Souvenir

/ˌsuːvəˈnɪə/
noun

  1. a thing that is kept as a reminder of a person, place, or event.
    “the recording provides a souvenir of a great production”

A project this semester revolved around the idea of a souvenir, we were tasked with replicating an object, preferably something we made ourselves. The Project revolved around methods of replication, and reproducing, which as a printmaker is something I consider whenever I’m making work. My main studio class was actually called out of the matrix and saw us consider the way our prints are made, and how we can make that central to our practice.

After considering the topic only briefly, the day to propose our inspiration snuck up on me. I looked around my room and tried to figure out what souvenirs I could find, but I’m not a big collector of ‘things’. One item that was quite abundant though was little sprigs of lavender, during out lockdown walks my partner would snap lavender from a bush to smell on the walk. She would always bring them back to my house, sprinkling them around the room like she was preparing for the most one note potpourri.

My first instinct was to just start creating lavender sprigs from wax, it seemed the simplest place to begin. Because I thought it would be impossible to make an imprint from lavender given how soft it is, I figured trying to carve out a clay mold might be the best option. From a printmaking perspective this process is interesting, as with print there is always the matrix that we create to generate the image. In this process you’re creating a matrix in clay, to create a matrix in wax, to work into the final product through casting.

Each sprig is slightly different, you might notice the runt of the litter from my first attempt at a mold. This random difference in how the objects are treated after the mold gives each a more organic look, from working with print there is a certain forgiveness for irregularity that I’m well accustomed too by now, and even seek out when creating.

To build on this concept I thought about the uses for lavender and expanded to herbs in general, again my partner had just left inspiration lying around. I found a small pipette bottle of hers with rosehip oil inside, after getting permission I transferred the contents to another bottle, cleaned everything out and began trying to replicate it. First I got some two ingredient putty to mold the opening of the bottle, my goal was to make the top and bottom not only separate, but functional. I tried to squeeze in the putty as tight as I could around the opening but it proved quite difficult. Nonetheless as you can see below, the original lid does fit onto the wax bottle.

I finished the rest of the bottle off with pink sheet wax, and it was a fairly straight foreword process. Unfortunately when it came time to mold the lid, I broke the mold before I got a successful wax from it. Thought maybe there’s some kitsch value to a sterling silver bottle with a plastic lid. Either way the tactile fun part of this work would survive, either the satisfying coarseness of metal on metal, or the decadence of draining liquids from a silver bottle.

Some other directions I went can be seen above, one method I tried was to warm up pink sheet wax, and mold it over one of the blue wax lavender sprigs. I did this same motion up and down the wax, finally wrapping it over, trying to imitate the shape of lavender. While this looks less like lavender, there was a really nice frailty to it, and it would be difficult but satisfying to cast, though I suspect a lot of the wax would buckle or burn out. The second idea I followed was similar to the bottle, a tactile object, and related to plants and medicine. I made small mortar and pestle’s, one traditional and attempting to be accurate, and the second playing around with the concept. I enjoyed this, I think it’s really fun to create smaller functional items, and make them really decadent.

Investment

Since I last talked about making wax sculptures of hands for casting I’ve made a lot of progress. I’ve started streaming my art making process on twitch.tv, and cast a few pieces. If you’ve no read my previous post, I explain my journey into twitch streaming and how it fits into my practice, more specifically wax sculpting.

My teacher asked me to look into the symbology behind hands, what they mean, and why i might be so interested in recreating them. So I did the logical thing, made a playlist of videos all about hands, sign language, muscle structure, symbology, and body language, then streamed myself making wax hands while i watched it. Such is a modern art practice. You can find the original stream at twitch.tv/greatjobjake the playlist on my YouTube channel. I’ll touch briefly on the first video on the playlist, which unfortunately I cant embed in this blog, It’s on the symbolism of hands in the Del Toro movie Pans Labyrinth.

Small tangent, this type of video essay might be a little foreign to some, but it’s becoming a more and more competitive genre. I became really obsessed with this style of video at the beginning of Melbourne’s first lockdown through creators like Contrapoints and PhilosophyTube. I really enjoyed how people would break down a topic, attempt to cite sources, and it really just made YouTube feel like more of a reliable source of information. They even have their own version of peer review in the form of referencing, debunking and responding to each others videos.

