After my initial period of loss, isolation and mourning, I focused on my artistic practice carrying forward existing projects and adapting them into my new life of social distance in a digital arts community. “findingtrackzero” was a research exploration project making commentary on data consumption in a world where streaming entertainment takes up a majority of power consumption. I have been exploring how to reflect upon the importance of data and complexity of care in creating digital artifacts that are meant to be cherished and acknowledged instead of hoarding, forgetting and uploading everything to a cloud where no person cares other than automated algorithms engaging in data mining.
The arts sector obsesses over digital environments; how people engage and how society responds to various changes, shifting attitudes and updating mannerisms. Much of the responsive behaviour within the arts comes from another long-standing obsession with comparative newness and an interest in both defining our world and an eagerness to ensure that the world is never fully defined. Reflections on place, structures and the past are considerations, but not often a focus for discourse as there is little room in a space where a rapid succession of new content can be overwhelming. As an aging curator, I feel the impulse to shift from looking at the incidental to discussions of the past, present and maybe the future, if there is time for that…
I work with the contemporary art world as my general audience. I engage the public as actions thinking mostly about reflecting the needs of those around me and simultaneously the overall arts environment of Canada. I spent a summer working on self-directed projects engaging through peer artists in digital meetings while filming, editing and animating. My work plan was a basic series of daily actions including caring for my partner and children, maintaining my home and focusing on my arts practice. As a snapshot, reflections take shape as animations, musical ignitions and poetic recontextualizations of past instances considering structures within a digital era and how rapidly changing environments, both digital and physical affect communications methodologies within the arts and towards the general public.
findingtrackzero was both a commentary of my personal artistic isolation and discourse that connects people both within my personal circles and beyond the arts sector overall making effort to form and renew networks while trapped in social isolation. The resulting works are captured through flexible magnetic storage media sealed in rectangular plastic enclosures lined with fabric that removes dust particles known as floppy disks.
Floppy disks were omnipresent during the timespan of Windatt’s life with the exception of the past 15 years. As the most prominent format of digital data collection during this time, and with consideration of current technology and communication needs within arts, 3.5 inch disks are employed in this project. Through Mavica digital cameras and various PC computer systems from the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, documentation will be made in the form of digital stills and minor recordings each within the 1.44MB file size limit. This forces data collected to be refined with care and dissemination efforts to be specific as each digital image, video or document is created through technology that is incompatible with most technology today. Traditionally, a disk can only be accessed through synchronizing its head into a set position with its disk tracks. This is accomplished with a sensor or by including an immobile reference surface on the drive. In either case, the track zero position of the disk is the beginning for all data writing processes. The resetting of this process results in the clicking and grinding noise emitted by floppy drives while they write and rewrite data.
This research-based time of artistic experimentation considered now-archaic digital technologies and how innovative approaches can be employed towards their usefulness today. During the 80s & 90s floppy disks were used to store computer operating systems which was the core structure of how digital interactions occurred. Naming the project “findingtrackzero” references the pursuit of core values within the arts especially when reflecting on technology, communications and the ever changing arts milieu which mirrors the rapid changes of a technological world. Exploring through small-scale art films allows me to weave a web of complex initiatives and consider many questions impacting me and the arts systems as a whole. How can building strategic digital knowledge capacity within the arts sector ever identify current challenges, issues or opportunities within mainstream digital environments? How can enforced human isolation during a crisis inform future relationships to ensure healthier arts systems? How can space be made for reflection, care and memory instead of abandonment and a hunger for newness?
15 minute film festival
The result of this pondering is the “15 minute film festival”, my series of self-created very art short films. This ironically named series of short works totalling more than 30 minutes in length takes inner reflections and brings them out into view. Some videos are edited from footage that has lived on hard drives for more than a decade while others were filmed at my kitchen table or in my backyard. I have reflected heavily on how to add constraints to data as a way of ensuring that effort must be made to manage, maintain and watch each piece. If something is worth seeing or sharing then it is worth a certain level of stewardship and care. I worked tirelessly on animations, rotoscoping over video, midi audio, reviving technology that is far from new and attempting to create a very small voice for each film.
My artistic voice present throughout each work positions self in relation to current identity politics, family dynamics and arts advocacy while being hyper aware of relationships strained through loss and fatigue. I have a wonderful circle of support around me which is important as I have lost several family members and coworkers to COVID19 and during the crisis to other medical illnesses. Not being able to mourn effectively became a huge focus for this work while making an effort to bring humor, beauty, sadness and to challenge societal norms through provocation. For me, creating discourse is a major part of civic engagement and one of the few things I love about the country “Canada” which I inhabit. I activate through provocateur behaviour with consideration, respect and care.
Each of my included 25 works juxtapose ideas functioning as independent films while the overall body of work forms a summary of my mental state as an artist and projects emotions of loss, hope and a need for building community between myself and my peers. I hope to achieve this as both a small series of activations and interactions while reestablishing my personal network away from hungry digital obsessions and a place where frequency creates only noise.
UPDATE: Working consistently as an artist during the COVID 19 pandemic, I have been making short animated art films. These films are each produced at radically low-resolution as a way of forcing low file size. I am working towards having a completely self-produced micro-film festival which should have a series of films totalling less than 25mb in size and publishable as a set of floppy disks. Here are a few samples posted as they are completed on my YouTube channels.
- “Hot Bugs” – 1:41 – 2020
- “Everything will be alright” – 0:57 – 2020 – Silent
- “Happy Endings” – 1:23 – 2020
- “fire kids 2011” – 1:33 – 2020
- “Abandoned House #5” – 1:03 – 2020
- “Missing You” – 1:14 – 2020
- “Abandoned House #1” – 1:34 – 2020
- “I LIVE UNDER” – 0:59 – 2020
- “kaleidoscopic” – 1:05 – 2020
- “I Found This Tape in my Attic” – 1:29 – 2020
- “Temperature and Location” – 3:07 – 2021
- “What kind of art do you do?” – 1:13 – 2020
- “Abandoned House #2” – 1:13 – 2020
- “Interconnected Movement” – 1:04 – 2020
- “moth on my porch” – 0:31 – 2020
- “Fire destroys herd and hope” – 1:26 – 2020
- “Danger and Joy 2” – 1:33 – 2020
- “Hotel Series: 02 Toronto 2019” – 1:09 – 2020
- “Abandoned House #4” – 2:04 – 2020
- “the festival” – 0:50 – 2020
- “Really Fast Horror Movie” – 1:37 – 2020
- “a brief study of fire” – 1:32 – 2020
- “Hotel Series: 01 Calgary 2018” – 1:13 – 2020
- “Detriment & Restriction” – 1:41 – 2020
- “I SLIPPED AND FELL INTO MYSELF” – 1:20 – 2020
In 2021, I converted some of the videos and images into a virtual exhibition using the artsteps.com free gallery site. Click the image below or go to: https://www.artsteps.com/view/603cfb619d4b305279e1316b
I would like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for supporting this work and helping me to make this happen.
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