Monday, 17 October 2016

Blank Banshee, isthisit? AFK and High Maintenance

It's been an interesting week, simply continuing on with a couple of projects, alongside going to some galleries as well as a few talks. I created an open call for an exhibition that I’m curating next month, and the new Blank Banshee album came out. A pretty good 7 days.

Things are moving forward with a few pieces, the ‘spiny shell’ arrived a few days ago, and looks very impressive. It’s the first time that I’ve had something 3D printed, and definitely won’t be the last. It’s currently white, but I feel like it’s still discernibly the shell from the Mario Kart games, and doesn’t have to be painted. It’s a lot more ‘pure’ like this, as it feels incredibly smooth and very trophy like. Right now I kind of see it as a gem from Spyro, a prized object to be traded. A commodity. I’m still considering what I want to show alongside this gem of an object. Last week I mentioned printing a screengrab of the process of elimination within a Mario Kart race occurring. This does the same thing that the object does in a way, immortalising the moment of anxiety that occurs when you’re hit by the shell, preserving it in a photograph or an object. I don’t know if I want that to be the overriding narrative surrounding the piece, of preserving this moment in time, or maybe I do? Maybe I could look at other moments that occur in general life, where things are frozen in time, where everything hinges on the next millisecond of consciousness. I could then compile a video consisting of incredibly short clips which look at these moments. That could be one avenue of thought. Maybe I’ll look into that. Hmm…
I also effectively finished the relational piece of work about the internet as a web; a web of lies, of deceit, of anything that one can imagine. It’s a very simple piece of work that involves a television screen, an aux cable, a headphone splitter and Sky News, live on YouTube. After thinking about the idea of the internet, and attempting to portray such a thing, with various ‘nodes’ connecting to different parts of the internet, I decided that it just sounded too general a thing to be thinking about. I then moved on to the idea of peer to peer networks, and how we (the daily users of the internet) are actually able to function and connect to ‘the web’. Using the television as an idea of a server farm, one is invited to plug in their own headphones into cable slots in order to hear Sky News live on YouTube. The headphones being their networked devices, plugging into the smaller network of the aux splitter, which then connects to the farm of the television. Being shown on the television is the media, along with all the bias and unknown that accompanies it. The fact that it’s on YouTube connects to the idea that everyone has a voice online, you’re apparently free to write what you want and post what you want. The main thought behind the work was the much repeated idea that if you don’t like something, don’t watch/listen to it. In reality, nothing is this easy due to the addictive nature of various things, with the media and the internet being one of them. I still need to take the installation shot of the work, and then we’ll see where it goes from there.
I’ve also been continuing to work on my oppressive film centred around the repetitive nature of video game mechanics. The unfortunate thing is that there are so many physical layers to the film that the exporting is taking forever and my software repeatedly crashes. I’m working around that, but it’s taking a lot more time than simply pressing ‘export’. Rather than slowly filling up the screen in regimented rows, I experimented a little with the short clips popping up randomly, rather than in their regimented order. In an aesthetic way this didn’t really work, as it just didn’t ‘feel’ right. Although it worked on a conceptual level, the popping in representing various people coming to live streams of video games, or the arguments that occur surrounding video game violence, it just didn’t look good. Instead of these clips popping into black space, I decided to use part of a video game called Journey as the backdrop. Journey is a game unlike any other, where you explore a beautiful landscape, with the view of climbing to the top of a mountain. It’s heralded as one of the best games ever, alongside the most unique/beautiful. By utilising footage from this experience I seek to show what video games have the potential to be. The sandscape is slowly walled away by the short killing clips, clouding the tranquillity of Journey. I like the work, it’s simple, kind of painful to watch and does what I set out to do. Now I need to think about how to install it within a given space.
On top of this I’ve been working with my virtual family on Sims. The work that I’m currently producing looks at a lot of aspects of what life simulation games actually do, putting you in the position of a God-like figure, all powerful, with the potential to give autonomy to the figures that you’re controlling. In the video that I’m creating, the camera is repeatedly positioned in the corners of rooms, mimicking CCTV surveillance, looking down and observing the family. In this video game scenario, it’s like I am the government, I am the all seeing eye that observes everything, and then so are you, the viewer. The content consists of the figures going about daily routines; sleeping, eating, painting, etc, whilst the camera lazily flicks from one screen to the next, never really looking too closely at what’s going on, as the viewer doesn’t really care, as long as they’re going about their daily lives, not questioning whether they control their own thoughts or not. All the actions that occur on screen consider the idea of the uncanny valley, mimicking human movements but not being perfect enough to be completely human. The end result will be a looping surveillance video, akin to something you’d see in a convenience store to discourage would-be shoplifters. It will be displayed like the televisions you see in these micro supermarkets, hanging from the ceiling, staring down at you from up high. I’m still yet to finish the video completely, as I still need to gather lots of raw footage of the sims in their natural habitat. For now, you can see the test shots.

