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Tag: sculpture

This website was archived on July 20, 2019. It is frozen in time on that date.
Exolymph creator Sonya Mann's active website is Sonya, Supposedly.

Internet Influences and Old-School Artisanship

“Dissonance series is my body of work that explores a broken, futuristic dystopia where adornment is used as a means of coping with the environment around us. Dissonance is about a disharmony within the self and the coping mechanisms created.” — Alice Argyros

Artwork by Alice Argyros.

Artwork by Alice Argyros.

I interviewed Alice Argyros about the cyberpunk-inspired jewelry she creates. Since we did this via email, I’m just going to omit my questions and present Argyros’ answers like they’re an essay (lightly edited for readability). She said…

I actually had no idea what “cyberpunk” was until Asher of ReTech told me that my work leans in that direction. There was a boom of steampunk about ten years ago that I found intriguing. However, it was short-lived with all the mass production and nonsensical aesthetic decisions. There were some really great stories and comic books that came out of it, though.

Perhaps it’s the stories more than anything that draws me into the realm of cyberpunk. I currently have a collection of jewelry based on my own utopian world where people don’t pop pills to solve problems, they just alter the world around them. [Editor’s note: You can pry my pills out of my cold, dead hands! Venlafaxine forever.]

But as far as aesthetics, I’ve always loved the strong bold lines of Art Nouveau and dark tones of macabre art. Sergio Toppi is a huge inspiration of mine, with his illustrations utilizing asymmetrical balance and broken lines.

I didn’t always have this style with my jewelry. I got into metalsmithing back in college and it’s been a slow-moving career choice since then. There’s a fine line between doing what you want to do and doing what sells.

I have a saying, “My hands know more than my head.” Take away everything else in our lives and what we have left is our abilities; that is what defines us. I’m okay with being incredibly low-tech. I’m still able to do a lot of things despite being behind with the tech times. All I have is a website and Instagram. I don’t bother doing Pinterest and I just found out about 4chan and Reddit. Still have no idea what they are… really.

It’s also about being the kind of maker I want to be. I’m not into production lines and shipping out hundreds of little packages every month. Slow progress helps me keep everything in check, to choose my next step rationally.

Despite being low-tech, there is so much in the digital world that is absolutely fascinating. For example, there are incredibly talented artists who utilize technology to make things faster but are also more intricate. Check out the work of Nervous System when you get a chance. [Editor’s note: I also highly recommend this.]

In short, I don’t really feel downsized or inadequate for not utilizing technology to my advantage. Working with my hands is what makes me feel good. I know some of my more detailed works could be easily cut out with a laser cutter. It would certainly make the time go by faster.

But, not only is it an expensive piece of equipment, there is a part of me that would just be exhausted sitting in front of a computer instead of physically sitting at a bench and designing the work. I like to get my hands dirty.

I don’t really like to pass the time surfing the internet. So, I kind of hear about these outlets through conversations with people… which takes a while. It’s interesting to see what people are up to and some of these outlets are really good at showcasing that creativity. That’s why I to stick more to Instagram; it’s just an immediate way to see what people are doing without a lot of the drama.

Once you get into other social outlets, the temperature quickly changes. That’s why I steered clear of a lot of social media. I joined Facebook back when it came out years ago, and it was interesting to see the flow of information. But it has a way of pandering to our lowest, most basic pleasures by allowing people to pick and choose a reality based on their beliefs. Maybe it’s self-inflicted propaganda?

I don’t know, either way it got too difficult dealing with people always having an answer for everything but never questioning anything. That’s why I’ve limited which areas to expend my time. Another reason is the false sense of accomplishment we can get from these outlets. As an artist, it can be helpful to showcase what we do on these outlets but if we’re not actually communicating with galleries, emailing curators, and making strong connections, we aren’t doing much at all. We can’t get paid in “likes”!

I could appreciate the business side of being an artist a lot more if I didn’t have a day job. I’ve always enjoyed math but it’s difficult navigating taxes, licenses, and legal issues. Right now any free time I have, I’d rather spend it on designing and making instead of crunching numbers and filing papers.

As far as marketing goes, I’m pretty terrible at talking about my work. Artist markets can be difficult to navigate. I’m confident in my work but I’m not always confident when talking to people about my work. That’s the feeling I get from a lot of other artists and independent creatives as well. Luckily we have a local service here that caters towards helping women and small business owners get their feet on the ground. That’s been a huge help.

My closest cousin died a year back. She was the older sister I never had — dark, punk, goth princess with dreams of heading to the stars. I think it hurt me more than I ever though it would have.

I needed to get out of a slump. I took the attitude of, “Fuck it, I’m going to make what I want to make, regardless of what other people want.” This new turn helped me get back on track and has made me develop a stronger hold on the kind of artist I am. Whenever I hit any rough patches, I just tune into that inner punk nature we both had.

Go follow Argyros on Instagram and buy her jewelry.

