Personal Project

Overall, my personal project manifested itself into a beautiful mutation from my original starting point. I always had the intention of it being a research project, but I had no idea things would exist as they currently do, but this is something which I mourn with great pleasure. It has been quite engaging with my life as I have spent a lot of time laying on my bedroom floor questioning the meaning of everything, which I also view as a positive occurrence and led to some ‘creative’ formulations of words in my sketchbooks and such. I quickly became captivated by motivations (without being too cynical)and human interaction, especially over distance. My biggest obsession in this project was the notion of live, real time video feeds. I befriended and became almost too comfortable with the sites ‘Insecam’ and ‘Chat Roulette’. This project was an opportunity for me to explore the realms of digital media and moving image since the previous projects in this semester have had a great influence and allowed me to learn more about the things that I can do.

My personal project kicked off with a stealthy and healthy invasion into concept of Absurdism, one of the many philosophical theories surrounding meaning in context to existence. It was born from Existentialism and proposes that there is a conflict between human tendency to seek value and meaning and life and the human inability to find any.  Don’t worry, it also offers three ways of solving this dilemma: to kill yourself, turn to religion, or to simply accept that there is literally no meaning to anything ever and understand that life is an absurd unstoppable force, and by doing fully accepting this you can make your own meanings along the way. I conducted a sturdy amount of research into this topic, just about the right amount to make me have e existential breakdowns a minute. I also began reading many other things along this topic, as well as ‘The Book On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are’ by Alan Watts. This book was quite notable in its influence on the work I began creating. I enjoyed his words and the order he put them in to create meaning. I thoroughly enjoyed the concepts of language as something which does not have fixed meaning, since it is interpreted and its meaning changes over time, and the use of metaphors to explain complex concepts to things that they are like because we cannot grapple or fully explain using our words, “.. our existence and our awareness of it cannot be understood in terms of things that are known” the use of myth, special metaphors, analogies and images which say what it is like as distinct from what it is..m. Another thing which stuck to me like a green fly was the way he spoke of the unity between everything. That we all exist from and within the universe. Maybe I began taking this too literally, but I became obsessed by it. I got a haircut. But I didn’t really. Yes, there is less hair on my head now then before. But I am the universe. My hair is the universe. Nothing is being subtracted or lost. All things are a manifestation of the same. And this is fun. I also got into some light reading of Boethius’ ‘The Consolation of Philosophy’, facing the fundamental truths that most of what is in a persons life is merely fortune and something which can be lost as quickly as gained so we should not base our lives so much around these things. All that is truly ours are our powers of reason.

 

All of this knowledge I had attained amplified my internal void and pessimism which intern was very counter-productive to the production of work since I was now weighing up the entirety of my existence and trying not to cry all the time, resulting in little physical work being accomplished. And then I looked at the fish tank in my parents kitchen. How absurd. We’ve re-created a suspended block of ecosystem, and placed it on the counter top. How fucking absurd. So I wrote a poem. And this is the moment my creative cogs started moving again. I started looking at the things which surrounded me through an absurdist lens, creating a notion of ‘everyday absurdities’. It was around this time that I decided to take a leisurely walk amongst the Adobe Suite, which was when I lovingly stumbled upon Adobe Character Animator, what a day that was. It provided me with an opportunity to take my written words further into animation with less frustration and stress than ever before! I began making faces using the provided template on Photoshop and before I knew it I had given birth to an community of life long virtual friends. One thing led to another and I produced a face mapped digital performance of a ‘scribble face’ performing my poem in-front of the infamous fish tank.

I think this was a pinnacle moment in my project, without realising I had discovered a whole new format to deliver my work. I love faces and words, so together, we got married. As mentioned in my Text and Context writings, I enjoy the creation of sound using Garageband, and this fitted almost too perfectly into my new method of poem presentation and preservation. Before I reached this point in my project, I had plenty of other ideas which naturally decayed such as exploring how fucking insane nursery rhymes are, an exploration into cave painting and why thats a thing, pigeons with human ears, I even thought about creating ‘The Long Way Home Thought Excavation Club’ as a platform to express all my thoughts, I discovered that potted plants are an egotistical contained dependence that we have to make us feel important.. Oh, and I also made a ‘song’ which features voices talking about a coal mine..

