Luke Smith & KoProjects
"As this conversation will exhibit the movement of information, I propose we record its evolution by colloborating on a digital collage. I will attach an image and with each response we can add, remove or simply leave it as it is. Hopefully we will conclude with a cybernetic kebab of our own which encapsulates this coversation. (I will we transfer the first image)". - Luke Smith
DIGITAL CARNIVAL NETWORK
Evolutionary Potentials (2017)
I think as humans we have a limited receptiveness to the plethora of information that we are persistently inundated with, and this experience is only heightened online. Attention has become a scarce resource which information, whichever form it may take, fiercely competes for. When children look through a book, they are eager to get to the illustrations, and this appetite for visual stimulation follows us into adulthood. Digital images can be recognised as energy consuming entities, thriving from their interactions with human users. In many ways a vastly circulated image has a measure of agency that it could arguably categorise itself as a primitive form of artificial intelligence or developing species, because of the signs of autonomy and movement that it shows.
DAR (Digital Artists Residency) (2017)
I am increasingly using images and other digital content as organisms, utilised as experimental components to help approximate future technologies. For instance, how can the emotional responsiveness we have to a Karaoke version of Robbie Williams – Angels, inform us on the potentially damaging impact of sophisticated AI relational artifacts. It begins to expose our emotional vulnerabilities when interacting with machines and the song itself acts as a justification to technological presence being privileged over genuine human interaction.
I am interested in the movement and embodiment of information, particularly it's oscillation, back and forth between virtual and real spaces, that's why I am drawn to digital residencies, as they offer a unique opportunity to work in an environment where materiality is secondary to informational pattern. Im currently collaborating with DAR (www.digitalartistresidency.org) on a project entitled Kebab Rotations (Evolutionary Patterns). I set out to analogise the circulation of digital information and precedented evolutionary patterns of survival, adaption and extinction.
Kebab houses which prepare many layers of greasy flesh onto a large rotating rotisseries, mimmic this process in their advertising, through recycled, pixilated stock images, placed on top of one another only defined by a thick white borderline. Both have a flesh like quality, a thin shaving in which they are consumed but the digital image stems from vast informational networks, free from the material constraints that govern the mortal world. Through this residency I want to fabricate somewhat of a cybernetic kebab, placing information and images together to collide with one another and compete in a Darwinian struggle for survival, with human attention acting as the scarce resource required to sustain their evolution.
isthisit? digital residency (2017)
I began using the transient existence of the fairground (and later added the carnival) as a space, which parallels the reckless overload of information and euphoric allures readily available online but also as a system which maps out the virtual geography of digital networks. In this abstract structure, web domains act as attractions or rather attention pods, part of a broader network of attractions, all seducing our suppressed desires and aspirations. This arrangement allowed me to start an archive of digital media and physical objects accumulated based on their evolutionary potential and evidence of attention attainment as mutant organisms. Inevitably, this leads to information and materiality being separated as distinct entities as opposed to my looked-for fulfilment of a flattened ontology, irrespective of embodiment. Nevertheless, I started to recognise evolutionary patterns in my daily studio practice and through the activity of working with this built archive of selected content.
I have started to acknowledge my practice as an ecosystem of different species or informational patterns that are continually evolving and embodying different material substrates and within different environments. The movement and evolution of these species are continuous, both through my interaction with them as well as their own semi-autonomous developments. I think that it is my position now to curate spectacles that showcase the latest evolutionary progressions of these informational species, whether that comes in the ritual of an exhibition, digital residency or even this conversation.
AND THROUGH IT ALL
SHE OFFERS ME PROTECTION
A LOT OF LOVE AND AFFECTION
WHETHER IM RIGHT OR WRONG
Whilst this seems like a trivial experiment if the simple interface of a karaoke system can elicit an emotional response then what are the societal implications when computational objects develop the algorithmic aptitude to present themselves as having a mind of their own and rousing emotional and nurturing responses in human users, who is dependent then. I think both art and humour can act as entry points for discussions about these ideas. Our relationship with super-intelligent machines remains hypothetical, but our interaction with images is as substantial as our interaction with one other. For this reason, I think digital information should be employed as a valuable resource to start preparing for pending fundamental shifts in our affiliation with technology.
