On the bus, on the train, on the street, in the cafe, absolutely EVERYWHERE people seem utterly entranced and distracted, concentrating their attention on looking at their screens and tvs, tablets, mobile phones, laptops and computers. Or maybe it’s having teenagers* around that has given me a sudden increased interest in the digital, virtual reality and gaming worlds? (*Have I even got a choice?) Whatever the reason, I’ve got quite curious about the digital world in which we all do seem to reside, and then I got to thinking about all the titles that we have on this subject. So what happens when creatives get even more digitally involved: What is their take on it all? What can they do with this media? What do they plan to do with it in the future? Where are we going with all this?
This small selection of books below will highlight some of our titles that look at the world of the digital, and the creations of artists who embrace work of a digital nature.
When you go deeper, there’s certainly a lot to chew on here.
Ian Cheng: Forking at Perfection Cheng, a student of cognitive science, uses art, new technologies and neuroscience to have a constructive dialogue about the state of human consciousness in the digital age. Cheng creates virtual living ecosystems, or what he calls his ‘live simulations’ exploring the nature of mutation and how people are able to relate to change. For Cheng the simulations are like a neurological ‘gym’, deliberately exercising his viewers’ feelings of confusion and anxiety when they are faced with unrelenting change. His panoramic projection was originally shown in 2015, but then it had its own mutation – what Cheng calls a fork – that came in the form of a tablet-based experience (Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich). Both invited viewers to explore the simulated world, its organisms and the resulting dynamics.
Lawrence Lek: 2065 Lawrence Lek uses VR gaming software to create his digital environments that he describes as, ‘3D collages of found objects, and situations’. These virtual worlds are real places put within fictional scenarios – asking questions on how digital environments reflect the impact of our perception of reality. In 2018 he created a CGI film entitled ‘2065’, and this publication is to be considered an in-depth survey of this same work.
David Blandy: The World After David Blandy currently has a related exhibition (of the same name) running at Focal Point Gallery, but this is the last weekend to catch it (ends 26 January 2020), so be quick if you want to see it! It concentrates on the Matt Goulson-designed other-worlds game, which is set in a time after a climate cataclysm has happened. Using a Mentor (the equivalent of the game’s engineer, who interprets the rules and steers the scenarios and interactions) the group of players have to take on different roles in society as they venture out into their new world. The book is a fully-tested table top role-playing rulebook featuring original art work and stories.
Victor Burgin: Afterlife Afterlife (taking the form of a classic photobook) is Victor Burgin’s own conception about, well, the afterlife and what it could be like. He sees it as a parallel world engineered like a ‘first person exploration’ video game. He makes his photos with virtual cameras in computer environments that are built with gaming software. Using the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, he creates a science fiction variation on their story. This book should be considered an experiment of the photobook form, with the text and images working together to make the produced visuals work as events in the readers’ minds rather than just optical phenomena.
Kelly Richardson: The Last Frontier With all this use of new, digital media, can we still distinguish between what is real and what is constructed? This seems to be the question that Kelly Richardson is posing with her filmic works. She often creates hyper-real, unsettling and atmospheric ‘other-worldly’ cinematic installations, mainly of landscapes, by subtly using CGI techniques. Because there is a lack of human presence contained within the films, their sound and animation, they often appear like a post-apocalyptic future. Her artistic practice is multi-layered and uses a mix of techniques that come from such sources as Hollywood Sci Fi and Horror films, Landscape Painting and Wildlife Cinematography.
More Than Real: Art in the Digital Age comes to us after the Verbier Art Summit that was held in 2018. As the title suggests, it extends the global dialogue on art in the digital age and takes a very multidisciplinary approach. Each year the summit aims to act as an incubator of ideas, with a main tenet being to optimise the role of art in our global society acting as a catalyst for change.
The Imitation Game In 2016, eight international artists came together for an exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery with their aim of exploring machines and their ability to successfully imitate human life. It was inspired by Alan Turing’s ‘Turing Test’ – an experiment Turing designed to test a computer’s ability to imitate human thought. This book went alongside the show and includes the work of Ed Atkins, James Capper, Paul Granjon, Tove Kjellmark, Lynn Hershman Leeson, David Link, Mari Velonaki and Yu-Chen Wang.
#fuckreality was a 2018 exhibition held at Kunstraum Niederoesterreich, Vienna that featured the work of over 20 contemporary artists. They all take their own position, exploring both the questioning and promise of all that the digital world can and will offer us.
…Now pass me my smartphone, I need to relax and enter another reality.
image taken from Kelly Richardson, 'The Last Frontier' (Art Editions North)