Four Selves

These are all creations inspired by the hectic digital life doing my masters Cultural and Creative Industries in London. The name of each painting says it all. Every time I was doing an activity/ attending an event, if I have a strong image in my head, I feel that I have to bring it to life on canvas. So these four were inspired when I was feeling that the digital had constructed me in such a subtly important way. When I was DJing alone, posting online, studying alone, I felt too that I was somehow connected but also disconnected. I was so intrigued to search and explore for the inner self.

Lonely self
lonely self
social media self
social media self
searching self (DJ alone)
dj self
free soul self
free soul self

Tianmei Chen is an explorer, constantly looking for the passion of her life. She was born in a small village in Hubei, Central China. She has worked in fashion and advertising as a producer and blogger in Shanghai since 2008. She also co-founded a flower brand named Flowerbox and created Queen’s Art spot, a painting studio for beginners in 2013 because her self-taught experience of oil painting inspired many more Chinese young women who wanted to join her. She believes that art is for everyone and everyone can paint. Her experience encouraging young Chinese women’s development made her stand out in the Chevening Scholarship selection among over 36000 applicants in over 170 countries funded by FCO, UK, which sponsored her to study Cultural and Creative Industries at KCL. Now, she is in love with this amazing city, London.

Instagram @maychenyolo  //  Chinese Blog on Wechat: MAYCHENYOLO

 

Stranger is Typing (the Search for Nenny)

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If I was to try to unravel the journey of this work or rather the journey of thought around this work, I suppose it begins with a rash of scam emails I received, professing love in an outpouring of questionable prose. This fed into a series of work questioning our sense of truth and relationship with truth.

The digital world has unlocked the gates to a playground where identity is no longer a fixed entity and each of us can inhabit a persona far beyond the constraints of the world we trudge through, in our familiar, somewhat worn, habit day-by-day. Suddenly our societal structures and frameworks are tossed aside, superfluous in a virtual landscape where the idea that ‘the truth is black and white’ couldn’t, ironically, be further from the truth.

As most of us have come to appreciate, the truth can be fluid, untethered, full of nuanced shades, organic in matter, amorphous, unfixed and changeable. Moulding itself to the hand that holds it. Teething issues arise of course, in this transitional period, when those native to a pre-digital age perhaps carry real life frameworks with them into an online world. This landscape of human communication, so overwhelming facilitated (and seemingly boundless, albeit within it’s own subtle behavioural constraints: from 140 characters to ready-made emojis) by social media, is littered with the casualties of this foray.

I find it fascinating that, at times when men and women have been victims of online romantic scams, and are then presented with the truth about the scammer by the authorities, they have chosen to reject the undeniable evidence offered to them about their fictional lover and instead choose to continue to believe wholeheartedly in this virtual relationship. This opens up an interesting conversation as to how truth of any sort is a decision, invested in and embraced by the believer through subconscious choice or otherwise.

Some time ago an email from a Mrs Nenny William arrived in my inbox . From the far flung shores of the Ivory Coast, she reached out to me in her strangely compiled turn of phrase, the  widow of a former Archdeacon, bullied by her money grabbing relatives, the mother of two soon-to-be orphans, asking me to become the controller of her wealth.

I took a simple experiment. I chose to believe Nenny. I took her offer to ‘become the controller’ but rather than her wealth I claimed control over this truth. I embraced it and I went online to find her. My journey to own this truth brought me in contact with others who, in turn, took on this truth in one form or another for themselves.  And a strange exchange of power took place. Identity and truth, at times, lost their footing. Once or twice I experienced a strange and fragile state which is difficult to convey in words,  a tremulous, fluctuating hold if you like on my surety of what was real or otherwise. Before long, I began to converse, less and less in my own dialect and increasingly so in the alien language of such social encounters.

I learnt much. Our digital selves are new beings, new skins, with possibilities we have never had to grapple with before. Identity and truth are quite loosely tethered in a virtual world, but their multifaceted online form is perhaps merely an outward manifestation of what always has been. In a moment, as I discovered, our selves can be cut free, so effortlessly, from their moorings and allowed to float freely down stream.


