One of the series I’m most proud of is the series of large format collage prints I worked on late last year. I had only made two up until this latest project, and now with this latest addition I feel like the trio is completed.
There was an overwhelming feeling that there was still space to grow the project, taking what I had learnt from making the first two, and getting a lot more experimental with what shapes I could pull. Beyond visuals though, thematically these allow me to focus on a specific topic, be it family, mental health or relationships. The text brings a depth to the images, and helps create a narrative. This was really the birth of the Paper Detective, searching for meaning in the world around us, and using it to contextualize our own experience.
I worried when I installed these two works that they didn’t really talk to each other in a significant way. From my perspective of course, I understand intimately how they align. Giving myself the opportunity to talk about substance abuse, interpersonal relationships, and social anxiety.
There is always the fear that people engaging with the work won’t see the intended narrative. But fighting against that seems futile, of course people are going to have a different understanding of the work. Instead I’m aiming to make work that has a clear theme, but also allow space for the viewer to have their own reading.
This is the last blog post I’ll write for my bachelor and I find myself lingering. It’s been a blast, but I’m glad it’s coming to an end. Something I was warned about early on was that it’s understandable to use university to give yourself a sense of structure, but you need to maintain that same structure independently if you want to succeed as an artist. I find myself attempting to create distance from academia, believing that if I feel separate then that independence will flow naturally.
Only time will tell if I’ll be successful. While it is up in the air, I definitely feel like I have a lot of opportunities that will make this experience worthwhile.
At the behest of an unnamed friend, I’m going to explain how I constructed my zine. This is a technique that can be found not only online, but just the other day I found a zine explaining how to make itself!
Using whatever photo editing program you prefer, divide an a4 page into 8 even rectangles. Four along the long edge, and two along the short. Arrange your visuals and print this out, making sure to get rid of any guide lines you may have used.
Fold along the long edge, and then fold again in the same direction.
Peel back one fold, and then fold along the short edge.
Peel back one fold again, and cut along the fold bisecting the folded edge of the paper.
Unfold the zine back out, and fold in half along the short edge.
This is where it gets a little tricky to describe.
Orient the folded zine with the inside of the front page being closest to you, one at a time pull each fold down and make sure they’re crisp.
We’re all done, hopefully that helps you make your own zine. It’s not a complicated process, but doing it a hundred times can be a little time consuming.
Put on a podcast, or some techno and get in the groove!
I always knew the last semester of my bachelors would be difficult, but I didn’t expect the feelings that I’ve sat with these last few months. A heady mix of hope, disappointment, shame, and relief, sloshing about like an oil and water toy. My understanding was as the degree went on, pressure to perform academically rose. However the importance of getting this degree seems to have faded. I can’t shake the feeling that outside the walls of academia, this all means relatively little.
People keep saying I should be proud of what I achieved, that fonishing at all is the achievment, I can’t help but feel unsure. I look back on my approach to school, and feel pangs of regret. I should of studied more, made more art, reached out more, made better connections with my classmates. Regardless, it’s the end of something huge, and I do feel proud.
I know this is all a little ‘woe is me’, however I’m predisposed to a good little ‘woe’, and if I can’t ‘woe’ on my own blog where can I!?
So what have you been making this last month?
Wow great question; I feel seen and valued.
Ok, so, initially for my final project this semester i was a little ambitious! It involved websites, interactivity, programming, live interaction, and maybe even a little AI. It was a project born out of a desire to escalate, to take what I had made these last four years, and crank up the complexity. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and after a few unfortunate events, a devastating break up, my number 1 dropping out, and some mild mental health kerfuffle’s, I realized I needed scale back in a big way.
Initially I wanted to keep the same thematic skeleton, talking about the internet, and it’s effect on masculinity and social norms. Instead of a website and computer interface, I was going to have people fill out a physical survey, aiming to bridge the gap between the IRL and online worlds. Unfortunately, or maybe in hindsight fortunately, I couldn’t get passionate about the internet as a subject. The idea of putting my energy and effort trying to decode something as all consuming as the internet seemed not only futile, but reckless considering how online space takes so much time from me already.
I ran the idea of rebuilding my project from scratch past my year coordinator, and was met with understanding, and a request to submit a new project proposal. I’m ashamed to admit I never wrote it (sorry Richard!), I tried a few times but I couldn’t really put into words what I was feeling, or what I wanted to do. I had an overwhelming feeling that I just needed to try and make something, to not feel hemmed in by a project brief or subject, to make work expressing a really difficult, tumultuous time in my life.
I returned to collage, a medium that’s always felt really comfortable and reliable to me. Looking back on the work I’d made so far, what was really speaking to me was the idea of found text. Batman comics from the 90s had a poetry to them, they took themselves seriously even though it was essentially children’s entertainment. So I went about cutting out as many little thought boxes as I could.
It was a wonderfully monotonous experience flipping through old comics and slicing out these tiny thoughts, monotony gets a bad rap, there’s something soothing about it. After collecting hundreds of clippings, I started to try and reconstitute a story from them, in the form of little poems. I thought I could arrange them with images, similar to my previous works, but this end up giving a Pinterest vibe, very “inspirational” and corny.
I think overloading the page with text cheapens the imagery, with my other works it’s usually a single thought box, but here it’s a whole poem. I also found it hard to build a story with the images when I had laid out the story so clearly within the poem. The world of the poem can become so big so quickly, which really is the appeal of working with words for me.
