Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My Long-Awaited Dolly Suite

Finally, what we've all been waiting for: A suite of images of, about, and for the queen of queens, Dolly Parton

Forget everything else– Dolly is all that matters, Dolly is everything

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Girl Code: Constructions of Femininity and Fame

Let me just disclose, first off, that I wanted to do a lot more with this project than I was able to. I made all of my final projects this term way too ambitious, and they all suffered for it. That said, this is a topic that I think about a lot, and hope to continue making art about it in the future.

The goal of this project was to focus on the effects of fame from a New Media point of view, exploring ideas of simulation, falseness, and exaggeration. I wanted to focus on women in the public eye because for many famous women, public attention is pushed away from their work itself and focused on their personal lives and appearances, so they are forced to spend much of their time cultivating their public image.

Many artists and performers have used this phenomenon to enhance their art by making their celebrity a work of art in itself. This is what I chose to focus on for the last suite of images I edited for this project. I took snapshots from music videos in which the artists gaze at the audience with a confrontational, knowing, vulnerable, or otherwise unexpected expression. These are all shots that I felt showed the self-awareness of these artists and the implicit challenge in that self-awareness. I wanted to enhance the sense of artificiality and construction by making the viewer reflect on all the layers of digital media, publicity work, and artistic intent that exist between the viewer and the subject of the image, and making these penetrating gazes that much more impressive.

Janelle Monáe, "Q.U.E.E.N."

Joanna Newsom, "Divers"

Bjork, "Hunter"

Lady Gaga, "Bad Romance"

Beyonce, "Pretty Hurts"
I also made a music video, partially out of a long-standing desire to start an all-female band on campus and partially to feel like I was actually creating something substantial rather than just editing photos. Here is my attempt at an artist's statement for the video, followed by the video itself:

"What is this video supposed to be? Is it simply a sloppy attempt to assemble a girl band? Is it a statement about the infantilizing, patronizing, and minimizing of the work of female artists and performers? Are their heads out of frame to create some semblance of anonymity and universality? Or to remove the focus on the performers' physical appearances? Or to distance them from the audience? Are the performers haughty? Are they naïve? Are they talentless? Are they bored? Why are they using toy instruments? I couldn't say– the final judgement, as always, lies with the audience."


Thanks for a great term, and in the words of Jean Baudrillard, 

"You no longer watch TV, TV watches you"

Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday, February 22, 2016

Asian Art History Job talk Reflection

Let me just say, first off, that Lawrence should’ve had an Asian Art History professor years ago, but I’m thrilled that we’re getting one now! Curse these small department budgets and western priorities!!

Anyway, since I wasn’t able to attend Jennifer Angus’ talk last Friday, I’m writing about the Asian Art History professor job talk given by Christina Spiker on Thursday. I went to this because I love Asian art and I want to be In The Know with this selection process, because it’s such a big step for Lawrence. You should all come to the next candidate’s talk today at 4:30!

The title of Christina Spiker's talk was “Bumbling Tourists in the Indigenous Village: Kondō Kōichiro’s Ainu Illustrations, 1917” and I think she tackled this topic with a lot of enthusiasm and expertise . She clearly knows a lot about the early 20th century Japanese tourism illustrations she’s discussing (which makes sense if she’s writing a dissertation about it) and she also was very aware of how these very specific prints depicting the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan, fit into a global history of imperialism and ethnic tourism implemented not only by Westerners, as people often think. I learned a lot from her talks about the Ainu people and how they are represented– and misrepresented– by these strange tourists. In addition, it was interesting to learn about early japanese newspaper printing and illustration, and this artist who both wrote and illustrated his adventures– a bit of a push and he could’ve become an early comics artist!

All in all, I think Spiker came at this subject with a lot of perspective and subtlety, and I was very impressed with her talk. It’s clear that she knows and cares a great deal about Asian art, and is equally concerned with it’s global context and relevance to today’s world, which is exactly what I, at least, want for this position. If I have time next year, I would love to take classes from her.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Final Project Action Plan

I don't actually have anything as decisive as that title yet for my project. I want the process of this to be almost stream of consciousness as I reflect on topics of celebrity, femininity, limitation, and control. I am going to create digital images– still images, animated gifs, and perhaps video as well– about celebrities and public perception of famous women. This is something I think about a lot (I even wrote a paper last term about how Marie Antoinette never existed as a real person because we know nothing of her real life or personality based on her public personas!).

I want to bring the women I study into the lens of metacognition and get people to think about how all we know about these people's lives is a media construction. Having a well-groomed public image is an essential part of commercial success for female celebrities. They must be collaborative multimedia artists. I want to bring their art out of the woodwork and make them look as flattened and constructed as they must be for a public that still can't comprehend women as complex beings.

Here is the series of mononym "icons" I showed today in class, taken from 128x128 pixel icons. They would probably look best Really Big:







Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dolly Parton: Master Simulator

I chose to research Dolly Parton because she is often misunderstood by people unfamiliar with more than her appearance. I, too, did not know a ton about her life or work before this project, outside of a few songs and her appearances as "Aunt Dolly" on Hannah Montana. I have come to the conclusion that because of, and in spite of, her public image and physical appearance, she is one of the most unique figures in our culture, and is able to perform her public identity as extravagantly as one of her musical performances.