The final piece of work that I’ve been thinking about is the creation of coasters with printed images on them. These images would be screengrabs of a thread on Reddit that began the creation of the ‘Freedom of Internet Act’, an act aimed to legislate the Internet and its users worldwide, keeping net neutrality, etc. This act is one of the barriers that keeps the internet as it should be, a free space where every website is equal. Like a pub, the internet is a space to meet people, talk about anything and interact on the same level. The coaster also stops yourself from damaging the bar, similar to how the FOIA stops your computer from ‘damaging’ the internet. I’m currently considering whether the coasters should have an order to them, so that a viewer could, if they wanted to, read the whole Reddit thread, absorbing all that the internet can offer them. It’s also the first act to have been created via crowdsourcing. A new phenomenon that I’m sure will become routine in the years to come.
In terms of uni, this term is focused around forming various collectives with other students who create work similar to your own. You’ll then go on to put on a show together at the end of the term, curating the space with the knowledge about each other’s work that you’ve gained from weekly meetings, etc. I’m currently in a group of five, with the main ideas being ‘systems, information and gesture’, which I kind of like, as it’s not entirely internet focused, which is good, as you can’t really conform yourself to just talking to people about the internet (even though the open call mentioned below is focusing on the internet!). I’m looking forward to curating this show at the end of term, and what my fellow team members go on to create.

In other news, I created an open call for the real life exhibition that I briefly talked about curating last week. It will be called ‘isthisit? AFK’. After looking at the space, I got excited and just wanted to utilise the spare room, so decided to create the opportunity. The exhibition, which will happen next month, will be centralised around the internet as a general theme. I may focus the theme a little more once the submissions close on the 31st of October, but I’m not entirely sure. It all depends on the submissions that I get. I’m currently thinking about how to use the space as well as I can do, as it literally is a tiny room. I decided to clear everything out of it, rather than working around the bed and cupboards already in there, creating a makeshift ‘white cube’ space. I’ve gone through various ideas, from covering the floor in duvets, to wallpapering the entire room in emojis. I’m unsure about whether I want to make some plinths for it either, or simply buy multiple plastic box towers, that would act as very basic storage space for physical artworks. They would be replicating the aesthetic of hyper-organised spaces like offices and computer stores. I may create one big central node, which stretches from the ceiling to the ground, that people could interact with in order to see the artworks. I don’t know, as previously stated, it all kind of revolves around the submissions that I get. I’m also very wary about hammering into walls, although I assume I’ll just have to do it and re-paint everything after the exhibition closes. The show will probably go on for about a week, by ‘appointment only’. I am very excited about it, even though there are so many aspects which are yet to be considered. For now, here’s the opportunity on CuratorSpace if anyone who’s reading this is interested in applying to an internet focused exhibition:

The online version of isthisit? is going well. The 24th exhibition on isthisit? was called ‘Online Experiences’, which considered the various notions of what it means to be exploring the internet in the current climate. Pippa Eason’s video 'Its Only Romantic on The Internet’ visualises a technology enthused post-apocalyptic wasteland, which is confined within the white walls of a gallery space. Here, Eason seems to be harnessing the idea of the ‘White Cube’ as a visual metaphor for the various screen based devices in our own lives, and the apocalyptic visual feast mimicking the seemingly chaotic scenarios that occur within our own phones and computers. Next to this is Var Sahakyan’s disturbing film 'Circle with a diameter 8', that sees the artist staring down the barrel of the camera, through the computer screen and into your personal lives, silently judging your every move as we see the emotions on the artists' face slowly change. Is Sahakyan embodying the stereotypical white male NSA employee watching us through our webcams, or is he simply showing us the various sides of these government run organisations, which can be both brutal and forgiving? Ruiz Stephinson's film 'I'M LONELY BUT NO ONE CAN TELL' was also featured, exploring how people in first world societies are slowly assimilating to living vicariously through other individuals' lived experiences online, through social media applications like Instagram and Facebook. All these works are grouped together into a huddle, mimicking how one effectively ‘buys’ into all these experiences when ‘surfing the web’ in 2016.
What else happened this week? The first artist talks of the year at Chelsea happened, which was actually quite good. Samson Kambalu was the artist, someone who’s work is a mixture of displaying information alongside these incredibly weird stop motion films that are all about 50 seconds long. Kind of crap. Here are my incredibly scattered notes from the talk:

