Audiovisual Cultures episode 73 – Arts Collaboration with Dawn Woolley and Zara Worth automated transcript

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welcome to audiovisual cultures with me paula blair in this episode i have a great conversation with artists sarah wirth and don willey who are collaborating on work that engages with systems of belief in contemporary culture and this is a topic which takes us through a really wide range of areas in modern life it’s really super fascinating huge thanks to our members on forward slash av cultures for all your support as many of you may know it has been a summer of managing a lot of tactical hiccups to put it lightly and um getting by with very small struggling machine so to help the recovery fund if you’re able to you can slip me a fiver at buy me a forward slash p e a blair or you can listen to the end and i’ll give you a few other options if you can help out even if you can just share the podcast and spread it around that in itself is a really huge help

so for now i really hope you get as much out of this chat as i did um zara and donner working on some really fascinating stuff and have been for quite a while so i really hope you enjoy this hey don and zara good morning good morning hi i’m doing well um thank you so much for joining me for this so we’re gonna talk about work that you’re both collaborating on and um but first i think it’d be nice to establish a bit about your individual practices and um we also have a really nice connection through all working with yorkshire sculpture international 2019 um and i had the chance to spend a day with sarah during that but i never got to meet you don and it’s really lovely to connect now and um so if it’s okay i’ll start by asking each of you to maybe take us through a little bit about what you did as engagement artists for that and then we’ll we’ll edge into your what you’re working on now and we’ll see what comes up so if it’s okay don could i ask you to go first because i don’t really know what you did last year yes absolutely um i was working with the yorkshire sculpture park and a group of women or actually two groups of women who were doing um english as a second language courses in wakefield and so they were from uh various different places particularly in um sort of indian continent and africa and i was kind of taking them around the sculpture park introducing them to the different amazing things that are out there and also to the hepworth we looked at some of the kind of key sculptural techniques within some of the work that we saw um and then just made things basically so sometimes it was sewing sometimes it was building it was kind of really quite varied we just sort of went through different things and in the end i photographed a lot of the sculptures and objects that they made and then made some banners uh like pop-up banners that were displayed at the sculpture park and i think they are with um wakefield council’s education department now so hopefully they’re on display in the library or something like that fantastic that’s great and zarya you were based in leeds weren’t you yeah i was um working with the henry moore institute and um abby grange school so a group of year nines were the group that i was working with the majority of the time on the day that i met you we were also doing lots of different um workshops as part of the sculpture and school day so i was working with all ages on that particular day but the majority of my time was spent working with a group of year nines and we spent most of our time in the classroom um in the art classroom so i did a i devised a project to create a piece of work working with them and which was called prayer hands ipad poses because i was really struck by the fact that one of the sort of selling points that the school traded on was the fact that they got um or they gave ipads to all of their students and the ipads were really embedded in their learning and obviously this is so different to some school experience that i had i was really fascinated by this um especially since because i suppose there’s so much about like kids spending too much time on their ipads on their iphones then they’re giving them at school and told to do everything on them um and i was interested in trying to make a piece of work that was you know relevant obviously to my practice and my own interest in social media and handheld technology but also to devise a piece of work that facilitated the kids to get into a headspace where they could start recognizing their day-to-day lived experience is valid reference points for making art from and so you know the fact that they use ipads every day in their day-to-day life at school that that is a valid subject to make art about so we um did we made casts of their hands in poses um and gestures that they used whilst holding and operating their ipads and then painted them golden and put them together so it was kind of you know looking at the ways that we use our bodies in relation to technology but also creating an absence of that technology which in in so doing was also kind of drawing attention to the fact of its constant presence in our lives and hopefully they you know got out of it i think i think they um yeah i think they enjoyed it yes that’s great and so how was it then was it through doing ysi that both of you find out about each other then yeah yeah yeah um we actually met on the group interview day for the engagement artist and we happened to be sat at the same table and i guess in that we were kind of giving brief overviews of some of our interests and i think um zara had mentioned that she was interested in like use of technology and social media and things and i was like oh well actually that’s what my research is about as well so we just kind of kept the conversation going from there really yeah and i think i’d i can’t remember it would have been probably about a year after i’d finished making a piece of work called a drawing made by cutting up my body weight in celery which was obviously really tied into like diet culture and particularly on social media in particular on instagram and wellness culture and i’d also just made a piece of work titled wellness and which really really tied in with all the things that dawn was saying and i was listening to john speaking yeah yeah

