There’s layers to it

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.

If you’re interested in seeing more you can find me at your local bodega!

Cheers,
Jake

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.