[Online Exhibition] 
유기체적 신체 이후
After the Organic Body 

[워크숍] 신체변형 온라인 Zoom 워크숍 “전기인간 - 투명한 손’ 
             2020. 12. 28 예정 / DM예약 필수  
[워크숍] 스튜디오 쉘터 X 뇌청소방 = 사이보그와 애니메이션
팟캐스트 듣기 
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[워크숍] 정진수(Visualsfrom)감독과 영화
“A.I & Brazil” 함께보기
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*실시간 스트리밍 전시는 종료되었습니다.
  온라인 녹화스트리밍은 12월까지 유지 후 아카이브로 전환예정

** Alexander Augustus작가의 12화 시리즈 물은 계속 업데이트 되고 있습니다. 
Critical Thinking by Alexander Augustus

ANGER

Introduction


We can all agree that the year 2020 has been a global nightmare, full of disease, political upheaval and lockdown. For the first time in our lives, all nations were simultaneously struggling with the same issues, and as friends and family became ill around us we were forced to confront two universal truths; firstly, that humans may one day become extinct; and secondly, that our lives are not all equally valued. Of course we knew this already, but in times of crisis inequality often presents itself in a starker way. Whilst contemplating the theme of “After the Organic Body”, I tried to address these realities.


During my lockdown I escaped my body like a wandering spirit to create ANGER. Inside this story world, actor Daniel Collard theatrically narrates an adventure which dips into science-fiction, zombie apocalypse, and political satire, and takes place in what can only be described as a medieval hellscape. I wrote, directed, produced and animated this artwork to explore the politics of our organic bodies, related to monarchy, class, mental health, and technological future forecasting.


The experience is free online and employs the conventions of new media such as audiobooks, and Youtube live soundtracks with looping animations, making the artwork as accessible as possible. So plug in and let me melt down the walls of your lockdown.

Synopsis


ANGER is set between 2030 and 40, in a world where the technology exists to remove human minds from their bodies, allowing them to rebuild new bodies in fantastical forms. Each one is unique and comes from the participants’ own minds. Faced with the increasing risk of environmental disaster and disease, the British Government have decided to open this technology up to their own population, seeing no other means of survival. We follow the adventures of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as she journeys into this unknown future, exploring the highs and lows of a post-organic Britain.



The Visual Style


Visually, my goal was always to achieve a kind of corporate Medieval-hellscape / science-fiction feeling. The viewer should feel: “well, we might all be going to hell, but at least it feels familiar!” In each chapter animation rotated characters like avatars on a starting screen of a third-person computer game. I adapted my illustration style to a 3D platform by sculpting each character digitally, exporting the animation in frames and then hand-illustrating and colouring those frames. I previously worked as a Game Artist at a global gaming company, and also a Designer for a digital advertising firm - and I have seen a lot of my work “go viral” - in a similar vein, I wanted to make this project as accessible as I could.


I sought inspiration from contrasting places; from the mysterious Voynich Manuscript to Norihiro Yagi’s “Claymore” Manga; from Francisco Goya’s etchings, to Pendleton Ward’s “Adventure Time”. I have always loved the tight and repeating Medieval-style patterning of William Morris’ wallpaper, and tried to combine this style with the shading and texturing of antique engravings, and the colour palettes and block-colouring of contemporary cartoons. The viewer should be hypnotised by the rotation and colours.








The Music


Continuing with the Medieval-hellscape / science-fiction theme, I began searching for a musician to create a soundscape for my universe. I stumbled upon a genre of music called “Bardcore”, a tongue-in-cheek style which takes pop-songs and transforms them into orchestral medieval tunes; from Dolly Parton, to Eminem and Coolio. In particular, I appreciated the humour and skill involved in the work of an artist called Cornelius Link, who had garnered literally tens of millions of views online. I asked him whether he would be interested in working on a theme tune which sounded like a harpsichord, in a spaceship, in hell, (or the bum-music in a Bosch painting). He was totally into it, and developed a dark, tense and beautiful soundtrack which used traditional instrumentation alongside synths to compliment the story perfectly.