Something I enjoyed about this video was the constant reinforcing of the position hands took in the film, they use a technique of presenting a simpler version of the answer that is slightly incorrect, in order to help guide the viewer to their final observation on the concept. A common theme throughout all these video, or at least my take away from watching them, was that hands are symbolic not so much in a visual sense, but through our understanding of their versatility, functionality and historical context. For example, the video above references cultures that keep one hand for ‘holy’ tasks such as eating and praying, and the other hand for unclean tasks, like wiping and other sanitary issues.

Another interesting tangent the videos took was that of how body language can change how people perceive us. One video gave three demonstrations ways to address a crowd, and in each he changed how he gestured towards the crowd, but kept his verbal message the same. In the first he kept his palms open and facing upward, gestured softly towards the crowd, and used sweeping motions, this gave a softer more open feeling. People felt inclined to do what he said, in essence because his body language was kind and inviting. In the second, he turned his palms downwards, gestures became sharper and more pointed, the crowd resisted him more with this motion, he explained this body language comes across as an order as compared to the previous ‘pleasant request’. The final gesture was a pointed finger and closed fist, this was above an order, this makes us feel not only directed but small and stupid. These subtle ways we hold ourselves can have a huge effect on how we are received.

These are the first cast pieces I made, you can see they’re pretty rough, but I ended up really liking this look, it gives the impression that parts have been warn back from excessive rubbing. An old photography teacher of mine David Van Royen once told me that if you’re unsure about a photograph, to keep it on your fridge at home so you see it everyday, and have to consider it constantly. I like to take this approach now with a lot of work I make, I leave it laying around in my space, so I have to interact with it and confront it. I did this with the hands, I kept them on my work table so that while I was using my computer, in a zoom call or streaming, I could play with them and roll them around in my hands.

I’ve been doing this for about a week now, and I know it’s super corny, but all I think about when I hold them is how nice it is to hold a hand. When collecting my thoughts about this project I was actually reminded of a song from a band I loved in my early twenties that I’ve posted below. Your Hand in Mine is an incredibly sentimental song, Explosions in the Sky really know how to convey a sense of sincerity through their instruments. Before lockdown I was never really a touchy person, I probably would of told you that i would prefer people never touched me. As devastating as these lockdowns have been, they have absolutely opened me up to the idea of human touch being integral to maintaining good mental health and social bonds. I’ve come out the other side of this event a much more sentimental and physical person.

Following on from these casted pieces, and with that sense of sentimentality in mind, I made a small sculpture work from another set of hands. I was thinking a lot about a potential future outside of lockdown, the prospect of starting a family and feeling closer and more supported by my friends. I also thought about how when making a work about hands, it’s interesting to consider how they’re going to interact with your hands and each other. I really wanted to introduce a sense of tactility with this work, I like the idea of stacking and arranging them, feeling heavy metal sitting on top of more heavy metal.

Finally I sent off three items to get cast by professionals at Lenrose Jewelers, thought I haven’t got these back, I’m pretty confident that they’ll be of a very high quality. With these newest works I was trying to practice and perfect the hand ring and the hand pendant. With the pendants I like trying to make them as realistic as possible in their articulation, while keeping the surface more of an impression of skin instead of an accurate representation. I didn’t take any images before I sent them off, but the VOD of me making them can be seen in my last post.

Overall I’ve really enjoyed this process of working with wax and silver, but while the casting process was interesting I think what I enjoyed most was working with three dimensional mediums. Going foreword I think I will explore this aspect of carving, molding, and shaping.

Wax, Twitch and Videos of Insects

I wrote most of this post before realizing I hadn’t actually explained what twitch is or how it works, and for a lot of people not into gaming or being online, it may be something new. Twitch is a live streaming platform, predominantly known for people streaming video games. More recently the site has also become a popular place for art, political content and IRL streams (which involve the streamer recording from out in the world). The easiest platform to compare twitch to is YouTube, which boasts around 2 billion users, Twitch though only has a modest 140 million average monthly users. Unlike YouTube, which has started to move into live streaming, twitch’s format is reversed, with live streaming being at the forefront, and recorded content being accessible but not the focus.