yeah yeah and i think is it because both of you have done in very different ways work that’s somehow to do with some kind of religious iconography isn’t that right yeah yeah and i think zara’s is probably a bit more overt than mine and but i’m interested in consumer culture quite broadly um and how objects are sold to us with these kind of using pseudo-religious techniques and languages um so i’d done a piece of work called wishbook which was an instagram based project about kind of unpacking some of the the kind of mystical uh language of commodities um uh yeah and i kind of also make um strange objects that you can maybe see behind me that are kind of related to anthropology and objects of worship from different cultures but made out of packaging material so kind of contemporizing these ideas of fetishism and commodity worship

and then the language as well as kind of a yeah interesting the language is kind of a shared theme because they’ve also we’ve both looked at hashtags as well and i’d made a piece of work um in 2018 called chorus and where i’d looked at how about this absolutely i’ve made i’ve rewritten the choral version of the lord’s prayer using hashtags from wellness posts on instagram and and they were really but they’re really interesting as humorous as it is and i presented it as both sheet music and as a sing-along karaoke um but what was interesting is that there’s the kind of obvious ones that you’d expect with like you know food blogger but then some of them are very quasi-religious in the promises that they’re making you know things like healing foods and and things like that and and i’d come across um a few social media instagram wellness influences that are really problematic in particular and that that became kind of a starting point for the work that we did together looking at sort of these celebrity influences and the promises that they make with these different ways of eating and living and of course social media is so strange really when it comes to food because you know there’s a it’s actually so removed from gestation and actually from not gestation just to do purposes no one that is removed from gestation but it’s not removed from gusted free purposes and it’s so removed from digestion was what i was looking for um and yeah it so i think it kind of lays bare the hidden kind of mythologies and signs laden latent in the images that um are shared of food yeah and they’re quite polarizing so or polarized um like communities but also in the language so we particularly looked at the clean eating phenomena which is very wrapped up in these kind of religious ideas of cleanliness purification um sin free eating um and then the the kind of opposite of there’s there’s kind of an eat dirty trend which is kind of it which is the polar opposite of clean eating it’s it’s very masculine for a start where most of the clean eating people are women of a particular type um and yeah it’s just like all of the codes and the permissions that are wrapped up in all of that that kind of language and the images that are attached to them are really fascinating so so we started by kind of comparing those kind of posts really um and we made a a visual essay by um screen grabbing images relating to sort of predetermined hashtags to do with clean or dirty eating and just made it into a kind of slideshow to show those to to show the comparison quite clearly and then again and that then became we did we put together some well we wrote some papers together following the publication of that piece um that really i suppose unpacked it in a bit more detail i looked particularly at the people behind that you know these um the influences because these very much like religion um these trends as it were kind of gravitate around or towards um yes celebrity-like people and it’s fascinating as well because if you’re not in that you probably would never come across that but then you find these people that have millions of followers um yeah that take you know their guidance as like a dictator um that is being espoused with absolutely no actual scientific underpinning about certainly with the clean eating trend is probably worse for this where um i’m thinking in particular of this guy called uh he’s he uses the ha the um account name medical medium he’s called anthony williams and he um has so like thousands and thousands of followers and he claims to receive his knowledge about um food from a high-level spirit who tells them things that are like beyond like science and he and it sounds crazy and kind of laughable and on one hand it is but on the other hand he’s literally also telling people to come off chemotherapy and start um following a diet of celery juicing so as much as it sounds you know humorous actually there’s very very tangible and you know life-threatening consequences of people taking what he’s saying seriously um and he clearly does wield a lot of influence and a lot of power in people’s lives and which is sad yeah and well even less extreme cases you know that are not being um spoken to by high-level spirits um they still appear to have uh not like knowledge and experience as nutritionists or dietitians and things but they don’t so so there’s i think there’s a danger throughout it not not just at the whole level kind of big influences that i think we talk about a lot and we kind of want to draw attention to um in the work that we do and it all links back to kind of the post-truths as well and making it kind of wider which is something that in certainly a wellness that i kind of emphasize because the so in wellness it’s basically a kind of digital collage combining appropriated images of wells and then the accompanying hashtags go kind of down the rabbit hole as it were going through other hashtags to find other hashtags and it takes you from wellness and through a kind of you know progression into total nonsense but it ends in it actually ends in trump and i genuinely did follow the um hashtags as i’ve made that work yeah it seems that there’s um there must be a real relationship then between that kind of activity and evangelism it sounds like yeah