Susan Francis is a Belfast born artist now based in the South West of England. Her work moves between object, installation and film, with an increasing focus on film as a means to tease out momentary narratives, uncomfortable histories and fragile exchanges. Past work has included solo shows both within the UK and abroad, residencies in a number of countries, including The Bemis Centre for Contemporary Art in the United States, and work held in public and private collections internationally. http://www.susanfrancis.com

No Jumper in Nowhere

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May I present you a conversation of two women in the Sahara.

K: I really saw that red body in the dark, it just disappeared in front of me! Right here! Then it was pitch dark again! It was so quiet, nothing was here!

J: But who was that? No one dresses in red here. I was here 5 minutes after you came. There was nothing red as you say. How do you know you saw it?

K: I knew because I experienced it, with my eyes! I am telling you that there was a gigantic red body, a female of some sort. How can you not see it, if you were here 5 minutes ago?? Do I seem like I’m not making sense to you?

J: What I am saying is that if I am here, at where you saw it, at almost at the same time, if it is so big, I would have seen it, but I did not. Just logically speaking. I think you have it wrong. It simply doesn’t exist… and you appear exhausted to me. Are you sure you weren’t spacing out this time?

K: You are again just judging me based on your ‘logic’, but this time I truly felt it’s presence. Not because my body is tired. My mind is very clear that the red person was here bouncing in front of me. I can feel my body reacting to it!

J: Well, are you paying attention? I told you the reasons, and I can’t relate to you at all. Now that we don’t get to see it, it doesn’t exist. So instead of insisting, I suggest that you go and rest.

As we have already noticed: to K there was, to J there was not.

K was the sole witness of “the red body” in the desert, when the body of the former athletic high-jumper Giota P was presented digitally in the open field momentarily. Does it matter if the red body only existed in K’s experience? Not until K started to share her memories with others, she realised that the red body is isolated in her subjective territory. Her experience did not extend to J at all. The moment K started sharing, J registered a judgement in her mind to make sense of K’s non-sense. J simply connected the dots that 1) she did not see anything at the same time and place, 2) therefore she rejected the existence of the red body (and K’s experience) as a subjective conclusion, 3) so K is in doubt and messed with her feelings (again). If the red body was ’there’, it might have taken on a life of its own in K’s mind. Now, may I raise a question with curiosity, what if the red body was never witnessed?


Video and text © Yarli Allison L, a Hong Kong-Canadian born, London-based artist whose work explores psychological and emotional conditions with a primary focus on distant states of displacement, disconnection, and detachment. Her multidisciplinary practice traverses sculpture, performance, video, installation, painting, and sound. In the working process, she relies heavily on physical strength and long durations of repetitive manipulation of materials as an attempt to re-live between states of dissociation and reality. These physical and psychological tensions are often represented in Yarli’s performances, where audiences are invited to interact with the artist and object(s). http://yarliallison.com

Destroying Texts: Interview with Emily Lazerwitz

Hi Emily! Here’s the document for the interview. See you on here! I’m just getting a cup of tea, in case you arrive on here and I seem to be gone!

Hello sorry I am late. Internet was down.

No worries!

You have your tea. Should we start?


At art school, Emily Lazerwitz was told that she was “’too smart to be a still-life painter’”. Her cursor flickers for perhaps 30 seconds, and I wait for her to tell me more. I imagine she grins, or perhaps grimaces, at the memory. “So to spite him I first made several oil paintings, but then decided maybe it was time to try something new,” the ‘something new’ being making work with text.

She continues, typing quickly, speedily correcting spelling, apparently preferring to delete a whole word or two using the backspace key than move the cursor to any errors using the mouse. It seemed fitting to carry out our interview via a live Google doc, with the majority of the journal and our collaboration being carried out via Dropbox and Gmail – but I realise that, as with the design process, we will miss each other’s gestures throughout this interview. So, I try to read her cursor, the movement of her words across the page, as you read a face or pointed finger. Continue reading

WANTED: Poet

If you have time for deep scientific knowledge, and want to use your poetic skills to express that knowledge to people – this post is a request for your help. I am working on a short documentary about viruses, and I would like to consult you on the script.

Some documentaries exist for rather impersonal reasons: to make people feel worried about ‘flu, guilty about HIV, or impressed by people in white coats. I don’t want to do those things – I want to give people beautiful and powerful insights into the natural world.

