Exhibition Journal September 2021

The Wolfman Museum

Wolfman museum is an interactive online gallery, it is located in outer space floating just near a red dwarf star. The museum contains a combination of traditional art gallery exhibitions, live streams, archived media, interactive tools and other oddity’s such as a hike to the top of MT Wolfman and MT Jazz.

The architecture is confusing and convoluted, though there are several guides and links to help you navigate your way around the installation. One of the driving principles for the creators Robert and Peter Hopkins was re-creating a traditional website experience, much like the archived content, the very interface is drenched in old internet nostalgia.

Jazz cat serves as a guide during your visit, how exactly a cat manages to relax in zero gravity is beyond me, but Jazz seems to have it all figured out. Walking around the gallery, what impresses and engages me more isn’t the art hanging on the walls, but the gallery space itself. I’m going to post below a few images from my trip that I felt most impressed by, and I really implore anyone reading this to go experience it for yourself.

Searching for good interactive online gallery’s for this project was rough, so many aimed to replicate the constraints of a real life gallery, white walls with images hung up at eye level. Why, with the boundless power of the information age, would you restrain yourself to the conventions of the art world as we know it. I think that’s the real beauty of the Wolfman Museum, it’s ability to challenge what a gallery is, and how we interact with it.

Intersection

Having just went on a bit of a rant about traditional gallery spaces being translated into the digital world, here is a more traditional gallery space translated into the digital world. You can download the experience through the indie games platform itch.io here, or watch the guided tour down below, you won’t need access to a VR headset for either, but it seems that the video was shot in a VR environment.

One aspect of this showing I really enjoyed was how much care went into recreating the artwork in a digital environment. Jem Wollidge’s work right of the bat has an amazing 3d quality, and a brilliant use of textures to recreate almost a knitted texture. Similary Diedrick Brackens’s work sits off the wall and actually wowed me when I first saw it, something I’ve never had a still image in a digital gallery do before.

Some rooms have stylistic accents which compliment the art being shown, as with Jared Olsever, whose work features mechanical humans. We can see pipes and cables running up the walls and into the ground, the room also has a unique colour pallet on the walls, with a deep, warm orange. Alkarim Jadavji also has themed his room, with pitch black walls accentuating the vibrant colour’s in his animated images. This coupled with the red curtains that appear on both entry and exit as you enter, creates a sense of being hidden or taboo, but also comfort and excitement.

The International Pixel Art Gallery

This last gallery is one that commits one hundred percent to it’s theme and aesthetic, the aim of the project was to be a central exhibit for pixel artists all around the world, to bring them together and hopefully to new audiences. Again this project can be accessed through itch.io, where you can also find a list of all the artists involved and their Instagram links.

The opening page is a map of the world with an arcade style cursor, allowing you to mouse over countries, and click through to find what artists have submitted work to the gallery. The actual gallery portion of the show is a very simple slideshow, and a link to find out more about the artist. There is also a quiz section that runs through a series of images from the show and has you guess what country the work is from.

I have to say I was most impressed with Australia’s entrant Michael Blake, his work Doppelganger (2020) and Doppelganger Too (2020) can be seen above. A lot of the other work resembles video game art, or involves small animations. There is a very mixed bag, the quality level varies from artist to artist, but it achieves its goal of being a showcase for artists in a niche artform.

Flesh and Digital Sovereignty

I’m going to talk a bit more about some influences for my latest project Halls of Galeria in this post, I aluded to a few of these artists and concepts in my proposal. Depending on the page layout you might be able to see the first thumbnail, so you might already know things are about to get weird, so consider this your content warning!

@Cool3dworlds / Brian Tessler and Jon Baken

Cool 3d Worlds is a project by Brian Tessler and Jon Baken, both 2d artists and musicians who make in 2015 started making bizarre animations on the platform Vine. Since then they have gained massive popularity with their recognizable style, doing work for MTV, Nike, and Adult Swim.

I can’t remember when I first saw their work, but i remember being obsessed with it! Around the same time I was still obsessed with anything that had a counter cultural spin to it, bizarre content like Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show Great Job, and Aqua teen hunger force. there is definitely an element of “this is so weird and only I can understand it” happening here with young Jake, but the work definitely has merits beyond it’s oddity.

