My tech life that Flows endlessly on underneath the surface

People who know me are aware of my keen interest in technology, which has been an important part of my life since the late 1990’s when I did my MA in Fine Art at Cardiff UWIC.

When I began to plan Flow I initially intended to make that quite central to my work, but somehow not only did it not hold a headline, it hasn’t really been mentioned much anywhere.

This may seem strange to others, but not to me. Because it’s my normal. For me to create a policy for Flow about integrating technology into its programme would be a bit like making a policy on the need to breathe air or drink water.

HOWEVER, I hold my hand up, I should at least mention it.

What many people don’t know is how long my technology-tail is. I was married to a computer salesman, so had early access to desktop computing and internet. My first experience of image editing involved changing the colour of ONE pixel and leaving it overnight to grumble and groan while it rendered the change. I remember the handshake sound with warm fondness when the connection was finally made to the internet, it was a hit and miss affair. And an affair it was, I loved it.

On my MA I learnt a lot about myself, my thinking, writing, art and technology. I did a course on designing websites. I was an early adopter of digital video editing. I cannot ignore my sister Sue Thomas’s influence here. She taught me about LambdaMOO, about Sherry Turkle, Roseanne Stone and others. I read Donna Haraway, fell in love with Stelarc’s giggle (who didn’t?).

My MA thesis was about the digital body and my video installations were too.

Parallel to digital I still loved getting my hands dirty. I taught web design at from the Watershed and also used the dark rooms to produce work created from transparencies of digitally processed images. I made casts of my face in jelly and stuck them to computer monitors. I filmed them melting, then reversed footage to rebuild them. A life cycle. I filmed myself with my head inside an empty monitor, looking out. I got my first domain name – Looking back, it is intriguing that my work involved technology AND visceral things like shed snake skins and jelly.

My first website was called ‘grey matters’. I still believe that. I used to explore new tech at the Watershed and with HP.

As I slowed down my production of art and moved more into producing and managing projects, I continued my love of tech in different ways. Using technology more as a tool than a concept. But I was drawn back into into the world of making, of the haptic, the need to remember the blood coursing through the body, not just electricity. I enjoy ‘things’.

Change and adaption and development inspire me. Hybridity does too, it has informed the way I work with non-art partners, produce work for liminal places, transgressing boundaries. Technology’s rhizomes penetrate everything I do, but they stay under the surface. This is a brief glimpse of what goes on underneath. If you want to know more, just ask.

In the same way I use Flow as a metaphor for the bore on the River Severn, I think of my under the surface technology as a physical landscape thing. In the Forest of Dean there are ‘scowles’ – features created by ripples in the geostrata, where folds break open on the surface, revealing millions of years of the earths history. The scowle is a great metaphor for the way technology underpins all I do, but only rarely reveals itself. Scowles support wonderful flora and fauna and create green oases – for me, when technology slips under my skin and into my thinking it does the same, producing rich compost for growth.

NB am writing this on a train, with my internet tethered on my iPhone, wow, how life has moved on!

Published by carolyn black

I'm an artist and also commission contemporary art in unusual locations. As a producer, I fundraise, curate, project manage and deliver projects. I'm also a writer and film-maker.

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