Archive for September, 2007


Starting with a foundation


Our perception of reality is, for one, affected by society.  Society is everything human.  The prominence of artificiality in our society has become more and more apparent as my research has progressed.  I see it everywhere to the point that everything we surround ourselves with whether it be a physical object or a virtual entity, is fashioned by society.  It may sound like an obvious observation, but I want to look at how this premise affects our perception of reality.   

Perception is a sensory process enabling knowledge of the outside world to be obtained.  Our perception of reality is substantially affected by the level of artificiality in society.  We formulate our morals and opinions, which contribute to the formulation of our identities, on the basis of an artificial society.  Artificiality considerably affects our perception of reality. 

I’ve been working on a piece that is a representation of my thought process at this point in time.  I wanted to depict a scene that was artificially constructed and overtly staged.  Heres some film stills of the work below.

pic5.jpg  pic4.jpg  pic11.png  pic8.jpgpic7.jpg  pic9.jpg      

The mannerisms and reactions that the characters show are supposed to be not natural for a human in this predicament.  The structure of the situation, the use of of very deliberately placed lighting and music that is entirely formed from synthetic instruments and the visual look of the piece all aim to accentuate the premise of artificiality.  I see this piece the beginning of a non-linear narrative about the construction and deconstruction of the media celebrity.  To what extent does media decide an individuals path?  It is a media world that they have created and therefore control.  What implications does this have on the individual? What implications does it have on the viewing public? What is their motive?  

I’ve had some real technical difficulties with this piece!  I’m using a new colour grading program and I got the workflow between final cut and colour in a in the wrong order, this lead to me having to work a lot harder to get it to look how I wanted it.  Still its all a learning curve and I really enjoyed the whole colour grading process (even though it did give me a headache from time to time!) Hopefully I can use this experience to be more efficient in future.

I wanted to start start to look for artists just to get that side of the research flowing and I’ve found that Aernout Miks’ work demonstrates a vivid portrayal of artificiality.  His carefully prepared scenarios are performed by amateur actors and documented on video.  Cause, time and space can never exactly be determined within Miks’ work.  It is a mixture of the artificial and the real.  

‘He stages situations that involve groups of people with scenes that puts us in mind collective archetypal images: a riot (Glutinosity, 2001), a crash of the stock market (Middlemen, 2001), waiting refugees (Flock, 2002), or a scene of pillaging (Pulverous, 2003). The people in his films seem to be in their proper place, exactly where they should be, until in the course of observing them we discover certain details that don’t quite fit, behavior that is inadequate and unexpected. Indifferent, Mik’s camera passes over these incongruities, neutralizes tham, and brings us back to a reality that is more reassuring, until still other oddities surface in the image. Thus, we are constantly veering back and forth between realism and fiction.In his video installations, Mik drops us right into a middle of some critical situation whose causes are always unknown to us and whose effects are never revealed. We are transported to a space where time is drawn out and any plot has been obliterated; there is neither beginning not end, only the perception of the passage of time and a state of being’




I will look further at particular aspects of society that are overtly affected by artificiality.  The world of fame interests me, the values of fame, how it has the ability to reveal severe cracks in the ego or to view it from a marxian perspective the celebrity sign becomes a fabricated commodity.  The psychological aspects of fame, both on the individual and the viewing public.  How the media can offer us a perception of an individual that is an artificial, purposefully structured persona.  The concept of the media creating a public stage which they use to exploit their creations and influence their consumers.  This makes me think about the concept of putting someone onto the public stage, to offer a representation of an individual, or an artificial representation, and what connotations that has on the viewers perception of that individual.          



Dictionary definitions of escapism:

Concise Oxford Dictionary:  ‘The tendency to seek, or practice of seeking, distraction or relief from reality.’

Websters Dictionary: ‘A temporary mental release from reality.  A tendency to escape from reality, the responsibility and routine of real life, especially by unrealistic imaginative activity.’

These examples both agree that the point of departure for escapism is ‘reality’, but as our observations of reality are influenced profoundly by societal stimuli. Our perceptions of escapism are consequently affected and defined by our perceptions of reality.