Something that really sticks out in all their videos is the freedom with which the ‘camera’ moves between vastly different scenes, like waking up from a dream only to find that you’re in another dream. The worlds all have a strange sense of structure, while hard to follow, there is usually a diving into a specific element, only to pull back and reveal all these odd creatures inhabiting the same space.

@Flesh_Dozer / Jess Johnson

New Zealand born artist Jess Johnson’s work is highly recognizable, and takes full advantage of modern technologies. Johnson talks about being the master of her own world, and that building these digital realms is a source of control for her. Visually there are obviously similarities between my current work and her style, but I feel with Johnson her images focus on a very visceral experience of pattern and movement, what I am aiming for is a more discordant world with more organic feeling experiences.

Above is a great artist profile on Johnson, and it also features Simon Ward, who has been animating Johnsons work.

Anor Londo / Dark Souls

For anyone from the art world, this is probably where I should bid you farewell, I’m going full nerd right now.

Before the release of Dark Souls 3 I got really into the souls community through lore videos and playthroughs. Content creators like EpicNameBro and VatiVidya made videos that were so earnest and loving towards this game series, attempting to explain a world that gives very little away through narrative means. They relied on item descriptions, cryptic dialogue, and illusions to religion and architecture to understand how the world was formed and persists.

It’s hard to describe the feeling that playing these games gives, but there is a profound sense of emptiness, but also importance. It’s hard to know though, if I hadn’t got caught in the hype of the community would I still feel the same about the games? They’re amazing simply for their gameplay, but the mythology surrounding the digital world you inhabit is really what transforms the games from simple media to an experience.

Enter the Matrix

This lockdown has been the worst of all the lockdowns, and it took me a while to pinpoint why exactly. We headed into lockdown six of the back of the short-lived lockdown 5, imbued with a confidence that it would be a cheeky two, maybe three week lockdown, some time at home away from work and stress, totally manageable! Yet here we are some months later, with protests and a government in turmoil, as we simply try to eek whatever little joy we can from each day. It’s taken a heavy toll on my mental health, impacted my relationship, and drained my will to study, but I’ll have a sick vaccine card in a few days, so that’s something?

Maybe this is where the obsession with creating a digital fantasy world has come from? In these lockdowns I have reverted to my teenage self as have a lot of people. For me this has meant a lot of video games, and immersing myself in gaming culture. I want my own place, a city, a temple, a kingdom that is all mine, disconnected from tech giants and social medias.

Excuse me sir!

I can’t remember exactly what made me want to return to illustrator, my current theory is some part of my brain didn’t want to waste all those years studying design. I made the image above, thinking a lot about how we interface online, in this latest lockdown I’ve been very into twitter and political streamers / content creators. I wanted to go about making a world that represented my image of what the online world would be if it was physical. I wrote a proposal for this project, so if you want to hear me say this with 50x the words you can read that here!

I made these next three images, just really trying to flesh out the world, and the aesthetics. I don’t honestly have much interest in explaining my intent with the imagery, not that it’s personal or complex, just that part of the joy with this kind of work is building the universe in your own mind. There’s more that a few articles talking about how the video game franchise Dark Souls conveys it’s story through more subtle methods, and this is something I want to embrace. The story in the viewers mind is more impressive than anything I could create.

So what actually am I building?

The goal is to create a world, this world will live online at www.hallsofgaleria.com, and will be expanded over time. I want the world to move deeper and deeper with each update, and never really try to be resolved, to be more of an experimental playground. When someone arrives on the site they will be greeted with an entrance to a building, and they can then move through the world through a simple point and click system.

The second half of this project is the real world component, tickets, flyers and posters that serve as entry points to this digital world. Above you’ll see the templates for these posters, which I then transferred onto lino, and printed at home. Thankfully QR technology is forgiving and the codes still read perfectly fine!

To print the lino block I used a machine called a cold press laminator, something @witch_print put me onto. Basically they’re used to adhere things together under pressure, so sticking photos to backing boards, or stickers on flat surfaces, probably even laminating?? But I don’t use it for any of that, a blog post by artist Alexia Wibler describes how it can be used in a similar fashion to a regular printing press, and I have to say it really does do the trick! It’s very forgiving, though can feel a little clunky at times, but I think that’s just part of the charm.

I’ve chosen to print on cheap recyclable printer paper, as these are meant to be pasted up on the street instead of hanging on a wall. I want to print of a hundred of these, and once the website is complete distribute them as a way of entering the Halls of Galeria.

