A WOMAN IS SAILING DOWN A RIVER...
By isha chawla
This project was borne of a summer in New York City, where I worked at an online art gallery called Uprise Art. What we basically had to offer was a digital archive of work that brought the entire gallery space to the buyer’s fingertips. Being new to the art world and having never worked for anything like Uprise before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. One of the things I didn’t really think about, but which became apparent quite soon after I joined the team, was the shimmering importance of our images. A striking amount of weight was placed on the development of these images: editing them to most accurately represent the colours and textures present on the canvas in real life, removing shadows, creating context images to make it appear as though the works were hung in a space that conformed to the gallery’s existing aesthetic, creating a database of images at different levels of resolution to be employed in different online spaces and functions, and dealing with specific details like removing the moire effect from textile works. My co-workers at the gallery were so well-versed with these tasks, and it surprised me to realise that I didn’t think about these things before joining the gallery (although they made perfect sense). These images were of absolute importance because they stood in for the actual work itself.
I have always loved traditional modes of artwork, and my fascination with museums is what drew me to the gallery space in the first place. However, when I realised how much effort was put into transforming these physical works into digital images, it played into my existing fascination with the boundaries between the media space and physical world that have started to become compromised in the virtual age. With my background in motion, I began to explore the idea of bringing movement into still images, and how animation had the potential to transform these images into a new artwork. Drawing in the postmodern conversation of art as reference, collage techniques and questions of originality in art, I became interested in thinking about how I could use this archive of high definition images available to me to create new work. Many of the gallery artists employed collage as their primary method, and BD Graft specifically questions what makes his art his own – does his addition of yellow paint to existing images transform it into a new, original piece that is identifiably his?1 From these different idea grew an idea for my independent study project: to use the existing archive of work in a motion collage that can be distinct from the components of which it is made.
Physical animation through puppetry on Dragonframe was a way to me to further blur the boundaries between the digital and physical worlds. These puppets and backgrounds were all made by hand, and then photographed frame by frame. The content itself draws on the medium to raise questions I have pondered about the nature of personality, inspired by the work of Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now). Tolle believes our sense of self as independent from the world around us is what leads to our demise: he believes we all draw from a greater consciousness, and that we have become so attached to our personality (or ego) that we have forfeited our connection with the greater consciousness that we are shaped from. He points to this as the root of human evil: the reason we hurt each other, destroy our environment and perpetually live in a state of “psychic pollution”. He prescribes meditation as the liberator, and explains how creativity is just a channeling of this greater formless self – which is why most artists, myself included, can relate to the trance-like state of creating where our work seems to come through us, rather than from us. A relinquishment of ego means removing the barriers between self and other, understanding that we are all one and eventually attaining enlightenment. This is the choice that is presented to us: control your mind, or be controlled by it. The two hunters represent the two sides of this choice. The Palace of Illusions is named so because we are comfortable in the sense of self that we occupy, because we have become so closely identified with our egos that we are often blinded by them. Just like the quest for material wealth often seems rewarding, our reliance on ego and the concept of time has become something we enjoy, even though it harms us: it is difficult to quiet the mind during meditation, and often feels like an indulgence to allow our minds to run free with ideas about the past and the future. But these ideas rarely serve for anything save for the constant desire to regain the past or attain the future, keeping us trapped in a vicious cycle. Cultivating an understanding of a greater consciousness and control over the ego can liberate us from this, harnessing the power and beauty of the present moment and releasing us from the bonds of a sense of pain and anger that has pervaded the human experience since its inception.