In my last new media class a year ago I researched Bob Dylan, and came to some interesting but disappointing conclusions about his character. In researching Dolly, I've had exactly the opposite experience. Judging solely from her meticulously curated public image, I think Dolly is an undeniable force for good in the world. She lives and embodies an attitude of humor, compassion, acceptance of difference, sex-positivity, and self-awareness that I think will be her greatest contribution to our culture, even more than her music, film, or amusement park.

Dolly with a kitten- a foolproof publicity move since forever

I think celebrities are really fascinating because of how public opinion factors into their lives and how they handle it– especially female celebrities, for whom the attention is always focused on their bodies and physical selves. Dolly Parton seems to handle it in the best way possible: She gives the public what they want until she becomes a parody of those very desires, and then continues to be just as confident and lighthearted as ever because none of it is real. She inspired me to explore how different famous women deal with their public images: How they take control over that part of their lives, how much power they have over their image and what they do with it. This will be the focus of my final project, and I thank Dolly for inspiring it. 

"Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum" 

"Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation." ... And Dolly Parton is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when she is simply a continuation of the widespread reality of constructed, plastified femininity. No other celebrities are real either, they're just pretending.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Distortion gifs

Since I clearly had not put much thought into directly connecting this project to Simulations when I presented it, I don't feel too bad about choosing a part of the text that I read after I made these images. I'd like to think I predicted the text, rather than applying it retroactively, but I'll leave the moral judgements to you. 

I think this work addresses ideas of the panopticon, feedback loops, turning the camera back on itself, and all other ideas relating to meta-cognition which is, after all, what makes us human. This self-reflection and self-analysis is I think the ideological subject of my work, while the digital realm is the setting and the medium.

"The whole traditional mode of causality is brought into question: the perspective, deterministic mode, the "active," critical mode, the analytical mode - the distinction between cause and effect, between active and passive, between subject and object, between ends and means. It is in this mode that it can be said: TV watches us, TV alienates us, TV manipulates us, TV informs us . . ."

When viewers see these images, they may feel like they are watching television, or an amateur vlogger, or traces of someone left on a computer in the Apple store, or a mirror, or any number of other associations. What it is to me is me watching myself, exploring both my physical and personal identity by distorting it, making it flase, flat, truncated or grotesque. I think Baudrillard's ideas of the TV watching the subject are interesting, and I want to take it further and create a private conversation between the TV and the subject, in which each can see and affect the other, and both are changed because of it, upon which the audience are merely intruding. The audience should feel like they are me, but also like they've been mistaken for me, and they should feel vaguely guilty about it. They are not a part of this interaction, but they're watching it anyway.

"In this "truth" experiment, it is neither a question of secrecy nor of perversion, but of a kind of thrill of the real, or of an aesthetics of the hyperreal, a thrill of vertiginous and phony exactitude, a thrill of alienation and of magnification, of distortion in scale, of excessive transparency all at the same time."

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

H. Schenck Response

While H. Schenck was here, he spent quite a bit of time with my printmaking class as we helped him complete a print he was working on. So I had a chance to spend a fair amount of time working and talking with him about our art, and I saw a lot of similarities between his interests, my interests, and Baudrillard's. His digital prints of artifacts and drawings are forms of simulation that are just a little too self-aware to really be simulations in the true, exact sense that Baudrillard is talking about, but they definitely evoke ideas of realness, reproduction and simulation. H. makes an artistic statement about these ideas without trying to actually replace or represent every aspect of the objects he depicts.

"It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it."

Clearly these ideas, even some of the visual techniques H. uses in his work (see above), are closely related to what I want to pursue in my work for this class. These layers of representation, transitioning from 3 dimensions to 2 and back, visible deterioration and emphasis on the physical quality of the subject and the process– these are the ideas that I want to lose myself in this term.

H.'s work squishes 3-dimensional objects that were once seen as 2-dimensional but, in capturing and their physical forms and suspending them arbitrarily in white space, wrinkles and all, H. both flattens them and reinforces their former 3-dimensionality. Then, in posting images of these works on his website, he takes another digital image of a paper print of a digital image of a physical object. These layers of simulation are everywhere, they are endless, and they are self-perpetuating. H. and I are explorers who like to plunge into the mundane pools and puddles that may be meaningless in themselves, but may lead to something worthwhile.

"It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself, that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes."

It'll be hard for me to move past my infatuation with simply the idea of simulation in all its complexity, but I'll try to do more with my work this term!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


For this project, I pretty much continued the work I have been doing on instagram surrounding texture and virtual dimensions. This is currently my primary interest in my digital art, and it related so well to Baudrillard's ideas that it felt almost too serendipitous. I wanted to ramp up the small texture studies I've been doing through editing and do more complex, multilayered images. In these images, I've tried to create pathways for the viewer to follow that make them think about all the different layers of removal between them and the subject matter. Screenshots of selfies of photobooth pictures, zooming in and out and constantly finding new focal points- I want the viewer's eyes to have a lot to do, and I know my audience is trained at darting around a screen to absorb all the information it offers.

"It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Henceforth, it is the map that precedes the territory - PRECESSION OF SIMULACRA"

The process of image compression, reposting, screenshotting, etc. deteriorated and decays images in exactly the same was that Baudrillard is talking about. This decay makes things undesirable in our eyes, if we notice it at all. I think it's beautiful and I want to make stories with it. The plotlines will go like this:

"This would be the successive phases of the image:
 - it is the reflection of a basic reality
 - it masks and perverts a basic reality
 - it masks the absence of a basic reality
 - it bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum."

You can view these images in their original location at my newhive page, along with the last project I did because it doesn't want to let me collect my pages in the same place...