Pearls versus Shells


The technology I invented for ANGER is a machine which differentiates between mind and body and separates them like an egg yolk:


“How can it be that one’s mind is as vast as a universe, infinitely creative, ingenious and advanced - yet one’s body remains so vulnerable. Like a wonderful pearl trapped inside an old shell.” - ANGER, Chapter 1


I’ve always been disappointed with the limitations of my body compared to the vastness of my mind. For many of us, as we grow up, we find ourselves holding funerals for different versions of ourselves; the explorer, the astronaut, the scientist or mathematician, the wizard or vampire. We come to believe that the physical world cannot support all these variations. Maybe in school you selected certain disciplines like Graphic Design or Biology, but were forced to drop others, such as Advanced Mathematics, or History. I certainly refused to shut-down anything for as long as I could, taking joint honours in three subjects at university, and then doing a Master's Degree in a fourth. I was going to be everything I could be, and in many ways this is how I have been able to create ANGER. In life we can feel as though our minds are being constrained inside our bodies, and the creatives among us often try to escape through our artwork.


The tension between mind and body; the imagined world and practical world, was the starting point of my concept. I imagined the human body as a kind of utilitarian and sensible “shell” holding an infinitely valuable “pearl” prisoner. I was struck by Neuroscientist David Eagleman’s explanation of the complexity of the mind;


“Your brain is built of cells called neurons and glia - hundreds of billions of them. Each one of these cells is as complicated as a city.” - David Eagleman, "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain", 2011


It’s hardly surprising that we have vivid visions of what we could become; when our brains are each as vast and complex as hundreds of billions of cities - just imagine the possibilities. In ANGER, I wanted to explore the reality of a world where people were escaping from their bodies by conjuring new ones from their minds; I named these new bodies “Shells” and imagined that they were composed of animal, plant, mineral and object elements combined into fantastical forms, almost like a subconscious Dada or surrealist exercise. In ANGER we see different characters and members of the public queueing up to burst into exciting and surprising new bodies, met with clapping audiences and live video cameras.


Conscious versus Subconscious


An ongoing theme of ANGER is the struggle for control; control over nature, control over each other, and control over ourselves. Nothing new comes without conflict, my “Pearl” technology would bring with it new forms of inequality. I was thinking a lot about the British industrial revolution which arguably made life better for everyone with innovations in food production, manufacturing and increased life expectancy, but there were new traps and dangers for the poor. Abuses of physical labour, workplace dangers, alcohol dependancy, pollution, and slavery to Victorian Workhouses placed the bodies of the poor in direct danger:


“The way in which the vast mass of the poor are treated by modern society is truly scandalous. They are herded into great cities where they breathe a fouler air than in the countryside which they have left.” - Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism, 1847


Therefore, I did not want to invent a technology which could be easily manipulated for the advantage of a few - I didn’t want people to plan their own bodies with specific functions or biases. Instead, I wanted this technology to arise from the subconscious of each person, growing out like an organic limb of their own minds. I found the concept quite poetic; a technology which would search your memories for those treasures which define you. Sometimes they might be predictable, sometimes surprising, but always unique to your experience; taking your deepest longings, comforts, protections, and then constructing a body to house them.


The Queen’s Divine Body


“[Her Majesty’s] mind would be extracted from her failing body and she would be transformed into a higher form of being, with a new body… Free of the pain, the hazmat suit, free of the hovering, jet-propelled, diamond-encrusted throne-mobile which paraded her through the streets like a waving mascot for the masses.” - ANGER, chapter 1


Many have asked me why I made Queen Elizabeth II the main character of this story. I will explain. In world mythology we have many characters who transform from human into animal, plant, object or even God. In the UK there is one human who is believed to have already been touched by God and transformed into a higher form of being; her majesty the queen. Once anointed at her coronation, in 1953, the Queen’s body became divine, an idea which much of the British public still believe to be true. The ritual was performed by the most senior cleric in the Church of England, in which the Queen was anointed with Holy oil, a mixture of orange, roses, cinnamon, musk and ambergris. From this moment onwards we are supposed to believe that her body transformed - it is now protected by God and can no longer be treated the same as a normal human body. Her blood is believed to be royal, and will continue to be passed through the family line. In this way, the Queen is a transient being.