Delicious Alternative (2016)
To curate is to take care of, and I think I have a responsibility as an artist to maintain the progression of the digital information I select, by temporarily heightening the consumption of this material. Obviously, it is much easier to accomplish this through digital platforms, however, I try not to deviate from my approach too much when working in IRL environments. I endeavour to create physical works, which simulates the non-hierarchal flatness of a screen, this way the disparity between my virtual and real practice will hopefully lessen.
isthisit? digital residency (2017)
Aloe Vera with Creamy Facial: Postman Spa Day (2017)
In terms of the sexual imagery in my work, I think there is something really complex in their movement as images and the agency they derive from the sticky discharge of carnival cravings. By this I mean, if images are understood as evolving species and their movements and agency catalysed by human interaction, then pornographic content is at the top of the digital hierarchy, at least in the realms of the Internet. I want the viewer to encounter a sense of discomfort, pleasure and disgust simultaneously to marginally simulate the spectacles we face on the Internet. Whilst I am accountable for my selections, I identify my position as more of a tour guide and I have a responsibility to display all the attractions of the fairground or in other words all the territories of the Internet.
Patterns of Growth (2016)
'Patterns of Growth’ originated as a pin up board in my studio. It was changing daily as I would introduce new information and take away rejected ideas, but ultimately I used it for months as nothing more than a space to gather research. However, whilst peeling off an image of two mermaids one day, I noticed the ink had bled and it had left a photo transfer. I began to think about whether instead of totally removing content I could leave traces of information, in a similar way to how digital content is seldom wholly eradicated once uploaded. Consequently, this produced a display of unemployed content, which I thought could potentially be seen as a painting. I wouldn’t identify as a painter, but I do enjoy working on a flat, screen like surface and the immediacy of a drag drop process. Ultimately, I think this was an interesting process to consider the neglected constellations of research that make up a studio and what relevance they had to my practice as a whole.
Carnival Network Mapping (2017)
I started researching the traditions of the carnival as a by-product of a separate enquiry into the parallels between fetishism and online activity. The Internet’s production of informational space is widely considered to be disturbingly distanced from our physical reality, however the relationship between reality and virtual environments have many similarities between the design of Greek city-states and the carnival. I started to draw out abstract diagrams, which were informed by Greek acropolis cartography, mainly as a tool for understanding informational networks. However, I also wanted to go through this process so that I could locate myself as an artist within this cybernetic system and so that I could follow the movement of images and information delving between these environment’s and their shifting embodiments.
Aloe Vera with Creamy Facial: Postman Spa Day (2017)
In this system the acropolis acts as a model for reality, bordered and regulated. The further a citizen would travel away from the set out precincts, the less governed they were by the rules and systems stipulated by the government, however, it was common to leave temporarily to attend the carnival. Traditionally, the carnival was a transient festivity that occurred outside the polis walls before the period of lent. Masks were worn for anonymity and excessive indulgences of alcohol, meat and sex would ensue. In many ways, the Internet has adopted this hideaway haven position; an anonymous space separate from reality, which offers a temporary, release for impulses and suppressed desires which would otherwise threaten social order. Unfortunately, as humans, our biological constraints prevent us from fully entering this digital realm, although as we already know this hasn’t stop technological innovation in AI and VR pursuing precisely this. I still can’t make up my mind if this desperate pursuit of authenticity within virtual relations is exciting or fucking mental. Nevertheless, the word carnival (carne-val) literally means ‘farewell to the flesh’, and I think as a species we are craving that carnival fix more often than ever before. Online communities such as 4chan and Second life display established groups that already spend most of their existence online. Although I think I am more interested in the idea of flesh, both in terms of the future of our corporeal body as humans but also the embodiment of digital information as matter.
The mapping of virtual geography is an on-going investigation for me. At the moment, I use it to inform other works, but I hope eventually it will emerge as a thing in itself. For now, I am content locating myself as a Ferris wheel operator, guiding the audience on rotations around the routine of reality and the spectacle of the carnival.
Sexy Ham (2017)
N. Katherine Hailes’, How We Became Posthuman and her analysis of the disembodiment of information is a constant influence to my practice. In terms of artists, I really appreciate the work of Richard Sides, Katja Novitskova and Jon Rafman.
I have a few upcoming projects; firstly, I will be exhibiting in an experimental video evening curated by Stu Burke on the 10/11/17 at Bloc Projects, Sheffield. Also, I am pleased to be collaborating with RUNG magazine and FLESH magazine on their upcoming issues, more information on this can be found on my website in the coming weeks.