Monday, 28 November 2016

A127, Zuckerberg and Guest Curators

The days are slowly moving forwards, towards Christmas and towards a break. I’ve enjoyed how busy I’ve been this term, although the lack of gallery visits has become incredibly frustrating. I’m unsure whether this is because of where I’m living now, extending my travel time into central London, or if it’s laziness on my part, or maybe just busyness… I’m not sure, and either way it’s incredibly annoying. I do need to go to more galleries, I just need to plan a few days in advance, rather than on the day of the visit. Anyway, my week has been focused a little more on my own art making, as well as taking down isthisit? AFK and contacting a bunch of curators to be a part of my online platform.

My work for the show at uni is slowly manifesting itself. I’ve nearly got all three of the video works created, and am currently waiting on the delivery of a sculptural work to be hung on the metal shelf. The main video is still going to be centralised around the friendship anniversaries, but has slightly changed. I’ve decided to make the entire installation focused on the figure who runs Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, specifically, his ethos and interest in saving time and reducing the aspects in his life that make him an individual person. It basically all comes down to the grey t-shirts that he wears on a daily basis, his explanation for this is here:

"I really want to clear my life so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community. I'm in this really lucky position where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than 1bn people, and I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life, so that way I can dedicate all of my energy towards just building the best products and services."

Like Steve Jobs, and many other prominent figures, Zuckerberg wears the same thing every day in order to cut down on the time that it takes to think about what he wants to wear each morning. Although this makes him unique, and turns him into an individual within himself, it also makes him anonymous and incredibly similar to all the other grey shirted 34 year olds. If we look at the lack of individualism in Zuckerberg’s life, we can quickly see how that translates to his social media platform, and then to the videos that are circulated which celebrate one’s friendship anniversary.

As a backdrop to the main video, I’ve now inserted Zuckerberg wearing his signature grey t-shirt with his face covered by the various videos, repeatedly playing. This also comes back to how private Zuckerberg is, and how he himself covers up his webcam on his computer, seen in this image here:
I experimented with slowly smudging his face over the course of the video, but that seemed a little basic and tired, compared to simply having his face continually covered. Also embedded within the installation will be a replica of Zuckerberg’s t-shirt, still in its Vistaprint packaging, coming back to how everything that we do on the platform is based within a pre-built structure. This will be draped over part of the metal structure in some way.
The other videos that are going to be playing on both the iPhone and the Kindle will be utilising different, Facebook created videos, that are available to some of its users. The video on the kindle is going to be a compilation of marriage anniversary videos. These videos, which last around 30 seconds long, take images from the couples Facebook profiles and slot them into certain events in their relationship, like when they first met, got engaged, etc. It’s basically another video provided to you by Facebook harnessing information that is no longer yours, due to it being uploaded to the social media platform. This video is around 30 minutes long in total, featuring multiple couples in that time. The video is on top of an image of the wedding ring that Zuckerberg’s wife, Priscilla Chan, was given by Mark. The ring cost around $25,000, pennies compared to how much Zuckerberg makes on a daily basis. This returns to how simple Mark likes to keep his life and the lack of individualism that’s contained within it.
The last video, displayed on an iPhone, is looking at another film that Facebook creates for its users, an anniversary experience focusing on what date the user joined Facebook. These videos last about a minute or so, and contain a bunch of photos from your profile and some status’, etc. I’m still kind of unsure about this video, as most of the dates that I have are just random ones, so it’s a little too un-specific. I’m considering simply showing my own anniversary video, although I’m unsure of how to get that if, for example, I joined Facebook in June or something… I also want to overlay this video on another of Mark’s possessions, be it his house or a car, it needs to be another simple item that adds to his mundane and repetitive lifestyle. Maybe his favourite drink? Not totally sure.

I’m still considering whether I want to keep the frame structure grey, or whether I should spray paint the whole thing a Facebook blue, or black to go with all the attachments. It would be a little obvious, but help to encapsulate the whole thing, although I can still come back to the darkness of the internet, etc. It would also be changing the frame, away from its ‘factory settings’, so maybe that would take away from the pre-built nature of the whole thing. I need to consider this over the coming week.
Oh and our group didn’t get the space we wanted for the show, which is a shame. We’re now sharing a large room with another, four-person group. They seem alright, although it would be more exciting to actually curate the show with them, and have a dialogue with them, rather than simply deciding which spaces we want.

