THOUGHT EXPERIMENT

mixed media collage artwork of multiple figures, objects and symbols interacting in a visual poetry.

Often before starting a piece I’ll do a rough sketch with notes of ideas for it. Looking through these rough sketches I felt the end piece always lost some sincere venerableness that the early sketches had, as if I was uninhibited  knowing no one would ever see these rough takes. I wondered what a balance between the sincere sketches and polished final artwork would look like. Which is where the sketchy erratic almost unfinished feel to the piece came from. This piece is like a visual diary, a live stream of my thoughts at the time, even going as far as including the tools I used to create the piece, as if this was a blank canvas I was projecting my thoughts on to. While creating this piece I felt off balance, thinking back to regrets of the past, or worrying about the future instead of being balanced in the present moment. being a self employed artist comes with many pros and cons which I explored in this piece. The main type of commission I work on are album artworks for musicians, these artworks need to be the perfect square to fit the size of the album cover, I started to feel boxed in my this same type of canvas with fears of repeating myself, using up my creativity on others work, losing love for what I do, but needing to make money. Even with my personal artworks, I wondered if I was creating as a distraction so I didn’t have to stop, be still and just think. I felt I was in a never ending cycle with all these different versions of myself (the freelancer, the artist, past and future) all colliding in an anxiety filled mess. despite this piece being personal, I felt drawing myself would instantly make the piece about one thing. me. But I wanted anyone to be able to project themselves onto these figures, which is why I often leave faces quite abstract to detach any one identity.  Identity was another thing I was thinking a lot about, and how being a POC growing up in England is a kind of psychological obstacle everyone has to go through. Growing up being taught to love and respect a culture that doesn’t do the same back, and how it can create inner conflict from early ages. Despite going to some fairly dark and painful places with this piece, It still has a fun childish energy about it. Often when I’m working I feel I’m doing a balancing act between my inner child who’s the artist and my inner adult who’s the editor that cuts the fat and gives the piece more intention. So I think this childish optimistic feel comes from me naturally not taking myself too seriously, wanting to create art to be fun, enjoyed and give the viewer the feeling of being a child looking at something with curious wide eyes. Despite art being tired up with all these different aspects of my life like my work, passion, self worth, identity. Creating this piece reminded me to just enjoy/embrace the process and have fun with it. 

PUZZLING THE ART TOGEATHER

Timelapse of building Thought Experiment in Photoshop

After the process of drawing/painting on paper I upload each individual drawing and puzzle them together using photoshop. In the video I place the central figures of the artwork in place and make markings of where everything else will go so I can have a rough idea of how things will fit together. While the process before this feels really organic and working with hand drawing, paints and watercolour. This digital art side of things, while still needing to be creative, feels more like a task of editing all the pieces and seeing how they fit together best.

Welcomes & Reflections

If you’ve landed here, I guess we may have something in common.. I too am curious to see what will come of this time and space spent with VITAL CAPACITIES.

Over the past couple years, so much has happened, is happening and about to bloom. For me and my practice, it’s been a phenomenally complex, difficult yet generous time of experimentation, of silence and of deeply personal work.

For anyone that knows me or of my practice, you’ll know that I’m intensely connected to understanding the ever evolving complexities of our human conditions. How it relates to our individual selves, to each other and in turn – to our environments.

Oh and I love water.

As I try to navigate the nuances of the vulnerability needed in my current line of work, the conflicting complexities of what to share and what to keep, I’d like to welcome those into this space with a small offering I wrote last year. One which carries the weight of so many other seeds planted across the diversity of my multi-sensory works and explorations.

A type writer font prints the following text:

Dear reader,
If I picked up the book of you, what chapter would it read?
How would the words land from your pages onto my tongue?
What sounds will glide through these ears and what stimulations left on this body?

If I had to draw you, what relics of past life would we see on your outlines?
They say we are mosaics of all that's been around us - every pixel of ourselves borrowed. 

So may I borrow you?
In hope our landscapes meet in common space that both our hearts can dance to.

You see I speak to you from a place of the broken hearted.
A cracked love affair with life, I am still untangling the common structures built on quick sand around us.

I want to converse with you about language, about love, expectations and being. Yet I know all these states are based on nothing but bias meanings. 