Samson Kambalu – artist talk – 11/10/2016 – the gift and the general economy in my praxis
Finishing phd – 5 years at Chelsea – research as student – africen time inspires work
Malawi – growing up – former britcsh colony – growing up in different perceptions of time – still farmers – time  there isdifferent, circular, blending with the seasons – different to the west – 9 to 5 job, etc – in Africa, less structured
Praxis and a practice – art form I a way of life – art in Africa – you would see art everywhere – in everyday life – situalitionalists – take art beyond represeation to every day life – take the gallery out of the gallery – artist rebellious thoughts change into decorating houses – art into everyday life – a way of helping society – Italian situalionalist
Ideas of situalionislm – culture of time – videos in venice – filmed when out walking – Thomas hirshcon room, repsonfing and working with him in the next room
‘the last judgment’ – footaballs pasted with the bible – play is centralised in his work – why play? To play is mysterious – when child is playing – what are they doing? What does laughter mean? Universal about play – connected him with his oroigins and Europe – everyone plays – play is central in Malawi – way we conceive time – time is an ubandance – opoosite of time is money in the wets – in Africa = time how do I waste it? Tribes people – usually farm for 6 months – then the rest nothing to do --- Africa starts making masks – elaborate everything – is this the reason? Very possiitve idea of Africa
Keeps coming back to play – consistent metaphor – very targeted – social envieonemtn – idea of the last judgement – Michael angelo – drawing the thing and moving forward with that
The logic of the gift – concerns of excesss time – time outside of work and necessity – when needs are met you have extra time on your hands – this is where the gits comes from – getting a necklace, you are getting time – gift giving is like giving time – giving gifts = time wasting – so it’s giving your time to others
When you enter into conversations you waste time – a form of politieness – I help you waste your time, you let me ride your bicylcle – gift comes by productive time wasting – philiosphers like derrida – if people can see the gift you’re giving, you haven’t given it well – all gifts are time, all objects are manifestations of time
If someone gives you a present – rude to return the gesture of time – Nietzsche – saying something about the gift – it has to be hidden – example – like button – good to hide your form of gift giving as it leads to petieness – progressing in life, not depeneding on life, but rising above them – avoiding pettieness and giving
Use play to gift give – still haven’t actually heard anything about his practice – gift has to be a secret, if, like art, the meaning is revealed, then it has lost its focus –
Example of a train by lumiere brothers – Africans repsoinging to modern times – time wasting = masks – when people are more playful, they give wirthout taking, eliminate obligation – when you give pettieness occurs
The great play – doubly masks – photographing people = masking – masking themselves
Film star = mediated absence – masking herself from a thing – lots of masking in film – buster Keaton – masking oneself through the lens of the screen
Nyau cinema – African idea of time – keeps coming back to this idea
Moses (burning bush) – walking and letting the environment inspiring you – imagine walking in a film – characters from a film – people replicating film – the idea of film turning the whole world into a photograph
‘internet bureau’ – the idea of surfing in an internet bureau – less structured – you go there for a specific purpose – I really like this idea – you go there to literally surf the web
The photograph as a diagram – structured time of work – bringing us coloser in the universe
Faking photogaphs is like wearing its own mask, etc – politicains wearing a mask
His work is a conversation piece – a conversation maker – footballs are anopening in order to talk about other ideas
Stop motion – using not useful things – when you are useless, you are free – west = utilitarian space – young = child, young = house buying – freedom in trash – so the photographs re trash? Are they meaningless things?
Queen is useless – president = powerless – not anonymous
Traditionally poverty is delicious? How so? Poverty as industry – difference between excess and waste – waste is toxic – excess is natural – in maerica we are industrial waste – poor people have no soul – Africa = poor person, they have a glint because ther eis excess – Africa is becoming it’s own industrial thing – African tragedy is occurring – capitalism brings poverty! – notions of poverty is it’s own thing
African people loosing their autonomy – money is guns, not food – poverty in Africa is industrial because the vlues have changed and it is different! Solutions come from capital think you’re readin an open book but you’re not! Dismissed as charlatans
Contempoary artist and performing – effect of opening up many diverse practices – can you draw, can you do this and that – abdanoing comtempoary art nd abandoning that
The more multi aceted you are, the more time you are wasting for the viewer – practicing on your craft = a form of time wasting – artists either draw a drawing or read some philosophy – contemporary art is different – people are looking for the time wasting aspect in your art. Hone your craft of ideas – passionate / master
Curators find meaning, wrestle meaning from things – create things