I then decided to create several smaller poems from the clippings, and see if they could stand on their own. This is roughly how the works appear in the final zine, some small tweaks to order, but basically I had the bulk from the first session.
From this point it was simply arrange the poems on my A4 page, do a series of test prints for group crit, and then arrange to have them printed. I really like the idea of getting them riso printed, which is like a printer that replicates screen-printing. Old 90s comics were printed on very cheap paper, and you can clearly see the halftone in a lot of them, riso helped recreate this aesthetic. I got a quote from the lovely people at Glom Press, a Melbourne based riso printer, and they helped me adjust the layers so they would work better with the process.
Finally we have the finished zine!
100 editions, on 150 gsm paper, all hand folded and titled!
I’m really happy with the finished work. Sometimes you make something and it feels like it just exists, not that you hate it or anything, but it’s not really a bit of you. This feels like a bit of me.
I’ve always been aware of zine making as a really flexible way of disseminating your work, but had never really attempted to make one till now. I did try to write one when I first got sober, a small comic series about the night I last drank, it is unfortunately lost to time. Thinking about it I actually did attempt to make another, about a man who raises slugs that people use to get high, again I’m unsure as to it’s whereabouts.
The ease of making zines really lends itself to making more, kind of like the itch to get more tattoos. Over the last few weeks I’ve been approaching my more creative friends to find out whether they’d be interested in making zines with me, and most have been receptive to the idea. The biggest joy for me is letting go the idea that I need to do something illustrative in order to make a zine, something that’s been rattling in my skull for decades.
I’ve also rediscovered my love of poetry, few artforms lend themselves to the specific kind of melancholy I love. Conspiratorial as it may sound, I firmly believe there’s no such thing as a good poem, just the right time to read it.
Having said that, I hope you’re in the mood, because here’s a little poem for you!
I am the paper detective, a soggy wad underfoot, a crumpled fiver pocket bound, looking through receipts for clues.
I am the worm, a wet clump scraped hastily, a compost heap sat soddenly, wincing and twisting in the dirt.
I am the reformed man, a lofty ideal strived for, a mark missed willingly, trying and failing and trying and failing.
When I find you, I hope it’s in a charitable mood, that it’s Thursday and 24 degrees, some time around noon.
Collage is a more complicated process than people give it credit for, with one of my biggest issues being each cutout can only be used once. This was something I wanted to address when I started delving into collage last year, eventually constructing a method of non destructive collage. This would allow me to reuse cutouts, and produce multiples of each collage.
Books to cut up
Cutting tool (box cutter, scalpel, scissors)
1 piece foam board (a3 or a4 depending on scanner size)
1 sheet acetate firm (same size as foam board)
1 piece thin hard cardboard (Slightly large that foam board)
Collect: My process for this was mainly to trawl through second hand shops, looking for anything with a lot of pictures. As I started to produce more work through, I began to understand what works better for me. Comic books and any artist books containing picture inserts were top of the list, while still leaving room in the budget for anything I thought could be interesting later. This year I purchased bulk comics from gumtree, which I think is probably the best way to build up a collection fast and for cheap.
Plan: Cutting images out can take a long time, I usually like to sit down in front of the tv, put something on I can half pay attention too, and start browsing through my haul. I like to look through everything first, so I can prioritize what images I want to focus on. Paying attention to the back of any page you’re cutting out, I’ve made the mistake too many times of destroying a great images while cutting out an okay one.
Cut: There are a lot of tools you can use to cut, but personally I enjoy using a box cutter the most. Scissors are great for long straight lines but don’t handle detail well, and while a scalpel might sound the best for this, often the blade is too flexible to remain steady. Don’t panic over perfection either, it’s always better to cut too loose than to tight at first, as you can always trim down.
Construct: Place you acetate flush on your foam board, with two small tabs of tape, connect the two together on one edge, creating a hinge that lets you raise and lower the acetate. We’re going to assemble our collage on top the foam board, and use the acetate as a flap to hold everything in place.
Assemble: It’s important to remember with this method you get unlimited tries to get the collage looking right. After assembling lower the acetate flap, be careful as it can get quite staticky, which can lift the cutouts out of place. There is a bit of fidgeting with things that goes on to get things perfect, having a knitting needle or something similar to move cutouts around without lifting the acetate up too much is helpful.
Scan: Place your hard cardboard over the acetate, sandwiching the work between the cardboard and foam. Now is the tricky part, we want to flip everything upside down, place it face down on the scanner bed, and slowly pull out the cardboard. This has given me the best results in keeping my work looking correct while flipping. Preview the scan so you can make sure everything is looking good, much like photography sometimes it’s wise to save the shot anyway even if you’re not %100 happy. When you’re scanning the final images, you want to scan as higher resolution as possible, I would recommend a minimum of 600, but personally like to shoot for 1200. This gives you the most flexibility with scaling and cropping your final works.
Process: This part is highly dependent on how much digital intervention you want to have with your work. My first step is to get the image to look as much like the original cutouts as possible, as the scanning process lightens up a lot of the darker areas. From here you can either get it print ready, or adjust the colors however you want. Personally I enjoy simply trying to replicate the original cutouts as close as possible.
Print: Using an Inkjet printer will give you the best results. Hopefully you’ve maintained a high resolution on your files, to give the best possible quality in your print. The choice of matte or gloss paper is up to you, I find the matter better represents the collage qualities, and accentuates the overlaps in paper without the interference of gloss.
