Monday, 7 March 2016

Kathleen Lynn: Outsider on the Inside.

Some Irish Mothers 1916 
Conor O' Grady

Research based on the lives of particular Irish women, 1874-2016

For the Group exhibition Kathleen Lynn: Outsider on the Inside
Linenhall Arts Centre Castlebar, 26 March - 24 April 2016

(Gallery installation and Four site specific public interventions)

The Convent

Before the Famine, sexual identity and gender roles were not controlled by the church in the same way they have become. After the famine the church began to take an ideological and practical hold on the lives of Ireland' population.

In 1800 there were 91 registered convents, in 1900 there were 368. By 1926 4.9% of women in employment were employed as nuns or lay sisters. Up until the 1970's Nuns accounted for the largest group of women workers, the convent provided a stable future and allowed for some kind of independence.

Entry into the convent and the status of a nun, frequently only, became an option for those who women who's families could afford to pay their entry. If you could not afford a dowry, then you entered the convent as a Lay Sister, which in effect made up the greater population within the convent. These women were servants to the dowry Nuns. This level of economic and female class disparity within society and the convent lasted well into the 1980's and its effects is still being documented today in recent political and economic changes.

Religious, especially Marian devotion and the building of Marian shrines exploded during this period, as did the apparitions of the Virgin Mary. The model of the virgin Mary had slowly become the only feasible role-model available to young Irish women, besides stereotypical depictions of femininity and Irishness. The alternative to this model: Devotee, Mother, Subservient. Was to, marry, become  "Fallen Woman", join a convent or emigrate.

They Are Sailing

One third of all emigrants to the United States from Europe during 1850-1950 were women. In Ireland over half of the emigrant population were women,

In 1920 of those aged 10 years and older 13,612 were men and 22,161 were women.

Overwhelmingly the men who left Ireland for England in this period left families and wives behind, which created a situation of lament and longing, marking their emigration in our collective consciousness. The women who emigrated in this period, left single and most did not return.  

Germaine greer has said, refering to the painting Guernica  by Picasso that the overwhelming image of the 20th century has been one of a weeping woman and a heroic man. In Ireland the overwhelming image of Ireland has been a working man and a be-shawled lamenting mother. 

Free State?

Women in the North of Ireland were somewhat excluded from the economic disparity and workforce exclusion, as they had the Linen industry which was a huge employer of the female workforce. 

Post-independence, ironically, Irish women were becoming more socially and sexually repressed, particularly in marriage. Divorce became illegal, contraception and sex outside of marriage were further tabooed.

The ideology of the Catholic Church took over all aspects of life; schools, hospitals and the home.

In 1935 because of the rise in unskilled employment in women and a sharp decrease in the amount of men being employed. Section 16 of the Conditions of Employment Act was signed by Sean Lemass, an act which effectively removed entire generations of Irish women from the workforce and confining them, their daughters and grand daughters after them to lives which would be centered around their families. 

This created a situation in which women' employment and quality of life was entirely dependent on a the men in their lives. Entire generations of Irish women were reared, educated and socialised to be wives and mothers. 

In 1937 the Constitution of Ireland gave a special place for the church and, an equally defined space for women. The church became the head of society and women were confined in law and ink, to the head of the home. Motherhood and womanhood became inextricably linked. 

Irish women could of course enjoy a life outside of the home, however only while waiting to be married. Once they married they assumed the gender roles of motherhood, no matter if they were employed or not. This became a convenient situation for a state who could not afford or were inclined to support a social service that would facilitate unmarried mothers.

No Sex Please We're Irish (Women)

Sex for Irish women has always been risky, especially outside of marriage, as contraception was not an option, sex became inexplicably linked to three things; Pregnancy, Marriage or Shame. Because of religious ideology and the hold the church had on the lives of Irish people, women in particular were always negotiating from a place of weakness in terms of sexual encounters, having to adhere to particular ideals of femininity and virginal naivety and in the majority of cases not having even basic education in sexual identity or the role of consent. Sex outside of marriage was socially the worst thing a woman could do, especially if a child was born.

