pH IMBALANCE - Project Description
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Project Background: pH IMBALANCE is a concept project and interaction developed as a final project for INF2302 - Remix Culture. Remix Culture is a course offered at the iSchool and Faculty of Information at U of T, Toronto, ON.
In this final project, students are tasked with selecting and remixing another cohort's mid-term essay. I have chosen to interact with the essay "Remixing Nostalgia".
About the selected mid-term essay: Remixing Nostalgia explores the dynamic and fluctuating range(s) of emotion that exist between nostalgia and remix practice. The author describes the connections between past and present, and the roles that remembrance and re-construction play in interacting with the past.
The author includes case studies involving a group of individuals who set out to revisit and remake a media object based on live action footage they previously recorded in their youth (with the help of their father), and a content creator who explores DIY remixing by blending Victorian era clothing with 90's fashion. Both studies explore the ways that nostalgia through remix can connect with memory and identity, and potentially re-inform the future of media objects.
Feeling rather inspired by the case studies described in the Remixing Nostalgia mid-term essay, I decided to carry out a re-visitation of my own: a personal expression of nostalgia that forms a dialogue with the objects and reference points (p.4) that map moments of nostalgic reflection from my own youth.
As a result, this remix project incorporates the authors exploration of Media nostalgia as an expressive emotion towards media objects specific to one's past (Stillar, 2022: 2), the ways that these memories and emotions are imbued with yearning for a past that might never have existed (p.2) and how using remix theory and practice to unearth new timelines of past-oriented production and consumption might (re)inform the future(p.6).
Remixing the mid-term essay: This project is not a final product, but rather a step toward final discovery through re-creation (Tang, 1984: 261). pH IMBALANCE is a project that allows for the expansion and manipulation of past-oriented ideas into new hypotheses or frameworks, that promote sustainability, for information coded within (the self) can be 'played with' but not destroyed (Barthes, 1968: 3). Additionally, each piece incorporates the following lyrics from Viktoria Modesta's song Prototype, from the 2014 self-released album Counterflow (via Genius.com):
"Another life filled with parts
Circuit boards connecting hearts
Nostalgia for the future...
...Colliding minds, it's just a start
Feel the sparks, we're building art
It's the vertigo of freedom."
pH IMBALANCE explores issues of remembrance, nostalgic affect and 'nostalgia for the future' - the desire to interact with and embrace a picture of a future self or selves envisioned in the past. The project uses A.I programs that rely on user defined text prompts to generate static and animated images. These prompts can include a variety of information such as artists and artistic styles or mediums, musicians and musical genres, as well as songs or lyrics that both impact and inspire. Specific to this project, text prompts also included quotes from the Remix Nostalgia essay, emotional states, and memories of the adult I imagined I would be when I was young. pH IMBALANCE is a series of vignettes that form a dialogue between my past, present and future self.
The project includes three (3) media objects; a movie poster, a video piece, and an album cover. Each object combines user generated & AI generated content to form an inter-connectivity that explores preconceptions and material memories that shape (Stillar, 2022: 8) to who I am/was/will be.
THE MOVIE POSTER
pH IMBALANCE: The images used in this work draw inspiration from a variety of sources and the resulting composition is an amalgamation of past ideologies fused with current modes of thought and expression. Memories of the past meet future possibilities within a visual landscape that has been formatted to represent a movie poster. The composition references the following:
Composition Title: The moniker pH stands for Purgatory Honey and was a persona I was at one time developing through my artistic practice. The name combines elements from the Juliette and the Licks songs Purgatory Blues and Sticky Honey from the studio album Four on the Floor (Hassle Records, 2006). At the time, I had planned to create music (possibly DJ) under this pseudonym and visualized the creation of an album titled IMBALANCED. This project picks up on the Purgatory Honey initials and merges them into a new expressive identity and statement by adopting an initial only title pH and subtitle IMBALANCE. This reconfiguration of persona or identity is used as a reminder that things are not always as they seem (a nod to the television series Twin Peaks, 2014), and establishes a space that carries with it an appreciation and fondness for the 'tastefully askew'.
Layout: The movie poster was created using the Adobe Stock template Gradient Geometric Event Flyer Layout (Wavebreak Media, Free License) as a reference point. From there, this template was modified using imported images and multiple layers to achieve the desired aesthetic. The central images form a triptych pattern, which is a nod to the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch (1495-1505).
As a youth, I spent hours looking through a family copy of the History of Art (Janson & Janson, 1977). This was the first time I encountered Bosch's work and The Garden of Earthly Delights (fig. 471: 363) and the subject matter it engaged with simultaneously intrigued and frightened me. The closer I looked the more I i discovered within the layered panels. This book has since become a part of my collection, and while I haven't looked at the painting much in my adult life, I recognize the role it might have in my penchant towards creating in 3's (groups of threes and dividing into thirds or 3HRDZ, as evidenced via the naming convention used in The Album Cover, below) and incorporating triptychs into my work. In retrospect, I would say that this painting had a profound impact on the way I structure and produce my work.
Images: Images were based on the television series Twin Peaks by David Lynch (ABC 1990, Showtime 2014), the movie Videodrome by David Cronenberg (Universal Pictures, 1983), and artwork from the studio album Burning from the Inside by Bauhaus (Beggars Banquet, 1983). These images are the result of programing text prompts in the A.I generator that described walls of televisions, altered states, killer/evil televisions (Videodrome), artwork inspired by Lynch and Giger, and also used excerpts of lyrics from the Siouxsie And The Banshees song Monitor, from the studio album Juju (Polydor, 1981) into its text prompts. Images were distressed using filters/brushes and recombined into a final compositional state.