I made this work for a recent art auction with the RMIT print student union Open Bite. It’s a great example of the kinds of images I’m looking for, and the benefits of non destructive collage.
Comic books, especially those from the 80s and 90s are a goldmine for overly dramatic, and high mindedly ideological pieces of text. Divorced from there ‘comical’ context, the words can have new meaning. Where they once referred to a villainous plan to spread plague, they now can speak to addiction and withdrawal. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say comics take themselves too seriously, in fact I love that something so silly can contain these complex themes. Instead its about elevating the words, to a form that they might be given more time and respect.
The woman that takes up most of the frame is Ellen Terry, painted by George Fredric Watts in 1864. Over Terry’s mouth is an image of a young woman smoking a cigarette, taken from the New 52 run of green arrow. These kind of serendipitous pairings of images that align perfectly feel too powerful to ignore. In this case, the implication of the pairing speaks to the representation of women through the last 200 years of art. I have no choice but to except this reading as a part of the work, and the inevitable implication of my male gaze in the process. Beyond this though, the meaning I choose to build around the pairing of images, uses a duality of identity to speak to the complex nature of addiction.
Finally the background image, taken from a 90’s batman comic book, is as the title might suggest, an advertisement for Coca-Cola. Balance and composition is as important in collage as any other medium, though as you lack as much control in collage, getting it right can be difficult. Something that helps the smaller pieces stand out is large flat areas of color, and the vibrant Coke red does that for us here. Coca-Cola is a product many see as addictive, with a high sugar and caffeine content. It’s presence in the work sets a baseline experience of addiction, as most can understand consuming sweets until you’re sick. This contextualizes how the viewer can start to think about the structure of smoking, drinking, and other addictive habits.
Old 52 is a simpler work than Drink Coca-Cola, in concept and form. At it’s most base level, it functions as an example of that serendipitous connecting of two images. Some of the images used in these were cut out over a year ago, and only finding a partner after sitting dormant in my binder, waiting for another image to click with.
The stoic image of Le Condottiere is overlayed with an intense visage, a pious man having his hand removed, at his own request. How we represent violence and the men who perpetrate it, is often in conflict with reality. Men who wage war presented as devout, disconnected from the wars they’ve waged, and lives they’ve ended. Unlike Drink Coca-Cola, there is no narrative built around the intertwined images. The subject has no voice, no inner monologue, only screams and the Rum-Rum-Ruuumm of some abhorrent device.
I have a lot more tattoos than most people expect, I lived with my current housemate for around 2 years before they realized I had a complete(ish) back piece. There’s a stereotypical question that seems to be on everyone’s lips when they see a tattoo, “What’s that mean?” I get it less these days, but it’s something I had to think about when I was in my tattoo getting prime.
Here’s what I settled on, and it’s the same answer for pretty much every tattoo.
I pick images that look good, and fit. More than that though, each tattoo caries emotional weight, I remember what my life was like at the time, and how I felt the months following each. What I mean to say is that a tattoo for me acts as a landmark in my life, to measure my mistakes, triumphs, and relationships along the way.
Art can be kind of the same. You make something new, only for it’s completion to coincide with a life altering event, creating a unbreakable link between art and life. Old 52 is one of those, an uncomfortable, sad, and confusing landmark.
My proposal for this project was originally for paste ups or stickers with QR codes that would lead to a post on this blog, going in depth into an issue of online life. The posts were meant to be a kind of soft academic essay helping people understand the pros and cons of interacting and existing in digital spaces. This would of been super positive and helpful for people I think.
So of course I decided instead to make a site full of faux intellectual sarcastic shitposts designed to confuse and frustrate people.
These two images are what started the website off, both based on some recent tweets of mine. Twitter is a lot of things, but the side I like is full of writers and comedians all trying to make the most acerbic, witty, and compact piece of wordplay they can. It lends itself to making extreme claims with little to back it up, see “Being Cringe is a Revolutionary Action,” I could write a whole essay on the way cringe operates online and in our culture, but the internet isn’t built for nuance.
It was an understanding that the internet doesn’t respond to nuance well that pushed my work into it’s eventual form. In the preceding project I created an image with a QR code leading to the short story “Stop, Thief!”, though this originally was not meant to be a short story. I intended to convey an idea I had been researching, comparing the internets infrastructure to Foucault’s writings on the panopticon in relation to social control. This seemed all good and well in the academic surroundings of RMIT, in my studio listening to other artists talk like artists do, but once I was at home, in front of my computer, facing the incomprehensible mass of the internet, a well worded argument just didn’t feel appropriate. Instead what came out was a story.
More than that though, I felt an emotion driven story was actually a better vehicle for conveying meaning. It’s one thing to tell people they’re being watched, and another to empathize with the feeling of being watched.
Before I got into the setup of the website and that whole process, I guess there is the question of why not use this site? Mostly a desire to recreate a certain aesthetic, that late nineties web 1.0 feel of a janky site covered in ancient gifs and artifact laden jpegs. I wanted the site to feel like a precursor to Myspace, the kind of site you would never open in the modern day for fear of viruses (do viruses still get people? I hear a lot less about them?). Anyway.