For people unfamiliar with Twitch it can be daunting to interact with, and maybe hard to see the appeal, it certainly took me a long to understand how I could enjoy the platform as a viewer, let alone a creator. My partner sometimes watches me streams and talks to me from the chat, she has never used twitch before but is super supportive, she’s likened the experience to having a nice low effort podcast on in the background, but one you can interact with in real time. This is really the selling point of twitch, and how people monetize the platform, with each streamer basically being in control of their own schedule and programing. ‘Chatters’ as the audience is commonly referred to on twitch have a direct line to the streamer, and a whole array of options to donate and support them. For some bigger streamers a donation or subscription becomes necessary to interact with the streamer and have your message stand out, though this meta is always evolving as attitudes change, along with the interface of the site itself.

Each streamers goal really is to create a community under themselves, to support their stream, and create an ecosystem of viewers who will create content and reinforce the stream. This is just a basic rundown of how twitch works though, I think to explain deeper we would have to get into the dynamics of para-social relationships, but that’s not really what this post is about. If you want to learn more about these relationships there is a great video by Shannon Strucci that gives a brief introduction to the concept.


At the start of the first lockdown, I decided to give becoming a twitch streamer a go. It was a chaotic time, and a lot of the conversation surrounding lockdown revolved around how best to use this time, and how you could maximize your output with a totally free schedule. I started streaming painting, I had a plan all laid out, I would paint on stream and turn the streams into time lapse videos, creating a pipeline of content I could use to help grow my online presence. It didn’t last long, I remember doing about 5 streams before my mental health rapidly started to deteriorate from the stress of lockdown.

Time-lapse from my 2020 stream

Something was missing in my first foray into twitch and live streaming. While I had thought a lot about how I would use the content and what I would create on stream, I hadn’t thought about how this process could be enjoyable to me. Something that has become clear to me over this last few months of streaming, is that unless the process is fun for me, there isn’t any point in doing it.

My most recent dip into the twitch ecosystem has been more relaxed, and with less pressure for it to be productive. There are a lot of nice thing’s I would like to get out of streaming, but I’m worried speaking them out loud might scare them away. At the moment with each stream I’m reacting to how the last one felt for me. An example, in my first few streams, if there was no one in the chat, I got really bored, so I put music on! But then parts of my audio kept getting muted due to copyright, so then instead I put on some interesting YouTube videos, not only for me, but for everyone watching. Now I’m getting overwhelmed by media when I stream, so things are changing again. The key point is that the streams serve my enjoyment first, the audience second, and my practice third.

Here is a VOD (video on demand) from one of my latest wax streams, I wouldn’t recommend watching the whole thing, from memory it was pretty dull, but it gives an idea of the kind of content I’ve been streaming. It’s not obvious from a cursory glace, but the whole process of creating publicly changes how I make work. This happens in two ways, the first being from the instant feedback of people in chat, usually I will make something and post it, trying to gauge how people are feeling about what I’m making. The second is that I’m constantly consuming content on stream, this wouldn’t usually affect my work, as like most millennials I surround myself with media and screens at all times, but when streaming I feel the need to interact with the media so much more for the audiences sake, and this bleeds more and more into what I’m currently making.

Currently this practice of streaming what I’m working on heavily revolves around projects done for my degree, though after this semester I’ll have to figure out what’s going and what’s staying. In keeping with the ethos I’ve laid out above, it will really come down to what is enjoyable for me to create on stream, but it would by unfair to myself not to consider how the content translate through an online platform. Something I notice when I see other creatives who present work made through traditional methods on digital platforms, is that they have trouble communicating exactly what is interesting about what they are doing. I know as someone who paints the joy of applying paint to canvas, the subtle sounds, and seeing the work emerge, but translating that experience to an audience is a difficult task. In my streams I’m trying to capture wax work, which is quite hard to do without a lot of great equipment and a versatile setup. The odds of wax work being a staple of my streaming moving foreword is low, but sculpture as a medium for stream holds a lot of potential; the immediacy of clay and other malleable mediums means a lot of room for bombastic motions and spontaneous creation.

Two wax’s made during a recent early morning stream

Looking back on this last month of streaming, I definitely see it as a valuable addition to my practice, not only for the work it’s produced but for the archiving and community aspects. For the moment my main goal with streaming is to be consistent, I think a lot of people drop out of these projects because they don’t see results fast enough. I truly believe the people that are most successful in any industry, besides the lucky few, are just the people who stick around.