I also went to a panel discussion at CSM being run by Shades of Noir, a collective that puts on various talks and creates ‘safe spaces’ for marginalised groups. The talk was titled ‘Women and Non-Binary Identities’, which centred on various cultures associated with the ‘black community’ alongside various ideas surrounding women and people who identify as trans. It was okay, but it continually annoys me that the moderators at their events are always incredibly young, simply reading off pre-written questions. Of course, the moderator normally plans what questions they’re going to pose to any given panel, but the whole point of the moderator is to keep the conversation moving, not to get stuck in a rut, and to respond to what’s being said, interpreting the more complex aspects to the audience. This didn’t happen, and it just dumbs down the whole experience, which is a shame, as they usually have quite interesting people talking on these panels.
On top of this, I went to the launch of the ‘Paying Artists’ scheme being set up by a-n, which was hosted at Jerwood Space. The scheme, that’s taken two years to set up, is simply a document that outlines how much artists should be paid for their time, alongside various other pieces of information that’s incredibly valuable to artists and galleries all over the U.K. This also allowed me to see the Jerwood Drawing Prize, which was kind of okay. The high point was the winning video piece, which was actually quite interesting, featuring a swirling ball of white being manipulated by an outside source. It’s kind of unfortunate that it costs money to enter into the prize, as it would be a great opportunity to have my own work shown in this yearly exhibition.

So, I did go to a few exhibitions this week too. I journeyed over to the private view of Limoncello’s temporary space in Cork Street, which had some work by Holly Hendry and Kate Owens on display. Kind of nice, pastel coloured sculptures alongside a huge piece of fabric flowing from the wall. The most interesting part of the experience was the alcohol, which was an assortment of bottles of gin and vodka, accompanied by lemonade, many limes and big bags of ice. It was a ‘make your own’ affair, which is kind of cool actually.
I ventured over to the new Molly Soda show at Annka Kultys Gallery, which was surprisingly good. A lot of her work is very aesthetic based, sometimes focusing too much on the pinks and the blues of a certain object. In this case, the walls of the gallery were filled with print outs of Soda, cropped and photo-shopped into various adverts that you’d see when browsing crass websites. Alongside these were an assortment of films, each showing the artist in her room, singing to the webcam or performing for the camera in other ways. A mixture of reality and lies. Worth going, even though you’re always talked to by the gallery staff, which I find really off-putting, especially when they explain the work to you, which kind of ruins the whole experience for me.
Tenderpixel has a great show on by Richard Healy concerning the very weird idea of ‘queer magic’, or more specifically queer shamans or rituals that people take part in. This quote kind of sums it up for me 'Books recommend that you mark your entry into magic by taking up one of the arts of divination: tarot, crystals, runes or stars. He tried each of these practices, but they didn’t stick. His entry into magic was marked by a butt massage in Alberta.' Quite an extraordinary show that I would heavily recommend.
The Ryder has a really clever exhibition on surrounding contract law and the idea of the copyright. By simply entering the gallery space you are entering into a contract that is written on the wall for you to observe. My favourite piece was by Carey Young titled Uncertain Contract, which shows an actor enunciating a commercial contract in a rehearsal like, white cube space. Really good work and a must see.
The final gallery experience was Raven Row, showing a bunch of ‘artefacts’ recovered from the Ulm School of Design, which was open in Germany from 1953 to 1968. Incredibly precise and design based works, all utilising a leaflet that you are given in order to understand what each object functions as. I really liked it, as well as all the little details. Yet again, a must see if you want to observe the bridge between art and design manifest itself in one exhibition.
Although that doesn’t feel like everything I saw, it may well be everything I saw…