We've been here before but my memory of you is vague yet I know you exist here with me, in this system... 

Systems.
I've been thinking about systems. 
How each system just makes more systems..
How the first system we have each ever faced is our families systems.
Fractals of service, love, hate, expectations, customs, traditions and... in/justice. 

What othering lurks in the crevices of your ancestry?
Does it sparkle with repressed homophobia like mine?
Maybe your racism speaks clearly...

Tell me, do you speak of Palestine?
About those of us whom the world has left behind?

I wonder of the structures you yourself have helped build, and of those you have dismantled... What have you dismantled?

Agency...
You.
Have.
Agency.

Integrity.
It is never too late for integrity. 

Let's meet outside, where our endless motions meet emotions searching for a life we're still destined to find.

إستبرق/Estabrak
2021
A dark black landscape image is present. In the bottom right hand side of the image is a flame burning from a semi curled wax hand. We can faintly see the tips of some names and some fingers. It is evident the wax is melting. 

This hand belongs to my ancestors.

The above text and image Dear Reader are from a series of works I have been exploring during & since lockdown called A Passing Place. This work was published in 0ct 2021 through Future Venture’s Radical Arts Handbook, Issue 03 – Radical Futures.

Thank you for spending some time here.

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Poem titled 'All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace' by Richard Brautigan, followed by poem text.
Image Description: Poem titled ‘All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace’ by Richard Brautigan.

Text reads:

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

by Richard Brautigan (1967)

I think this poem is interesting as it resists the dystopian thought of technology. Instead it imagines a techno-utopia: what if all the computers and robots could release humans from capitalistic labour and we could finally live freely with nature? It expresses that if we only imagine a dystopian nightmare, perhaps that is what we will get and simply manifest.

Then again, I don’t think anyone imagined the Internet or technology to get quite dark than it has already. As much as I admire his positive optimism and as much as I want to dream… this is also what I imagine Musk and Zuckerberg would recite to themselves to justify their actions. But I also question myself whether I’ve been encapsulated by this ‘dystopia’ mindset.

The Machine Stops

Image description: Page and highlighted paragraph from ‘The Machine Stops’ by E.M. Forster

Text reads:

The Machine, they exclaimed, ‘feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. The Machine is the friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition: the Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine.’ And before long this allocution was printed on the first page of the Book,
and in subsequent editions the ritual swelled into a complicated system of praise and prayer. The word ‘religion’ was sedulously avoided, and in theory the Machine was still the creation and the implement of man. But in practice all, save a few retrogrades, worshipped it as divine. Nor was it worshipped in unity.

‘The Machine Stops’ by E.M. Forster (1909)

I’ve read this short story a few times and it touches upon a lot of ‘optimistic nihilism’ within the technological dystopia that’s explored. Forster’s story influenced a lot of how I think and frame ‘technological innovation’, and it’s interesting how the idea of ‘worship’ always pops up. We worship objects, people, places, entities, spirits, abstractions, and the dead. These rituals are supposed to show what we care about and value, forming solidarity, however before technology these practices were seen through the ‘human gaze’. Nowadays, a lot of our influences and judgements are through a ‘computer gaze’. Breaking it down like this, I find it surreal how we have adopted a ‘computer gaze’ of death when it’s the most humanistic component of all.

Source code page of my Facebook profile with a lot of numbers, letters, and symbols that are written in coded format.
Image Description: Source code page of my Facebook profile

As you can see from the image, this is the source code for my Facebook profile. I come from a mixed Irish-Chinese cultural background where both cultures require the death of someone to have large ceremonial practices and funerals, as a way to provide offerings, safety, luck, and ‘bon voyages’ to the spirit’s next journey. But looking at how the computer gazes at my soul through this image is pretty bleak.

Hito Steyerl – ‘Being Invisible Can Be Deadly’

Woman holding up her two fingers on both hands with a text in between her arms reading 'I am completely invisible'. The background is composed of different grey shapes.
Image description: Woman holding up her two fingers on both hands with a text in between her arms reading ‘I AM COMPLETELY INVISIBLE’. The background is composed of different grey shapes.