Women were sent to Magdalene Laundries, reformatories and mother and baby homes, and other institutions for the slightest sexual infringement or utterance of sexual desire and were confined sometimes years for having committed the act of having sex outside of marriage while any children created from that act were uniformly removed from their care.

The ill treatment of these women lasted well after they had been returned to society, if they were returned at all, leaving mental and physical marks on their lives and creating a culture of shame around sexual desire in young women. The men involved for the most part were allowed to carry on with their lives away from confinement.

The threat of confinement or even social exclusion loomed within our collective consciousness  for generations, a sense of hereditary trauma, has formed the landscape in which young Irish women are allowed to behave, a trauma which still has implications for Irish women today.

                                                               Celtic Tigress

Between 1991 and 1996 women's employment grew enormously, almost equaling the growth over the previous 20 years.  The majority of women were employed  in particular sectors of employment, usually low paid. A Government and work environment which offered completely no support in terms of the motherhood they were expected to assume alongside employment. The entry of women, especially mothers, into the workforce has had a contradictory effect on their lives.

Being a working woman, especially a working mother was less paid and made more difficult, than it was for a single man or woman.

By the 2000's Ireland could no longer hold itself in nostalgic stagnation, for a country that never was. Slowly we joined the modern world and were competing at least, economically with other larger countries.

Socially however "new" Ireland is lacking, especially in the changes for Irish women. Gender roles within marriage and parenting have changed very little. Perceptions of women and the ways in which womanhood, motherhood and female sexuality is re-presented to Irish women has altered so little in the last decades. Sex, consent contraception and abortion issues are still overwhelmingly peppered with Catholic intervention. If the equality proposed in our proclamation is manifested as equality-feminism then, what has equivalence with their male counterparts actually yielded for Irish women?

Relation to 1916

The work displayed in the Linenhall is representative of the lack of effective change in relation to the gender roles placed on Irish women. Referring specifically to the inaction of the equality proposed within the 1916 Proclamation of Independence. For more detailed information on the visual aspects of the research for this work please click Here

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Eloquent Review of Green Carnations by Visual Artist and Curator Ian Wieczorek

Conor O’Grady – Green Carnations
Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
September 2015

Taking its title from the scandalous 1894 novel that was closely based on the relationship between Oscar Wilde and Bosie, O’Grady’s inaugural solo exhibition locates itself firmly in the contemporary experience of the homosexual male in Ireland. While the recent events such as the gay marriage referendum might suggest Irish culture has become more embracing of LGBT equality, O’Grady focuses on the marginalisation that is still felt by many homosexual men engaged in what they believe is still considered ‘illicit’ behaviour, and the homophobia (both latent and sometimes blatant) that suffuses their experience.

O’Grady interrogates this partially self-defined ‘demimonde’ by means of four interrelated elements. Taking centre stage is Standing in the Way of Control, a floor-based installation made from gold foil inserts from the Benson & Hedges cigarette packets that the artist discovered were a regular feature at gay meeting places. Folded into a regular triangular shape, the elements are arranged in a rigorously intricate pattern suggestive both of a Turkish carpet design and also, in its careful arrangement, of a votive mandala. Due to its ephemeral nature and location, the delicate pattern experiences ongoing change over the course of the exhibition through public intervention, both inadvertent and invited. With its arte povera associations, the valorisation of this humble, discarded material offers an immersive presence, its fragility and unappreciated potential a mirror of the people who initially left these throwaway traces.

The floor installation is flanked by two series of black-and-white photographic images. The first, Phoenix Park Palare (Polari), offers a series of three grainy, gritty images of a park bench taken over a six year period, documenting the changing tone of the graffiti. The 2008 image text “CLEAR GAYS OUT OF OUR PARK TAKE CAR NUMBERS FOR GARDA” has mutated by 2014 into “TAKE NOTE ON GARDA CCTV CAR NO TAKEN FOR PRESS SO BE AWARE”, suggesting a much more proactive stance of self-empowerment. The ‘palare’/‘polari’ referenced in the titles, a cant slang utilised as a coded language by certain social groups including the male gay community, might also be seen to operate in the second series of smaller photographs. Presented in documentary-suggestive black-and-white, these superficially innocuous images present a number of locations that suggest a common link – perhaps gay meet-up points or places where anti-gay violence has occurred – that remains obscure for those not ‘in the know’.