do you want to say about it yeah um i because i do look at um diet cultures in my own research and i’ve particularly been looking at um the rhetorics around the obesity crisis and a kind of the treatment of fat in our cultures and there is um quite strangely but also quite logically there is quite a a kind of evangelizing about the body so you know like that idea the body is a temple it’s gift you’re supposed to look after it if you’re not there and that kind of underpins anything to do with the body as not as imperfect is also immoral so and you come across that a lot and it uh and i think that’s also tied into some of those um languages about um you know personal responsibility that’s also very sort of neoliberal um view of health uh so so yeah and then you get kind of advert rhetoric like your only limit is you uh which is a kind of nike slogan and pretty much any night slogan you pick will will underpin the idea of personal responsibility and expectation of driving to achieve good health um that really undercuts uh the very real um social economic disparities that stop people from achieving health and also it’s very ableist point of view um yeah so there’s all of these things going on and they’re deeply moralizing kind of arguments i was thinking about this this morning actually because i was watching i’ve seen um judith butler’s shared uh possibly shared a video of jews but they’re talking about um the pandemic and about um health but also about the fact that you know people talk about this idea that we’re going to have create this new world but actually you know you’re it’s also revealing how embedded social racial economic inequalities are just so embedded in our kind of capitalist system but i was thinking about the fact that um we often talk about like life choices so i you know wherever i live um there’s a like a really big problem with obesity but it’s also a very you know not a well-off area at all and so talking about life choices implies that everybody has the same choices available to them which they just do not like and i was thinking of well i suppose i didn’t really get to a conclusion but how we need to change the word choices to a better word that reflects that not everybody has the same choices available to them when they’re making um decisions about what to buy what to eat whether to exercise etc um and social media eclipses that hugely and then makes you feel absolutely terrible for not being able to kind of self-actualize to this extent but i was also thinking that just kind of to explain maybe the way that i come into this area i’m more interested in um belief systems and meaning making um and the kind of religious side of things um so and and not always in a kind of like necessarily really critical away or or sometimes kind of so like obviously i’m very critical of like wellness cultures but actually the work they’re making at the moment and around selfies and um yes online self portraiture more generally is not actually it’s kind of maybe the opposite that you would expect you know in terms of the criticism offered or the critique offered um in i’m sort of i’m making comparisons between selfies and online self portraiture and religious icons in saying that actually you know these are valid expressions of a kind of i ideal super super ego to live up to whether that is helpful or not to the individual you know is questionable but actually you know is there not actually something about the human condition which you know where we feel obliged to find images and in case of where we’re maybe uh atheist to make our own images for us to live up to and to make our own images to aspire to whether those are positive images is another issue you know in entirety like um but yeah not just kind of total selfie bashing yeah and i can kind of um echo that sentiment my phd ended up being a lot about selfies quite unexpectedly because um i started out and ended talking about still life but somehow selfies crept in to that discussion and i’ve just finished a book that will be out next year which is about commodification and social media and how what that does to individuals bodies and actually selfies of different types are a good way to examine that to see what the trends are and although i think selfies have um well they make people visible they they kind of they’re a statement of presence which is fairly uh universally available although obviously that depends on technology internet connections and so on um but it does kind of level the playing field about who can be represented basically um but unfortunately there’s a real um trend towards very um polarized gender representations and i think actually expectations of gender performance that are becoming even more stereotypical and there is actually um evidence of um through academic studies that show gender stereotypes are more prevalent in selfies than they are in advertising for example um so the work that i’m kind of working on now and some of the projects i’m initiating are about how do you

inter intercept in that process of making gender stereotypical and i think it’s kind of to do with the reward systems online that you know if you behave in a certain way that’s expected you will get likes follows and so on and we know they have very you know pleasurable physical effects on the body so um so it’s how do you change that what’s given the reward basically and how do you open out representation to be actually democratic and welcome lots of different types of bodies different genders and so on so so yeah i’m kind of a thumbs up for selfies with a very big butt at the end

