Friday, July 2, 2021

Residency 2, Day 2: 'Art is a way of taking distance. The pathological or therapeutic aspects exist, but just as catalysts.' - Sophie Calle

I am installed at Uillinn now. Stephen, Louise, Tomasz, Gavin, Mairéad, Jacek, another studio-occupier called Mark, and one or two others, were at large around the building today. It felt like I had only been here yesterday but, in fact, it was 2019! Took a browse was had through Kate McElroy's poetic photographic processes on display next door, and that will happen again in the days ahead. A steady flow of masked-up visitors passed by too.

Accommodation for the next four nights is sorted and I stocked up via SuperValu and O'Sullivan's Toymaster. The latter is one of those shops which sells EVERYTHING, and not only toys. The staff, or owners, seem to absolutely love what they do. A lot of humour going on from what I could gather. And rather than the usual distinction between customer and sales person, we worked together as a team, to solve the puzzle of how to get a particular torch I was interested in, to function. In the end I bought the telescopic magnetic LED device.

Inspired by the sight of Tomasz' umbrella earlier, imported from Sligo no less, and the loss of one recently - read all about it here: - I have committed to obtaining a replacement. O'Sullivan's Toymaster had a few options but it'd be better to consider what to do more carefully first. Some rudimentary educated-guess-work and investigation (a Google search that is) threw up this, and similar: You can customise your own golf-quality umbrellas. Watch this space...

All the materials in the picture at the top of this post, balls of different kinds and battery-powered toy wind-turbines, had arrived and were waiting at the art centre. It is pleasing to see them all together. The intention with this blog is not to elaborate on what is planned in too much detail, nor to pin things down in advance of presenting properly, but it will be interesting to work with these items in the week ahead.

With little encouragement balls seem to have a life of their own. (To those of a vulgar disposition this begins to sound lewd of course but, please, no innuendo is intended.) Given the slightest incline balls roll off. Others bounce, or the wind may blow them away. Artificial intelligence (AI) is of so much interest (again) but doesn't the simple ball appear to have agency?  At the very least, isn't watching them follow a trajectory having been kicked, thrown or nudged, mesmerising? Donna Haraway or Karen Barad or Bruno Latour (a little name-dropping is permissible hopefully) take arguments about the agency of things too far for most maybe but a certain pleasure it to be gained from imagining that it is the football, the tennis, bowling, soccer or other type of ball which plays its human master, and not the other way around.

As we are on the subject, are AI and VR seen to be related? An Oculus headset has been provided on short-term loan. This should allow me to see the creations of students on the island-hopping MA in Art and Environment course over then next day or so and I'm excited at that prospect. Some personal past encounters with VR include:

The experience can be mind-blowing for sure. Maybe some are effected by immersive VR more than others. I worry about my own sensitivity in this department, and have a particular memory to bring to the table. This involved using one of those cruddy arcade motorbike simulators during a day-trip to a seaside town a few years ago, with friends who had been 'out clubbing' the night before. I could not control the thing at all for some reason and kept virtually crashing. Though these simulators, aimed at children, are hardly impressive by the standards of VR now, later in the same day, I felt faint. Speculatively the stupid simulator had brought back memories of spectacular pile-ups whilst cycle racing as a youth, in Blarney, Co. Cork and beyond. Anyway I am less easily bowled-over by such technology partly due to specialising in fields of (mathematical don't you know) modelling and simulation for years. The inclination is to adopt sceptical positions with respect to the operatic, the illusory, and other distractions from the charms and utter strangeness of everyday life, actual bodily encounters included. During the period of working with avatars in Second Life - remember all the fuss about that at the time: ha ha ha - and real performers, e.g., which involved no headsets at all, I began to develop a position on these subjects. But there might be something more to tease out and revisit.

BTW these Cardboard Virtual Reality Glasses for iPhone and android phones are available for half nothing:

PS: 'Distractions' might be a word that appears in the 2022 exhibition title.

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