Escapism could be seen as a way of reaching a state of mind where we are at our happiest, but this state we are achieving may only be an illusion of happiness, we always have to come back to reality to suffice our basic need before re-visiting an avenue of escape. 

The modern mass media can affect our perception of reality yet it can also offer us a release from it.  This can seen in escapist activities that offers a simulated alternative to reality.  For example, films and television shows, computer games and the perpetual rise of the Internet.  There is an evolving relationship between escapism and this industry, where they simulate our dissatisfaction with life through advertising, but never offer a solution as a product.  They aim to generate needs that have to be repetitively satisfied.  

People escape from their own concepts of reality, so how do our differing perceptions of reality affect the ways in which we escape from it?

An observation may be that if ‘escapism’ forwards us into some form of ‘non-reality’ then we have to assume that our perceptions of failure or boredom are real enough for us to want to escape from.

I feel that I may need to broaden my definition of escapist activities, as means of escape do not necessarily have to entail a flight from reality.  For example, taking part in sports or going out dancing are clearly ‘real’ activities that people may use as a form of escape.  As I needed to broaden the definition of reality to include perceptions of reality, I also need to broaden my definition of escapist to include ‘real’ activities as well.      

As well as researching the cause of escapism, I need to understand what is used as a means of escape.  I could research through interviews build up a profile of an eclectic number of individuals, their perceptions of their own realities and what they feel they escape from?  Or look at different personality types, i.e. introverts and extroverts, and investigate how this affects perceptions of reality and the type of escapism involved.

The more society itself is escapist; the more this shifts the way we escape from it.  For example, an average city worker, who spends 8 hours a day in front of a computer screen, answering phone calls and responding to e-mails, after he has spent his day earning the money in order for him to satisfy his basic needs, he may then go home and ‘escape’ from it all by watching television or a film, he may play a few computer games before he has to recharge his body before he does it all again.  His whole existence takes place in a virtual world, yet to him it is his reality.  So what then is escapism to this individual? We could assume that he might go for long walks or join a gym to lift weights? But if we consider what is ‘work’ to an individual living in an impoverished country, it may be long walks in order to collect materials, it may be lifting weights in order to transport nourishment to his or her family. 

So not only do we have to consider different perceptions of reality that contribute to different escapist activities, we also have to take into account that it also depends heavily on the context of reality.


The Artificiality of Reality

How does artificiality and simulation affect the way we perceive reality, and also the ways in which we escape from it?

A subject that I am interested in researching is the prevalence of artificiality and simulation in modern society, and how this influences our perception of what is ‘real’ and also how it affects the ways in which we escape from it.

Artificiality and simulation have become such a part of our contemporary lives that we now accept it as part of our reality.  Modern society is dominated by the mass media, and through this our perceptions of what is ‘real’ have been drastically redefined.

One aspect of society that has been redefined by the mass media is the world of fame.  The phenomenon of fame is something that has changed considerably thorough out the ages.  In times of war the famous were either heroes who saved their people, or spiritual leaders who offered salvation to the soul. In times of discovery the famous were explorers and inventors.  In the media age the famous are simply those who are most familiar to the worldwide media audience.  People are happy to substitute reality for fantasy.  The actors of the movie industry play the real heroes of history.  Media reality substitutes for actual reality.

Another reason for the survival of famous for being famous is the observations of media analysts.  As people spend more time absorbing the same media content, they will use this content as the subject of their conversations since it will be the most obvious area of mutual convergence, replacing what was previously a greater variety of conversation around subjects and topics more directly related to ‘reality’.

The modern mass media can affect our perception of reality yet it can also offer us a release from it.  This can seen in escapist activities that offers a simulated alternative to reality.  For example, films and television shows, computer games and the perpetual rise of the Internet.  There is an evolving relationship between escapism and this industry, where they simulate our dissatisfaction with life through advertising, but never offer a solution as a product.  They aim to generate needs that have to be repetitively satisfied.

Will the future be utopia or dystopia – a dream leisure society or a technological    madhouse? Can humans cope with such artificiality in their lives, or will they become aggressive, maladjusted simulation sick and unable to communicate with each other in the real world?

Will the increasing power of the mass media unify human society, or will it transform it so essential differences are smoothed over and essential truths are played down?