and i think as well like one of the things that i’ve always found frustrating is you know when in discussions about selfies that they quite often level around criticisms of young women representing them and often let’s be serious regurgitating really problematic um images of a kind of highly feminized you know in whatever narcissistic and yeah narcissistic way but also just like you know you’ve given you’ve told young women that your value in this world is to look a certain way to behave a certain way you know to be kind of quiet to be sexy to kind of just to to have a body that looks certain way and then when they then adhere to that you then tell them off for that and i think that it’s more important to kind of offer a critique that exposes the the kind of the mason age machination i kind of speak like how that you know how how that’s operating you know as people are using that as an image for themselves to aspire to and then also is dawn saying to think about ways that we can kind of offer alternative ways of um yeah being more inclusive and and having different types of identity kind of less and less binary representations of gender etcetera and and that you’ve made me think as well about um a really influential series of lectures that i attended when i was at goldsmiths which were um michelle for has um the age of um lectures on the age of appreciation lectures on the neoliberal condition and he talks about um appreciation economies on social media and which we you know is kind of perfectly evidenced by the fact that you know of course people want to young people want to get likes they want to get appreciation and follows um and it’s so difficult when you know people are being you know they’re getting that appreciation which is like saying yeah this is good what you’re doing is good to then be told actually you you know you’re reproducing really problematic images so how do we intercept in the system okay yeah absolutely and so is that that’s the work that you’re collaborating on now is that is working through ways of maybe trying to do that or no we’re currently well we just finished writing a book chapter for um a book on food cultures on instagram in which we talk about the um artworks that we’ve produced together and individually for instagram uh but actually that our kind of current collaboration is looking more broadly at these kind of the the kind of pseudo-religiousness of contemporary society basically um which we are we’re putting together an exhibition proposal at the moment um so we’re kind of looking around to see which other artists are are kind of kind of dealing with this subject in interesting and varied ways yeah it’s far more general i suppose in what we’re trying to you know pin down through the exhibition and obviously our personal interests and work is about kind of presentations of um culture that kind of intersects with the religious or the quasi-religious um but we’re also kind of interested in other you know artists who are working in similar areas but maybe like the religious but other um presentations of um contemporary culture so obviously like i’m quite interested in selfies and comparing them to icons but maybe we’ll find some artists that we want to work with who are interested in maybe the resurgence of interest in tarot or the resurgence of interest in astrology um and crystals and things like this and yeah yeah yeah and i mean because i’m currently working on like votive paintings in my interest and i’ve kind of done uh work around fetish objects but we’re also thinking about well and this kind of relates to zara’s um piece of work uh does turn selfies into a hymn and we’re thinking about what about spells and prayers and these more ephemeral things and how do we enact those things in contemporary culture um in ways that maybe we’re not thinking about so so yeah we don’t know exactly what we’ll find out through that but it’s quite an exciting research process

and i was just thinking about the to go back to the the book chapter worked on together i suppose and that we were really thinking more specifically about instagram as um kind of a space that could you know be a site for art but as well as a subject for art so we brought together works that specifically um actually kind of permeated that space as well as disrupted it and and then how those were strategies for kind of exposing some of those operations and that we talked about earlier

um so where is that chapter going to be available um

no um i i i assume it’ll probably be early next year okay and then it’ll come out and the book’s called you are what you post isn’t it okay is it yeah okay i think that’s i didn’t know that the final title no we probably should have checked some of these details because i don’t actually know who the publisher is either okay yeah are you looking it up sorry so our chapter is called creative consumption okay and um i think it’s going to be published with bloomsbury academic press yeah you are what you post food and instagram is the title of the book and um yeah bloom’s academic press but i’m not sure what the timeline is for how well everything’s gonna be publishing especially

yeah yeah it’s glacially slow anyway but it’ll be even

yeah yeah i think a lot of people are finishing books because they’ve got so much time at home so um so maybe there’s going to be a backlog with the publishers

