March 29th at 12:00am
Hey Conch, thanks for the coffee!
I’m an artist based in Nottingham, UK. I studied BA Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University a few years but the dynamic art scene and cheap studio rent has led me to stay here for a few more years.
I’m interested in developments in robotics, virtual reality and online media and consider how they might be used to improve our lives in the near future. I use computer animation, video and sound to construct newly-synthesised digital bodies; a machine-like-perfection in form, surface and movement.
Although I work digitally, my body is always central to my process and it is my relationship to my body that led me down this line of inquiry. Growing up, as I was discovering and coming to terms with my sexuality, I really identified with characters from science fiction, particularly superheroes like the X-Men as it was the otherness of their bodies that gave them strength and enabled them to fight for change in society.
A few years ago, just after graduating, I became really ill with an autoimmune condition called Behcet’s disease (very similar to Crohn’s). For a time, my illness was very consuming of my life and so my interest in science fiction then pushed toward how advances in technology might allow us to break free from the limitations of our physical bodies.
I used to work a lot with video, but recent work shifts from the highly choreographed 'living body' inhabiting a digital space to the 'synthesised body' roaming through 3D rendered environments. Using computer animation allows me to construct controlled environments that act as safe places to explore my bodily fantasies. In this constructed space I hold absolute control over the body, from its wireframe mesh up to the way that the body is lit and framed by the camera. Methodically, this becomes a reconstruction of the personally experienced traumas of the body within controlled simulations that the audience is invited to be guided through.
I am a studio member at BACKLIT and share my space with friends Connor Brazier, Cindy Sissokho and Niall Farrelly. BACKLIT has a warm, open and active community of forty-five studio members and twenty associate members that range from recent graduates to mid-career artists. I moved into my studio space after graduating from my BA in 2015. Departing from the support structures of University at the time, the artist crit sessions, workshops that formed part of their public programme and facilities that were offered by BACKLIT were really beneficial during this transition. Shortly after joining, I participated in the annual studio and associate member group show, MASS. This was my first exhibition after graduating and so it will always be a really special memory. BACKLIT have continued to be a huge supporter of my practice since and I’ve gone on to make life-long friends within the studio community and the amazing team in the office.
In the last two years, I have progressed from working with performance/video/sound to computer animation. As a result, my use of the studio has changed as I now work at a desk on my laptop and no longer need much space to film or record. It is, however, still great to have a separate environment to work and to meet others to discuss projects.
I’m relocating to London in the summer. At this point, I’ll likely decide to instead make use of a home office/studio to cut costs. I think this is a process many of my friends are also going through who make work digitally.
I feel really lucky to have spent six years in Nottingham as visitors always comment on how open and inviting the art scene. There is a great DIY energy here — the scene is built on a base of grassroots artist-led spaces including BACKLIT, Primary and One Thoresby Street that are really supporting of the practices of emerging to mid-career artists in the region and stage great public programmes.
The Ocean’s Breath was Salty is a computer animation that I made at the beginning of 2017. It began with an interest in the digital translation of natural forms and materials, particularly the interpretation of water in skincare adverts and Hollywood blockbusters which is often converted into a heightened blue and moves in a fantastical manner. It feels familiar, yet is removed of imperfection. A running theme in my work is an interest in the small malfunctions of technology — trying to digitally achieve a heightened version of the real, but losing something in the process.
At the time, I was also interested in VR video gaming and wanted to make reference to the hand gestures used to manipulate a virtual environment. When viewing the work, the audience embody a user who is able to navigate virtual reality; an unstable space that can be moulded depending on its required function. Virtual forces of gravity and resistance become malleable, allowing the user to manoeuvre and shape a digital reconstruction of the real for their own viewing pleasure.
As with much of my work, central to the animation is the idea of taking control of the body and its environment. At the time, I’d just recovered from a long period of illness from Behcet’s disease and felt restricted by my body as my health was dictating my life. It’s from there that I began exploring how technologies such as VR might enable us to extend our bodies physical capabilities.
Jade Annaw is an incredible digital artist and a close friend of mine. We studied together at Nottingham Trent University and went on to live together for two years after graduating. During this time we were both transitioning away from working with performance/video/sound and looking into new ways of making work digitally. We found that, at this point in time (2016), support structures for emerging artists using digital media didn’t really exist online. We’d come across a lot of exciting work on Instagram and wondered how we might be able to support this community of artists by promoting them and creating a platform to share their research.
A few months later, Delta Sorority formed and we began planning a programme called *Dancing Girl Emoji* that would go on to explore ideas of new age narcissism, social media hype and the digital self. The programme centred on a digital residency — a purpose-built website that provided a platform for the research of seven international digital artists — and also included a screening of digital works at BACKLIT gallery and a workshop aimed at 14-16 year olds. During this period, we collaborated on an audiovisual work also entitled *Dancing Girl Emoji* that was recently reconfigured as an eight-channel video, one-channel sound installation for Future Body, my solo exhibition at The Collection in Lincoln. After the *Dancing Girl Emoji* era, we both wanted to spend time focusing on solo projects but I really look forward to working with Jade in the future on the next phase!
I think it’s pretty amazing that we are now able to view an exhibition curated specifically for laptop/tablet/mobile devices from anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection. Often this is achieved successfully, with the recent iteration of The Wrong as a great example. 124 curators exhibited the work of 1,624 artists, with attendance in the millions. It’s a democratic alternative to the traditional art fair in that any artist or curator that wishes to participate can apply for a pavilion. I think this demonstrates the DIY attitude of a lot of digital artists — if the right structures don’t exist for presenting our work and research, let’s create our own online.
However, I’d argue that the nature of our endless swiping and scrolling through screen interfaces means that the duration of the interaction is short-lived. The work isn’t able to command an audience as it could in a gallery or cinema context and so perhaps there is a limit to our engagement with online exhibitions. Although, I am really excited to see how the format evolves as VR equipment becomes more affordable!
I’ve just completed a new animation called Eternal Relics. It’s the third part in a trilogy, continuing from Dreams in Ultraviolet and Beyond the Water’s Edge and will be shown as part Dateagle's x isthisit?’s project Spread the Virus later this month (dateagleart.com/spreadthevirus).
I recently began a VR project with artists AJA and Joey Holder and the support of the University of Nottingham. For a long time, it’s been a dream to build an environment to be experienced within virtual reality. We have a lot of equipment to play with so I think it’s going to be great fun!
I was invited by Nottingham Trent University to run a series of workshops for BA Fine Art students through February and March. The final workshop, Queering the Grid, takes place next week. Aimed at beginners, it will provide an introduction to computer animation and will cover the fundamentals of modelling tools, lighting and shaders. We will look at examples of the queer, digital utopias created by other contemporary practitioners and discuss how these spaces have been used to reframe ideas of identity.
I spend a lot of my spare time looking at artists’ work on Instagram, far more time than I spend engaging with art in a gallery context. post.vision is an IG page I’m always returning to. It’s well curated and varied, showing work of emerging to mid-career digital artists. As for individuals, pastelae, zolloc, ines.alpha and philiplueck have my favourite IG pages. They make work specifically for Instagram and post regularly. I think this is important as an artist’s IG page that is filled only with documentation of their work can feel quite dry.
I just made my most recent animation, Eternal Relics, without a budget. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved but have decided to apply for funding to create a longer version that’s rendered at a higher quality.
It’s always challenging to make animations with little money. A tip for those interested in animation — there are render farms, such as render.st that offer a monthly subscription service. For Eternal Relics, I set all scenes up ready to be rendered, paid for one month’s subscription and then rendered all the scenes at once. This massively cut the costs!