Firstly I had to find a name that wasn’t taken, I would love to trot out a huge list of potential names, but they’re all lost to my internet history. It pays not to get too attached to a URL before you know it’s available, as getting exactly what you want can be expensive. Though one of the first names I remember wanting was PFDhell.com, with an idea that I would host PDF articles online as a sort of open press online art journal. I felt this would narrow the scope of what I could do with the site though, so eventually I found http://www.lifeshell.online was available and bought it! Moments after though, having looked at it for a moment more, I realized it could be read as “life’s hell online” but also “life shell online.” While this did spin me out for a moment, I began to understand this as a perfect metaphor for the duality of the internet. Equal parts tool for communication and community, and hate and bigotry, at times a shell to protect, and other times absolute hell.
After securing the URL I started playing around with the included website builder, I personally feel like this was a bit of a misstep and will be something I rectify after this project is assessed. Ideally I would be a building the website on Dreamweaver to allow more flexibility. You could argue though that this tool helps bring that janky quality I’ve been looking for? Regardless, it had the ability to place images, text and video, and with built in responsive design, I was all set.
I decided the layout would be a central hub with images that could be clicked on, bringing the user to a new page which held a discrete artwork.
To meme is human
Memes and meme culture are a huge part of the internet, and so a big part of this project. But saying you’re talking about memes is like saying you’re talking about sport, almost too vague and large a subject for anything you say to have substance.
This project isn’t ‘about’ memes, but they’re part of the DNA of internet culture, so inevitably the work will be compared to them. The memes above are some examples of the specific style of meme I’m interested in right now, a combination of the absurd, cursed, vintage look popularized by gen z, and a joy of words more common on millennial twitter. These memes remix digital imagery, creating a sense of internet lineage which dates back to pre internet objects and characters that translated well into online culture. (I made one of the memes above, can you tell which one?)
While I wanted to use this meme aesthetic, I wanted the words to take center stage, with the imagery playing a supporting role. Originally I was building all the assets for the site myself, only deviating when using stock images, or iconic images in digital history, such as the windows rolling hills desktop background.
A meme refers to an image that is spread culturally and grows along the way, while a shitpost is a low effort but unique post designed to upset or enrage. By these definitions my images are not memes, they are definitely more akin to shitposts, but with the level of effort put in you can’t really even call them that. They’re also not really meant to enrage in a deliberate sense, I think it’s just that if I’m emulating the internet, there is an inherent sarcasm and annoyance.
This is not my beautiful wifi?
So this was the first iteration of the website, the one that I showed at my first peer review. The work was accessed through QR codes on stickers placed around a gallery space. Behind the QR image on these are faces generated from the site www.thispersondoesnotexist.com which generates human faces using AI. None of these people exist, they are all an AIs understanding on what a human looks like, sometimes they get it wrong, but most f the time the image are hauntingly real.
I used as many free online resources as I could to create this website, I saw it as an extension of a collage practice. Below I have a list of some of the resources used, though not all the assets used from these sites made it through to the final work. They are:
https://cooltext.com/: was used to create flaming and glowing text effects, this site is very old and one of my favorites as a kid.
Reactions to the work ranged from interest to feeling attacked. People took issue with the use of clickbait titles and felt personally like i was making fun of them. I was very confused in the moment, a jarring collision of my terminally online life, and real world peoples opinions. Eventually realizing the obvious fact that people actually do click on these clickbait headings, something I had become immune to long ago. After talking to the offended people I explained my intent wasn’t to insult the people who click on them, but rather to critique manipulative language on the internet. At least I hope that’s what I said, it was all a bit of a blur.
Another critique was that people were unfamiliar with the language, especially when it came to cringe. While most are familiar with The Office and cringe humor, I think the word has taken on new life in recent years online. Cringe is for some a status to avoid like the plague, and for others a badge of honor marking them as someone who refuses to bend to the status quo. The statement I make that it is revolutionary is a nod to the later, though upon further thinking I do have some caveats, but I’m worried letting nuance into the work might undermine it?
I also found that the younger students (and a few clued in ones) could figure out very quickly what I was doing. Obviously there is a generational gap that I’m straddling here, between the terminally online youth of today, and people who had dial up internet.
After all this feedback I decided a few things, mainly that I was right and everything I was doing was perfect. Honestly though I’ve never had a work be this divisive, and so I really feel that I should just see it through, trying to make it more of what it already is. Aesthetically I did make a change toward a more gif based layout, taking old archived gifs from gifcities.org and layering them in the page. This came from a thought I had about this piece being made from the internet, not just in terms of unique language and discourse, but it’s visual legacy too.
Finished work *SPOILERS*
Below are some images from the finished website, though I would highly recommend you visit the site as there are several animated components. The four images here are fairly self explanatory, and speak to the idea of deluxe tweets, in taking an idea and expanding it out into an aesthetic display.
The pages below are a little more involved. Some speak to AI on the internet, and how It will potentially impact our lives. While another talks about online surveillance, and the panopticon, one of the last links to my initial proposal.
This was an expansion of the previous project, taking what I had wrote and translating it into a video. I took the words and passed them through Anchor.FM giving me a spoken version, I added this with a filter and some stock footage to try and create an ominous feeling for the story. Looking back on this, It feels almost like I was the AI, taking a source concept and cobbling together imagery freely available online.
Using the Inferkit Demo and Emojify.net I was able to create this monstrosity of a page. I began by feeding the AI a few lines about how I felt AI driven articles would affect the online landscape, eventually letting the AI take over. I removed a lot of what I wrote, leaving mostly words from the AI themself, I then ran this through Emojify.net to create a contrast of dire messaging and comical overuse of emojis.