 

Anyway, the second biggest gold mine in my project was my casual discovery a site called ‘Insecam’. It contains thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of unprotected live camera feeds from all over the world.  I quickly became obsessed with this as I was so captivated with the idea watching people who were living out their lives at the same time as mine but across the world and without any knowledge that I was watching them. I found myself watching rats in Pennsylvania, dogs in Atlanta, men in a barbers in London, ducks in nests in Budapest, tortoises in Ecclesfield and churches in Derby to name a few. Also, sometimes I could control these cameras and make them do things like move and play noises. I developed an (un)healthy habit of observing laundrettes in France. I enjoyed the notion of watching people watching their washing and hanging out with their friends etc. And then something happened. A woman dropped her sock and all I could do was watch. I found myself to be quite helpless, since I could not tell her that she had dropped her sock, I simply had to sit and watch the tragedy unfold, (She did realise and pick it up after a while but that is not the point). It was a slap of realisation that if I saw something terrible and law bending what ground am I standing on? Yes I’m watching it happen live so I’m a witness, but to what end? Would that stand up in a court of law? They don’t even know I’m watching, yet alone where I am and heck, I don’t even know where they are since the cams have a rough estimation of location. It wasn’t long before I developed a big excited egg of wanting to go to a laundrette in France (I made a whole video about it called ‘THE IDEA’) . I felt I was quite detached from the cameras, yes I knew they were live and current (majority have time stamps) but what would happen if I saw myself there, would it feel weird? My dream was to go there. I didn’t know what I would do, perhaps do my washing or juggle (something I have been teaching myself to do recently) or just exist in that space. My first step was to establish where one of these laundrettes is exactly. I knew this would be difficult but oh my Samantha was this essentially impossible. It turns out that washing your clothes in France is quite a big thing, and they have thousands of largely indistinguishable generic laundrettes. Also, I can’t speak French and the interiors of the laundrettes are largely coated with instructional material surrounding the nature of washing your clothes. So, I mean, I didn’t rule this out, it was (and still is to an extent) my dream, but I downsized a little bit. My mission became finding at least one camera in the UK that I could travel to and exist with. Again, very extremely difficult, but I found one. A big chunk of the streamed frame was a sign with a company name and website, so this made it a smooth investigation. I tracked down one in Croydon. The feed itself would sometimes be down and inaccessible on the site I found out, so it was a bit temperamental as to if I went there and I could actually access the feed.

Something which encapsulates this my polite and innocent obsession with these world wide streams was ‘cybernetic-existentialism’, something I read about in a journal provided by a tutor (thanks Paul). Jennicam was a live stream of a girl in her house started in 1996. It became viral before that sort of thing even happened, at less then a frame a minute, a stream of honest life was being broadcast to the world. Every hour of every day for over i years. It had over dl million viewers a day who watched her life unfold and even just watching her empty house when she wasn’t home. Instead of paraphrasing Imll directly insert words from the journal which touch upon Satre:  “As we watched, we were hit –  time and time again –  by the monumental absurdity and aching banality of existence. It was utterly compelling. This was first-and-foremost ‘a life most ordinary’ –  eating, sleeping, watching TV –  although there were highs and lows… But most fundamentally, we experienced the surprising profundity of the mundane, the hypnotic compulsion of the absurd, and the existential shock of a soap opera of Nothingness . It encapsulated Sartre’ s insight at the end of his novel Nausea  (1965) that Being is mere contingency, and that Being has no meaning, it just is : ‘The essential thing is contingency. I mean that by definition, existence is not necessity. To exist is simply to be there; what exists appears, let’s itself be encountered, but you can never deduce it’  (Sartre 1965 , 188). What one ‘ encountered’  when logging in was as often Ringley’ s absence as her presence. In the philosophy’s defining work, Sartre identifies two fundamental ontologies – Being and Nothingness –  and this provides such a perfect description of Jennicam that it could have been its subtitle. Sartre’s foregrounding of Nothingness  includes significant reflections on the nature of absence, and he provides various examples of negation, most famously a story of going to meet his friend Pierre in a café. When he walks in and realises that Pierre is not there, the space becomes entirely defined by his absence, rather than by the presence of the other people who are there…”