Social Art Practices and Identity

This was my last essay written for my 2021 history class, as if the year wasn’t hard enough, this essay was a pain to get through. It was a response to the question “What are the problems and opportunities presented by socially engaged art practices?”, but I added a little wrinkle by talking about identity, and anonymity in social art practices.

I’m usually pretty nervous about posting my essays, and this is no exception. Mostly I’m worried I’m talking about things I really don’t understand, but that’s why I would really appreciate any feedback from people who know more than me about these topics!


A social practice, when in the context of fine art, refers to an art making ethos guided by social justice, community and charity. Moving away from an art practice that revolves around the capitalist notions of product and consumer, a social practice would see the artist engage with community, blurring the lines between activist and artist. In this essay I will be addressing the problems and opportunities that a social art practice contains.

Social practices are largely concerned with human relations, and critiquing or investigating society. There are many ways to engage in this practice, some make ephemeral art, others art that resides in galleries but defies the auction block, and other practices are so steeped in activism that they’re indistinguishable from an activist organisation. A common way artists are framed in a social practice as aiming to aid, educate and improve the conditions in a society through acts of service (Phaidon 2021). Though a social practice by no means has to be generative, but instead could be destructive; artists challenging the status quo through outrageous public stunts and messaging. In this essay I want to focus on three art practices that revolve around questioning and critiquing society, with work carried out in public spaces. In answering this question I want to focus on how identity, or the lack of identity affects a social practice, how it affects the message, and the message of the art.

A social practice provides a framework for artists to create work in public spaces, this presents an opportunity to reach people who most need to see the message, and confront the people whom the message speaks out against. The Guerilla Girls are a group of female artists who perform public acts of fact spreading through posters, stickers and action, all while wearing gorilla masks. Instead of appearing as a collective of named women standing up for their own desire to be represented, through their anonymity they become representative of all women, meaning they cannot be appeased individually, or as a collective. Their work speaks out against injustices towards women, and initiates conversations around feminist issues, particularly in the art world. They began pasting up posters in the mid 1980s, calling out galleries and exhibitions where female artists were underrepresented. De Certeau describes how the powerful create a sense of place in society that is beneficial to them, while the weak and underserved have to take up space within this greater ‘place’ (Matzkin 1997). The Guerilla Girls found that invading this patriarchal ‘place’, spreading their message forcefully and with wit, was a far greater solution than attempting to affect change from the inside. While the guerilla girls rely on statistics as the basis for their message, humor is also another important aspect, both in their work and personal presentation. The Guerilla girls present themselves as gorillas, donning large black hairy masks, some with eye holes cut for their glasses to poke through. Wordplay aside, representing themselves this way separates them from feminine stereotypes that are so often used against women to devalue them. In their work The Advantages of being a Female Artist, one of the tongue in cheek points states that no matter what you create it will be labeled feminine. This use of humor had its drawbacks though, The group worried that their message could come across wrong, not be taken seriously, or be too aggressive, with one proposed poster asking for male artists to surrender their genitalia. Humor is often harder to agree on than sincerity, an earnest message is relatable and something most people can empathise with, whereas humour is a fickle complicated medium, Leng (2020, p.  123) notes “The text’s profanity and injunction to violence caused considerable internal dissent”. It’s difficult to comprehend how The Guerilla Girls are affected by the pros or cons of having a social practice, as utilizing this practice may well have been the only way to force their way into the art sphere. To exactly what degree they opened up the art world to women is hard to determine, but they did help to reframe the reasons why women weren’t in galleries from a function of women being inferior artists, to an issue of entrenched patriarchal systems (Babu Paul 2020).