Many Young Men of Twenty (Tabhair dom do lámh), a large video element commanding the far end of the gallery, is suffused with a sense of tension and threat of violence. A static scene of a passageway known as a location for gay assignations and also the scene of homophobic assault, is presented with an atmospheric soundtrack that mixes heartbeat and footsteps. Continuing the documentary black-and-white palette, the image itself, a frozen single moment comprising a repeated single video still, is filled with tense anticipation, a backdrop to implicit drama both past and imminent.

The titles O’Grady has conferred on the works adds a commentary that is rich in reference, wry humour and irony. Standing in the Way of Control was songwriter Beth Ditto’s response to the US government's stance on same sex marriage during George W. Bush's presidency. There are recontextualised references in the smaller photographs such as the Biblical Downfall of the Righteous Man and Stripling in Loose Attire, and the Shakespearean Misery Acquaints a Man with Strange
Bedfellows, while Many Young Men of Twenty references John B Keane’s play about emigration, and Tabhair dom do lámh (translation ‘give me your hand’) inverts the traditional paean to an idealised Ireland. These subversive literary references serve to add a further level of engagement in a show that in its quiet eloquence is cogent, ambitious and confident.

Ian Wieczorek 2015

(Ian Wieczorek is a visual artist and curator)

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Persecution Complex 2014

Persecution Complex
(Unintended Consequences)

"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the poweress means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral" - Paulo Freire

"Those who do not move, do not notice their chains" - Rosa Luxemburg

What ever happened to radicalisation? How can we march in the name of dead men, Stonewall rioters, our own freedom and those other LGBT people who have no freedom at all? Especially in the face of our ultimate willingness to be silenced and our need to be accepted, not to change our surroundings, but merely to be accepted. How can we claim pride given the level of our conformity? Why do we accept the proposition that our difference has to be legislated for?

What have we done with our anger? Besides internalise it? Social, religious and political intolerance has not gone away. How would the generations that came before us, our gay-fore-fathers, who’s trauma we carry, react to our notion of equality? Isn’t our campaign for equivalence simply far too conservative an aim, given the precarious nature of the freedom we seek? If we are to fight, should we not fight for something more tangible?

In order to be entirely equal with our heterosexual counterparts, given the hetero-centric nature of the negotiation. We must by definition and subsequence become more or less the same. Is this what we actually desire? This equality may indeed have unintended consequences but not in the way we expect.

In many ways the referendum on marriage equality that will be put before the Irish people in 2015, will cement those fundamental rights which we already have and of course will introduce new freedoms and responsibilities, however we are already entitled to these as citizens. Rights which are already enforced in relation to our heterosexual family, friends and colleagues. In accepting the referendum are we not also accepting the notion that our culture, existence and nature of our love should indeed be legislated for. There is already huge amount of mistrust and discourse about the nature of successive Irish government’s motivations, especially in recent years. So why are we fighting? Who are we fighting? And who are the school yard children jeering us on?

Throughout our fight for equivalence, at almost every stage of our liberation we have lost an element of our collective idea of what it means to be gay. 

Media re-presentation of our culture is predominantly based on stereotypical depictions with which we have little choice but to try and relate. Political representation is growing but ineffective and we should question the motivation of these types of intervention. Aspects of our culture, individual and collective identities (that which sets our community apart) have been homogenised and cleansed, to make us palatable for a mainstream sense of normality. Characteristics of our culture that are deemed unwanted by society are forced underground or ignored completely

Before entering the poll booth or registering to vote we have to ask what we are registering for and why are we validating this particular proposition? We have come a long way in our liberation, and in theory the Irish government could grant same-sex marriage, tomorrow without ever having to undergo the emotional and financial cost of a referendum. But we have only ever been presented with one alternative to the solution of our inequity. One that is not being given any real chance to be debated on either side.