The latest piece added to the site and maybe my favorite, I again used Inferkit, giving it the first two lines. The AI then went on to write about it’s reality, this is not me pointing to AI becoming sentient, I think this is not really a problem. The real problem, is in its open use and distribution, the mass amplification of hateful speech, unchecked and indistinguishable from real humans. This drains most hope out of me for a future where the internet is anything but a desolate wasteland of AI generated content.
I also updated the stickers, while I did really think the aesthetic of the QR code covering the whole face looked very nice and was interesting visually. It did not do a great job of pulling the viewer through into the digital world, that is it wasn’t enticing enough. So with my final stickers, I placed the QR code over the mouth, and placed auto generated clickbait headlines suing the keyword “internet” above the eyes. This was an attempt to draw a viewer in and entice them to view the website (shameless).
Installation (funny must watch lol lmao final part 1)
The work is done and set up for assessment!
I really feel like I’m toeing a line with this one. I think it’s so funny to install a tiny sticker, on a dirty wall, crammed behind a door. Obviously I want my work to shine, but the work is meant to be humorous, so having a humorous installation makes sense? Though I worry that my classmates will think I’m taking the piss, or not being respectful to the year. But I’m always worrying, and no one has said anything to me yet, so I’m just gonna let that one simmer for a bit.
I’m really happy with how this project turned out. What has really stood out to me is the ease with which I can create and set something permanent up online. I feel like the next step for me is to create a collaborative online journal for artists who consider themselves online artists, and those who operate in the digital space.
The day before the installation was due, a video was released call Bored Ape Nazi Club. This video isn’t super accessible to none online people, and even then has a lot of super specific references in it. But the gist of it is that the Bored Ape Yacht Club is run by a group of crypto-fascist who use nazi dog whistles to troll people on a global scale. You can find a more digestible version of this information on this site www.gordongoner.com.
I bring this up because it introduced me to an artist Ryder Ripps, he is the one who compiled most of this information. He is probably the most terminally online artist I have ever seen, and while I’m still looking into him, the way he operates as an artist is insane. His work spans several sites and platforms, styles and formats, everything mixing and merging into a chaotic online presence. His ability to identify hateful content, dissect it, and leverage his popularity into coverage is arguably the prototype for the modern internet activist artist.
I’ve written about Cool 3D World before, but never specifically about their website. This site has to be one of the most annoying user experiences of all time, and honestly I applaud it for that. Every link that might be useful is constantly hurtling across the page, while a grotesque figure peers out at you from behind a moues responsive layer of viscous liquid.
The complete disdain this group has for people who enjoy what they make is a constant source of inspiration for me.
Similarly I’ve talked about The Wolfman Museum before, and in that case specifically about their website. While for my project The Halls of Galleria the interest was in the the gallery’s structure, my interest in regards to www.lifeshell.online I’m more interested in the convoluted, secretive layout. I love that the site has hidden locations that are hard to reach unless you’re intimately familiar with the site.
Again in the modern world this rejection of usability might seem hostile, but in the early days of the internet were challenges that produced a sense of being in the know.
Xanthe Dobbie is a Melbourne based artist whose GIF and video work revolves around the expression of queer culture. The site has a similar structure to mine, but functions more as a portfolio. Each link is accompanied by a GIF, some whose origin dates back to very early internet culture, such as the dancing baby. This method of using older files from the internet serves as both a form of archiving, but also a reclaiming of the materials as aesthetically and culturally important.
A GitHub texture generation tool, this site uses #math to generate some pretty absurd looking textures. Through the combining of several preset equations and a tweaking of values, you can often direct the site to make some really beautiful tiling images.
GitHub has been my favorite source of strange tools to help build my websites because it’s full of nerds (compliment) just giving away gems for free!
Obviously AI has it’s limits, and this prompt was just too far beyond what is imaginable by AI at this point in time. Funnily enough, this project worked relatively well up until google released news of it’s own proprietary AI that generates images. Upon people realizing they weren’t on the list to try Imagen, they must have stumbled across the best free alternative which is the DALL-E mini, hammering it with requests for least favorite political candidates smooching each other.
This semester I decided to venture outside of the printmaking studio and try my hand at painting again. I took the class Expanded Field Painting, which turned out to be a class about everything but painting. So it was at the same time not what I wanted, and what I was already doing.
For the first assignment we had a group project, and I got to work with Stephanie Jook and Anita Kwong, two incredibly talented artists. For the first time of any group project I have been a part of, the forming of the idea, and the setting in motion of the plan was incredibly simple. Through the crudest of drawings we designed an installation, we would have one team member painting on Perspex on one side of the room, and this would be filmed and projected onto the other side of the room. This projection would hit a paper lined wall, where another team member would draw in response to what was being projected. Initially there was talk of having this be a live performance, but as we tried to detangle our individual schedules, we realized we would only get one chance to practice. This meant we decided instead to record the process through various angles, and then present the documentation as a resolved work.