The German artist Hito Steyerl addresses the way digital images are created, shared and archived. Her film ‘How Not to Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File’ (2013) takes the form of an instructional video which flips playfully between ‘real world’ footage and digital recreations. Inspired by Monty Python, the work balances critique and humour, showing how ‘not being seen’ has both oppressive and liberating possibilities.

Woman holding up her two fingers on both hands with a text in between her arms reading 'Pretend You Are Not There'. The background is dark grey with white rectangle shapes and numbers.
Image description: Woman holding up her two fingers on both hands with a text in between her arms reading ‘PRETEND YOU ARE NOT THERE’. The background is dark grey with white rectangle shapes and numbers.

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.

MEETING THE MAIN CHARACTERS

 watercolour illustration of man stitched together, half his body with white skin and blonde hair. The other half with black skin and dark hair, looking at his own hands in contemplation.
Illustration’s from “Thought Experiment” 2021

One of the main themes that kept coming to mind creating “Thought Experiment 2021” was the feeling of being unbalanced, like I was living in the past and future but just drifting in the present. Which is where the design for the central character of the piece came from. Being split down the middle half his body being black and the other white. Which also related to my own mixed black Caribbean and white European background. To me being mixraced Is both a balance of two things, but also feels unbalanced in the fact that the word “half” is used to describe me, suggesting I’m not fully anything. I don’t personally find this offensive, just interesting (I intend to explore this more in my follow up piece over the next month). Elsewhere in the artwork another character is half black and half white and quite literally stitched together, referencing Frankensteins monster. Which I always felt was such a perfect character that’s aged so well in terms of identity and question whether we are how people see us, how we see ourselves, what it says about society of how the “monster” is treated. And I was always inspired by artists taking a conceptual idea and turning it to an extreme literal idea, the same way Frankenstein is exploring the concept of identity, then literally making the main character made up of different people. This almost cartoony comical exaggerated approach is something I love to explore throughout my work. This central character I created felt to embody the uncertainty I felt at the time. He is depicted above frozen in contemplation holding a broom, referencing the way I was using my craft like a groundskeeper to tidy my state of mind and the mess of notes and doodles that would spill across the finished artwork. 

Decretive mask from childhood hung on wall.

Above can also be seen a photo I took of a mask that has hung in my home as long as I can remember. I have vivd memories of me and my older brother being both fascinated and frightened by it as children. It’s burned into my memory as one of my earliest experiences of something evoking so many emotions at once. From curiosity and wonder to terror and playfulness. This became the face of the opposition to the central character in the artwork. I created this shapeshifting mask character as a reminding symbol of how I want my artwork to feel (the world through the eyes of a child). In the artwork it’s both a guide of what I want my own art to feel like. But also an obstacle and opposition in terms of the fear of never being able to reach that goal, or even worse having already peaked as an artist. At the time I was always in competition with myself and every time I finished a piece was met with this weight of anxiety of never being able to create something as good as the last thing I had done. Doomed to repeat myself with watered down versions of what I had already done. These characters feel more personal every time I draw them, and their story will continue in the next artwork I’ll be creating over the next month. 

DRAWING & EXPLORING

In this next drawing/colouring stage I fleshed out the rough doodle concepts into fully formed characters and ideas, making my thoughts physical. Using my doodles/notes as a kind of blueprint. I use a combination of pencil illustration, watercolour, paint, photography, pen and oil pastels. While spending more time on this drawing phase I start to understand the piece more than I did when I was just scribbling down ideas almost subconsciously. It’s amazing to me how things you create can seem completely random at the time, but make so much sense and feel so relevant to your state of mind at the time in hindsight (I plan to push this idea even further in my follow up to this piece). So much of this piece was about how I felt as an artist at the time, which Is why I included photos of the tools I was using to create the piece itself.  worrying about everything from making money as an artist, feeling lost and the worry that commissions were using up my creativity and no longer growing it. While touching on some quite personal and heavy themes, I wanted the piece to counterbalance that with a playful almost childlike feel. This comes from my art always feeling very much connected to my childhood and wanting it have that nostalgic animated comforting feel. While also being able to dive into deeper personal feelings and concepts beyond surface level (kind of like making medicine bubblegum flavoured).