We have images, experiments, histories and visualizations that are going into this documentary. But I am not a poet – I’m not skilled at using diction to send shivers down people’s spines, so I worry that my script will not have the impact I hope for. That’s where you come in.

I’m Hamish Todd, and I made this:

I work on simulations of biological things, and I care about profundity. I like maths a lot, for example, but only when it is profound. Continue reading

Simone

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It began among female student intellectuals

seeking to appropriate the Other.

Only a body can touch another body.

She took great pleasure in urinating in the country.

Becoming prey,

the housewife knows little

of the discovery of treasure.

She locks up the parlour to save the Pope;

does it for a definite reason.

Where are the women?

It is not enough to have a

woman’s body,

exactly symmetrical,

the domains of thought

and art

and the suicide of Lucretia.

But in fact there is no question.

I read between the lines –

you see how it is. Become Kafka,

justify our existence.

The free woman is just being born,

Will be poet!

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Each night I said a little farewell

and put the cap on my fountain pen.

Thus she appeared in her childish distress.

This poem is made up of lines from the writings of Simone de Beauvoir.

Sophie Peacock is a poet and designer living and working in London, she is interested in gender, sexuality and collage. Follow her @saudadesophie

Change and Embodiment

This text was written as part of The Still Point’s ‘Creative Exchange’ which paired artists, from the Slade, with PhD researchers, from UCL and King’s College London, for an exhibition of visual art work and live readings at FAT RELIC. More details can be found on the blog and photographs from the evening are on our Facebook page

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‘Different Kinds of Sameness’, by Dala Nasser

The defiance in Dala’s work, of conventional conceptions of painting, is clear. The inherently altering nature of her work is perhaps not so. Working with liquid latex, resin and pigments, her materials interact both with each other and with the external environment, namely oxygen, to change form and appearance over time. Her work therefore offers the viewer temporally distinct experiences. The experience her work elicits has an added dimension as it is not only the viewer’s subjective temporality that contributes to her aesthetic experience, here the painting itself has a lifespan, a contingent yet fluid development.

My work involves the attempt to add an emotional dimension to theoretical reasoning, a defiance against the false dichotomy between reason and emotion, against most concepts of ‘pure reason’. Science is often thought as a paradigm case of theoretical reasoning. Scientific inquiry is as temporally dependent as Dala’s art works. Changing conceptual paradigms alter how we observe the objects of our inquiry. Time allows the evolution of a completely distinct artwork within the same spatial boundaries. In science, temporal distinction underpins different experiences of the same natural world.

Human sciences, as opposed to experimental sciences, are meant to be characterized by reflexivity, here meaning that the object of study is also the subject conducting the study itself. I am sceptical of how helpful the notion of reflexivity can be in distinguishing human from empirical sciences. Once the nature of our inquiry is accepted as inherently embodied, socially and biologically, room for the powerful role of emotions in abstract thinking, begins to be made.

The products of Dala’s process are pieces that possess intricate physicality. We long to explore her work tactually. This desire is triggered by our emotional responses to the work as emotions are the seat of motivation and preparation for action. The embodied nature of the subject is therefore crucial to the aesthetic experience elicited by the artwork. I take a similar experience to be involved in instances where scientists undergo aesthetic experiences regarding scientific theories or theorems. This experience is inherently emotional, embodied and physical. Detached appreciation is therefore a possibly gendered anachronism or false dogma.

We need to take seriously the question of what role such aesthetic experiences can play in scientific inquiry. This aesthetic, emotional experience motivates the generation of both action and beliefs. Allowing beliefs based on emotions to prove relevant in abstract thinking, as opposed to being vestigial epiphenomena. There is a rationality to emotions that cannot be detached from our nature as embodied, biological beings. Emotions are a way of perceiving, that is crucial to both art and science.

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Photo by Giulia Legora http://giulialegora.com/@Giulyfeels

Laura Silva is in the first year of her PhD at UCL, her research explores the philosophy of emotion. Dala Nasser is currently undergoing her undergraduate studies at UCL’s Slade School of Fine Arts.

The texts from our Creative Exchange will continue to be published on the blog over the coming months.