“Elizabeth cast her mind back to her former life when it was a great taboo to have touched her, the Queen. A commoner could not offer a handshake, they could only hope for the possibility of receiving one.” ANGER, Chapter 2


Many of the best main characters are reluctantly forced into their adventure. Queen Elizabeth II was never supposed to be Queen, she only became one because her uncle abdicated the throne, and then her father died fairly young. As a 25 year old she became stuck in the role of monarch literally because of the body she was born into and her genetic line. I wanted to help her escape that body, and that is a key narrative of ANGER.


If my writing of the Queen sounds authentic, then it’s because I used as many direct quotes from Queen Elizabeth’s speeches as I could. Her speech in ANGER is almost entirely quoted. I also quoted Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria where fitting, and the clothing in the animation of Chapters 2 and 4 are a homage to these Queens, with the iconic red hair and black dress respectively.






I wanted to package the Queen into a box which would float around and take her to meet people. Therefore I invented the Throne-mobile. This is because I think of the Royal family like a museum exhibit, or like fish in an aquarium, or like the severed limbs of saints in ancient churches - petrified and displayed. In many ways I feel very sorry for them. I mean them no disrespect with this analogy, quite the opposite in fact, I wanted to contrast this imprisonment with the struggle of the key-workers in their hazmat suits. I believe that an unequal society actually makes everyone unhappy, not just those at the bottom. Richard G. Wilkinson addresses this point in his 2009 book, “The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone”:


“The big idea is that what matters in determining mortality and health in a society is less the overall wealth of that society and more how evenly wealth is distributed. The more equally wealth is distributed the better the health of that society.” - Richard G. Wilkinson, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, 2009.


If you observe the heartaches, isolation and dysfunctions of our contemporary royal family, it quickly becomes clear that they are probably no happier than the average person. In my narrative, I deliberately paired the Queen with a disaffected young man, so they might find one another and gain some mutual understanding - we watch as they set one another free.

The Queen as a £5 (spoiler alert)


So why transform the Queen’s body into a £5? Well, I once had an Art History lecture in which Karl Marx’s theory of money was discussed. The professor floated the idea that money was, in fact, having more fun under capitalism than humans were:


“Capital is money, capital is commodities. By virtue of it being value, it has acquired the occult ability to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs.” - Karl Marx, Das Kapital Vol. I, 1867


I never forgot that Idea; looking down at my £5 note and imagining it travelling around, meeting different people, buying nice things and having adventures. Never feeling cold, poverty, hunger or homelessness. I also thought about the way rich people deal with money as opposed to the way poor people do, locking it away, investing it and keeping it prisoner. When conceptualising this artwork, I was contemplating what body the Queen might transform into, and one day it hit me “The Queen never wanted to be Queen… she would love to slip into the world as a £5 and go on an adventure!” So that’s what I wrote about.


This also served as an interesting role continuation for her - as she swore to serve the people of her country, and would continue to do so as a £5. It also served as an interesting role reversal, as she has always had the global public as voyeurs into her life, but as a secret £5, she would be voyeurs into ours.