In terms of films, I did slightly better than last week, with 10 films watched. Starting with the Amanda Knox documentary, which was very good, but incredibly bias. Although I’m not saying that I think she did ‘it’, I do think that it would have been a more successful documentary if there had been a more thought out opposing force to the story. Other than that, I learned a few things, as well as enjoying the style of interview which was being carried out by the documentary team.
In preparation for Louis Theroux’s Scientology documentary (which I’ve heard isn’t actually very good) I watched Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which was quite an enlightening process. Of course I already knew a lot of the details of Scientology, as it’s the brunt of a lot of jokes within films and tv, but this was a much more in depth look at the whole experience. It was good, and very informative. Tom Cruise is fucking mental.
Slowly moving away from documentaries, I watched Blade, which was a pretty big mistake. Why did no one tell me that this film was crap? Pretty bad acting mixed with a fairly poor plot. Some okay fight scenes, but not that amazing. A shame.
I also watched Nerve, a film about an online game of truth and dare. Incredibly ‘cringey’ acting alongside a plot that seems to be just jumping on the band wagon of films about the virtual world. Kind of shitty.
The Fault in Our Stars was okay, but not even that sad, as it felt like a very teen orientated drama. Or maybe that’s only because I watched the film with friends? I don’t really know, and don’t really care.
A simply beautiful film was Short Term 12, which focuses on Brie Larson being awesome at caring for underage kids in a residential treatment facility. Some great performances with an incredibly lovely and heartfelt story. I’m kind of annoyed I hadn’t watched it until now, as it’s definitely worth watching, simply for the relationships that are created and the very ‘real’ acting.
The Art of Playing was a very short documentary about video games and the rise of indie developers. Very short, and not that informative.
Paris Is Burning was a very sweet, very lovely film about New York’s drag scene in the 1980’s. It was mostly showcasing the sheer beauty of the experience; ‘the ball’. Although it only lightly touched on the negative aspects of being a queer, black man in the 1980s, I didn’t really mind, as it was more about celebrating that time and the culture that had manifested itself, as opposed to a documentary going through the pros and cons of being gay. A sad, lovingly crafted experience.

Captain Fantastic was a classic ‘man out of place’ story, but instead of one person it’s an entire family. Very funny and very sweet, with many philosophy jokes and classic ‘first kiss’ moments. Just a really nice film.
The last film of the week was One Hour Photo. Robin Williams plays a photo lab technician who gets obsessed with a family that frequents his small shop. Although it was a slightly bland experience, I did enjoy the fact that Williams was obsessed with the whole family, rather than just focusing on the wife. Rather than replacing someone in the family, he wanted to be a part of it. Kind of sad, and a definitive change from the norm.
I also watched some tv, which started with consuming the sad comedy experience, Extras. Ricky Gervais is always an interesting/irritating figure within his productions, with this show not really deviating from this aforementioned path. It did contain some sad moments, although it was always off set by Gervais being kind of dumb. If it had contained different actors I may have cried during the finale. Alas, I did not.
I did discover that new episodes of High Maintenance were airing on a weekly basis, so I spent a few hours catching up with that, which was just really nice. Since moving from Vimeo to HBO, the episodes have become longer, and a lot more considered. I loved it, and wish I could watch them all again after forgetting that I’d watched them already. Real acting in real scenarios, very much my type of television show.
I’m currently viewing Fleabag, a comedy that’s been dubbed ‘the English version of Girls’. It kind of is, but not really, as that’s like just saying any show with a female lead is like Girls. It’s good and contains some interesting fourth wall breaking decisions that continue to be hilarious. Is it worth your time? Maybe.
Oh and I finished reading How to Talk about Videogames and started reading Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism. The book considers a lot of the notions that we have today about our sped up society, as well as the various faux pars surrounding the idea that we have more time now thanks to technological advances, when in reality those same technological advances creates problems of their own, like spending countless hours scrolling through ones Instagram feed. I’m learning a lot, although I keep getting sleepy on the bus journey whilst reading, which is not a good example of time management.
I think that might be it? In the next week I want to go to more exhibitions, as well as finishing some of the work that I’m currently creating. I need to produce more content for the sims, and just power through my weak video editing software. I also need to continue to think about the show next month, as well as isthisit? in general. How long do I continue to do weekly exhibitions? I don’t know…

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