INDECLINE is an American art collective whose practice involves defacing public property, such as tearing down billboards to make shelters for the homeless, public graffiti questioning policies and politicians, and covert installations in hotel rooms. Their work is highly illegal, and defamatory, and as such they require anonymity to maintain their practice. They first rose to prominence through defacing pubic billboards with the phrase “a clown can get away with murder  -Gacy” alongside a naked clay and silicone statue of Donald Trump wearing clown makeup. This project was undertaken during Trump’s presidency, an incredibly volatile time in America, and this work likened the president to John W Gacy, notorious serial killer, after Trump said he could shoot someone in the street and still get elected. Their anonymity acts as a shield to protect their personal lives, and allows them to continue spreading their message. Authorities and lawmakers make the distinction between two types of graffiti, one imitates the aesthetic of traditional art, and is palatable for a general audience, the other being defined by tagging, scrawling, gang signs and a lack of permission (Gomez 1993). This distinction rests on antiquated ideas of what art is, 65 years earlier Duchamp exhibited his readymade piece Fountain, so I find this distinction of what is and isn’t art very narrow minded. It draws a line between two forms of graffiti, painting one side as desirable and the other as undesirable, the question becomes though, undesirable to who? IDECLINE focuses on messages such as housing inequality, class struggles, and political tyranny, which are uncomfortable conversations for those in power, but life defining for those affected. With Make Kids Disappear – I.C.E they have defaced a public billboard overlooking a highway, transforming an advertisement for a junk removal service to indictment of the government’s treatment of immigrants. The illegality and defacement frames the message as a form of protest, that the artists are dissatisfied with the current establishment. While it would be a stretch to say all graffiti is purposeful, when considering how to frame street art done in a social art practice, it’s important to consider the location and the time in when it was created, as the work inherits meaning and context from these two factors (Chackal 2016).

An artist maintaining a social practice, and speaking out against a system, has to decide whether they are going to operate within the legal confines of that system, and to what degree. This can cause a complicated dilemma, if you choose to operate outside the law then you run the risk of the established powers using your law breaking as a way to devalue your message, but it is also sometimes the only outlet for impoverished and downtrodden people (Chackal 2016). We’ve seen this in action these last few years in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. When George Floyd was murdered, his drug use and criminal record were used to paint him in a negative light. Three days later when protests broke out in Minneapolis, which later led to rioting and looting, the media reported on the protests as filled with ‘thugs’ and violence, undercutting the original purpose for the protests (Brown 2020). Choosing to work within the system, or outside it, both have pros and cons, though a way INDECLINE mitigates this dilemma is to separate their processes. IDECLINE the group is chiefly involved with carrying out the public art interventions, while they commission other artists to create work, such as the piece The Emperor Has No Balls from artist Joshu Monroe. This separates the illegal action taken to display the art, from the actual art being made, giving the message a better chance to not be tainted by its association with a crime.

Ai Wei Wei is a contemporary Chinese artist, and son of poet Ai Qing. He is known for his outspoken political opinions, and harnessing modern communication platforms like blogs and twitter to criticise the Chinese Comunist Party’s policies and practices. Unlike the other two artists I’ve talked about in this essay, he does not hide his identity, which affects how we receive his message. His political criticism poses a problem for Ai, as China is concerned that letting people openly express their political opinions breaks down the hold the CCP has on its position of power (Associated Press 2020). In a way that is almost diametrically opposite to how The Guerilla Girls hide their individuality to represent all women, AI position as an individual is integral to his message being communicated. Historically the concept of individuality in China is different than in western society, in the west the individual is singular and defined by how it exists separate from society, whereas the merit of an individual in China is defined by how they serve the greater systems they inhabit (Brindley). In this way Ai’s identity and the action of speaking out work together to strengthen his message. This power that comes from his identity would not be possible without performing it in a social sphere, It’s through his social practice that the work gains its ability to affect change. A downside to gaining global attention though is that others place upon him their own ideas of democracy and liberal thought, that Ai is a weapon for the west to use against the CCP, instead of an individual critiquing how he thinks the government could serve the people better (Sorace 2014). In a sense this takes away ownership of his identity away, he becomes a tool used by the west to push their own agenda against China’s global position.

After examining this question in relation to the artists above, I feel framing a social practice in the context of it’s merit seems disingenuous to how a social practice comes about. It becomes clear that there is no other way their practices could operate outside the realm of social practice, so debating the efficacy of the approach seems futile. These three artists all have engaged with society at large, and have had to make deliberate decisions about how they want to be perceived. Like all of us though, how you are perceived and how you wish to be perceived are not always the same. This public aspect of a social practice means the artist’s identity is under more of a spotlight than other artforms. Systems within which you operate affect the ability to convey a message, the intersection of your identity and your environment defines what is possible through social practices.

