in Reflections, Research, Research

betwixt festival 2016

sarahmamt1 sarahmamt2 sarahmamt4

I was interested to see the Betwixt Festival at the Art Science Museum. I am unable to make it down to see the works (it was a crazy week) but I went online to do more research on the works. I find it encouraging that there is increasing exposure to the public about software and net art. One of the works that I found on the website is #dataselfieme by Sarah Mamat. That was the only work with the most information I can find. The project makes use of the self-tracking app called Moment, which is designed to help you keep track of the amount of time you pick up and use your phone. She combines the information with a GPS app to track her movement around Singapore in a day. Anyway this project makes me think about a couple of things that I personally feel I should look out for in my own work:

1. drawing with data: I find that the use of GPS drawing is quite a cool concept. I just feel that there could be more to these abstract lines than well… just abstract lines. Perhaps it is a matter of presentation, but many times, these minimal lines look good just because. I think that there is more than can be done for these GPS lines to enhance their meaning. If this work was interactive/animated, there will be more potential for such abstract linework to be put in a more meaningful context that is relevant to the theme.

2. being relevant vs context of the work: I struggle with this in my own work and I see this issue existing in this work as well. The exhibition describes the work as a “contemporary digital self-portraiture”, which I am not sure if it is at all a good description of the work. On the artist’s website, she describes this it as a “portrayal of detailed movement while capturing the essence and totality of the artist, presenting it in a different perspective.” I think what we can glean from the work is that the artist picks up her mobile phone pretty often throughout the day, and certainly this is relatable for most viewers, because it is not uncommon for us to pick up the phone plenty of times. Through her documentation in the few months, I find the data quite repetitive. It makes me think about what makes a good piece of data visualisation and why it works for the really good ones: that it is really important to find something meaningful to highlight from the dataset and tell a story from there. The dataset can always be made available, as something separate from the work, to provide a more detailed insight. In the case of this work, it is a lot of info that doesn’t translate to much, especially about something that we do everyday, and so often. It’s not really a strong dataset that could simply exist on its own and carry its meaning well.

3. lingo: I feel that when it comes to making works using apps that we make use of in our everyday life, there is always a tendency to self-reference by peppering the work with trendy buzzwords. I am a slight detractor of the use of hashtags. I think it has its place on social media platforms and it is part of the language there, but other than that, taking it out of that context often seems like a contrived need to keep up with being relevant to our world today.

That said, I think I also need to pay more attention to how I can properly context my work so that (as far as possible) it doesn’t fall trap to these things. I’m generally concerned about how some parts of my work is deemed ‘trendy’, something that I only quite recently discover why, thanks to Chloe and Qixuan who shared with me some interesting articles and websites. I think it’s the imagery that I’ve been using: screenshots of dated, defunct applications, which are also part of the visual vocabulary of a Tumblr subculture that makes references to those applications. Being able to easily find these screenshots was really helpful for me to try and illustrate the idea of the impermanence of technology, particularly of tools such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Paint, where most people my age probably started with in making any digital art. I hope to make this point a little more clearly so that people don’t confuse this with an existing Internet art trend and then trivialise the nature of my work by the associated (negative) connotations of making Tumblr-inspired artwork.