Digital seems to be having a moment of late; at least in my corner of the world. Whether it's former Loft pal, Yinka, co-curating Future Curious, or the recent Digital Disturbances exhibition at my current university; the crossover of technology and humanity has become a hot topic in the art & design world.
This interregation of digital spheres and humankind has been fascinating me for a while, though in ways that I'm only just beginning to grasp. I have written before about outfit blogging, and about reliance on technology for communicating. I’ve also, in more academic contexts, written about social media and body image, and meditated on fashion blogs. (What can I say, fashion has been my thing) The digital world is captivating. You’re reading these words on a screen, through a network of connected computers and via a web browser. It’s an incredible mathematical and engineering feat, quite frankly. But what exactly does it mean to be human with these riveting new toys?
Well, it's raining. My room has somewhat annoyingly sprung a leak, and of course, there's been a power cut along our road. Rather than enduring the feeling of damp bones, as drops from the ceiling echo into the bowl placed below; I've evacuated to the kitchen, where I now sit with a candle, paper and a pen. Dinner is bubbling away on the stove (we have gas, thankfully) and I'm stealing this unexpected pocket of time to write something, anything really. It's all very antiquated. A relic of eras gone by.
Power cuts are peculiar, in that they show you just how much of your life has come to rely on electricity. Your instinct is to groan. Mild irritation before rationality hits; it's temporary. A disgruntled house-mate, newly returned from a trip away, has left to shower at a friend's house. Seemingly simple conveniences, like washing, have been taken away by the outage. Power showers, you understand – another luxury, much like insignificant others that have come to punctuate daily existence, in the time and place I live right now.
To be exacting about it, the candles lighting my page and the pen held in my grasp are very much technologies too. I've recently begun reading Living in a Technological Culture, by Mary Tiles and Hans Oberdiek. A twenty-year old text, that is speaking to some loose thoughts of late. Our lives are shaped and formed by technologies; and in taking this from a person, are we stripping the human from their being? I'd like to believe we are more than that; more than the artifice that has become naturalised into insignificance. Yet today, when the power cuts, I'm reminded of how much my life requires technology. How much human history has been defined by technology. And that what I do, simply everyday things, presupposes the certainty of having a flow of power. It's surreal to think about how we lived without this. If only because I've never known a world without electric technology.
Over-thinking. It’s what I do apparently. Especially when it comes to creative ideas over the last year. They just twist and turn, contorting within the small space between my skull, yet never truly resolving because the doing is essential for that.
One such idea, is a piece deriving from the fashion as a social phenomena theory that circulates. I’ve been a little dubious as to what extent dress can reflect society, and in thinking about past influences, I began to remember the story of Echo & Narcissus. Which made me think of mirrors, as the perfect embodiment of both characters in the tale – vanity and reflection. The question whistling from the corner of my lips was:
A good few years have passed since I participated in that old pastime of outfit blogging. It's not really something I think much to do these days. Partly because there are enough people documenting their clothing online, and partly because my wardrobe seems a little lacklustre at times. I would say money and time are the causes, but that would indicate that interestingness in appearance is dictated by those factors. My idealistic notions do not wish to believe that, though our current fashion system does seem to suggest money and time are the lifeblood of this, so-called interestingness in dress.
Sometimes, I remember the practice of photographing an outfit though. Locating the trusty tripod, before darting backwards and forwards within the 10 second timer on the camera – I never had a photographer boyfriend, as the running joke dictates. Documenting chance outfits is not something I would say I ever truly enjoyed, but it was something I did. Because I liked clothes. Because I was exploring my aesthetic preferences and sense of style. And most of all, because I was intrigued by how all these appearance related matters, could alter perceptions both internally and externally.
Museums are odd spaces, if you stop to think about it. Objects enclosed in glass boxes, protected from the touch, sound and breath of the general populace. We can see them, carefully presented in a dimmed artificial light, but these objects are now immune to human life – often the very thing that brought them into being in the beginning.
The continued existential question of our kind – who are we? why are we here? – is why such spaces exist. Why objects are presented, stripped bare from their original maker (except maybe recent history) and allowed to coalesce with our own consciousness. Campaigns such as Fashion Revolution day hint that this is a cultural model – a removal of the very hands that created something, to sell us an idea of who we are. An idea we piece together from the fragments we've absorbed before. Is authorship even valuable, when we feverishly impose our own meaning onto something anyway?
Stripped bare of context, the objects in glass boxes become an exercise in aesthetics. A mummified cat, sacred from what I know of Ancient Egypt, becomes reduced to a reminder of basket weave patterns. I might muse about the time/skill that went in or the beliefs of the people who made it, but as a product of this civilisation, museums can become nothing more than "inspiration" – a search for an idea to merge with my collected consciousness, and trigger the creation of something that I can embed with meaning. Potential is everywhere and over-abundance seems inevitable.
Museums are odd spaces, but I enjoy them anyway. I like the sense of stillness and the concrete answers they (try to) present, as a form of refuge from my own questioning mind. They are places where history is fixed; in everything but the stories we go on to tell.
The joy of this virtual world, is that we do not have to be an expert to speak. Gilded gates no longer halt our path (so they say) and all it really takes is some gumption. Perhaps this is both a blessing and a curse, as we've taken like ducks to water and created something of a cacophony online.
The blogging world has changed a lot since I last partook with vigour (3 years ago, by my reckoning) and re-entry feels something like stepping into another world. Do I need a ticket? Is this where I park? Days pass before me, as I wonder whether I left my tongue behind; lovelorn and entombed in another time.
Life has been a slow whirlwind this last year. The fierce questions and existential woes that grip many of my generation have held me too. I wonder daily if it is the right moment in time for me to do this; whether I know enough, whether it's wanted enough, whether I'm good enough.
My palette, once wet with ink seems dry, drained of its delicate essence somewhere along the line. Yet still I salivate. Because old bruises heal and maybe somehow, there is something left to say.
I tell you this, committing a handful of online faux-pas most likely, because it is all I know. Honesty; no smoke, no mirrors. The burning desire to create does not disappear, as my bursting notebook will attest to. Yet if I let self-consciousness overtake, my tongue will remain heavy and grow ever more weak. Is my tongue strong enough to survive in this wilderness?
The creative world is littered with many hopefuls; from artists and designers to musicians and writers. Each composing their unique melody in this symphony of life. I witness on a regular basis just how beautiful it can be. How necessary it should be for these voices to be heard. Yet I still wonder where I fit. The idea of personal branding has never appealed – brands feel stationary, humans evolve – but if this is ostensibly a "brand", how much of myself do I reveal?
I suppose this is the makings of our answer. Tired of this blight, I'm taking my medication. Uploading past work, figuring out the future. It is taking time, but here I am. Stitching my tongue together, until I wake up with a voice.