References

  1. Phaidon, A Movement in a Moment, viewed 10 october 2021, <https://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2016/april/25/a-movement-in-a-moment-social-practice/>
  2. Babu Paul, S 2020, ‘Art Against Art: Looking at Selected Posters of Guerilla Girls in their Resistance Against Sexual Politics’, Navajyoti, International Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Research, Vol. 5, Iss. 1. 
  3. Matzkin, J 1997, ‘Masking feminism: A cultural analysis of the Guerilla Girls, a feminist art movement’, Masters thesis, University of Wyoming, Wyoming. 
  4. Miller, M, Wolf, J 2021, Feminist Street Posters, Beyond the Streets, viewed 10 october 2021, <https://beyondthestreets.com/blogs/articles/guerrilla-girls>
  5. Leng, K 2020, ‘Art humor and activism Art, Humor, and Activism: The Sardonic, Sustaining Feminism of the Guerrilla Girls, 1985–2000’, Journal of women’s history, vol. 32 no. 4, pp. 110-134.
  6. Gomez, M 1993, ‘The Writing on Our Walls: Finding Solutions through Distinguishing Graffiti Art from Graffiti Vandalism’, University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, vol. 26, pp. 663 – 709. 
  7. Make Kids Disappear – I.C.E., Streaming Video, INDECLINE, viewed 11 october 2021, <https://thisisindecline.com/flicks/make-kids-disappear-i.c.e>
  8. Sorace, C 2014, ‘China’s Last Communist: Ai Weiwei’, Critical Inquiry, vol. 40, pp. 396–419.
  9. Associated Press 2020, ‘Orwellian’ China silencing dissent at home and abroad, says human rights chief’, The Guardian, 15 January, viewed 11 october, <https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/jan/15/orwellian-china-silencing-dissent-at-home-and-abroad-says-human-rights-chief>
  10. Brindley, E, ‘Individualism in Classical Chinese Thought’, Internet Encyclopedia of Phylosophy, viewed 12 october, <https://iep.utm.edu/ind-chin/#H3>
  11. Rajghatta, c 2016, ‘Anarchist artist tests limits with nude statues of Donald Trump’, The Times of India, 19 August, viewed 13 october, <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/us/Anarchist-artist-tests-limits-with-nude-statues-of-Donald-Trump/articleshow/53775625.cms>
  12. Chackal, T 2016, ‘Of Materiality and Meaning: The Illegality Condition in Street Art’, the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol 74, Iss 4, pp.359-370.
  13. Brown, D 2020, ‘Riot or resistance? How media frames unrest in Minneapolis will shape public’s view of protest’, The Conversation, 30 May, viewed 16 october 2021, <https://theconversation.com/riot-or-resistance-how-media-frames-unrest-in-minneapolis-will-shape-publics-view-of-protest-139713>

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>

Can i give you a hand?

So this post will basically be talking through my early design process in creating a Covid charm, see my previous post for what a charm is. Initially we were told to think about what had defined our time in lockdown, and therapy came to mind. I spent probably about 15 weeks in sessions with a student therapist from Melbourne university, It was easily some of the most intense sessions I’ve ever been a part of, and by the end felt like I was more mentally exhausted by the therapy than the lockdown. We did this one exercise called chair work, where I would address the chair sitting next to my therapist on the screen as if I was also sitting in it? does that make sense? this was all over zoom.

I showed up late for class, and totally unprepared the morning these sketches were due, luckily I was on the far end of the room, and double lucky I find it easier to pay attention if my hands are busy. So I tried to come up with some ideas that would be fun, but maybe easier to execute. I always get kind of annoyed when I see peoples art diaries and they’re these perfectly maintained books, each page a masterpiece. Most of my visual diaries are 90% half finished pencil sketches, 5% slightly more fleshed out ideas, and 5% notes to myself, sometimes about art, but mostly like phone numbers, quick math and maybe an important password or two. So I don’t really enjoy showing them, but here’s my starting point.

Waxing relaxing all cool

Despite this being my first time using wax, I’ve spent countless hours at work playing with blu-tac on the tills, making tiny sculptures in my down time (if I work for you this is a lie and I am a model employee) so this felt kind of like an extension of that, only the wax was a lot firmer. The thing I was most interested to make was hands, I always love drawing hands, getting a hand right feels like an accomplishment. So I started making hands, these ones below were a combination of brown and pink sheet wax, I focused on getting them as small as I could while still feeling substantial and recognizable. I learnt ways I could make them smoother and look cleaner, but I actually really liked the rough handmade appearance. To me they have the appearance of carved stone, which I think gives off a more masculine vibe.