Having a referendum that validates or invalidates our relationships as being the same as or equal to heterosexual relationships, infers that there is in fact a discernible difference between us in the first place, it implies that there is an imbalance or inequity which need to be addressed.

Of course the two groups are different, but no different than any other two groups when compared to each other. It is the nature of our capacity to love, marry and rear children that has become central to opposition to same-sex marriage, yet this opposition fail to realise that it is this capacity in which we are most equal. If indeed legislation needs to be enacted to provide us and our children with an equal standing in society than it does not lay within the quagmire of human sexual-relations. If changes are needed than it lays in the education and enforcement of criminal procedures in hate crimes. Not in securing votes of a false alternative to our rights as citizens.

Of course equality is ultimately an admirable aim, in a long continuum of aims towards liberation. But our equality has always and will always be caveated by hetero-centric ideals of what is acceptable. Any negotiation to effect change in our actual day to day existence as gay people, commences from a place of weakness as it is takes place in the face of overwhelming prejudice. Change will only take place once we address the issues we cannot legislate for.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

On The Wire

On The Wire
Publication TBA 2014

- ‘Wouldn’t the car be bombarded though?’

- ‘If only the locals caught wind…’

- ‘Angry men with hate on their minds…that’s all we need.

A football pitch flashes in his eye, dimly lit through the dense fog and light snow. Doused in black all but for his white dog-collar, gleaming even in this dewy moon… a football pitch and it makes him think of how things could have been so different for the two young bodies that lay in the back. Two former farmers sons, bounded and blinded by the neon white noise of the city, the promise of money and anonymity, deceived by their own naivety, gaoled for their crimes. A murderer now, and a petty thief. His thoughts disperse as the voice of the warden’s son cuts through them like a blade. 

- …No one will dare turn up you know? For fear of being seen.

- Shames an awful thing to die of, an awful thing indeed.

Across the country they sailed, hurtling through motorway and tertiary road, treating both with the same irreverence. A thousand shades of grey and green appear and disappear in and out of the fog. Dipping like a signet in and out of water. The sky clashing, grinding against the low lying clouds, a violent violet night was closing in. 

- ‘Best to get there after dark…’

The priest said after a lull in the conversation

- ‘Less chance of us getting seen… more chance of this going off smoothly for a change.’ 

His solemn voice changing tone for a second as if to indicate a smile. His aging face showing all the signs of misspent youth.

If the driver, a junior warden himself, had been more superior in his position he would never have been asked to do this and wouldn’t have had to accept, at least that is what he told himself as he let each sleepy, quiet town pass by, each little house covered in mature snow and adorned with little twinkling lights and other Christmas decorations. 

The priest began to fiddle with the car radio, twisting and turning knobs, the only sound he could manage to create was different variants of the same white noise.

- ‘It’s broken’ 
The driver said, pushing the priests hand and away and turning the volume down low. 
‘It wouldn’t work for me. It’s not going to work for you’

- ‘What kind of a service is this?’ 

The priest replied with a tongue in his cheek.

The driver tolerated the priest joking, it was a distraction for him. He wouldn’t have to think about what had to be done he could forget it for a while at least. It was easier for the Father. He had been chaplain in the prison for almost twenty five years, he had the luxury of time and Jesus on his side, to soothe the guilt of what they were about to do.

Underneath this hazy moon a shadow now of her pregnant November self the car drove through deserted villages and roaming farm lands, after a few hours the hearse reached its destination, a small grave yard car-park plonked right to the toothy edge of the coastline, tucked disarmingly underneath a mountain, that poked out of the land scape like a breast. 

‘The sea they say…‘reflects everything…that or she ignores it completely‘ 
The priest thought aloud.
- ‘Who was it who said that? Oh wait wasn’t it me?

A cool wind disperses the fog allowing the snow to break into a shower of crystallised cotton wool, covering the whole car park within a matter of minutes. The two bodies beaten and battered, had died and been blessed together on foreign soil. Only to be returned home under the safety of a December night, denied a proper ending because of their heinous crimes. Silent and sombre the priest reached for two shovels, ignoring the bodies completely. A small stone wall easily overcome, a hand and a hop they are in… the gate was locked, unusually. 

