ embedded within the installation, investigating the variety of stolen data files within each USB drive.

I didn’t want it to be too long, just concise enough to get my point across. I also named my installation Vi(r)t(u)al Supervision, playing on the distinction that the different surveillance companies have between what’s ‘vital’ and what’s not. I like the playfulness of this title, referencing the internet in a vaguely subtle way.

Apart from that I had a meeting with John on Monday and then an extended ‘work session’ on Friday. It’s slowly dawning on me how much work it’s going to be to create the things he wants to make for his final show. For the moment the plan is to make various video games (eleven levels in total) in response to people’s dreams. He’s recorded these people talking about their different dreams, with some of them being incredibly difficult whilst others are just centred on a feeling, or of being in a normal room unable to move, for example. The idea is to have these games playable alongside pre-recorded footage from the video games set behind the films of the different people talking. It’s still kind of undecided, with the last week being centralised around learning how to use Unity more, figuring out how to trigger a sound occurring in an environment for example, or creating a water effect.

Because of the limited time I definitely foresee either a loss in quality or quantity. The lack of knowledge on my part is a shame; although I’m attempting to learn as fast as I can, I do have other things to worry about. It’s just balancing my time between all these activities which will become incredibly stressful as the weeks go by. Having someone else relying on you will also become stressful, but hopefully it will all work out. Saying all this though, I’m still very excited to be working on all of these things. It’ll be a definite skill that I’ll be using for a later piece of work too, I just need to think about what I want to make for myself.

In terms of new work, I think I’m just waiting until the offsite show is finished with, as well as 30/30, to actually think about anything ‘proper’. It’s just too much to think about. I’ve had some general ideas about creating a video game where everywhere you walk sets of a sound/note. If the game world were to be a simple cube, I could fill the cube with one song, where every step you took would activate a different part of said song. In effect the viewer could create their own version of pre-made songs. I think this would definitely be an interesting side project to embark upon; the hard part would be to choose a song which sounds ‘interesting’ whichever way you interact with it, or a song that has some kind of importance, whether in a cultural sense or a personal one. In relation to this I’ve been thinking about Cory Arcangel’s Drei Klavierstücke op. 11. A compilation video piece that features a number of cats playing the piano on YouTube, cut together to play Arnold Schoenberg’s 1909 op. 11 Drei Klavierstücke. It’s very funny and clever.
I think that’s all the ‘work’ that I’ve done this week. I did hear back from one more thing that I applied to; txt.tv with their ‘boil’ text exhibition. I got in with a simple text piece which was written in binary code. I really like the uniqueness of the ‘text exhibition’, signing up to be texted artwork on a regular basis. It’s a really fun concept and I’m happy to be a part of it. After applying to a bunch of these things, specifically lots of online things, I’ve been thinking about making my own ‘open call’ online exhibition thing. Maybe after this week is over, who knows. I think it would definitely be a fun thing to do in terms of curating as well as just as an ‘experience’ thing, widening my circle of young people who create artwork.