Below is what I would consider the resolved work, half documentation and half interpretation of process.
and here is some more direct documentation
We first wanted to paint onto perspex, recording this and projecting it onto the other wall. We tried this a few times and it did work well, unfortunately since we were recording from the back of the perspex, so all the paint stacked on top of other paint, and after the first layer nothing new would be seen. Later on in the project we began taping paper to the wall, recording that and projecting it. This changed the dynamic in a few ways, mainly that both sides were equal using the same mediums, and the position and scale of the human drawing changed. This also meant we got to keep some of the drawings after the fact, as we regularly cleaned the perspex.
The two below are my drawings from the session, we didn’t plan what to do when we started, so what we got was very freeform.
The first of these works was me drawing on the projected wall, responding to the movements of the projected light, the work is much more organic and less structured. The second drawing is much more structured and in line with my regular drawings, as there was little outside influence to change how I work.
I then tried to recreate the concepts of the project in a digital space, this can be seen here on my website. To further bring this in line with my current themes of bridging the gap between the digital and real, of course I had to make some QR code stickers!
The image is a combination of the two works I made during the project, and come together to form a pleasing image. It’s satisfying that these images work together even though that was never the intention. On the page itself, scaled on the background is an animated image of the front layer fading in and out. I like that this feels like a YTMND page, and has been something that I’ve been reminded of frequently while making pages on www.lifeshell.online.
That about wraps up the project, but I’ll leave you with some more of the documentation. Lately I’ve felt that documentation of process is more important than the resolved work. While the project is being documented it is still alive, in completing the work we kill and dress it for presentation. This is partly why my work with websites has been so different, the work never dies.
Traditional printmaking techniques require a lot of equipment, and even the more kitchen table friendly approaches require a decent amount of space. During lockdown my bedroom was probably 2.5 x 3 meters, which isn’t the smallest room, but with my queens sized bed, left just enough room for a desk, and a tv unit. So over lockdown, to keep my practice alive, I decided to step back into painting. With the little space remaining in my room I set up me easel, a camera, and started streaming.
There are still some videos up online from that period, you can see one here!
This was something I had wanted to do for a while, to start streaming my practice online. For a while it was fulfilling, eventually though the reality of regularly streaming became stressful. To put yourself on display while creating is incredibly vulnerable, and I am a person who does not do well with being observed. Strange then that I had this desire to be a streamer, I often wonder why I felt that drive, maybe social reasons, or that it felt very cutting edge. I think ultimately the allure of streaming was that it was simple, just set up an easel, a camera, and go. Pretty quickly I came to understand that without connections or a lot of luck, It was going to be a slow grind. Which is fine! But as I wasn’t enjoying the process, and with the crushing nature of the pandemic, I knew it wouldn’t last.
Despite this pessimism, I keep finding myself drawn back into the world of streaming! I tried different setups, methods, and mediums. Creating unique playlists of documentaries to play while I worked on my Halls of Galleria project, playing different styles of music and approaching DJs so I could use their mixes, even recording my lava lamp to make the stream look funkier, and leaning super hard into the viewer interaction side of streaming. After all this I have become pretty comfortable on stream, and my opinions of internet content creation have become a lot less dogmatic.
So this year in my class expanded field painting, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to revisit streaming. The class talked about what defines a painting, and the extent to which we can call something a painting. Initially the answer might seems simple, but there are grey areas, like if you send instructions on how to paint a mural to a gallery, and then someone else paints it on the wall. You could say the painting was made by whoever physically put the paint on the wall, but you could also claim that the idea of the painting is the painting, and the physical presentation is just a representation of the real painting (the instructions). This idea of where is the practice, especially as it pertains to digital representations has been at the center of my research this year, and really since the beginning of lockdown. Many of my works never leave my room, but digital representations of them leave my house and travel all over the world through digital recreations. So what is my practice? the physical artworks or the documentation?
I finished two paintings on stream this semester, both quite different.
This is the first, and I can only really describe it as a slump buster. A lot of what drove this painting was fighting the nerves of facing a blank canvas, of having to plan ahead, and other anxieties that inhibit a practice. The figure was sourced from a game I had been obsessively playing for the last month called Elden Ring, the game has a really nice lighting system, and allows you to create custom models. I thought this idea of using video games screenshots as image references tied into my themes of digital worlds and their effect on art, but also was a great way to bring my hobbies and interests into my art. I really enjoy the muddy yucky green and yellow of the computer, I really wat to revisit this composition but to give the figure more context.
The work was a more literal representation of some of the feelings that festered over lockdown. I found myself abusing gaming as a way to get through it, but this characterization was problematic. Something I worked on through lockdown was not demonizing my actions. As a recovered alcoholic, It’s easy for me to look at all leisure through the lens of an addict. I think over the course of lockdown I managed to create a better relationship with my downtime and my hobbies. I’m not sure if the image speaks to this externally, but this is what I think looking back on it.
The second work I completed was an homage to Botticelli.
This painting was the main focus for my work in this class, and was the starting point for a few derivations. But first I’ll talk about the actual painting.