In other news, A217 Gallery is slowly becoming a thing. The space is now ready and waiting for us to put on a show there. In total, we have four artists/curators, each working in different disciplines/ideas. The first show is simply going to feature ourselves and our own artwork, mostly due to lack of time to actually get people to submit to the open call. I’m currently unsure of what I’m going to show, something new or something a month or so old. I’m considering exhibiting the deck chair and video, although that’s already been in an exhibition. I’ve also been thinking of printing out some images from The Sketchup Residency, although I don’t want to hurry that, as I feel that that’s an important body of work within itself to be shown at a later date… It’s slowly looking like I’m going to be showing the chair, kind of annoying, but more people will get to see it now, and it would be hard to create a completely new piece of work in under two weeks (the private view is on the 9th). I need to think it over more, check out the Facebook event here:

I’m more interested to see how it’s going to function in the new year, as a four-person curatorial team is kind of big, as well as the fact we’re all interested in different types of work. Will we designate a different ‘head curator’ each month, who chooses the artists with the others simply helping out, or will we discuss what we want to look at each month as a group. It’s actually really exciting, and is sure to make the new year a lot busier.

isthisit? AFK officially ended on Thursday, having had around 20 visitors to the space whilst it was open ‘by appointment only’, which is quite good. I managed to document all the work vaguely well, although it could have been executed a lot better with the help of a professional photographer, which I did consider. In the end, I’m happy how the images turned out, as they definitely show what the space was like, which is all that I wanted from the images. Overall, it’s been a really great experience, with the majority of the artists being incredibly helpful and cooperative. It’s definitely made me reply to emails faster from things that I’ve applied for. I’m generally very happy how it went, and just need to get all the work back to everyone now. You can see all the images here:

I’ve also been contacted by a few people who have mentioned that they wouldn’t mind me curating a few shows in various gallery spaces around the UK, which is very exciting and definitely something that I’d be interested in. I definitely want to do another thing like this in the new year, it’s been such a great process. I’ve also been thinking about doing something whilst I’m away from London for Christmas, creating some space for a show or something within my home environment, something that no one would actually come to, but would be something for the CV and could be viewed online via YouTube Live or something. I dunno, maybe.

This also inspired me to start contacting fellow curators to be guest curators on the website, allowing them to curate a weekly show and write a little bit about their process, etc. I’ve emailed several people, and heard back from a couple, this is the email:

I'm writing to inquire whether you'd like to be a guest curator of an online gallery that I manage called isthisit? The platform features weekly exhibitions containing a variety of different works, showcasing emerging to mid-career artists.

I'm currently putting together a roster of curators that would bring in their own artists and concepts to the virtual gallery, utilizing the online space already established at, to put together their own online exhibition to be inserted into the weekly program of events. I recommend taking a look at the website to get a feel for the kind of work/ideas are being interrogated, whether or not you completely change everything on the site would be up to you as an independent curator.

Do let me know if you'd like to be a part of the project, alongside which week in the future you'd be free to curate an online exhibition. As the shows are created on a weekly basis, i can be very flexible with dates.

I believe the first curator is going to be starting this week, which is exciting, especially as it’s quite fool proof. If it doesn’t go to plan, I can simply curate a show on the day, which is always doable. Check back on isthisit to see who the first person will be! I also realised that I’ve now been doing isthisit? for over 7 months, which is very weird… Guest curators is probably something I should have done a little while ago, although it’s taken me this long to establish isthisit? as an actual thing.

For the 30th online exhibition, titled ‘Progress Quest’, three artists were selected. The name derives from a video game of the same name, where the players job is solely focused on inputting and accumulating arbitrary statistic points, which are displayed on an excel-like spreadsheet. This idea of time accumulation and degradation is considered in each of the three works for this exhibition, be it in a very literal way in terms of how long the work actually took to make, or in a more philosophical way in relation to progression and pursuing a never ending goal. Within the show, all three of the works are layered on top of each other, slowly moving through the waves of different art movements and idioms. One is first encountered by Karl Russell Vickers' collage print 'See That Loophole Over There?' which contains a variety of appropriated imagery, evoking a feeling of strangeness within the seemingly loosely put together creation. Tim Hodkinson's video piece 'Present' is positioned behind the print, featuring outwardly organic forms and a melodic soundtrack. The moments of hyper-saturation that occur throughout the film forces the viewer to consider these environmental tableaus in minute detail, continually asking the unanswerable question of how long one should interact with a work of art. The exhibition is finalized with Dom Chastney's painting 'Cell' that focuses on ideas of mark making and repetitive movements, whilst utilizing found objects in order to create 'clean' areas of the canvas.
What else? I’m slowly putting together a website for the exhibition, The Kitschen, Cooking Up A Debate. At the moment I’m simply putting everything onto the platform, with the bulk of the work occurring over the next few days. I need to actually ‘curate’ these works, consider which pieces to put alongside which piece, etc. I’m also creating individual artist pages for each person, as well as writing something about this process, which will be alongside writing from the curator of the physical exhibition, and the person who chose all of these artists. My writing will be focused on the links, whereas hers will look at the process of choosing which artists. You can see my slow progress here:

Oh and yesterday I undertook an online performance on YouTube with #cam4art. It was a 2-hour piece, a variation on a previous body of work titled Watching Me, Watching You. I basically leave my webcam on, as well as having my screen recorded, and that’s it. It’s incredibly voyeuristic and shows me going through the motions of my day. This time I cooked my dinner whilst watching Gilmore Girls, chatted with friends and played a video game. I should definitely do more of these, as it was actually really fun, with the ‘live’ part being incredibly important. The video can be used on my Vimeo, or on their website here:
Hmmm… I think that’s all the art I’ve been doing. I’m still doing The Sketchup Residency for a few more days, ending on the 1st of December. I’ve been doing about 3 Instagram updates a day, which will equal to over 50 images at the end. I’m still thinking about what I want to do with these, printing them out and displaying them on the walls alongside the island to be manoeuvred around? I’m not sure… I’ve really enjoyed the experience of posting daily though, alongside working towards a bigger thing. I definitely want to do something else like this in the future, or set my own thing up with isthisit?