Freestyle doodling ideas

When an idea is finished I always find it hard to remember where it even began, it feels as if the idea has died, reborn and been reinvented over and over. What I do remember about creating this piece back in 2021 is that I had been illustrating commission album covers one after the other and it had been a while since I had the time to create something personal just for myself. Despite loving being able to bring someones else’s idea and music to life through an image, Album covers always have to be a perfectly square shaped canvas, I had started to feel quite literally boxed in and was aching to try something different, personal and out my comfort zone.
I approached this artwork in an entirely new way by going through my sketchbook and gathering all the notes of the thoughts and feelings I had scribbled down throughout the past year. Adding my then current feelings of being creatively blocked, ideas on what being mixrace means, fears of the uncertainty of the future and continuing to relive past mistakes etc. Without thinking I just freestyle doodled rough sketches of these ideas and feelings into visual concepts, adding notes and markings that probably only make sense to me. So I ended up with a really rough kind of visual diary of the past year. The next stage would be turning these rough sketches into fully formed drawings. The next month I see as a opportunity to revisit this way of working and will be creating a continuation of this first piece.

Background Context and Digressions

I’m very interested to look at ways in which our mortality and ‘immortality’ are digitally archived on online platforms. With the continuous rise of ‘technological innovation’ as an ideology and figures like Musk who justify Earth’s colonisation of Mars as a means to ‘archive human consciousness’ if the humanity is ever wiped out, this raises important points of discussion as to the lengths ‘innovation’ will go. When looking at past historical events, such as the destruction of The Great Library of Alexandria, which was the largest library of the Ancient World, we will never know what we have gained or lost, yet humanity has always been able to continue despite the ‘loss’ of knowledge we never knew.

Taking a decolonial approach to Western standards of ‘archiving’ which seeks to constantly preserve knowledge past our own death, I propose to look at the archival of our own deaths, particularly on digital platforms. Oxford researchers believe that by the end of this century, Facebook will have 4.9 billion ‘dead users’ on its platform (if it still exists).

For myself, I struggle in thinking whether it’s ‘okay’ for extensions of ourselves to digitally live on while our body, mind, and soul have transcended somewhere else? With the death tech market exponentially growing due to the pandemic, I also fear this will open up a pandora’s box that we aren’t equipped for…

Studio Intro

Hello! My name is Aileen Ye, welcome to my studio. I’m an interdisciplinary artist, meaning I dabble with different mediums such as 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 🙂

Aileen

Artist Christine Sun Kim Rewrites Closed Captions

Berlin-based artist Christine Sun Kim thinks about closed captions a lot. And she let us in on a not-so-well-kept secret: they suck. Christine shows us what closed captions could be, in a new story featuring original footage she captured and captioned herself.

Video description and transcript are available.

Further information and full credits are in the description of the original post, published by Pop-Up Magazine on their YouTube channel.

Activating Captions

Curated by artist Christine Sun Kim and ARGOS director Niels Van Tomme, “Activating Captions” is an online platform that critically engages with captioning as a singular artistic form of expression. The process of converting audio and visual material into text through a display system is essential – the curators note – ‘for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing, as well as numerous others, such as people who are learning a new language’. There is an online magazine featuring texts from art writers, scholars, and poets that reflect on captioning from personal perspectives and experiences.

A gem that may go unnoticed on the online platform is the Accessibility Resources index. Among the links, there is “Alt-Text As Poetry Workbooks” by Shannon Finnegan and Bojana Coklyat – I will do those exercises again!

Infinite Ear: A Reader

On the occasion of the exhibition WITHIN / Infinite Ear, Bergen Assembly, 2016 Emma McCormick-Goodhart in collaboration with Grégory Castéra selected a series of texts and published a reader that follows these categories:

GESTURE/ASSEMBLY

MECHANISM/APPARATUS

UNSOUND/(IM)PERCEPTION

PROSTHESIS/DEVICE

INTERARTICULATION

ARCHITECTURE/ACOUSTICS

MIND’S EAR

MATTER/NOISE

TACTILITY

PARA-HEARING/IMAGINARY

INTRO

Thank you for entering my studio! My name is Saverio, I am an artist, and I hope you feel welcome here.

Untitled Queen described the accessibility features of the Untitled (World) show as “cool and sexy.” Those words echoed many ideas I was building while thinking of art as an inclusive practice. I am looking at accessibility features as a creative material to produce artworks and artistic experiences. I cannot follow speeches without captions, and I was used to frustrating myself with my language barriers; now, I feel those events are boring and mostly annoying.

