Studio Intro

Hello! My name is Aileen and welcome to my studio. I’m an interdisciplinary artist, meaning I dabble with different mediums – filmmaking, decolonial research, visual art, and social activism. I’ve always been fascinated with unravelling power dynamics and the concept of ‘diasporas’ by exploring the meanings of reimagined / ‘imported’ heritage, practices, and culture. This also links to my research practice where I examine wider social infrastructures and ideologies that proliferate discriminatory practices.

This residency is exciting as this gives me space to combine research, philosophy, and art into one format. An idea I’ve been wanting to explore is confronting the human fascination of archiving and digital death (or ‘immortality’). Maybe it’s paradoxical that this will remain within its own ‘digital archive’, but I’m not aiming to provide an absolute answer. Through a decolonial framework, I’ll look at how technology controls and negotiates the ‘display’ of one’s death (as we are merely curating that ‘archive’), and how this power affects traditional practices and emotions. Perhaps this is also a way of confronting a topic I’ve always been afraid of.

Please feel welcome to look around my studio, at the work I’ve posted up – there are images, videos and text. You are welcome to leave a comment or questions for me in the comments section.

Hope you enjoy your visit 🙂


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How I (don’t) remember my grandmother

The family gathered around my grandmother (invisible) resting on the bed.
Image description: The family gathered around my grandmother (invisible) resting on the bed.

This was in the early ‘digital days’. I was outside the frame of this image but I was too young to remember what was going on in the moment. It wasn’t her final day (or year), but we all knew the process had begun its course. Although I don’t remember, internally I feel relieved I could be there and that I still have a connection to these moments captured. It’s agonising to rewatch these videos and feel the emotional atmosphere through a lens but then this happy accident happens in the video where one of my cousins covers the frame for the rest of the video completely unaware. I appreciate the sudden invisibility, not just because of the relief, but it’s in that moment I’m reminded that my grief for her is physically embodied and no longer attached to the visual medium or its definitive capture of her.

White trousers with a silver chain covering up the frame of the video.
Image description: White trousers with a silver chain covering up the frame of the video.

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‘Computer gaze’: Your interior thoughts are commodified

Carmen Hermosillo aka humdog was a huge advocate for technological innovation and computer networks in the 80s/90s, until 1994, when she published ‘Pandora’s Vox: On Community in Cyberspace.’

Her writing remains relevant to this day when examining the digitisation of our deaths and identity ‘immortalisation’ online. She argued that the use of computer networks do not lead to a reduction in hierarchy, but actually the commodification of personality and a complex transfer of power and information to corporations.

In this sense, all of our interior thoughts (taste, preferences, beliefs, fears) are commodified, and has manifested into what we know today to be the algorithm that caters to our likes and interests. And so, when it comes to our digital death and footprints we leave online, it essentially becomes packaged and sold onto other consumer entities as a form of ‘entertainment’. What I mean by entertainment is that the cyberspace is a blackhole – it absorbs our energy and personality to create an emotional spectacle. This is practiced by businesses and marketers who commodify human interactions and emotions, such as Big Tech corps we already know and exist on.

Screenshot of a person's Facebook newsfeed homepage showing dog photos and emoji reactions.
Image description: Screenshot of a person’s Facebook newsfeed homepage showing dog photos and emoji reactions.

Taking this image of someone’s FB newsfeed as an example which I think is an interface we are all very familiar with, there is a bizarre quality to our online interaction on this platform. In early 2022, I was invited to an online memorial service of a dear friend which was also livestreamed on Facebook. What I found a little bizarre is that this is the same platform where I read daily news headlines, see meme posts, cat videos, friend’s holiday photos, and relationship updates.

Screenshot of 4 tile image videos of cats suggested by my Instagram recommendations.
Image description: Screenshot of my algorithmically generated recommendation of Instagram reels, all featuring cats.

Similarly, this is relays back to humdog’s essay about ourselves becoming commodified and release of agency. I have never learned to mourn or remember someone via an entertainment platform, yet this is becoming the norm.

Spiritual or sacred spaces of worship such as churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, graveyards, contain a certain element of solely fixating on the cycle of life and death with symbolic elements such as praying, worship, repentance, burning of incense, hearing cymbals and gongs, chants, and much more. What’s important about these practices is not the act itself but how it is choreographed with a community.

With these daily practices slowly fading since we have digital platforms to accommodate memorial services and distant attendance, it leads one to wonder whether these traditions will maintain its grip in the next 10, 20, or 30 years, or will it have merged into the chaotic mix of entertainment consumption where we exist under the illusion of a ‘community’ online.

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how i imagine my physical funeral to look like

Traditional Chinese funeral with people dressed in white and lighting incense. Offerings of food are also being provided.
Image description: Traditional procession of sending offerings and lighting incense
Various plates of different traditional Chinese dishes.
Image description: Traditional food banquet

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how i imagine my online funeral to look like

Six people sit in green chairs in front of their computers.
Image description: Live camera feed of an Internet cafe in Hefei, China. Six people sit in green chairs in front of their computers.
Screenshot of the reset password function
Image description: On-screen reset password function

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Data-free Remembrance

Here is some documentation of ideas and research I’ve been dabbling with. Thinking about the machinery of tech, a lot of the profit derives from aspects such as facial recognition, proliferating social partitions such as race, clothing, age, location, and so on. I’ve been wondering how one’s remembrance online could be continued without Big Tech profiting from our online existence. Perhaps removing the actual person gives one control over their spirit and soul, so that they don’t continue to feed AI data processors and recognition development. Maybe those who really know you will remember the memories from online images. Or maybe this makes the memories of these figures more tangible and relatable. Or maybe it could be completely meaningless.

Invisible silhouette holding up a white cup. There is a cafe and green umbrella in the background. The bottom image shows a cup saucer, spoon, sugar packet, and purple lighter.
Image description: Invisible silhouette holding up a white cup. There is a café and green umbrella in the background. The bottom image shows a cup saucer, spoon, sugar packet, and purple lighter.
Two figures, a tall adult and small child, standing on a wide stone square in front of large buildings.
Image description: Two figures, very tall and very little, standing on an open stone square in front of large buildings with a large sign ABN AMRO in the background.
Figure in black coat and grey striped cat.
Image description: Figure in black coat leaning towards a grey cat that is sitting on newspaper. In the background there are kitchen and antique appliances.

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