Designing on a distance

It’s now several months since I haven’t stepped foot in the academy. All kinds of emotions run through my head: Solitude, Escapism, Frustration, Resistance and Activism could be some. These do not only resemble emotions people probably have all over the world regarding the covid-19 crisis. They're also the themes we’ve grasped over this period. Working from within my room day in, day out it felt as a challenge. A challenge that will help us design students prepare for a fast-developing art world. Aren't we supposed to adapt, improvise and overcome as designers of the future? Yes, is my answer to that. It shows that we can put up work more independently and that in the future we will be able to put up work in unknown  and unforeseen situations.

The introduction of new media also happens to be such a situation. For the week of solitude I researched the digital image. There is no doubt that some kind of conscious experience occurs when confronted by new media forms. As media theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote, the arrival of the locomotive not only changed the way we perceive distance and duration of travel, but also framed a new spatio temporal understanding and adds a new sensorial experience of the world. The one of looking through a framed window or through the window of new fast developing  media like desktop screen in our current society.

In one of the first movie screenings back in 1895 of L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, a train would roll towards the screen. People would get up and run away from the screen. Their natural perception was challenged by the film image. This clash would result in their perception constantly being challenged, preparing them in the earliest form for the digital age. Today, we face a similar change of perception through virtual reality. The world is modified by layer of digital media. A camera is an apparatus that renders a mechanically produced perspective. In digital form, it’s translated to an array of pixels where you are able to modify the picture in any way imaginable. You can separate logical pairs of colors to something new and abstract where each pixel is separate and alone, creating a new image. Another way this can be used is seen in the work Jennifer in Paradise by Constant Dullaart. Dullaart tried to recreate a super famous image used in the first Photoshop demo which was nowhere to be found on the internet. He tried to create a logical array of pixels where I tried to make it abstract.

For the week of Escapism I created a poster series. Escapism translates to “ habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine”. So, for this week I made a poster series without any thought. Just to keep myself busy with trying to achieve as many satisfying results as possible. It is very much related to an escapist design-methodology, one I quite enjoy as an artist. It helps you to keep yourself sane in times where you spend most of your time behind your computer. Doing stuff that doesn’t need a super well thought-out concept. There are two different sides to designing in my opinion. On the one hand you have the conceptual phase where you have to use your brain at all times and on the other hand the production phase where you can keep your mind at rest and just make stuff. Normally you would easily have access to workspaces where you can find a good balance between the concept and the work. Now in times of corona, it is hard to find this balance due to being limited to work from your computer. Being able to work with no thoughts and just producing is needed to keep this balance.

For the week of Frustration I stated down what annoyed me most. We are all connected together and that’s more visible than ever. Where we used to meet within a closed space we’re now bound to our homes. Still we have the ability to communicate through Facebook, zoom, discord, Skype, email, WhatsApp and countless other possibilities. This all happens through maybe the most interesting environment of all: the desktop. We extend our bodies through gestures within the desktop. Our mouse is an extension of our hand and our keyboard an extension of our speech and thoughts. We can get annoyed by the way we interact with our computers. This week I created a video essay that shows how annoying working within a desktop can be. Where you think a computer would operate flawlessly it is just a machine which executes your tasks. What you don’t realize is you also have to wait for loading bars programs that crash or maybe the way you order all of you internet tabs. For my essay I recorded a morning of me working and looking back at all the annoying little details I could find. And made a compilation of it.The desktop is with no doubt a fascinating segment of computers.

Inspired by the work of Rosa Menkman and my personal fascination with glitch art, I explored the phenomenon of a glitch. A glitch can be seen as an error. Glitches connect to Resistance cause we’re expecting machines to be static and following every command you give it. But in reality machines are far from perfect. Rosa Menkman for example uses an jpg saved,  modifies the code and this results in a glitch. Starting this theme, I explored the same technique. Although I question if this is really a considered a glitch, it’s more displaying the encoding of a jpg. It’s something that can reoccur every time you open the file. But the way I think of a glitch is that it’s something that is visible for a moment of time and then disappears forever. A dynamic representation is far more logical for presenting a glitch, like datamoshing for example. The beauty of glitch also lies in their unpredictability. It feels more like bird watching; you wait for a glitch to appear and then have to be quick to capture it or else it will be gone forever. That’s why I translated the static outputs that I had to a dynamic form. I presented an A.I with the glitch I found and let It generate more based upon the source image.

Having spent for over 6 weeks within my desktop environment and speculating about what I find so interesting about it, made me think of a quote by Charles Baudelaire  about windows: "What one can see in the light of day is always less interesting than what happens behind a pane of glass”.That’s why I was interested in visualizing a different method of displaying my desktop. The desktop holds images, texts, browser tabs and other applications contained in windows where all these different windows meet above, below, ahead, and behind. Where they make a composition as seen separately with no systematic spatial relationship between them. Instead of the common way to look at a screen, it has certain elements of cubism suppression of depth and overlapping layers. That’s why I translated the so seemingly two-dimensional landscape to a more logical three dimensional space.

To conclude, the themes and the projects I am satisfied with the results. I’ve researched how a camera can capture its mechanical perspective, allowing a designer to modify it in any way possible. I’ve discovered how you can keep your head cool during times of self-isolation. I’ve realized how frustrating it can be working behind your desktop day in, day out. I’ve found an interest in glitch art and developed my own thoughts on the matter. And last, I’ve discovered how working behind the plane of my screen has led me to turn my desktop into a three-dimensional space.