I want to work to make cool and sexy art. I am approaching the idea of multi-sensorial artistic experiences, offering more than one access point. Traditional categories in art often refer to the sensory information they offer; I am blending several media to create shared experiences that hopefully will not feel exclusive.

I spent most of the last two years working with collective projects, and this residency will allow me to return to my practice. I am dissecting a common ableist stereotype: able-bodied folks often believe that disabled-bodied folks must have developed some hyper-sensing to compensate and be equally productive in a capitalistic society. What if my hearing loss became a hyper-sight? Or a hyper-smell? What are my superpowers? And yours?

Please leave your comments and questions around,
I will be happy to connect with you!

Hugs,
Saverio

Studio Intro

Illustration of Ellis drawing as a child. Mixed media artwork with elements of photography, pencil and digital drawing.
Artist- Ellis Lewis-Dragstra

Hi I’m Ellis Lewis-Dragstra, full time freelance illustration artist. The main commission work I get is creating album artworks for various musicians. Despite not always being aware of it, In my work I am interested in exploring the relations between art forms. Especially music, having synaesthesia music has always also felt like a visual artform to me, and possible a bigger influence on my work then actual visual artforms. I am entirety self-taught and feel this has led me to pick up a lot of “bad” drawing habits which have developed into my own style. 
In my own personal work, I try and embrace the freedom of not having any brief and create something over a few weeks/months that means a lot to me. Examples of past projects have been influenced by themes of Family, Nature, Dreams and the process of creating itself. No matter the theme I like to find connections between things that people don’t usually consider but can relate to. Being an artist that works by hand with mediums like watercolour/paint but also digital illustration on photoshop, I notice there is sometimes a hierarchy of paintings being put above digital art. I try and fight this notion of “high” and “low” art by mixing both together in my work. Therefore my influences can come from everything from the artist Bosch to the old Looney Tunes cartoons and everything in between. With this range of influences, I have always felt creating art was a balancing act between my inner child (the artist) and my adult side (the editor), who cuts out what’s unnecessary giving an artwork more direction and intention. This process can be a visual conversation or argument. What I love about art, that I try and embrace in my own work is that it has as many meanings as there are people looking at it. Please feel free to look around my studio where my creative process will be updated stage by stage resulting in a new piece of work. Thank you! 

Art Space Designation + Digital Preservation

Thinking about the in-game recreation of the Ma Tau Kok Towngas Center as an architectural piece of defunct, publicly necessary, but privately-owned infrastructure made me consider the Cattle Depot Artist Village next door. The cattle depot is a pre-war slaughterhouse turned heritage site, turned art space – a strange series of designations that I imagine reflect the needs and desires of the inhabitants of the neighborhood as well as those managing it. Sometimes at Cattle Depot Artist Village it becomes apparent the softness of art spaces is their greatest asset. The art space wraps around and slips between the overtly functional slaughterhouse architecture of the heritage site (which they are not permitted to make alterations to), making the most of the situation. This then begs the question, can multiple designations of a heritage site provide a plethora of interactions, leading to a more robust case for its preservation? Does art’s concern with history mean art spaces are well-positioned to become protectors of heritage? In the case of Ma Tau Kok Towngas Center, there is precedence, a quick Google search reveals several other formerly defunct gasometers repurposed as art spaces: Gasworks in London, as well as Gasometer Peorzheim and Gasometer Oberhausen in Germany. Tank Shanghai also has a similar story.

The Leave Your Body Minecraft map already contains a recreation of the entire Cattle Depot Artist Village. Metaphysically interpreting an artifact into data allows it to transcend time and space; to be called upon a screen from anywhere at any time – as a ghost, it becomes fluid and flexible. In the last two decades, there has been a remarkable concerted effort towards creating digital preservation archives of the world’s most significant and at-risk cultural heritage. The impulse toward digital preservation includes a desire to record an artifact in its current state, implying doubt that the artifact will remain as it is. Digitization also suggests distrust in the very material from which it is constructed. Within the act of preservation there is a sense of precarity as if in the face of inevitable and irreversible change.