so i i’m really interested in those metaphors around consumption you know because we we consume the commodity items and that sort of thing but also you know the consumption of food and intake into the body and then that kind conflating that with the idea of consuming religion digesting religion um and then those similarities that you’re working through that you’re finding with our use of social media so what we consume but also what we put back out again on social media um so i mean i was i was thinking about um if you’d like to talk about the materiality of your work as well because you both work across lots of different media and i am done looking at your website you work a lot with actual food as well and you know sorry you have done a bit as well and um you know so are there any relationships with the actual materials that you use often if you want to have it through that definitely and i think um at the beginning of doing my phd i was using food as a sculptural material so kind of making um objects out of blemonge and cake and meat uh often rotting food things as well so um it was kind of this idea and i’m quite interested in how food is advertised so it’s and it is again this kind of binary between um the good for you food and then the naughty treat um and how um how you know it food is almost always in one of those categories so how do you play with this idea of something that’s kind of um seductive but dangerous or um kind of desirable but repulsive at the same time and so so yeah so using food to make things but kind of transforming their shape in some way to make them more more kind of problematic or challenging and also trying to relate them back to the body in some way to talk about this idea of you are what you eat basically um so yeah so sometimes it was like my bleming dentata which had white chocolate teeth uh or i’ve used things like um uh um you know like weight loss girdle things and um those types that are meant to suck your body in but filled with potatoes and things um to really play around this relationship between body and food it’s funny i was also thinking as you were speaking down about um the kind of gender divide in terms of um how legible these foods are as signs and that’s something that i found with the celery drawing that um when i’ve shown it predominantly women just get it like they can just they find it very legible as a piece of artwork because of the connotations of um celery and celery’s a funny one because it it’s like a perfect kind of example of kind of the post-truth uh situation though it’s kind of predates the post-truth in its own mythology as this minus calorie um because it yeah it has this reputation as being something that takes so much energy to digest that you actually burn calories from eating it which is not true but the the work plays off that idea but also kind of the violence of the idea that this idea that you would be purposefully eating food that will actually um like deen your issue yeah it does the opposite that food is supposed to which is yeah give you energy and pleasure and all the rest of it and plus i mean personally i absolutely hate celery so much and so i i found it quite interesting the reception of that piece that you i found you had to kind of explain it a bit more to predom predominantly to men and whereas women who are really the primary targets of diet culture and found it far more legible in terms of like my more recent work though the materials i’ve been using i have been working predominantly with um gold gold leaf and imitation gold leaf and i mean the choice to work with the imitation gold is like primarily is economic because it is so much cheaper but obviously dealing with these kind of um themes about identity and like projection of identity online and and the kind of performance of that as a kind of projection of an image um obviously really lends itself to this idea of using materials which aren’t quite what they appear and and i’ve been making kind of large paintings on um on polythene so it has this diaphanous quality as well which brings this slight kind of immateriality to it as well but but equally really lends itself back to um these different religious objects that which is where there’s a nice point of connection with dawn’s work so kind of referencing like veils and shrouds and but also being quite ghostly and speaking to this idea of like religious presence and imminence is there anything either of you are working actually i was thinking about the idea of self-care because this is quite a big buzzword now and if that’s coming up anywhere in what you’re searching through um well because the votive paintings that i’m working on at the moment and i can um if i can find one i’ll show you on so they are kind of about their self-care culture in a way but it’s also and that they’re on broken old mobile phones so it’s kind of this idea of the phone being um the site that we make you know and votives are kind of like their prayers um asks for help um biographies to do with miracles and you know so so they and i think social media is also a sight for all of these things like we kind of show off things we ask for help we confess things um you know cite our achievements and so on so it’s kind of thinking about how can i express the function of these as powerful objects in our lives um but it is also very much to do with that neo-liberal rhetoric where self-care is not just look after yourself it’s like it’s your responsibility we’re not going to