Other than that, I did go to a few exhibitions this week. My favourite was by far the Zabludowicz Collection with the exhibition Emotional Supply Chains. I pretty much loved every piece, with a particular favourite being Simon Denny’s The Personal Effects of Kim Dotcom. In this installation he displays various pieces of information relating to the arrest of Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload and Megavideo. Similar to his exhibition at the Serpentine, Denny continues to make work by presenting information with a very clean aesthetic that hints at a love for the capitalist society that we’re living in today. It’s an interesting way to create and display work. This installation, alongside Émilie Brout & Maxime Marion’s piece Nakamoto, (where they create a passport for the supposed creator of Bitcoin) has made me think a lot about the ‘key players’ within the internet surveillance leaks, someone I could look into and maybe make a specific work centred around. There are many to choose from, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, etc. Who knows what it will turn into, but I feel that this could be an interesting thing to pursue.
David Raymond Conroy had a simply brilliant video on display there called (You(People) Are All The Same) which satirised the structures used in podcasts such as Serial and This American Life. Being an avid listener of these very podcasts, I loved the attention to detail and how the different storytelling techniques had been transferred from the audio realm into the digital. His website is also pretty awesome too, coming under the banner of ‘I’m not conforming to this whole ‘having an internet presence’ thing’. Korakrit Arunanondchai also had his incredible video piece Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3 (I am a machine boosting energy into the universe). Although I had already seen this piece in a far better setting last year at the Palais de Tokyo, it was still nice to see again. Although it was far more basic this time around. Neïl Beloufa was showing his video piece People’s passion, lifestyle beautiful wine, gigantic glass towers, all surrounded by water installed in an installation. An installation no way as good as the one that was being shown at the MOMA in New York that I saw a few weeks ago.
Another highlight was Ed Fornieles’ Dorm Daze. A work that consists of over 30 Facebook accounts all run by volunteers, creating fake characters and ‘OTT’ plotlines to their lives. The work manifests itself as a video piece where a narrator is exploring her news feeds as well as the different pages which you can explore for yourself. It was incredibly clever, something that everyone wants to make but never gets around to creating. His whole catalogue of works is both hilarious and incredibly impressive. I highly recommend watching the trailer for Dorm Daze, or just going to see the Zabludowicz show.
Moving on from the Zabludowicz, I also went to the Chelsea Space for a surprisingly good exhibition featuring a few noteworthy artists like Yuri Pattison and Seth Price. Pattison had a video piece which was looking at Pionen White Mountain; The worlds’ most esteemed data centre, partly for how it looks and partly because WikiLeaks used its services to store their servers for a time in 2010. Whilst Timo Arnall’s Internet machine and John Gerrard’s Farm simply documented various data farms Pattison’s piece actually expands on what’s being shown on the screen, not just documenting a space but commenting on it through a text based dialogue that’s occurring during the video piece.
I also went to a few less interesting exhibitions, one of which was the Lisson Gallery that was showing John Latham’s Spray Paintings and Spencer Finch’s various tedious colour palette paintings. When will people learn that we don’t want to see a flower from ‘the perspective of a bee’. That’s just fucking dull. Seriously, the Lisson is supposed to be a good space.
The ICA was good, showing work by Guan Xio (who was also at the Zabludowicz). The exhibition was mainly made up of various installations, featuring a number of ‘prop’ elements alongside screens with printed images and text. It was all very ‘exciting’.
Martine Syms’ had the upstairs, displaying a range of works that seem to be both personal and distinctly impersonal at the same time. Her use of laser cut plastic was interesting, turning it into a sculptural form as opposed to how it’s usually used.
Carroll Fletcher was next on the list, showing work from the artist duo Thomson & Craighead. I’m a big fan of their work, one of my favourites from the exhibition was Six Years of Mondays, a documentary artwork featuring footage taken form a Scottish man who loves the weather. Look it up and enjoy.
Bartha Contemporary let me down with some simple line drawings, which weren’t fun at all but the White Cube at Mason’s Yard was kind of interesting. It was like being transported back in time, to when artists displayed how much drugs they took on a regular basis and called it art. The work was largely made up of ‘spent’ joints, rolled up roach paper, assorted rizla packets and photographs of lovingly displayed rocks of cocaine. It was very weird to be transported back to the 60s. Maybe it’s coming back into fashion; or maybe it was five years ago; I don’t think anyone would characterise the White Cube as being ‘ahead of the curve’.
TJ Boulting was showing work by Helena Pritchard, various ‘nice’ looking assemblage works tied together with a number of coloured spotlights. Over the road the Josh Lilley gallery had various sculptural forms inspired by voyages at sea being shown. They were well crafted ‘things’ but not my personal ‘thing’.
The final exhibition that I went to see was at Chelsea’s Triangle Space. The highlight being a lovingly crafted potato powered Theremin connected to water by Rachael Nee. Interactivity was key. Faron Ray had a lovely little animation of the android logo lounging in a hammock. It was clever.
There was also the ever present Tuesday Talk, featuring Piers Secunda and his paint based practice. The talk was okay; I wasn’t really interested by the work. The real highlight was when it came to the questions, with the main question being ‘why don’t you think your work is political? When it so obviously is’, or something to that effect. This comment triggered a multitude of unsatisfactory answers from Secunda, ranging from ‘I’m just making a record of what’s happening’ to ‘there aren’t that many artists making political art these days’. It began to be quite laughable and I left quite unimpressed by Secunda and the way he had reacted to the questions from a student. Surely your work should hold up in front of a room of students on their BA?
Apart from that I’ve been watching a few films, the first being Midnight Special. A film in which nothing really happens, or nothing feels like it ever happens. It’s about a young boy who seems to have these special powers, one whose breadth is slowly revealed to you as the film continues. It made me go and watch another of Jeff Nichols’ (the director) films, Take Shelter. Not considered to be a sci-fi film, but on the verge of a sci-fi film, TS features Michael Shannon playing a man whose haunted by dreams of an apocalypse. Yet again, nothing and everything seemed to happen; this may be because of how well both films were shot, how crisp and perfect everything seemed to be. Or maybe it was some other, unknown aspect, that was making me feel this way. Both are worth seeing.
Another film I finally got to see was Zootopia, which was simply amazing. The world that was created within the film was incredible, the attention to detail was simply awesome and the plot actually had some vague twists and turns. The writing was clever and to the point, which I highly enjoyed. I finished watching it feeling happy, which was a lovely feeling.
I also watched Home, which, compared to Zootopia, or any good film, was kind of dull. It was fun, but not fun enough to properly entice me into what was going on onscreen.
United 93, although distressing and worrying, was very well done. After watching the new trailer for the new Jason Bourne film I just had to watch a Paul Greengrass film to suppress myself. I’m a big fan of the Bourne series.
The final film was Road House, which was hilarious. It did surprise me a little when it turned really dark towards the end, but it did just add to my enjoyment of the experience. I now understand the Family Guy reference.
So, the week ahead looks to be quite busy, setting up for the offsite show alongside 30/30, essay writing and game building. This last term is going to be a fun but exhausting one. I look forward to coming home, lying on the grass outside my house and drinking a cold beer. The middle class life…

Enjoi.

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