My plan now is to focus on building up the Halls of Galeria over the next month, and to make it worthwhile visiting!

Arts Proposal – Out of the Matrix

Gothic Memphis / The Halls of Alegria

Before outlining what this project will entail, I think it’s important to consider the current social climate we find ourselves in, and the restrictions placed upon us. When approaching this project, due to the uncertainty brought into our lives these past two years, I won’t provide a clear-cut output. Instead I want to spend the proposal outlining my initial image creation, my principles and my thoughts, heading into this project.

As a child I lived my life online, racing home from school everyday to spend my time in digital worlds, video games, chat rooms, and forums. As Australians have become more digitally literate, acceptance of internet culture has been growing, and with everyone locked down for the last two years, the concept of inhabiting digital spaces is now secondary to most people.

As I’ve spent more time online as an adult, I find myself increasingly divided on the benefits and dangers of having access to everyone, all of the time. I find myself enamored with the thousands of career options it presents, the endless wells of knowledge I can draw from, and that I have been able to exhibit my work to people all around the globe. This constant global connection though also leads to endless, cyclical arguments, and we can see them play out in real time, on twitter, in youtube comment sections, and in endless forums. It has also led to the polarization of political opinions, as well as giving extremist ideals space to take root and grow.

I am taking inspiration from modern interactive entertainment, and traditional tapestry storytelling methods for my designs. My intent is to personify online interactions we experience every day, using an aesthetic that harkens back to what we thought the internet could look like in the late nineties. Mixing this with the alegria design sensibilities, those blocky, gangly, flat figures set as the representatives for many a tech company. A grim take on corporate memphis and the utopian ideals fed to us by Silicon valley.

My intent though isn’t necessarily to skewer or parody these companies, or this particular artstyle. I intend to harness it’s ubiquity to create work that toes the line between familiar and unsettling. I want to take this style of corporate memphis, or Alegria as it is known in the industry, and use it as a tool for art, repurposing an overused commercial tool for a more meaningful artistic purpose.

Designs will be created in adobe illustrator, using the same tools as designers gives a sense of authenticity to the work. Illustrator also lends itself to a very specific art making process, and works well whether remaining digital or being screen printed, allowing flexibility. I studied graphic design in my early twenties and had a great love for Illustrator, but it is something I haven’t touched since I began studying fine art.

My work will be digital first, physical second. These are works that are born from internet culture, and as such belong to it. I want to appreciate the internet for what it can be at its best, when it embodies the ideals of print. While commenting on the more toxic behaviors and ideals the internet can harbour.

Artists who will influence my work include Jess Johnson, or @flesh_dozer as she is known online, her work creates digital worlds, full of fractal repetition and fleshy depictions of human bodies. Brian Tessler or @cool3dworlds also creates 3d worlds, but with a more disturbed, distorted approach. Both these artists have created living worlds through their images, attempting to capture the absurd reality of the internet, and digital space.

References

  1. Gracie, A 2015, ‘Telling Stories Through Tapestry’, Word Wench, Blog Post, 04 May, Viewed 25 August 2021, <https://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2015/05/telling-stories-through-tapestry.html>
  2. Gabert-Doyon, J 2021, ‘Why does every advert look the same? Blame Corporate Memphis‘, WIRED UK, 21 January, viewed 24 August 2021, <https://www.wired.co.uk/article/corporate-memphis-design-tech>
  3. Know your meme 2021, Corporate Art Style, Know your meme, viewed 25 August 2021, <https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/subcultures/corporate-art-style>
  4. Kain, E 2012, ‘Storytelling in Dark Souls and Skyrim’, Forbes, 29 March, viewed 23 August 2021, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/03/29/storytelling-in-dark-souls-and-skyrim/?sh=13a722f35984>
  5. Hawley, R 2019, ‘Don’t Worry, These Gangly-armed Cartoons Are Here to Protect You From Big Tech’, Eye On Design, 21 August, viewed 25 August 2021, <https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/dont-worry-these-gangley-armed-cartoons-are-here-to-protect-you-from-big-tech/>
  6. Tesser, B, viewed 25 August 2021, <https://brianbrianbrianbrian.com/>
  7. Johnson, J, viewed 25 August 2021, <https://www.jessjohnson.org/?ltclid=c7a00ef4-0fa8-4fad-8dfb-623eadd64787>