Within my research-led art practice I continue to explore ways of delivering complex concepts in an immediate and engaging way through digital mediation. I therefore pursue a computer-based practice that can support complexity through the associative trails permitted in semantic media. I persist with my interrogation of the ideas of Marcel Duchamp that formulated the trajectory to a contemporary Conceptual practice. Earlier works have moved from projected interactive pieces with mouse-click and roll-over access to a hard-linked hypermedia system, to more intuitive interfaces with open directional choices and less obvious connections between the digitised Duchampian objects. These latter works have involved endowing those objects with ‘flocking’ behaviours to observe them clustering into families of sense.
The idea of ‘flocking’ digital objects gave rise to that of giving ‘animal’ behaviours to virtual objects, and a change of focus from Duchamp to Darwin. From the convoluted ideas of Duchamp re art’s function and future, it was a natural progression to the current culture and human activity to which art responds. Thinking around Darwin’s ‘big idea’ in light of our future as a current pathway to self-destruction via climate change, the hands-on installation ‘Shift-Life’ arose. Shift-Life is a virtual world of bug-like ‘candy’ creatures that exist quite contentedly if left alone, however physical human intervention can alter their environment into a volatile state where they have to adapt to survive. There are many computer games that let you play God in letting life-forms live or die -starve, thrive, fight, procreate, overpopulate or become extinct, but my intention is always to explore the complex concept and exhibit this in an accessible way.
The limited behaviours given to the Shift-Life fantasy creatures would be enough to allow them to evolve if left uninterrupted in their everyday existence, we might, for instance, be able to witness patterns of sociability emerging. However, the participatory nature of the work means that without interacting with the piece, that understanding cannot be brought to bear, here human intervention causes basic survival behaviours only. Our meddling nature prevents us from seeing the creatures and their world developing as one sustainable life-system.
- Dew Harrison is a Professor of Digital Media Art and Director of CADRE, the Centre for Art and Design Research And Experimentation at the University of Wolverhampton, UK, where she works as the Associate Dean for Research and Postgraduate Studies in the School of Art and Design. As a practising artist with a PhD from CAIIA (Centre for Advanced Inquiry in the Interactive Arts), her work continues to explore a theoretically informed computer-mediated approach to the territory between art, technology and consciousness studies in order to position a participatory concept-based art practice. This involves semantically associating ideas and concepts into non-linear multimedia form and digital outcomes have been shown both in the UK and internationally. She considers the dialogue between the virtual (digital) realm and the real world, as a semantic space for creative exploration. With over 50 publications to date, she is regularly invited to present at conferences concerning Consciousness Studies, Curation and Archiving, Digital Art, Art History, Interactive Gaming, and Museology. Her practice is often collaborative as exampled in her most recent installation work ‘Shift-Life’ where she worked with two programmers and an animator. This piece was commissioned by Shrewsbury Museum Services for the International Darwin Bicentenary, and funded by Arts Council England. pva.org.uk wlv.ac.uk/research/institutes-and-centres/cadre—centre-for-art-design-research-and-expe/
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