- ‘It’s as if they heard us coming, too late now to look for a key‘. 

The priest sighed as he made his way over the small wall 

‘Did a few here before, that thing is never locked.’ 

He said as he motioned to the gate of the graveyard. 

A dead village confronted them now, headstones like houses, carved beautifully from local stone and even some with marble tracery and adornments, a dead village awaits its stomach two graves plots six feet deep.

Towards the edge of the grave yard where it seemed to lead to nowhere but the ocean and then to the end of the world, were two unmarked wooden crosses. Shovels cracked against frozen earth , turning and softening the rock-hard ground, once the shovel broke through, warm soft earth was found, easily seduced, easily overcome. Ploughing the earth as though it were mature turf, moaning for to be turned. 
Reeking and leaking and tasting of death, two plywood boxes lowered into the warm stomach of the earth, buried side by side, like two brothers united now in infamy, that first clump of earth hitting plywood chilled the two pallbearers spines. 

For a second they waited before filling the rest of the earth back into the hole, uttering not one sentence again, until the last shovel of earth was patted neatly back into place.
The priest rubbed muddy open palms on black trousers before reaching for his tiny beaten up bible. The warden’s son beside him, a solemn head hanging low. Unwrapping the bible from a satin purple handkerchief, opening a page he began to read. 

After a few moments silence the priest motioned to the warden.

-’ I don’t think the big man’s listening… who am I to ask his forgiveness anyway’

As he said this, a single snow flake spiralled its way from the sky and settled itself on the priests left cheek. For a moment highlighting his whiskey stained face. Suddenly the sky opened, plunging another shower of feather light snow to the ground, dousing the men’s shoulders like dandruff.

- ‘We better make a move father... It’s late and if we are seen who knows what will happen‘.

The priest turned to leave, rubbing hands again, before turning he reached into his lapel pocket, and pulled out a perfect single red rose. With the flare of a magician but lacking any of the intent, he placed the rose neatly on the snow covered ground, just between the two the two unmarked, unnamed wooden crosses.

- Only bit of happiness they’ll ever see now.

Inside the hearse it seemed colder than it was outside, and felt all the emptier now the two boys were gone, the sound of the engine echoed around the rib cage of the car, it took a while before the car could take off, the two men sat in silence. Their deed was done now, there was nothing to else say, at least nothing that could be said out loud. Two prodigal sons united with the soil that bore their birth. Two muddy shovels propped against two aching heavy hearts. They drove out of the car-park and made their way across back the country. Just in time to see the early morning sun, burn herself across the December sky.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Complexity Within Equivalence

The Complexity Within Equivalence 

Homosexual people hold the unique position within society of being the only minority group to be born into communities who do not share that minority status. In an ideal world we, the gay community would follow the trajectory of all civil rights movements, and seek total equal status within society, but how realistic of a goal is this? And is equivalence to an apparently resistant force really what we want? After all equality is an extremely conservative aim.

If Ireland passes the proposed same-sex legislation and allows homosexual couples to marry, will this change the situation for gay people at all? A shift in political antipathy does not necessarily mean that societal change will follow.

The complexity contained within passing a same-sex marriage bill and yet maintaining an undercurrent of homophobic discriminatory rhetoric to go unchecked within society, especially in terms of political debate, is that it trickles down through societal structures and begins to, as with all such rhetoric, change the way the wider community view gay people. The fact remains that our ‘fight’ for same sex marriage is a fallacy, a smoke-screen for the fact that on a fundamental level gay people will may never be equal. Until there is a societal, political and representational shift in the way we are presented and the way we are allowed to view ourselves.

This void between who we are and how we are allowed to be viewed creates a space in which the homosexual individual becomes completely separate from the society in which they exist. Despite being expected to contribute to that society in every other way, financially socially and politically.
Whosoever defines it homophobia does exist and takes many different forms. From the increase of homosexual assaults in urban areas to the casual homophobia within the media and the negative cultural semantics in the language used to describe gay people, this consistent negativity changes the way gay people are viewed and how they view themselves within society. It would be nascent for any minority group to allow themselves to be defined through the eyes who have not experienced a life within that group. Yet we have allowed ourselves to be superficially represented through the media as promiscuous, vacuous and in many cases simply two dimensional. There is a lack of any real representation and when gay people are represented on television or in other media they are somehow expected to speak for every one of us.