The icon at the bottom left of the movie poster is a logo that I currently embed within my ongoing works. This, along with a logo I create for each resulting project, become a series of glyphs that describe and represent my ongoing body of work.
Descriptive texts: The texts used in the poster were achieved by combining the following quotes from the Remixing Nostalgia mid-term essay: "Nostalgia is a tension-filled, but distinctly generative emotion..." (p.1); "The term 'nostalgia' has transformed over history and varies in meaning and application ... nostalgia is understood as a 'past-oriented emotion', a sense of longing for objects, people, places, times, and experiences in the past (Lizardi, 2020)" (p.1); "Roy Christopher (2015) notes that it is possible to be nostalgic for a 'past that never existed'" (pg.2) and "Christopher (2015, p. 198) writes 'One should resist the longing for an original when none exists', calling on us to lean into that impossibility of nostalgia by using remix as a mode of expression and recursive process that mobilizes longing into something new" (p.2).
The tagline 'A study in past-oriented emotions' is a synthesized re-configures of the above quotes. Likewise, the text 'Nostalgic Embrace / Longing for a Future Past / Of what was to come' is a remix of structural language that shifts from formal writing into a re-configured state of a Haiku poetry (5/7/5).
The numbers in the poster are Latitude and Longitude coordinates for the town of Elliot Lake, where I grew up in. The approximate location of the coordinates is the Atom Monument that welcome's visitors. This is a feature that could be embedded within a traditional movie poster to encode the location of the film screening, for example.
Observations and associations: This image represents a time in my life where I wanted to be a graphic artist - designing posters for film and video as well as album artwork (explored below). Movies were a big part of my life, as will be discussed a little more in depth in the work(s) below and I wanted to create images as 'awesome' as some of the posters I collected in my youth. This image sets the stage for the themes and ideas that run throughout the works in this series.
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About the video: OF OUR LIVES is an explorative audio-visual exchange (conversation) between my current self and my younger self who at one point, and perhaps in another timeline altogether, planned to be a film director. While I cannot pinpoint the exact age I decided this, movies like Jim Henson and Frank Oz's The Dark Crystal (Universal Pictures, 1982), Dario Argento's Creepers Aka Phenomena (Titanus, 1985) and Jim Henson's Labyrinth (Tri-Star Pictures, 1986) would open my eyes to infinite worlds of possibility. I must have also been inspired by the Indiana Jones series as I remember thinking if I couldn't be a director, then I would become an archaeologist.
The works of David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Ridley Scott, and H.R. Giger further affected my aesthetic sensibilities andeventually led to studying Integrated Media at OCAD University.
Images: OF OUR LIVES takes these memories and blends elements of them into short animations using A.I animation & artwork generators. These images were created using various text prompts including - nostalgia for the future (Modesta), cathode ray tube television, deep nostalgia, the arcane archaeologist, kill your television (a nod to the 1990 Ned's Atomic Dustbin song) and reference to artists Giger, Aubrey Beardsley, and Egon Schiele. These images and clips were then stitched together using layers, filters, and mask paths, and set to music that I had previously created.
Audio: This song was created in 2020, while working on another exhibition piece. It ended up being removed from the project as the work evolved. I brought this song out of its proverbial storage as I felt it had a certain nostalgic quality, reminiscent of the theme song for the soap opera Days of Our Lives (Sony Pictures, 1965 - present). The song was initially named OF OUR LIVES because of this. Since the video is an animated letter between past and present self, I feel that the name adds another layer of dialogue between meaning and interpretation.
Observations and associations: While I did not become an Archaeologist or the version of director I might have expected to be, I did end up creating digital video works and video and 3D installations.
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"... that which defines art: [is] the aesthetic - because art is not an object amongst others, at least not an object of knowledge (or not only an object of knowledge). Rather, art does something else. Indeed, art is precisely antithetical to knowledge; it works against what Lyotard once called the "fantasies of realism" (The Postmodern Condition 93). Which is to say that art might well be a part of the world (after all it is a made thing), but at the same time it is apart from the world. And this apartness, however it is theorised, is what constitutes art's importance."
(O'Sullivan, 2001: 125)
THE ALBUM COVER
About the piece: 3HRDZ is the most forward-facing piece of the three. It is a note for a future self, as well as a self-reflective process that aids in the envisioning of future possibilities and ones' place within them (Stillar, 2022: 6).
Rooted in a passion for album artwork of all formats (Vinyl, CD, Cassette and Digital), 3HRDZ is inspired by a love for H.R. Giger and Adrian Hughes, who created most of the album covers for the band KMFDM. The name, as noted above is in reference to my penchant for creating in 3's and dividing into thirds, hence 3HRDZ.
Images: This piece was not based on a specific album cover or work of art. It came into existence as an expression of my appreciation for album covers and the memory of what having a physical album/cassette/CD invoked within me. I gave the following text prompts to A.I generator: future nostalgic, metaphysical paranoia, oil and encaustic on canvas, and reference to the artist Godmachine.
Audio: This audio was also created in 2020, while working on the aforementioned exhibition piece and suffered the same fate. It does not have the same referential background as OF OUR LIVES but fits within the same landscape as the image.
Observations and associations: There is a tension at play in this piece in that suggests a sentimentality for tangible media objects that exist beyond the digital, yet used fully digital software and machine learning techniques in its creation.
3HRDZ represents oppositional forces - an ouroboros wherein image and sound remix present, past and future states, and new mixes become prospective resources with endless possibilities (Knobel & Lankshear, 2008: 26).
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