untitled (the artist looked at a cellphone)

(video projection on translucent mylar), 2015-16:

  1. for the first minute of that day in the studio, the artist looked at a cellphone similar to the one the viewer has now,
  2. and recorded a selfie-video;
  3. they then played it back into their studio again and again upon arrival once each day,
  4. doing so until the algorithms of the devices’ pixel displays and video codecs reinforced themselves and – thus interpolated into the image – destroyed any semblance of their self;
  5. what the viewer will see, then, are the natural processes of the algorithms expressed through a face;
  6. they regard this activity less as a demonstration of a material truth, but more of a way to brighten up any dullness their complexion might have.

– after Alvin Lucier

they were looking at their cellphone

installation image, Loft Art, 2019

(see below for more information and an excerpted version)

My motivation in this piece lies partly in the fascination of self-presentation in social media, epitomized by the selfie. This, for me, elicits the question of where and what the body is in relation to the hyper-digitized world of today, as well as where is and what is the relevance of the artist in relation to a work. Although clearly based on portraiture, and more specifically self-portraiture, I am less interested in those traditions than I am in time and the relation of image to its material production. Between the mechanical production and digital presentation (and re-presentation) of the image, where are we all? I think my answer to this question is that we are somewhere in the middle.

In addition to all of this, I also am interested in the function of the studio as a place of work, the passage of time, and question of what work is in the first place in the age of digital and social media. Moreover, what is the distinction between work/not work and in/out of the studio and how does that affect the status of a piece of art.

Interaction with social media is clearly a cultural activity, but an argument could be made that it is also work (aka labor) in that it is also an economically productive activity (albeit an alienated one that mostly goes unnoticed and is usually unpaid). The studio is not only a place of work, but one of contemplation, of respite, of retreat as well. I not only produce work in my studio, but I also eat and rest, I send emails and texts, I make appointments, play games, chat on the phone and on the computer,  I listen to music, and sometimes I find myself doing absolutely nothing. A close listen to the audio of this video will reveal each of these activities and others.

Although it may seem that many of them are distinct from work, what happens when they become part of ‘a work’? I suggest that they are not only a part of this piece, but that the old distinctions between work/play, work/leisure, work/creativity are largely dissolved (for better or worse) in the globalized digital economy, and that this is primarily in service to a neo-liberal ideology; an economy which presents its creative social media face to us, allowing us to forget the underlying deeply unjust global division of digital labor, user exploitation, surveillance, etc.

This excerpt (below) is composed of 6 clips taken from various moments during the process.