Once again, very few exhibitions this week. I went to CSM both this week and last week for their open studios. It was all okay, all very student based, especially as their exhibition spaces are their studios, so all the exposed walls, etc make the whole thing look very unprofessional. Some good work, a highlight being a performance by Campbell Mcconnell which featured the artist, wearing a suit and reading from a pre-written script, filled with corporate jargon, whilst ‘empowering’ music was happening in the background. Really clever and very good. In both exhibitions though, a severe lack of labels, which is always so frustrating.

I also went to the Chelsea 3rd year exhibition. It was okay, some interesting work. In a simply aesthetic way I enjoyed a trio of televisions, mounted to the wall at an angle, making you lean against the wall whilst looking up to view the work. An all-round favourite was a piece by Louis Judkins, which involved a crudely made, carnival-esque, target and a bunch of perfectly made plates, with various political figures’ faces emblazoned on the front. You were encouraged to don a pair of protective glasses and throw the plates at the target. Although I loved the idea, it was badly positioned, in the corner of a room. If it was in the middle of a wall it would have been perfect, with the debris from the plates going on everyone else’s work, perfectly encapsulating the concept. Very close to being great. Unfortunately, it was shut down after ten minutes of plate throwing, which is kind of great, as that demonstrated the point of the work perfectly.

I’m so frustrated with the lack of exhibition visits recently; I just need to plan…

So, films. Only a few this week as I’ve begun watching Gilmore Girls, and like any good TV, it slowly consumes you the more you watch. I’m really enjoying the mother – daughter dynamic, as well as the various storylines that are slowly becoming intertwined, etc.
I watched Little Men, a short film about two young boys and their friendship, which is slowly tested by a disagreement between their parents. Quite sweet and lovely, simply a ‘solid’ film that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
A very weird experience was Enemy Mine. The film considers the relationship between a human soldier and an alien one, both stranded on an alien world with no way home. Even though they’d been fighting against each other in a war between their worlds before crashing on the planet, they slowly become allies, working together to get off the planet. Things start to get weird when the alien becomes pregnant and dies, leaving the offspring to be brought up by the human companion. I’m not 100% sure what to make of the whole thing.
I also finally got around to watching Catfish. A film that I’ve wanted to watch for a while, even though I knew it was going to be terrible and incredibly fake. To nobody’s surprise, it felt incredibly fake and a created narrative, one in which a guy named Yaniv is conned into thinking he’s conversing with a young woman, whereas he’s actually talking to a married, 43-year-old woman with multiple kids. It just felt incredibly fake, which made the whole thing very awkward and ultimately dull, as you could see where it was going from the beginning.
Craigslist Joe was kind of nice, considering how one man could survive solely from people’s generosity on the website Craigslist for about a month. It ultimately turned into a ‘how great are people’ kind of documentary, turning away from what had originally interested me about the film, that all these connections that he’s having are being facilitated by this anonymous website. Kind of inspiring, maybe worth your time.
Cyber-Seniors was another internet themed film, which documented a group of young people attempting to teach senior citizens about computers and the internet. Kind of lovely, if a little obvious. I particularly enjoyed when they had a competition to see who could make a video with the most views on YouTube. That was a fun thing.
The final film was The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which showed you a very weird, incredibly obsessed, side of video game world record breaking. It was also, I assume, incredibly outdated, being nearly 10 years old now! Seeing these people being incredibly pedantic and serious about video game scores was really interesting, if a little over-obsessive and petty.
Alongside the films, I also played a video game, one that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while; Everybody's Gone to the Rapture. What can I say about this game? It was a very beautiful rendering of an English countryside, that’s for sure. I will definitely be using footage from the game in an artwork at some point. The ‘game’ element is made up of the player exploring this village, which is deserted, finding small fragments of light that allow you to listen to peoples past conversations, from a few days to a many years ago. As you listen further, you learn that some sort of event has happened, which has made everyone disappear. I wanted to like this game, I wanted to learn about these people’s lives and engross myself in the details of the village, but I found myself getting incredibly bored. By the final chapter I was kind of willing the whole thing to be over, having found no real excitement from operating this nameless figure for multiple hours. I’m not sure…
I think that’s everything for this week. Only a few more weeks of London before Christmas, which means at least 2 full days of galleries to go to all the shows I want to see at the moment. I’m also going to Manchester this weekend, for the Rachel Maclean show at HOME, which I know will be awesome, alongside Cecil B Evans at Tate Liverpool, which will also be quite awesome. Two great shows that aren’t in London, how annoying. This means making all the work/videos before then, so I’ll be ready to install on Monday/Tuesday in a weeks’ time. I also need to put together the Kitschen website by the 4th, so that will be completed this week too! How exciting…

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