Visually the work is inspired by a series I completed a few years ago called Reflektor, where I screen printed on rainbow reflective adhesive vinyl. Instead of working directly on the vinyl though, with this project I would work around it. To help the vinyl stick to the surface I decided to work on MDF, I thought this would be a flatter more stable surface to help the adhesive stay put. After plotting out the image in pencil, I used an annoying method of tracing on several pieces of paper to get the shape of the face and hands cut out of the vinyl, then with great care adhered the vinyl. In plotting out the work I left some room to deviate from the original, I didn’t want to add in the rondel of the source image, and instead wanted something that spoke to the digital / cosmic aesthetic that the vinyl brought to the image. I decided to use a great squids eye, though some have said it looks like a portable speaker? This was in an attempt to reference the loosely defined cosmic horror genre. I’ve listened to a lot of discourse around what defines work in this genre, and how to place it. Sometimes I think it gets boiled down to big monster scary, with Cthulhu being somewhat of a poster child for the genre, but this great video by HBomberguy helped me reimagine how I thought about it. Instead of something large and externally threatening a subject, I instead contextualize the themes as a familiar made unfamiliar. I want people to see the work and think “I know this, and I understand the components, but the whole is unfamiliar to me.”
Similar to Reflektor this work was heavily documented, both through Instagram and streaming on Twitch. I also tried several times to illicit interaction with an audience, going back to replacing the rondel, I actually asked people on Instagram to decide what goes there. While I didn’t use any of their suggestions, it was definitely fun, and was sure to acknowledge that i was going to go my own direction with it.
This time I also wanted to incorporate TikTok, mainly because it being a more popular app means more eyes, but the culture is also more cutting edge at the moment. The app and community it holds hasn’t had time to homogenize or stagnate like Instagram or Facebook have in recent years.
This was the first time I had posted something like this, my goals with these TikToks, and what I had come to understand, is what the algorithm rewards are videos that are very immediate and real. I tried to put enough effort into the so they conveyed value, but to also not overthink the execution as there are extreme diminishing returns on effort invested. I wanted to be present with the work, but still alow the work to take the center stage. My approach was to visually only show the painting, but to have y voice present, even if what I’m saying was not important to the content of the painting. To allow the work to engage on it’s own level, and for me to engage on another level, separately but in unison.
That about wraps up the process of painting and documenting, but there’s another portion to this project, and it’s been a theme across my practice this year, and that’s iteration. Specifically through a website built to create HTML based artworks, and through the creation of QR code stickers.
I wanted to work with recreating the piece in an online space. I achieved this through a use of transparency, animation, and images created by AI. The transparency and the animation are obvious I feel, to recreate the reflective vinyl. I wanted to achieve an effect that gave a similar feeling but with a low computing cost, I tried at all points to keep image resolution low to aid this. The last factor though, the AI images, was something that I felt could help bring through the ideas of familiar / unfamiliar. The speed at which AI are progressing is astounding, and in many ways are the real life manifestation of a cosmic horror. Something so familiar to us, but so different. We as humans can conjure images in our minds from any prompt, the more talented among us could even render these as images in the real world. But to see a machine do it in a matter of seconds is equal parts impressive and horrifying. The horror for me comes in the errors in computing when the AI tries to understand what a face is and how it works, as the way things are going some would have us put our lives in their hands, and I sure hope at that point the understand what I am.
Hi everyone, don’t panic, this is just your run of the mill project breakdown. So put down those pitchforks, pick up that adventurous spirit, and relax, while I tell you all about why I do the things I do.
November last year I was able to participate in a show at The Hue and Cry Collective. Located out in Geelong, the show was 55 artists each responding to a chapter from Italo Calvinos Invisible Cities. I was given the city Leandra, a chapter talking about tiny invisible gods arguing over the essence of a place.
Initially I had a lot of bombastic ideas, including altered reality and massive A1 lino cuts. Eventually time and good sense got the better of me and I settled on an A3 linocut. As I planned out my lino image on illustrator, I began to play around with some of the features I hadn’t before. I’ve been interested in learning 3D modelling for a while, and as I was trying to get the perspective for the building accurate I came across Illustrators 3D tool. This feature is very CPU intensive, and would send my laptop into a frenzy trying to render anything even slightly complicated. But the aesthetic it created was very reminiscent of pre rendered Super Nintendo and PS1 backgrounds, giving it an incredibly nostalgic feeling. I used inbuilt and community sourced open use textures, as well as making some of my own, adding to the kitsch feel of the work.
The process is fairly simple on the surface. Creating shapes with the line tool, and then converting them to 3D objects. It’s hard to describe the specific ways in which the process is busted as hell. Basically each shape get’s it own orientation, and then the lighting works off of that orientation? So the game becomes keeping track of what angles you used to orient objects, and using that to create consistent lighting. In a proper 3d program, the orientation and lighting are not linked like this, so yeah it would be much easier in blender or something like that.
but look at it! it’s charming? right?
My interest as of this last few years has been in the digital world, and how it ties into our life in the flesh dimension. While trying to find a conceptual framework to approach these ideas with, I came across Koskelas paper Cam Era’ — the contemporary urban Panopticon. Koskela outlines a comparison between the panopticon prison structure and urban CCTV surveillance, using Foucault’s analysis of the panopticon as a structure of power as a reference point. It didn’t seem a leap at all to apply this comparison to digital environments. Both in reference to the individuals position of anonymous power, but also in relation to an individuals existence in heavily monitored digital environment.
This friction between simultaneous experiences online was something I felt worth exploring. How we can simultaneously feel so powerful looking through the screen, but also be increasingly vulnerable as data harvesting techniques improve. I wanted to explore this by having a jovial, goofy looking image lead to an in depth analysis of the panoptic nature of the online experience. This would be reached through scanning the code located on the image, which I set up before even beginning to write.
When I began the writing process though, what felt more natural and powerful to me, was to write a story. I felt through a narrative format I could still create that jarring tension between being watched and feeling in control. If you don’t have access to a QR code scanner for some reason, you can click the button below and read the story.