Key Workers


“Get rid of all the cleaners, rubbish collectors, bus drivers, supermarket checkout staff and secretaries, for example, and society will very quickly grind to a halt. On the other hand, if we woke up one morning to find that all the highly paid advertising executives, management consultants and private equity directors had disappeared, society would go on much as it did before: in a lot of cases, probably quite a bit better.” - Owen Jones, Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, 2011


When a British person first meets another British person one of the very first things we try to place, alongside gender and ethnicity, is class. Traditionally the British classify people based on their wealth and the types of work they engage in; upper, middle & working class. These classifications have a toxic presence in the UK, and prejudices permeate far beyond wealth and occupation, and have become almost inescapable hereditary rights. The obvious example here is the Royal family, but another great example is David and Victoria Beckham, who have risen from lower income backgrounds into the 1%, but will never be seen as anything other than working class due to where they have come from. In ANGER I really wanted to make a technology to end this, but inevitably the 1% and political class manage to limit access to the technology, and the Key Workers are kept in their suffering bodies to operate the infrastructure of the old world. The “Pearls” somehow come to represent the new upper class, living abstract and largely impractical bodies which float around enjoying themselves while the “Key Workers” are left to run everything - this is how I think of the rich people who inherit money and do nothing with it; floating, hedonistic and ultimately selfish.


During British Covid lockdown, a proportion of the population were told to continue working. These people had essential jobs such as healthcare, supermarket work or delivery. Unfortunately, our Government failed to provide them with the proper protective clothing to keep them safe, and many contracted the disease and died in avoidable circumstances. The British general public were urged to stand on their doorsteps and clap for the Key Workers every Thursday at 8pm to thank them for their sacrifices. At the beginning it felt like a protest; supporting those who were helping society and condemning the Government for failing to protect them. However, the Government soon took ownership of this clapping, announcing it on the BBC news, formalising and promoting it. It was clever, because it shifted the protest into a kind of celebration, and the Key Workers became martyrs for a cause. It suddenly became quite uncomfortable with your neighbours if you weren’t on your doorstep clapping, and the whole situation took attention away from the Government’s failure. I recognised a depressing parallel to George Orwell’s use of the lottery system in his book “1984”, in which, for the working class, “the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive.” I borrowed this idea of a little reward or celebration to incentivise those not supported properly by the Government:


“The affluent revered the whimsical life of leisure which the Garden of Shells offered, and hoped to pay their way into the programme… Many lower-income citizens… lacking in economic leverage, took key worker jobs which allowed them to enter the Shell Lottery. The prize allowed one worker to transform into a pearl every Thursday in a live televised event.”


Doctors and nurses began to contract the disease in huge numbers due to their lack of protection, and soon they started to protest during the clapping rituals with signs such as “Doctors not Martyrs” and “the blood on my hands washes off.” But it was too late. Class systems always have casualties, but in times of disaster we always see the poorer and lower classes placing their own bodies in high-risk situations.





In Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 film ‘Modern Times’, a factory worker’s body is set to monotonous and repetitive tasks and before long his body becomes part of the machinery, we stop thinking of him as human. I also play with this idea in Volumes 1 and 3 of ANGER, with the bodies being used as tools.




Satan and the Dictator (spoiler alert)


“Horror and doubt distract

His troubled thoughts, and from the bottom stir

The Hell within him, for within him Hell

He brings.” - John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1667


I have directly quoted both Paradise Lost and the Biblical Book of Revelations throughout ANGER. In particular, Volume 2 takes place in a post-apocalyptic Hellscape which mirrors the end of the world in the Bible. A young man finds himself thrust into the depths of his own mind, as colossal eyes in the sky shoot lifeforms into the waters around him. The various characters which develop in this landscape are fractured parts of his mind which must now battle and merge to survive in this hostile environment.


The idea that Cup’s own mind becomes a Hell which he must navigate, is a concept which fascinated me about John Milton’s portrayal of Satan, the protagonist of Paradise Lost. By defying God he works against his own interests constantly, in a system which was set up for his own failure - God knew that Satan because he made him that way on purpose. God wanted to create the opposite to himself so that humans might have free will to choose the correct path between good and evil. But of course Satan had no free will to choose whether he would turn to evil, free will being afforded only to humans, and so Lucifer fights relentlessly but without hope. I admire Satan for this. We could see God as a cruel dictator in this scenario. And this is why I referenced Paradise Lost so heavily, because I believe that we are all stuck inside cultures which we cannot control, but also, because those cultures are now also inside of us too; internalised. We cannot escape where we come from, even if we do change our bodies, our prejudices are internalised.