In Ireland in 2014 we have collectively made the assumption that because the gay community have certain rights and are tolerated that we are in some way exempt from the backlash rising against us in other countries. What except for potential EU sanctions and the permissive nature of certain aspects of our society would stop Ireland in following the legislative trajectory of countries such as Russia or Uganda in the re-criminalisation of homosexual people? Taking note of the fact that Russia decriminalised homosexuality in the same year as Ireland. The truth is our elected freedoms hang on a precarious thread, one which will not necessarily be strengthened by marriage.

The very fact that organisations and individuals are openly allowed (I restrain from typing encouraged) to speak publically on a meritocratic forum, in a manner which actively seeks to discriminate or treat gay people differently from their straight counterparts shows just how ingrained this level of homophobia has become within our society. There seems to be a willingness on the part of our media to provide an open platform for those who seek to treat us differently from everyone else. When we try to do the same we are hit with regulations and a physical ‘glass-ceiling’ that clearly does not apply to our heterosexual counterparts. Allowing for religious or faux political ideology to influence national debate, generates enormous confusion about the issue being debated.
In order to overcome this confusion we have to be able to separate the idea that differences between hetero and homosexual individuals being the only way to relate to one another. The differences between two heterosexual individuals or two homosexual individuals are far greater than the differences between the two groups as a whole.

Yet we as a community are, after all this time, still negotiating from a place of weakness, gay people are still committing suicide, institutional homophobia is ever present, physical attacks and assaults on gay people are consistently rising and despite the huge strides in our liberation as Irish gay people, there are still people who will never be able to come out and disclose their sexuality to anyone.  At what point will the same sex marriage debate that will pervade over our consciousness in the coming months, deal with these issues? And more importantly, when will we be equal?


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Conversations with Conversations

Conversations with Conversations 2012 

We are all cognisant to the experience of entering a gallery or museum; that sense of reverence that resonates the moment you walk through the door. Consciously or not we are aware of the hegemonic status the gallery has over a given audience, especially when representing contemporary art culture.  The way in which a work of art is viewed in a gallery is quite different to the way art is viewed outside of that context, the way art work is placed in a gallery is usually quite specific and different aesthetic elements can be seen as signifiers of the sophistication or cultural value of the work displayed. There is an imbalance between the new modernity in which contemporary art is practiced and the type of spaces in which that work is displayed. Of course this does not mean that efforts are not being made by the curatorial hierarchy, to change and adapt the way contemporary art relates to the spaces within which it is exhibited. But as technology advances it seems that the white cubed walls of the gallery have become a constraint rather than an access point for artists to exhibit their work.
Technology and its increasing advancement had a profound effect on the way we consume contemporary art on a daily basis. We as a contemporary art audience are faced with difficult questions on the use and validity of technology as a device for consuming this culture. Today we are in a constant state of turned on-ness with smart phone technology and social media, we are constantly available and information is accessible to us twenty four hours a day, out of this turned on state grows communities of people seeking similar information. This sense of community the internet provides ensures that private property and privacy law cannot keep up with the technologies which seek to undermine it. Technologies control the way we understand the world in which we in habit, technology is accumulative in nature and each piece of technology is in a constant state of flux.
Through this exhibition we hope to explore how websites like Flickr or tumblr, create conversations and affirmate already existing ideas or communities. Social networking and file sharing sites like these construct an entirely new world not merely mimic our world or make it better, we enter a space rather like that  coined by Michel Foucault in his essay des spaces autres these spaces are heterotopia… where we defer our identities and create new more acceptable ones. There are six main principles of heterotopia:
1. norms of behaviour are suspended (think of avatars and the way some people hide behind them in order to present a certain view of themselves),  2. They have a precise function and comment on the society in which they exist, 3. Juxtapose several real spaces at once, 4. They are linked to splices of time (accumulative and transitory) 5. Have a system of opening and closing, are not freely accessible (passwords, secondary questions in order to sign into account), 6.have a function relation to the rest of space.
So as contemporary art consumers how best do we use such technology. Think of the introduction of the train or the advent of fire and how this changed the world and how we used other technologies to coincide with this new technology.  We use technology as an extension of our own being. Be it a pen or a smart phone, they each have a precise function and we used them primarily for this function. Flickr and tumblr in essence are socially orientated dialogical forms of communication, through the collation of communities based around the collection and sharing of photography they create a new format in which we can view, assess, comment and follow an artist’s work. This in many ways, to a certain type of audience (perhaps the lion’s share of the wider audience) allows them to view works of art and explore art practices without ever entering the gallery space at all. This brings forth the question; in this world of mass media and technology do we need the gallery at all?

