Where I’m from in the States, it’s kind of unusual to do a practice-led, fine art PhD. When I finished my MA, I went straight into teaching at a local university, where I had done my undergraduate degree. Teaching was a great experience, and I really enjoyed being an academic, but I realised to do a PhD, I needed more.
The first time I’d heard about practice-based research was on my Masters. One of the professors had brought a visiting artist from the UK, who was doing a practice-based PhD. I didn’t understand it entirely, but was intrigued. It wasn’t until later on that it came up again as an option for me.
As far as how I ended up at RCA, well, I researched some of the European schools in 2009, looking at those that had printmaking areas, concentrations and courses. A lot of schools are interdisciplinary, and I looked at those too. But when I found Printmaking at the RCA, I felt the interests of the faculty members were most in line with my questions and interests.
I visited in autumn 2009, having phoned up about coming in. I brought a mock proposal. Two of the professors sat down with me for an hour, discussing this and my work. After this, I felt confident it was the place where I was going to be understood. (Professor and head of Printmaking) Jo Stockham got in touch soon after about research interests and things to read. I applied in February and started the following autumn. I felt like I’d formed a relationship with people from the programme before and during the application process.
Printmaking is always dependent on technology, whether it's old or relatively new. My project started out around mapping technology and imaging but has evolved to explore more the condition of surveillance and being networked. I’m interested in how images that we see in the everyday, and technology that we use in the everyday, tell us how to feel and teach us how to feel.
I use a lot of images from Google Earth and Streetview, not for location-based study, but more to reflect back how we’re being ‘imaged’ to ourselves, and how we’re being shown the world we live in, in a very constructed way. These images are something that was taken apart, and in the process of being recorded by media, put back together in a very particular way. It’s not accidental and it’s not transparent. But we are expected to see it like that by the people that make it. I'm interested in teasing out what the implications of all this digital surveillance is, at least for me as an artist.
Digital is sold to us as something immaterial and ephemeral, but it's every bit as material as objects. Every digital interaction records behaviours and actions, turning them into objects. They might be small and live miles away in a Google server warehouse, but they’re real and never go away. My work aims to foregrounds this material nature of digital.
I use archaic or handmade processes to make woodblock prints. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with carving Bitmap images, at a 12 pixels per inch scale. I’m carving these by hand. There’s also usually something about the image I choose that is communicating some part of this networked condition.
All of this is changing my understanding of my work. Before I was happy with being intuitive, and to leave it at that, but now, there are demands – demands to be rigorously self-reflective.
"The way the image is rendered is as important as the image itself. It’s about the relationship between the scale of the pixel and the scale of the mark, and the relationship between media, process and scale, and the way we interpret those things."