Will we be able to dominate our new technology, or will it dominate us? How does our media world reflect our search for social reality?

Maybe there is something in the artificiality of society that we distrust, from the concept of a virtual existence to the pre-packaged, uniformly sized vegetables that appear on the shelves of our supermarkets.  Maybe we have, as Kant described, a sense of ‘moral duty’, whereby our duty in life should precede all pleasure activities, potentially forcing us to engage with society for longer periods of time, and indulge less in activities that are ‘undutiful’, or maybe our new found artificiality allows us to be more hedonistic and ego-driven so we spend more time away from our perceived realities to escape the struggle to satisfy basic needs and the stress that causes.  


Perceptions of Reality

It has become apparent to me that reality is difficult to define because it depends on our perception of it.  Perception cannot take place without thought.  Our perception allows us to describe an entire series of events from acquiring the sensory stimulus to interpreting it.  It is a sensory process enabling knowledge of the outside world to be obtained.

One common usage of the term reality is the opinions, knowledge and attitudes shared by humans, otherwise referred to as our ‘social reality’.  Social realty is dependant on or defined by the consensus of a group.  For example, followers of the ‘Aetherius Society’ who believe that spiritual beings maintain a vigil over the earth by periodically visiting in flying saucers that radiate cosmic energy is as ‘real’ to them as the nearly universal belief in the value of education.

The term ‘society’ is a very broad one, and there are many elements of society that can affect how we perceive ourselves.  As perceptions become obscured, either in a positive or negative way, we all at times seek an escape from our observed reality.  The motivations and implications of this escape differ from individual to individual. 

Even in primitive times something motivated early man to stop and contemplate his existence. He assured some time away from the day-to-day responsibilities of hunting and gathering to make cave paintings that showed a model of him.  Maybe this was a form of escapism, or a desire for graphic representation?

In contemporary society we have evolved from this primitive scene.  Now mans hunting activities have been exchanged for a brief trip to a convenience store, or a few keystrokes on a keyboard to order a packaged meal.  Our ‘simulated’ hunting to pay for that meal is 8 or so hours a day in a place of work.  

The cave painting, however, has become culture.  It is our movies, our computer games, our music and books, the Internet, where we can generate a simulated existence. Otherwise known as the phenomenon of the modern mass media.


Starting Points For Investigation and Methodologies

My work intends to explore the idea of the human condition, with an emphasis on the relationship between the individual and society.

I feel I first need to reflect on recent work as this has formed the basis of my investigation.  The questions and new avenues of thought that my research has opened up to me is what I want to focus on as the subject matter for the upcoming period of exploration. 

My most current work has been a very broad study of fundamental aspects of modern society, and how the plethora of dichotomies that have materialised as a result on the onset of modernity can affect the individual.  

Most Recent Investigation:

 I have been investigating how society can affect the level of autonomy we possess over the choices we make that contribute to the formulation of our identity. 

 Life is a continuous series of choices.  Modern society presents us with perceptions’ of failure and success, and offers us a series of challenges in which to achieve our perception of success.  Our response to these challenges affects our perception of ourselves, and consequently, our well being.

 I made three films, collectively titled ‘The Basics Of Life’ that depicted three fundamental characteristics of society.  Firstly, the relationship between the individual and (capitalist) society, questioning the level of autonomy we possess over the choices we make in order to satisfy our basic needs.  The second film questioned the level of autonomy we possess over choices that shape our personal and interpersonal relationships.  The third film was intended to act as a reflection point and questioned the importance of balance.






This projects intention was to outline a foundation.  It was never meant to illustrate or define, more to act as a departure point for stimuli and questioning.  I now want to use a ‘triangle theory’ in order to focus intrinsically on select variables in order to obtain a deeper understanding of my subject matter.     

My Current Methodology:

My work has always been a reflection of my observations.  If you make an observation, then remove it from it own reality, it can potentially be viewed from an alternative perspective.  This alternative perspective could act as a catalyst for the formulation of a new perspective.  The new perspective can then be applied to reality, potentially affecting the way you perceive it.

The are flaws in this methodology, I feel that certain words I have used, like ‘reality’ require a more cautious definition.  I will look at this further in my next post.  

September 2007
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