I’m most proud of the clicking hand on the far right, it came in at 0.7 grams of wax, which I think turns out to be 7.3 grams of silver. There’s something so fantastically fiddly about working with objects this small, people forgive inaccuracies on a smaller scale, and adding too much detail might end up making it look messy.

Another style I attempted were these rings down below, it might be difficult to see but they are flat little hands wrapped around to make a ring. These seem to be the most popular thing I’ve made, I think I get that, they’re super simple and especially the smaller ring has just enough variation to look human, but still stylized.

Francis Upirchard

When my teacher mentioned this artists name, I thought it was spelt Francis Oop Richard, I don’t if anyone ever has had the middle name Oop, but you can see it in my diary photo above.

UPRICHARD’s practice involves design, sculpture and traditional craft methods. I can really see why my teacher recommended her work, it’s very bodily, and has a really nice tactile . In the video linked below she also talks about smaller scale being intimate, and an intuitive process of creating, both aspects I very much admire and relate too.

At this moment two of my wax pieces have been cast and are ready for collection, but unfortunately medical issues have kept me homebound for the last few days. I’m excited to see how they turned out and will post when I have them in my grubby little hands!

Resources

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOAL9Hcv6ME
  2. https://www.katemacgarry.com/artists/52-francis-upritchard/

Covid charms and where to find them

I don’t have a lot of experience with jewelry, I dislike the feeling of metal on my skin, so that rules out necklaces and rings. I only just got my ears pierced last year, in a post lockdown identity crisis, and have not yet brought myself to wear anything but sleepers outside the house. This semester I was lucky enough to get into the Casting and Metal Alloying, a class that would probably benefit from some basic knowledge of jewelry.

Having said that, I do think I understand the appeal of charms, though I’ve never worn them. I’ve always had trinkets and baubles, and little objects of importance, strewn around my room, kept safe in small boxes. Badges, shells, polaroid’s, leaves, tickets and toys, but this class deals with charms in relation to jewelry, so first!

What is a charm?

A charm is a small artifact, or object, that has some significance or meaning behind it. They’re often designed to be attached to a bracelet, or other piece of wearable jewelry.

During World War 2, soldiers would send home charms that reflected their experiences while stationed overseas. In the image above, sourced from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, there is a combination of army signifiers, like a jeep, and artillery gun, but also coins from several allied nations.

This type of charm became incredibly popular post WWII in America, as servicemen would bring home these charms from local artisans overseas. My father served in the Australian army, and as a child I remember seeing lots of small charms including Akubra hats, Australian crests, and indigenous animals, all made from silver, or sometimes even pewter. My family home had huge cabinets filled with trinkets, ceramic elephants, tiny glass dogs, and these small charms of Australiana.

I remember having one charm in particular that I attached to a keychain, I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, but I knew it was made from some kind of rough metal or stone. I remember being obsessed with the idea that if I rubbed it enough, I could wear down over time. This somehow made it more valuable to me, that it would eventually disappear.

How is it different to an amulet and a talisman?

Traditionally an amulet is an object with apparent magical power, it’s purpose often to protect the owner from the evil influence of others. This can be worn, or simply held in a location, in order to confer it’s powers. Amulets were originally made from natural material, such as animal bone or gemstones, but in more contemporary settings could be made out of any material.

A talisman is thought to be an object of great power, the can provide energy, luck or connect someone to a sense of spirituality. Traditionally made from the bones and trimmings of predatory animals, but more modern totems could include a piece of clothing with significant value, a tool that has proved incredibly useful, or really anything to which a person could form a strong emotional recognition for.

In summary
A charm is for remembering, or tradition
An amulet is for protection, or comfort
And a talisman for power, luck or spirituality

All these functions may apply to each, and the definitions of each seems pretty mailable

Covid Charms

The first class project is titled “Covid Charms”, and it got me thinking about what my charm was. The only item I feel gave me power was my FitBit. I got really into running about halfway through, and it was really good for my mental health. Every time I left the house with the FitBit on, it was a physical reminder of my commitment to self care.

(this is not an advertisement for FitBit)

References