Monday, 10 December 2012


Land is ancient, epic, sublime. What happens when it meets the ever changing, quickly obsolete and at once cutting edge again world of the digital?

found image

How we perceive and interact with landscape through new digital means in an important facet of my work.
I make .gif imagery - one of the first truly digital aesthetic products of the internet; a technology that seems to be having a resurgence as an art object.

The revival of the animated GIF marks a point in the history of the web when it finally became sufficiently advanced to take pleasure in its own obsolescence. Like the rusty engines and the leaking pipes of the derelict spaceship in Alien, the lo-fi jitter of the GIF signals a moment when the novelty of technology fades off and becomes the backdrop rather then substance. Technology, it seems, repeats itself twice, first as a breakthrough, second time as nostalgia.
- Gif Today by Daniel Rubenstein
 It seems to be a good medium to investigate how we interact with the world around us now. We live in an age where trees can have twitter accounts, where we are even more connected to updates about soil temperature, weather reports and land anywhere at any time but are all at once even more disconnected from it. Landscape becomes the background of our phones, a quick snapshot uploaded to instagram, and a certain select few get to represent the genre on macintosh's photobooth.

A tree that's really socially engaged for something lacking a conscious mind

found image

When we live in a world where we can beam ourselves into a tropical destination at a moments notice, or a budgie can ride a virtual rollercoaster (see end), what happens to landscape imagery? Does it carry the weight that it used to? Or is it reserved to novelty, to travel blog posts and iphone covers.

Jennifer Abessira

At a recent exhibition at Inspace I saw an interesting piece of work that was concerned with the old meeting the new. Vintage, specifically Scottish landscape illustrations were available to mix up in layers which once complete, formed a composite and accompanying poem which was then beamed across the town to a viewfinder.

This mixing of genres, of displacement and of a specific type of cultural identity resonates with my own work.

We experience more and more online these days - during the recent "frankenstorm" aka hurricane Sandy in New York people were finding more and more comfort/information, not through news websites but social media like twitter and instagram.

 In the days since, the #Frankenstorm went from trending topic to terrible reality, killing more than a dozen people, flooding much of New York City, and leaving hundreds of thousands without power or transportation. -- As it unfolded, a different confluence of factors — namely the simultaneous rise and ubiquity of Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, along with the endless churn of the 24-hour news cycle — combined to create another hybrid vortex in which the virtual community experienced the storm both in seclusion and all together. We all watched through our screens first, interacting all the while, and out the window second.
- Extract from an article in New York Magazine by Joe Coscarelli

 I work more and more on my tumblr blog, tailoring my work to the page size limits, saving my ideas in the drafts folder, and storing images and artworks in my 'liked' section. The .gif can only truly be shown online, having to be re-calibrated as a video in order to move onto an unconnected screen.

I refer to my .gifs as digital folklore because I see them as some kind of ancestral myth, some ancient ghost of the landscape; a story being told existing only in pixels, not truly real but as a kind of endlessly recurring glitch of our memory.


I'm interested in landscape; in the representation of landscape and our relationships with these representations.
I'm also concerned with the idea/myth of 'home' - of its importance to society, to a person - if the land and some scale really forms a part of our identities.

"Until recently there persisted among Europeans the obscure awareness of a mystic solidarity with the land of ones birth. It was not a commonplace love of country or province; it was not admiration of ancestors buried, generation after generation, around the village church. It was something entirely different: the mystic experience of autochthony, of being indigenous, the profound sense of having emerged from the local ground, the sense that the earth had given birth to us, much as it had given birth, in it’s inexhaustible fertility, to rocks and stream and flowers…"
- Mircea Eliade - cited in Discovering the Vernacular Landscape by John Brinkerhoff Jackson

  This is something I am considering in my work, and experimenting with in making some self-portrait works, using landscape imagery or a piece of land itself.

I spent some time projecting landscape imagery - specifically old postcards of Ireland and animations I had made using the postcards onto my hair. I've grown it long recently, and it seems a complete novelty. Hair, being of the same substance of nails, and bone, and often a marker of cultural identity, seemed like a natural screen - just one way to try and represent the land being a part of yourself.