help you and that’s a very commoditized language as well so it’s like self-care is making the right consumer choices basically and that expectation that everyone can make those choices um so yeah choices yeah which is no choice at all really yeah when people just don’t have you know not everybody has the same choices a set of choices available for them i i imagine like a a kind of dinner party analogy like some people have a platter and other people have like a saucer yeah well and i i’ve recently um just revised a chapter for a book on um uh well the book is their productive body so it’s kind of about the body in contemporary consumer culture but um my chapter is on the quantified self movement so i’m really interested in self tracking culture and which again it seems to be a very equal thing like you just get a phone or a wristband thing with a pedometer you can track things but um but now it’s increasingly tied up with work wellness programs as well so that it’s kind of like you’re being tracked all of the time so your free time has kind of been co-opted by work um in america it’s also really tied into um insurance like um getting money off insurance insurance policies and things so so actually your ability to provide data makes you better off than other people so there’s an inequality there already and i read an article i can’t remember the name of the the writer but they did say basically your employability will also begin to hinge on how well you can produce data because if they you know if your company want to provide you with um life insurance and health insurance they want to know that you’re not going to cost them a fortune and you prove that with your um self-tracking data so so yeah these inequalities are uh growing and and becoming really embedded throughout our lives in quite a scary way actually yeah but that was a bit of a tangent sorry that’s all yeah i was thinking earlier when i was looking through all of this about the data self and the convergence with surveillance culture that’s happening and we are self surveilling now with all of these yeah yeah there’s a great book i think well i’ve definitely read i’m pretty sure zara has read it as well um by bernard harcourt called exposing the self oh well you should but it is like this link between um the pleasures of social media and the surveillance aspect and he kind of makes the point that actually the um how uncannily the apple watch for example is like a a prison tag or a you know community a probation tag rather so so we’re kind of these um yeah punishment and surveillance techniques are really embedded within our our leisure activities and the pleasures of our life as well so um yeah it’s interesting but who knows where that’s going to end up because it took off so quickly and become so um you know fully accepted so quickly yeah the speed of it is as such a problem as well for people to kind of it’s sort of happening as pace beyond which we can be kind of reflective and also fully knowledgeable especially as it’s it’s just absorbed into kind of the like necessities for you to function in society as you were saying like about trying to access healthcare so that your kind of need to be able to access healthcare in the states for example is going to trump the front of the word the need for you to actually be really careful and think very selectively about how you’re going to manage your personal data and but actually kind of we don’t know the long-term effects of these choices that are being made for us and certainly when you’re you know without being hugely stereotypical but of an older generation where these this technology is particularly foreign to you and like i realized that my mum and her friend had never turned off the like um okay hey siri so they hadn’t realized that the phones were constantly listening to them and they were absolutely horrified but then of course why would they know that you know when it was and they just thought it was just really helpful function but they never considered the fact that it would mean that their phone would have to be constantly listening yeah absolutely um and well i think um research has shown that those inequalities you know that the age inequality is you know very evident but also things like if you live in a rural place rather than a city you’re less likely to be using these technologies um and then you know all of the the social um categories already exist so if you’re marginalized in any other way in your life you’re marginalized in this as well and and i think the speed thing that zara said also means i mean it’s a fascinating subject for research um and people are doing really amazing work on this but it is really like um as soon as you’re kind of working on something it’s already moved on quite quickly so it’s kind of um like that that kind of trying to keep up to critique all of these social phenomena as they’re happening is is very difficult um so we’ll see how that one plays out as well i think yeah that’s again it’s me kind of um really badly paraphrasing what judith butler was talking about when i was listening to her talk um and she was talking about different speeds of violences that happening against different groups and you know social inequalities is like a slow moving violence against groups in society that are marginalized that are more vulnerable and this is just one way in which um further kind of injustices are enacted upon those groups um whilst tiny groups just get richer and richer and richer