Satan is preoccupied with the pursuit of entering the Garden of Eden and corrupting Adam and Eve, the only beings who have the luxury of choice. In many ways these are the privileged characters of God’s creation, and in today’s society I see these as the socially or financially privileged upper class who are free to choose their lives. I mirrored this in ANGER with the “Pearls” living in the “Garden of Shells”, with the character Cup, desperate to blow them up.

Jesus and Suicide (spoiler alert)


It was not only Satan who entered Hell willingly, Jesus also allowed himself to die in order to enter Hell. It was a kind of suicide, designed to save human souls, and this was also on my mind when I wrote about the character “Cup” turning his violence inwards and killing himself instead of others. In Volume 2 I modelled “The Hermit” on the character often seen as Jesus in The Book of Revelations:


“out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength” - Book of Revelations, around A.D. 96


Many argue this character is Jesus and the sword as an analogy for the truth of his speech cutting through the fake. However, in my version, “The Hermit” is rendered unable to speak, as the sword fills his mouth. The truth of reality takes his voice away, and instead he is forced to use the sword to cut and craft materials into objects which can express his ideas and feelings for him. This is my analogy of an artist in today’s society.

Phone, Money Keys - The holy trinity (spoiler alert)


“The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know. And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero. The values and distinctions that in normal life seem important disappear with the terrifying assimilation of the self into what formerly was only otherness.” - Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 1949


A story begins when a protagonist hits a conflict and is forced to leave normality in order to find a solution. They must enter the “realm of the Gods” and are aided by mentors who give them magic talismans which help them survive. For example, in the film “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), the Fairy Godmother gives ruby slippers which allow Dorothy to return home; In The Hobbit, (1937), Bilbo Baggins wins the magic ring from Gollum. I have always been fascinated by the idea of these talismans, probably because I’m an artist and I like to sculpt objects with agency. In my life I make my own sculptures which I sell to survive, I think of them as my talismans. But we all have another - our phones, our money, and our keys… and sometimes our ID.


When we are born, we enter into a societal system which already exists. Our mentors should be our parents, and we have to borrow their talismans before we can get our own. “Phone, money and keys” are so ubiquitous that they are often forgotten about. But to me these three objects are quite mystical. They are the magic talismans with which we navigate the world, we cannot even leave home without them. In Volume 2 of ANGER, a main character enters a realm within his own mind, and is set on a quest to relentlessly pursue “phone, money and keys” in order to survive, but is in society, these are dangled and . Ultimately it is ID which saves him, to be fair that’s probably the cheesiest thing in the artwork haha.

Becoming Mushrooms (spoiler alert)


“they want to grow and bloom like plants, bathe and play like otters, crystallise and form like minerals. It’s as though their focus has shifted from human life to life itself. Life with a capital L, ma’am. Perhaps they are like the spirit of human, animal, plant and mineral combined.” Dr Buttercake, Chapter 1 ANGER



So, what did I want to say with this epic catastrophe of a story? Well… I think we should learn from the plants. We can change our bodies, but our minds will always bring the hierarchy of human structure with them. My solution in the book is a fungal brain implant which allows us to be sympathetic to the plants, animals, minerals, even objects, and of course, to one another:



“Did you know fungus can grow in the brain? Fungal threads can interlace with neural pathways… Until the Internet happened, fungal webs were probably the most information-dense networks on the planet. Amazing properties. We’re hoping a few of these cells can make your Cup more responsive.”


But until we inject our brains with fungus, humans will always seek out drama.

Special Thanks
I would like to extend my unreserved gratitude to the talented creatives who gave form and voice to this project; Isaac Liddle (UK), Cornelius Link (Germany) and Daniel Collard (UK). They each saw my vision in their own unique way and gave life to the universe of ANGER. I also want to thank Belinda Greenhalgh for giving me somewhere to stay when Covid destroyed my plans.



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