This hit the metaphorical nail on its big metaphorical head for me. this was what i was experiencing. and it holds ties to my initial starting point for the project. as i came to terms with the likelihood i wouldn’t be venturing to France i wrote a graceful and respectful memorial poem, and the likelihood of traveling to the other camera in croydon became less of a priority as for my next lilypad of great enablement was chat roulette. i began meeting other worldly existence, often for a few seconds at a time, directly online. face to face. welcome to, another obsession. i produced a video called ‘how absurd’ in an attempt to display how absurd this meaningless but rich this interaction is.

i also went on a website called ‘Camsurf’ which is basically the same as chat roulette, but with ‘rules’ surrounding explicit content and bullying.. it is meant to be ‘safer’. i had an idea to see if i could find someone else on it if i told them to search the same time as me, so i asked my friend Mhari to find me. it was very fun and took a surprisingly long time to actually find each other but once we did we shared speaking about the journey we had both been on and the people we had encountered/ spoke to. i then said that i wanted a cup of tea, and in a light hearted funny way i said ‘can you make me one?’ to which she replied with ‘yes’. and thats where i created the video ‘tea girl’. Mhari literally made me a cup of tea at her house and then walked round to my house with it to give it to me. it was extremely funfuns to do because it all felt very silly, some would say absurd.

After lots of fun fuckery with the public, i had an idea. what if i could present my virtual friends as my camera feed using character animator and interact with people live. however technically troubling this was, i achieved it. i made another version of myself, a virtual version and used it. i thoroughly enjoy the idea that when people obscure their cameras on webcam chat rooms, its usually to hide their appearance and to be someone else, a catfish. but i was re-creating myself from my true physical form and presenting that. i wasn’t lying, i was just digital. i created 2 videos using the face i made from my face which brought together my poetry, my garageband stuffs and me. Unfortunately i had a lot of issues when trying to use it on chat roulette because the face detection before you can begin surfing really didn’t think my face was a face, but this didn’t upset me because i knew mrs. collage worked.

My final outcome is a perfect Frankenstein of different aspects of things i have explored this project. i feel it is a strong piece, bringing together all my friends into one place. i brought my self made method of sharing my virtual face, my poetry, new ways of editing and my sweet garage band tunes. no matter how much i cringe at the sound of my own voice when i watch it, i am very proud of it as it took a very very very very large amount of time, patience and home grown effort to make. as explained within the video, i encountered a problem with being able to record audio. i couldn’t record my voice and their voice at the same time since i was using a headset. and so i simply didn’t record any audio and used my own virtual self to narrate, exhibiting a maxheadroom-like presenter vibe.

Amongst my many many many many obsessions and fascinations within the project, i think it largely rides on meaning devised through observation and interaction from my perspective. i have created an array of unique tools and techniques to carry out things i have never done before, and tied it all together with my lumpy view of the world and thrill for words in a peculiar order. i have enjoyed the shit out of this project and i am so proud of all this weird stuff i’ve chuffed out through simple explorations of ‘what if’ and whims. it has been a philosophical roller coaster that has taught me so much about meaning and the lack of it, and how that is essentially a good thing as it enables anything and everything. for the most part, this project felt like stumbling in the dark having no idea what the fuck imm doing or what it means or if any of it ties into this really important self directed final project of second year. i didn’t know that all the while i was creating meaning for it by doing it.

For me, this is how I explain this project:

It felt like I was hand making a jigsaw piece by piece with no idea how things would fit together or what the final outcome will be like. And once I had finished making all the pieces, I placed them all together with a hammer so they fit snugly, so that when taken apart, it fits back together perfectly.

This dense block of explanation of this project is actually very light when compared to the discovery, research, ideas and executions I carried out. I’ve skimmed over a lot and I had many ideas and directions which I could have gone in such as my final piece existing as a performance, either of me or of other people using the tools and methods ImVe created. One of my favourites was an idea of including both Insecam and Character Animator but streaming myself at a camera spot and being on the phone to my animated face and presenting it as a split screen projection. I even wanted to make a machine, but I don’t know what it would do……………..

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