cheerful i mean there are also amazing organizations that are looking at things like data equality um and how to try and prevent some of these um you know discriminations and inequalities happening and also some amazing organizations who are trying to redistribute old technology to people to to try and level the playing field a little bit so there’s um like here in leeds there’s media north west who gather up people’s old laptops and um tablets and things like that and then redistribute them to school children who need them you know and this is kind of initiated because of the lockdown so and that kind of awareness that technology inequality is even um you know more exacerbated by by the situation that we’re in at the moment um and how can we try and even that out a little bit so um so yeah so there are there are people doing things to help which is good yeah yeah and overcoming that and built obsoletism i think in the machines because it’s that idea of choice and autonomy comes up again it’s say um well you have to get the new whatever it is you have to get the new version of the iphone and then but you have to get this special connector because it’s not compatible with these other things and you know it’s you don’t really have that many choices when and you’ve also got too much choice at the same time well that’s what literally just happened to me at the start of this i realized this laptop is a 2019 um edition a version laptop and yet my headphones for my phone which is it is a new phone which makes it sound like i buy technology all the time i eek it out to the point that it just all dies at once and i’ve been to where i have to have two different types of headphones because the connection is different

yeah well and like i spend a lot of time thinking about what what products am i using that are single use and how can i change them so they’re not single use anymore um and i do think you know that whole idea where and apple are terrible for it every time you get a new computer um you have to have a new cable uh you know you can’t connect to a projector in academia like hdmi cable or so it’s like you have to keep buying these things that are well they’re going to go into landfill sites anyway um unless you recycle them which you actually can do um but the the energy and the pollution causing processes to um extract the metals and the minerals and things that are needed to make them and then to actually make them and to ship them out you know it’s like i don’t know how as a society that is allowed because we know we’re in a terrible state you know there is a climate crisis and so i think those kind of practices should be um legislated against yeah basically and especially when you look at these the specific minerals as well and where they come from a they’re not limitless resources that can just be mined indefinitely but b the conditions of and the locations of which you find such resources and minerals are predominantly in the developing world and the conditions in which they’re being mined are hugely dangerous and you know taking um lives of people that are being forced to mind them because they have no other choices available choices yeah well i was about to say we we we can choose to be ethical consumers but actually to a point we can but then it’s like okay which computer do you buy then that doesn’t you know do all of these things that isn’t going to need to be replaced in three years because you can no longer update the software for example you know it’s like i think we’d struggle to find a really clean um technology company to to change too so and i think that these companies as well by building in the obsolescence have have shot themselves in the foot in some way because like i say these resources are not infinite so then now there’s now seems to be more schemes about recycling and and to get back the minerals and the different compounds and reuse them but it and it only seems to be very recent that they’ve clocked onto this yeah and that they’re still saying that we need to keep producing these things where actually they should be saying we need to extend the shelf life of these things because extraction reproduction of whatever it is you know that again there’s still pollution causing processes that use energy as well that then have to that has to be produced so um so yeah i i do think it’s good the more recycling we can do but it’s not the answer we need to be consuming less and that’s that’s the deeply unpopular uh take for consumer culture because obviously we are in economies that demand growth and expansion so so the idea that consuming less is the way forwards really doesn’t fit in with that that kind of dominant economic idea

yeah and i think just to tie it in a little bit with that idea of self-care there’s that expectation of us taking care of ourselves and yet so you know how many of us know how to fix a basic thing on a computer that goes wrong how do we how do we know how to care for our technologies and that sort of thing we’re actually kept out of those systems you know where and they’re made so complex that we can’t possibly do we have to go to a specialist and spend money so even prolonging their life is a form of consumerism as well also thinking about like self-care is like yeah we’re kind of looking after ourselves but we’ve also we’ve also already had our industrial revolution so who are we to say you know we’ve had the luxury kind of you know comparable affluence and the benefits that that’s brought to us other countries they haven’t had the the industry revolution yet um and they look at us and we’re saying okay we need to stop we need to stop producing stuff you need to stop producing stuff for us and and there’s saying well why should we you know it’s all very well in that yeah and and i think that whole self-care um the idea i mean you there’s a kind of idea the feminist ethics of care which is something completely different which is um i think more communal and about community rather than the self-care that’s kind of consumer culture self-care is you look after yourself and everybody else should be lacking looking after themselves so you know it’s saying act in your own self-interest which is not acting in the interest of the environment and it’s amazing how many more single-use things there are now um into in kind of relation to self-care and i’ve got some of those you know like face mask sheets um that became a really big thing and it’s like i don’t it’s one another one of those products where i’m like why are we allowed to make this because it’s a a kind of fibrous um fabric basically that you kind of use for 10 minutes and then throw in the bin it’s like and then it’s packaged as well so it’s kind of creating all of this waste and for what like what it’s more convenient basically i guess that’s a selling point um but but i do think that’s the kind of selfishness of the idea of self-care that we have um in our society now well it just makes i’m reading and part of a research group that i’m involved with we’re kind of slowly reading through um haraway’s tentacular thinking which just feels really relevant here in terms of the she’s calling for she’s calling for thinking thinking she keeps on insisting think we must think we must but also thinking you know outside of ourselves like thinking in a web and of all the different like you know every ecology not just about the beyond the individual beyond the human um and and people as you know sadly the culture certainly is you know capitalist culture is thoughtless and it it um encourages thoughtlessness and in that it self-care encourages you to not think beyond yourself but it’s kind of core it’s just like put this plastic sheet on your face and don’t think about where that’s come from what’s been required to make that what that what’s going to happen when you put that in the bin where that goes you know what implications that has yeah and well to kind of go back maybe to where we began um these are also very gendered products that we’re talking about and um it’s not just that we are selfish consumers we are also absolutely disciplined to perform these kind of rituals of self-care and kind of commodified beautification basically i think as women particularly we are chastised for this kind of so mindless consumption but also absolutely expected to do it so um so i think there is a kind of gender equal inequality at the heart of this kind of really problematic idea of self-care as well because that’s not equally expected or distributed sure absolutely i had a scary thought there about the idea of relics because of uh what you’ve really both been working on before and just the idea of all of these laptop cases and stuff being found by archaeologists in the future it’s gonna be a layer of um disposable face masks along with them yeah and plastic gloves yes the the kind of idea for my relics series did sort of come out of that not in terms of technology but but this idea that the packaging which is not the thing that we buy and it’s kind of that it protects but then it’s immediately wasted and discarded uh but also a lot of time and money goes into the design and development of the packaging and the kind of finessing the rhetoric of what these things say um so yes i kind of came to the conclusion that as a society we wouldn’t be uh remembered for these fascinating uh religious objects that will be kind of unearthed um in a thousand years time it will be plastic pollution um so i kind of i was trying to reimagine this plastic waste as these sort of pseudo-religious uh relics

