MA Visual Arts : Fine Art Digital // Proposal

1st Draft of my proposal //

The subject of this proposal is centered on the concept “I exist when I log in.”
To what extent can one exist as a virtual entity? How would the imagined emotion and thought of an avatar be depicted in a humanized form? How does one create a ‘fauxtopia’ via the use of the Internet and web-space?
I have always been interested in how analogue and organic materials can be employed and manipulated in order to prompt a digital outcome, as I find the alluring consequence of their particular compound of antithetical aesthetics enchanting and beautiful.
On a personal level, I would not be interested in creating art if it did not reflect or seek to magnify the beauty found in nature, and increasingly I find in our modern society the juxtaposition of the natural life and the digital life is a manner we are constantly subjected to without even noticing it is happening.

Gene Youngblood (Expanded Cinema, 1970) argued that media is so inescapable it is not possible to exist outside of it – that we live in a society that is trained more by media than nature, and the art of so-called ‘new’ media is taking a step towards the development of a new consciousness.
I am interested in expanding upon this concept – where Youngblood was writing before the age of the Internet/the creation of on-line profiles/and the onslaught of up-to-the second life updates, I hope to form an insightful inquiry based upon the foundation of his theory, using contemporary hypermedia* and the models of blogging and social media as devices to develop and create a new consciousness/life of my own.
I have formed a persona, ‘ALAN’, in order to achieve this new existence in another world. Initially, I fondly envisioned ALAN as nothing more than a pixel sized virtual alter ego of sorts, but have come to the realization that ALAN can and should be more a counterpart – a binary second self, not completely separate from my current version of reality – instead influenced and directed by my natural state whilst serving as a digital antidote to the constraints and limitations of my ‘real’ life.

Nicholas Negroponte (Being Digital, 1995) stated that ‘interaction is implicit in all multimedia’ and ‘the medium is not the message in a digital world’.
In order to engage with a viewer, ALAN will be informed using and researching the psychology of human behaviour and reactions. I will also look at implementing an interface where it would be feasible to ‘communicate’ with ALAN. When viewing ALAN’s ‘world’ I would hope it would be akin to meeting a person for the first time – conscious of how they look and sound – and when starting a ‘conversation’ with said person (in ALAN’s case this could be clicking on links, scrolling through images etc.) it would be possible to assume their thoughts and feelings at that particular time.
*Hypermedia – the addition of a non-textual component (animation, sound and video etc.) to the term hypertext as coined by Ted Nelson (1965), for the purpose of describing documents created in a computer.

Evidently, there is much scope to explore the multi-faceted dynamics of a ‘life lived on-line’.
I expect that the natural progression that occurs when ‘building’ ALAN would perhaps further my research into the objectives and ideas outlined below:
– How is it possible to portray emotion and other human traits via a screen using the Internet and Hypermedia?
– Hypermedia in its interactive form as a way to invoke a response from a user/viewer – looking at hyperlinks/clicks and the way a website user might interact with online material, with regard to interactive media as a human centered system that clarifies the co-ordination of human action.
– FLOW (Csikszentmihalyi, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990) – the holistic sensation that people feel when they act with total involvement, with regard to the psychology of digital media and ‘intelligent computing’.
– The relationships between visual and auditory media that may be viewed/heard via a screen/speakers and the capacity they have to produce physical sensations and influence the observers natural state – for example what creates the emotion that occurs when one views a cinematic event and perceives ones own reality differently, if only for a few minutes afterwards.
– Cognitive Activities and Information Systems – What cognitive operations are behind the notion that ‘on the Internet you can be anyone’? Does posting something online prove your existence? How is personality translated on the Internet?
– The abstractions and relations to a natural state that are found when taking code and digital or computer-based terms out of context.
– The phenomena of glitch and memory loss and how it relates to humanness.
– Does Technology = Life? Is Google the answer to all of life’s questions? How does the omnipresence of the Internet affect human nature?
– Who is ALAN? Does ALAN have an online shop? Is ALAN my ideal? Could I fall in love with ALAN? Can ALAN be everything I ever dreamed of?

As I establish ALAN’s paradoxical world (in that it is created by imagination, yet takes on the form of a real life) I will implement the practices that my occupation as a commercial graphic print designer within the fashion industry has allowed me to hone – the need to edit images/artwork in Photoshop, and build websites to a high standard. Alongside my profession, as a multi-media artist I work mainly using photography, video, music and poetry, and am eager to utilize the technology and skill-set that is readily available to me in order to anthropomorphize ALAN. Therefore, I will not restrict the digital portrait I hope to paint of ALAN to a series of make-believe Photoshop collages or static imagery, instead playing to the strengths of web-space as a canvas that has little limitation. I would also like to pursue the way the Internet can be used as a resource for making things happen in reality, thus creating a circle of ‘life’ that is generated by digital > natural > digital responses, documenting the outcome as part of ALAN’s world.
I imagine the body of my work to take on a tumblr-esque quality, where the linear thread holding the content together would be a computer screen itself – but in place of pinned posts that have been ‘found’ on other sites, all of the content – be it visual or auditory, moving or still, will have been created specifically by/for ALAN. E.g. ALAN ‘likes’ a new song that reminds ALAN of a past experience – I will write and record a clip of the song that ALAN posts as a journal entry. ALAN shares an image of a painting that ALAN finds inspirational – I will paint the painting that ALAN broadcasts online.
The process of providing evidence of ALAN’s existence will include the use of a variety of methods usually associated with data mining as outlined by Roy Rada (Interactive Media, 1995) – typing, direct manipulation of media, scanning, audio and video capture. The digitized artifacts that will be produced via these methods will ultimately typify the personification of ALAN. The stream of photographs, gifs, audio-clips, videos and scanned imagery that I create in line with popular and current Internet principles (memes, tagged photos, ‘inspirational’ quotes etc.) will serve as the stream of ALAN’s consciousness.
The concept of creating ones own world, and the plight to invent new states of reality is clearly historical and prevalent in Fine Art. I plan to contextualise my work by researching multi-media artists whose work resonates with my own personal aesthetic appreciation (such as Jean Cocteau and Michel Gondry), and contemporary artists that use the Internet and online or digital devices in their work (such as Addie Wagenknecht, Douglas Coupland, Astrid Verhoef, Angelo Plessas and Richard Prince). I am also enthusiastic at the prospect of exploring and dissecting relevant literature and essays on the ever increasingly popular subject of life in a digital world.
ALAN is essentially a project that, from an artist’s perspective, will become an experiment in digital storytelling, the creation and sharing of faux-realities and reinvention of the self through the medium of multi-disciplinary art forms.

/// ALAN
can do things I can
not do ///