I didn’t want to explain every facet of my story, instead leaving breadcrumbs for people to investigate. An attempt to weave environmental storytelling into a text based work, I trust the reader to use the internet to pull apart the messages in the story through independent research.
Both aesthetically and practically I want this work to be the entree for a story. I want to capture the sickeningly naive facade of the digital corporate, using it to present honest, heartfelt and earnest stories. There is a great sense of freedom just saying what I want to say after years of trying to convey ideas through images. I start feeling like I’m 18 again, writing sad poems on Tumblr just for my friends.
Koskela, H 2002, ‘‘Cam Era’ — the contemporary urban Panopticon’, Surveillance and Society, vol. 1, no. 3.
Data Brokers 2022, television program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, CBS Broadcast Centre, 17 April
Ok so first off, what were you doing pointing a camera at my work? What are you some kind of art thief! To prison with you!
Your cell is small, slightly wider at the back, the rough concrete floor reaching out past the metal bars to a meter high railing. Emerging from the pit beyond the rail is an ominous glass structure, your own image shifting on the surface. The obelisk stirs, suddenly every corner of your cell is illuminated. Frozen in place, you wait for the light to dissipate, but the feeling of being observed won’t leave your bones.
Years have passed, your sentence served, rehabilitated and forgiven in the eyes of god and the law.
The cashier at the convenience store rummages for your change, you wave them off
“It’s fine keep it!” you chirp in an overly positive tone, so as not to sound even the slightest bit passive aggressive.
A yellowing Dahua IP 5mp Turret swivels to catch the top of your head as you squeeze through the barely open sliding doors.
There’s a park on your path home, it’s quarter to five, the magic hour. You squint, holding your shopping free hand up to block the light, so you can admire the government sanctioned sculpture erected by [revered local artist]. Two long slender bronze figures, each resting their head on the others shoulder, stand patiently in front of you. Eyes wondering down you notice weeds pushing through the cracks in the brittle base of the structure.
Your eyes follow the cracks on the rough concrete, reaching out to the edge of the path. A pair of sodden sneakers with muddied blue denim spilling over onto them. They belong to a stranger, standing, transfixed on a phone thirty centimeters in front of their face. They tap the screen, bring the phone closer, extend there arms back out, and repeat.
You keep walking home.
A Doorbird D2101KV regards you silently as you pass into the foyer of your apartment building. A neighbour stops you, they’ve just returned from a classic car show. Not wanting to offend, you feign interest.
“Oh that sounds neat, I’ll have to go sometime!”
Adhesive marble vinyl peels from the corners of your kitchen counter. Shopping unpacked, you turn your tv on and volume down, sitting at your desk.
Out of your window you notice a duel pair of Annke Nightcroma NCA500s, they’re set up in front of the hotel opposite your apartment. Framing the front entrance, they provide a total 180 degree field of vision. They’re blissfully unaware of your existance.
You think about that TedTalk, the one that said unproductive people face their desks toward windows, or maybe the later led to the former. You can’t remember.
Your phone recognises you and springs to life with a satisfying click, you open [PREFERRED SOCIAL MEDIA APPLICATION].
Emanuel got engaged.
Adél is having a baby.
[Revered local artist] is having a show.
SAVE EASY WITH TO THE DOLLAR ROUND UP ON [FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS] NEW APP!
Emmett posted a selfie from a party last night.
Fatimah also posted a selfie from a party last night. In the background you see Emmett.
You must have missed Emanuels engagement party last night.
DON’T MISS OUT THIS SUNDAY LAST CHANCE TO CATCH THE INFAMOUS [LOCAL AREA] CLASSIC CAR SHOW!
Michael posted a flat block of colour in solidarity with an issue you’ve been meaning to read up on.
Sara got a new tattoo. You [like/thumbs up/upvote/comment] on the image.
SUPER EXCLUSIVE FLASH DAY AT [ADJECTIVE] [NOUN] TATTOO STUDIO! DON’T MISS OUT!
An old high school friend who’s name you’ve forgotten is giving their new partner a soft open, the caption reads “days with you 😍”
Meme about working in construction and being over 50 posted by your estranged uncle.
Meme you don’t understand, posted by your twelve year old nephew.
GET IN NOW ON THE GROUND FLOOR OF A NEW BLOCKCHAIN BASED MARKET DISRUPTING REVOLUTION!
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO OWN THE CONCEPT OF THE RIGHTS TO A DIGITAL META OBJECT LOCATED IN YOUR NEW CYBER LOCAL?
SICK AND TIRED OF THE CORNERS OF THE ADHESIVE MARBLE VINYL ON YOUR KITCHEN COUNTERTOP PEELING UP?
A RUMBLING EXISTENTIAL DREAD RISING TO A CRESCENDO OF ENNUI DEEP WITHIN YOUR BONES?
BUY NOW! WHAT IS IT? WHO KNOWS, BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO ASK AND SEEM LIKE A BIG IDIOT NOW DO YOU?
It’s approaching, bed time. Ten thousand bees rumble through your cavernous skull, rubbing their bristly bodies against the inside of your cornea.
You reach down beside your bed, blindly rummaging for a thin cord. With the phone on charge, your morning is safe from introspection.
Neon rectangles dance under your eyelids against a deep dark, as the bees retire for the evening.