it’s something i’ve been aware of with the materials that i’m using and i haven’t really dug into sorry very deeply but you know i am working with polythene which is completely unenvironmentally friendly and but i suppose i’m quite interested in this idea that i’m making something that is using those materials that the materials i’m using are supposed to be once used materials and well not the gold but um the polythene sheeting is a dust sheet which is intended to be used once which i would absolutely never use for that purpose and instead i’m using it um for its material qualities the fact that it’s slightly transparent and it’s you know very lightweight and has this beautiful kind of diaphanous quality and also if you move past it it creates this sort of success sounds which i absolutely love but also the fact that i’m using material which um will be really long lasting you know which which is interesting because obviously within the art market um part of the value of an artwork is decided on what it’s made on and how durable it is which also kind of ties in with value assigned to religious objects you know the older they are greater value is assigned to them certainly in western culture and where we’re very interested in this idea of the original and and also it feels like a kind of a nice juxtapositional contrast when i’m making uh work about intransigent uh images and the online to make something tangible and manifest but which is made out of these materials which are both kind of different and lightweight but also actually very very durable could i ask you both to is there anywhere you want to point people to to find your work so your websites your social media and is there anywhere where we can maybe see your joint work as well oh that’s a good question the well my website is and i do put some work on instagram as well which is dawn seawoolie in terms of our joint work the the slideshow that we mentioned at the beginning is called immoral foods and um that is on what is that on in media rise in media red it’s a media commons um online journal basically so that that should be quite easy to search um but i don’t think there is any well yeah we haven’t really published anything else yet have we no they’ll be the book obviously the um book chapter that should be forthcoming and and we do have plans to make our first well maybe not first because i would count this slideshow as a kind of artwork but a new um physical collaborative artwork which maybe we’ll show in this in this show or another show depending on when we make it yeah yeah but that could also be an instagram thing as well like yeah i think it will be it might be published as we go along um but we haven’t worked out the details of that yet sure no um and my work you can my website’s and i actually have two inspired loads of instagram

and then i have my personal account which i do share bits of artwork on but then you know just personal stuff as well which is just zara worth and then i do have um an instagram account which i consider a kind of an artwork and a space specifically for for work um which is zara underscore worth this has been audiovisual cultures with me paula blair and my very special guests don willie and sarah wirth the music is common ground by airton licensed under creative commons 3.0 non-commercial license and is downloadable from to support my work in making this podcast as well as patreon membership you can give a donation of any amount with paypal dot me forward slash pei blair or you can give a regular payment with a wide range of currencies via forward slash pei blair be part of the conversation with av cultures on facebook and twitter and av cultures pod on instagram uh thank you so much to don and zara for all your time uh it’s been really brilliant to hear from you and thanks everybody out there for joining us take great care be accent to each other and catch you next



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