Thoughts on a Digital Materiality - Guest Post by Alysha Creighton

Exhibiting The Touch (2011) makes me reflect on the evolution of my video practice since I began to work in the medium seven years ago. I’ve been considering how my relationship to digital video has shifted during this time, from my initial discomfort to a playful exploration of the materiality, presence and experiential nature of digital video.

As an artist who was trained primarily in traditional media of drawing and painting the shift to video was disconcerting. I had studied dance before beginning my art training and had always framed my drawing practice in terms of physicality, embodiment and materiality.

It was my interest in physicality and materiality that made me ambivalent about video. I sensed that video had the capacity to create a powerful experience for the viewer but was repelled by the seeming immateriality and daunted by the many sedentary hours I knew I would need to spend in front of the computer.  My early video works interrogated video as a medium in much the same way as some of the early video art experiments of the sixties and seventies, exploring the interactions between the digital and material. Is there a materiality of the digital?

My entire practice since has been occupied with the tension between the digital and the material. Making physical the digital, making digital the material and navigating the space between. I consider the intimacy and physicality with which we interact with digital displays which furnish our lives, cradling them close, tucking them in next to us as we drift off to sleep.

I met, Stephanie Imbeau, the woman featured in The Touch, while on a residency in New York. Also an artist, Stephanie and I became friends while I spent nearly thirty hours drawing directly onto her body and face. The video somehow contains the intensity of those hours spent together through boredom, laughter, pain, conversation, silence, discomfort, creating a portrait that is at once tender and unsettling.

This work was pivotal in forming the way I think about video. The ability to trigger a physical, visceral, tactile experience for the viewer dissolved many of the assumed binaries that had guided my thinking about digital media previously.

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