How do we see landscape? In my animations I choose primarily to use old postcards which have mostly been hand coloured; so a representation of a place, which probably no longer exists, at least not in that form with another layer of nostalgia in the form of the unreal colouring. These are the images that stay with us, the idealised image not just of landscape, but of place. It becomes nostalgised and exists solely in our minds, in a way that can never truly be represented.

reality vs. representation

There is a funny dichotomy to the idea of landscape, of home in that in the great ideologies of home, people want to find a home but people also want to leave home.
Even Ulysses, returning from his great journey to the shores of his birth, finds that he no longer recognises the place. It becomes a myth, a construction of the mind.


I'm coming home // I never want to leave  2012

Marina Camargo plays with similar ideas in some of her work, in the representation of landscapes and the inability to correctly represent them. Her Alps Project work uses old postcards of the Alps, found in vintage shops - ones that have been used and written on, and travelled on a journey of their own. She blacks out the landscape imagery and returns them to the place of the images origin, making new landscapes and finding a way to repurpose old ones.

"The configuration of these thoughts and gestures is assembled as a constellation in its own right; forming another imaginary landscape out of the fragmentation and incompleteness that defines our abilities to represent the world we inhabit."
- quote from her website
 It is this idea of the land represented in a different way, repurposed, as nostalgia, as reality, as unattainable but also beautiful that interests me.

The way we interact with landscape in our everyday lives is also a concern in my work. Landscape imagery is the most popular sort of photography for dentists waiting rooms, hospitals, hotels, and even the background to our laptops. It is a stable, a default image of sorts - one of serenity? something ancient? something that ties us to our ancestors or to a place? or simply just a nice picture? It is not just co-incidence. Perhaps it is something conditioned from birth that we look at landscape and understand we are supposed to be taken in by it's beauty, or that it represents something we know we should like or want. But perhaps there is something bigger, in landscape, something that a part of us recognises as "a mystic solidarity with the land of one's birth".

Yi-Fu Tuan - Thought and Landscape; The Eye and the Mind's Eye

Pedro Brito - Planterium (seen at Embassy gallery)

In our homes, we bring in plants. A tiny piece of earth we nurture and enjoy. The houseplant is supposedly good for concentration, for the air quality, for our piece of mind. I have certainly noticed an uptick in plants in the studios at college, they seem to be having a bit of a moment. Can they come to stand part of the whole  - a bit of houseplant synecdoche. It's something I think about when I see a piece of work by Oscar Tuazon called Niki Quester, not just because of the work, where he has left a slab of marble in a tree- turning it into a strange kind of statue and monument, but also because he talks about it in those terms in an interview:
(translated from French fairly badly, so this may not be 100% correct but was the gist of the conversation)

When I was little, I was raised Quaker. We lived in a Quaker community in the states near Seattle. Each Sunday we would do something a little different, work a little on some ideas, or have a discussion, that sort of thing but one particular Sunday Niki said we were going to look at a sculpture [monument] in the forest. I was about 8 years old I think, and pretty excited.
We walked in the forest without paths, just completely in the forest. It was pretty difficult going, and we walked for an hour. We arrived and Niki said “There you go, there’s the monument.”
But…it’s just a tree! It’s just a tree like all the others!
I was really annoyed, because I’m eight, I don’t understand why we’ve walked for an hour just to see a tree. But after, now, I understand that idea. A monument is simply something that you can choose, you make it that, and it is also something secret, perhaps. It’s an invisible monument.
Oscar Tuazon - Niki Quester

The idea that the tree was it, that you would go to all that effort to visit a tree that seemingly seemed the same as any other goes again to that idea of landscape as important, as worth looking at. And reminds me of Joseph Beuys 7000 Oaks series, where for him the use of nature, of the tree was like a kind of 'therapy for all the problems we are standing before' and a symbolic gesture of regeneration. The tree, he says, 'has always been a form of sculpture, a symbol for this planet'.

The work I make is less grand, and comes from more of a slightly comedic take on these ideas, but they all feed into my process and the kind of work that I enjoy making and want to make.

(snippet of a video I am working on)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Monday, 21 March 2011


Tusalava - Len Lye 1929 (hand drawn and animated)

Sea Urchins - Dr Jean Painlevé 1929

Monday, 14 March 2011


A History of Accidents, an exhibition by third year Intermedia. 2011.