Good & Normal Babies

My friend ReTech created these sculptures. I find them profoundly unsettling, and hopefully you will too. Dread the mechanized infants…

Update: ReTech deleted the Imgur galleries, but I saved a couple of photos.

Ye Olde YouTube

Cyberpunk sculptor Retech is looking for collaborators, and he asked me to spread the word. Here are the requirements:

  • video footage that’s at least two minutes long, which will be looped
  • resolution in the 640-720 range
  • audio is optional (extra noise will be introduced by Retech’s hardware)

And here is one of Retech’s pieces:

Artwork by Retech.

You can get in touch via Retech’s website. He requests, “If your message is urgent […] write the words: ‘TOP SECRET’ in the subject line. If your message is just commonplace then please write: ‘I am not a spambot or Nigerian scammer’ in the subject line.”

In other video-related news, tonight Alex and I watched Thomas in Love, a French movie that’s unintentionally retro-futurist. It came out in 2001. The filmmakers’ vision of the internet is a network of video services and “visiophones”, which are basically Skype devices. The protagonist is a thirty-something agoraphobic man whose life is controlled almost entirely by an insurance company — to which he voluntarily turned over his assets. His therapist signs him up for a video-based “dating club”, and Thomas falls in quasi-love with the first two women who pay genuine attention to him. This sounds like the setup for a dumb rom-com, but the movie is actually quite nuanced and definitely melancholy. Recommended for people who enjoy nonstandard storytelling forms, can tolerate French cinema, and also don’t need fast-paced plots to stay engaged.

The meta takeaway from Thomas in Love is that our own visions of the future will seem silly in just a couple of decades.

The Surveillance Paradigm

According to her website, “Addie Wagenknecht is an American artist based in Austria, whose work explores the tension between expression and technology. She seeks to blend conceptual work with traditional forms of hacking and sculpture.” She succeeds in this endeavor. I asked Addie some questions about her artistic philosophy.

Artwork by Addie Wagenknecht.

Artwork by Addie Wagenknecht.

Exolymph: Much of your body of work deals with surveillance, but I would go farther and say that you deal with the power differentials highlighted by acts of witnessing. Do you agree with that, or is it pseudo-intellectual bullshit? Either way, how do you feel about being watched?

Wagenknecht: Yes, I agree with that statement entirely.

Regarding being seen, being watched, there is a trauma to not being seen, as much as one exists for those being watched. Who is allowed in to the public sphere? Who is allowed to be visible? I have been reading a lot of research and papers on the implications of race/sex/religion within the canon of surveillance, as these factors serve as both a discursive and material practice of sociopolitical norms. Crypto is an inherently elitist technology; it is simply not available to people who are not highly fluent in their hardware and software bases. The more people outside of the hacker scene I teach these tools to, the more I believe how insanely secretive and elitist these so-called open protocols are.

Here is the thing: “public” has a reliance on the notion of a binary between private and public, visible and invisible space. This implies that we have spaces which are not part of this surveillance paradigm, but with the nature of smartphones being on everyone, everywhere, I am no longer convinced that this binary exists. “The personal is political” can also be read as saying, “The private is political.” Because everything we do in private is political: who we have sex with, what we eat, who does the cleaning, and so on…

Exolymph: How do you see your work evolving over time? What new themes interest you now?

Wagenknecht: I’d like to do more collaborative longer-term projects. I’ve started working with Peter Sunde on some small works which I hope we can release in the coming months, and also Quayola on interpretation of code as a visual entity.

My research in the last two months has been primarily about living in entirely man-made environments and the Internet of Things. The genesis of matter, the history of the earth, and how they are being reinterpreted as a form of speculated geology by the human race and the machines which we version-control that control us. I am also researching mineral composites, which would otherwise not be found in nature, to challenge definitions of “real”. I’m looking at how to play homage to the Western valuation of hyper-optimization by maximizing the believed properties of various specimens.

Exolymph: In general, what draws you to conceptual art? Why sculpture in particular? It’s interesting that you address digital realities in corporeal forms.

Wagenknecht: As artists, our role is to take complex ideas and encapsulate them in a way that society can parse. I want to subvert systems and objects in ways which people can hopefully better understand and reflect on why we need them at all.

Exolymph: What are you interested in building that you haven’t had a chance to do yet? What if you had unlimited resources?

Wagenknecht: I’d do more physical works that rely on fabricating with robotics and robotic arms, large-scale pieces, in materials like stone and metals. I also have some large-scale installations that I’ve been wanting to do forever and I’d get that list of works complete.

Exolymph: What have you downloaded that did get you in trouble? [I was referencing a piece that involves the sentence “I will not download things that get me in trouble” scrawled repeatedly across a wall.]

Wagenknecht: Ha! I’d prefer not to answer that.

Ways to get in touch with Addie Wagenknecht, as well as more examples of her artwork, are listed on her website.

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