'Narrator: It seems the Army had taken advantage of Buster’s childlike interest in games.
Buster: This is so much more fun than Guess the Fur.
Narrator: …and his childlike inability to distinguish between games and reality. So they set him up as a drone pilot here.
Colonel Smalls: Want to go to lunch, Private Bluth?
Buster: Not till I take out the hospital!
Colonel Smalls: I tell you, this kid's amazing. If I had him back in the 60s, Cuba would be the 51st state.’
-Excerpt from US hit comedy show ‘Arrested Development’, in which Buster Bluth, mistakenly believing he is playing a computer game, skillfully operates military combat drones, taking out civilian targets.
The emergence of new media has been something that has coincided with (and possibly inevitably influenced) my development as an artist. The questions arising - particularly about the nature of materiality - the ontological challenges of the ‘internet of things’ and how it affects the way we think, the way we are and how we see images. ‘Post internet’ art has become caught up in this debate. The cool corporate stock photo library of DisMagazine mimics and totalises the world, whereas Ryan Trecartin’s bombastic humour in the videos of ‘Pasta and M-PEGgy’ (I-BE AREA, 2007) introduce the absurd, and may be far more recognisable relational and connected to the origins of the media. My work is caught up in this dichotomy. The nature of digital objects, virtual physics, virtual materiality and these relationships and tensions with physical media - how all of these things exist and are represented - is an area I try to explore with my work. Hito Steyerl's exploration of digital materiality generally, and the collage and interplay of real and virtual in her work, such as the film essay ‘How Not To Be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational.MOV File’ (2013) is of interest to me.
While many of the influences and ideas which affect my work may lie outside of the painting medium, it is how these issues relate the processes of image making, and how they work in dialogue with the history of painting, that usually forms the basis for my projects, and a fundamental part of my image editing process. Whether I am making and editing an image using oil paint on canvas or manipulating digital pixels with Photoshop, the objective is much the same. Each media has a nature and context to be explored - how a painting can be a singular, artist-selected image, as a one-off commodity, versus the ubiquitous, virtual, infinite jpeg. I want to explore these tensions and relationships, pushing and experimenting with the processes by which I can create and manipulate imagery through media.
For my 2016 degree-show project I made a computer game, ‘Bloodbath on a Sunny Day’. Using the tropes of computer gaming, the viewer/player navigates interactively through several vignettes. Scenes reference news stories / terrorist attacks/ 9/11 / mass graves / defecation / sexual acts - whimsical, evil, vulgar and banal events are triggered - and random screenshots produce infinitely unique images that amuse or shock or disgust. This project in its various forms - most recently as the ‘Bloodbath Remixes’ (2018) have included prints, paintings, modular billboards, sculpture, 3D prints, both interactive and non-interactive game engine installations, and numerous virtual models, jpegs, videos and games.
With the ‘Love Island/ Balcony’ project my aim is to reconstruct / translate, in virtual space, components taken from real space reality television, a medium whose core premise is the interplay between real and pretend. I chose Love Island because it represents this genre wonderfully - assertive styling, stage lighting, lurid sets and synthetic contestants, and farcical plot twists - and the striking visuals all of this produces.
‘Diary Room’ mixes virtual space, real space and constructed realities into a collection of portraits and video sequences, inspired by Big Brother and the Velazquez and Bacon Popes. Bacon’s numerous studies of Valazquez’s ‘Portrait of Pope Innocent X’ (1650) appropriate the format, and re-imagine, re-contextualise and twist the ideas of the original portrait - for me these paintings are all part of the same discussion as the original. Sometimes calm and realistic, or agitated, or hysterical and hyperreal - the diary rooms, and reality TV talking heads, hand us a series of varied, contemporary, human portraits. I want to push and blur the lines of materiality between the object and the jpeg, online and offline worlds, the natural and the synthetic, the historical and the contemporary.
In recent decades a convergence of world events - natural, political, technological and social - have resulted in a focus on notions of ‘truth’ and ‘untruth’, reality versus virtual-realities. But contradiction and complexity have always existed, and the current ‘fake /real’ preoccupations may be the inevitable outcome of our current place in time - a post Gutenberg parentheses world - and besides, I would argue, the difference maybe isn’t relevant anymore. As Graham Harman says ‘there is always a gap between knowledge and the real’. Our historical preconceptions of what constitutes politics are becoming inadequate and of necessity becoming fluid in the face of new media, fractured identities, and non-human entities. I pick the subjects I pick - war, TV, painting, pop culture, violence - because i believe these subtexts can expand to engage with debates in art and beyond. I pick the subjects I pick - war, TV, painting, pop culture, violence - because in these subtexts I can find a way to engage with the debates in art and beyond. The nature of images, the digital, humour, object-hood, politics, materiality, post-humanism, time, histories, authorship and appropriation can all be drawn into the discussion, and I want to begin to try to understand how this shapes the images we make, how we make them, and how we see things.
Bloodbath Remixes (2018)
animated gif from Bloodbath Remixes Game engine (November 2018 version)
Bloodbath on a Sunny Day (2016)
Above: video of Bloodbath on a Sunny Day gameplay (2016 version)
Series 1 (2017-2018)
Above: Series 1 gameplay footage (2018)
Love Island/ Balcony (Sept 2018-)
gifs from 'Balcony/ Love Island wip game engine experiments
Diary Rooms (October 2018-)
gifs from 'Diary Room' wip game engine experiments