Artist statement


Through installation I transform the space into a fictional environment which seeks to emphasise the viewers relationship to the body by enhancing the portrayal of psychological states. My practise is a fusion of sculptural installation, with lighting, shadows, video and sound to manipulate the viewers level of immersion within a multi-sensory environment. This is inspired by multidisciplinary artist Tai Shani who creates installations to portray an ‘otherworldly experience’. With each stage of development, I add another layer of dimension, offering a greater degree of engagement, inclusion and connection between the communicator and the listener.

I investigate the power of storytelling, with the evolution and conservation of an idea through the medium of video work. This is inspired by sci-fi films such as ‘A.I. Artificial Intelligence’ (2001) which explore a disturbing dynamic between science and humanity. Video is an advantageous medium as scientific studies have shown that its immersive capabilities can lead to intense emotions [1]. This affect can be conveyed without the need for the viewer to be present in the environment, making it widely accessible, especially within the online world. The subject of my film is the continuation of a fictional narrative which I have documented throughout the year through a series of exhibitions entitled; I. ‘The Cell’ (October 2019), II. ‘The Experiment’ (December 2019) and III. ‘The Body’ (February 2020). Within IV. ‘The Quarantine’ (April 2020), the real-world collides with the fictional world, as the outbreak of Coronavirus sees new environmental circumstances which cause the subject of the dialogue, a humanoid robot, to undergo a transference to its human host. This story is communicated through video and uploaded to an online platform where the body becomes consequently immortalised.

I’m interested in exploring a conversation between science, art and what it means to be human. My work focuses on the visceral qualities of materiality to encourage a rethinking of our relationship with the body and humanity. Throughout the development of my material choices, I have used PLA filament as a basis to simulate a quality likened to plastination. This idea of preservation interests me as it presents a dynamic between matter which is organic vs inorganic, human vs non-human and internal vs external. I explore these contrasts by juxtaposing materials of differing sensory and textural qualities, such as loose canvas and mirror. I experiment with combining literal and abstract representations of the body to create a palpable atmosphere, with lighting and sound to heighten the senses and encourage feelings of embodiment.

The display of my work facilitates an emotional encounter through sensory engagement and direct participation of touch to foster reflection. Humans are biologically dispositioned to be attracted to faces, however this is not so conclusive for robots. Research suggests that people can be comforted vs disturbed by humanoid qualities depending on what the function of the robot is [2]. This is something I experiment with by presenting inherently human characteristics such as facial features and skin in an unsettling way.  I’m also interested in portraying the notion of the double through shadows and their ability to manipulate perspective and question the viewer's self-identity. Within technology, there is the concept of a digital double, provoking questions regarding whether humans are tethered to their digital self or even if it’s possible to become untethered. Such topics are inspired by research discussed within the BBC Radio 4 podcast entitled ‘The Digital Human’ [3].

My primary research question surrounds Sigmund Freud's 1919 paper on ‘The Uncanny’ (Das Unheimliche) [4]. This theory explores the strange feeling when experiencing particular phenomenon, identified by Freud as “all that arouses dread and creeping fear”. As the uncanny deals with doubt and confusion, objects such as waxworks, dolls and automatons can provoke it, based on the perception of animacy. Mike Kelley is another source of inspiration, providing contemporary relevance and contribution to the topic of The Uncanny, with his essay ‘Playing with Dead Things: On the Uncanny’ [5] and his 1993 and 2004 exhibition ‘The Uncanny’. In a similar essence, my practise utilises multimedia installation to stimulate conversation regarding the connection between the materiality of the body and self-reflection.

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References
[1] Visch, V. T., Tan, E. S. & Molenaar, D. (2010). The emotional and cognitive effect of immersion in film viewing. Cognition and Emotion, 24(8), 1439-1445. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699930903498186

[2] Prakash, A. & Rogers, W. A. (2013). Younger and Older Adults’ Attitudes Toward Robot Faces: Effects of Task and Humanoid Appearance. Sage journals, 57(1). https://doi.org/10.1177/1541931213571027 

[3] 'The Digital Human' podcast. Retrieved on 03/05/2020 from https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01n7094

[4] Freud, S. (1919). The ‘Uncanny’ (Das Unheimliche).  In Freud, S., Freud, A. & Strachey, J. (1955) The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVII (1917-1919): An Infantile Neurosis and Other Works (pp. 217-256). London: Hogarth Press.

[5] Kelley, M. (1993). Playing with Dead Things: On the Uncanny (1993). In Welshman, J. C. (2003) Foul Perfection: Essays and Criticism (pp. 70-99). Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.


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