It is our intention to bring the two worlds together, to comment on the collision of these two forms of exhibiting. Bringing the formal elements of a gallery show, to works of art that have not been created to be displayed in that format. Using and abusing the limits of community based technologies, in order to portray the types of communities which form around a particular artist or methodology… 

Digital Modernity

Digital Modernity

(Critical Analysis) 2014

“There is nothing more mysterious than a TV set left on in an empty room. It is even stranger than a man talking to himself or a woman standing dreaming at her stove. It is as if another planet is communicating with you.” ― Jean Baudrillard, America.

“We live in a world where there is more and more information, and less and less meaning.” ― Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation.

Our digital reality is documented through a series of images and presented on a series of screens, all of our visual information has been simplified, broken into pixels and cropped into a rectangular format. We ourselves are transformed into data and information and placed within digital groups and sub groups, our digital identity can be accessed by governments or individuals with increasing ease and without apparent cause.

The infinite possibilities entailed within computer science and indeed the internet, have been confined to the limitations of a finite screen. Visual data and information are further condensed into a series of files or thumbnails. Computer, mobile phone, camera lens and windscreen, in this modernity there is no distinction between screens and actuality and little distinction between the information being displayed. Delays in uploading and downloading content (no matter how small) highlight an intrinsic, technological flaw - we cannot visually represent changes in technology in the same instant with which they occur. And it is this lack of real-time representation, where contemporaneous art practices must focus.

Think of the advent of photography or the shift from silent film to sound assisted cinema, how this altered the way art practices were displayed to an audience and the drastic influence they have had on the representation of cultural changes. Today the integration of photography as an auxiliary component in almost all technological devices shows just how reliant we have become on these types of technologies, but this reliance on technologic systems is not yet being presented adequately by contemporary artists.

Our experiences of modern life no matter how subjectively trivial have to be documented visually and incessantly without censorship. Cultural phenomenon such as the Selfie, Trolling and the worrying over-dependence upon social media outlets reveal a narcissistic danger that is inherent within such technologies. The nature of our connectivity has changed enormously over the past two decades, so much so that the digital self (the best possible presentation of oneself, edited and altered) and our actual existence have no correlation, allowing us to completely suspend negative aspects of ourselves for indeterminate lengths of time. We are turned-on and tuned in to digital and technological devices twenty four hours a day, constantly consuming and producing data and information, but how has this changed the nature of society?

YouTube and other file sharing websites are the closest possible representation of change within the digital and actual realities, allowing information to be imparted almost instantaneously, in a way which traditional media simply cannot do; there is a disparity however, between the types of work being created by visual artists to represent contemporary, digital existence and the actual level of that digital engagement. 

The moving image works created by contemporaneous artists should be a deliberate attempt to re-present this dependence on technology and to accurately portray changes in society which have been directly influenced by the level of that engagement.

Violent, anti-social and homophobic imagery which are an ever present aspect of modern visual inter-connectivity, are not something which has emerged as a result of the internet. However the internet has compounded these ideas and provided a platform for people with polarising views to communicate, organise and inflict serious physical and emotional damage upon fragile communities. The increase in this type of content should be viewed as an indicator or precursor of wider societal problems.