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Sandra Crisp - Increasing automation and ubiquitous algorithmic process interwoven into 21st Century

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

By Sandra Crisp

Data_scape and perpetual browse_r 2 - 2019 video and 3D image projects revised and updated for the changed world of Covid-19:

3D Image


Data_scape 68-3, 2019

Data_scape 116, 2019

At the time of beginning Data_scape series 3D image project in 2019 I became interested in how algorithms increasingly interact with everyday virtual life but remain hidden and continually working behind the scenes. Data trackers concealed in code beneath the browsers we search, determining what visual content and website links are presented, elusive algorithms determining what is seen and not seen in social media feeds. Invoking a sense of personal unease in how these processes redact or reveal information and what personal data is being collected as we go.

During the same time period, global systems, structures, and politics seemed to be dramatically shifting such as the increased urgency to deal with climate change reflected in increasing global mass protests, also the UK move toward leaving the EU - a sense of things going wrong.

Both these themes and my response to them formed strong conceptual input realised through abstraction rather than in any obvious narrative way – not to answer global questions or put forward theories, political or otherwise, but this unease definitely became intertwined in Data_scapeimage series. Eventually resulting in strange, uneasy and quite unstable looking 3D models - ambiguous forms in virtual space situated between object and landscape.

Fast forward to 2020 emergence of Covid-19 and eventual lockdown…

Usually, I work with different processes until every possibility has been explored and then move on to new challenges/techniques, deciding at the beginning of 2020 that Data_scape was complete as a project, or so I thought. The emergence of novel Coronovirus Covid – 19 and disastrous consequences was also so overwhelming that I was unsure if I could actually produce any work at all, let alone start a new project. However, I decided to render two more (so far) 3D images for an online exhibition.

My practise usually interacts with whatever is happening in 24/7 news media. For these new lockdown images 2020 Internet searches using keywords *Covid-19* and *Coronovirus* resulted in random visuals including; multiple styles of protective face masks; spikey, predatory-looking magnified virus structures; PPI; infographic curves and bar charts. These were then used as both surface modifiers and texture-mapping visuals to create dense and highly detailed 3D images - the unease I felt at the start of the project in 2019 continued, but in 2020 more as a response to the understandable collective fear and particularly how the pandemic was being handled in the UK, not well.

The late lockdown, continued conflicting messages, dodgy graphics and information put out through the media often two weeks in advance, building tension before policy was formally announced from the live-televised government Covid podium. Becoming sensitised to every bit of media information - data/information becomes hyper-information, always on, continual analysis - the two new 2020 Data_scape-CV19 images appear viral and slightly scary with darkened embossed surfaces created by heavy bump maps applied to the model’s surface.

Data_scape CV-19 (2), 2020

Data_scape images utilise free 3d software Blender and a multi-layered approach where images are developed through multiple processes and experimentation both online, and offline. Visuals gathered via entering specific terms into a search engine and are then downloaded to an archive on my hard drive and used to “texture map” the surfaces of 3d virtual objects/models.

Texture mapping is a way to attach or pin visuals to the surfaces of 3d models usually to simulate realistic surfaces such as wood or metal etc. But my approach is more for 3d collage/assemblage purposes rather than any desire to simulate virtual realism. These downloaded/borrowed visual fragments are also used as surface modifiers to deform 3d structures sculpturally, often producing quite unexpected results to work with. Serendipity is always a positive to move projects forward.

Duck Duck Go search engine is used rather than Google as the former does not track the user and store previous search terms or preferences - Google and Facebook in particular have unequal power regarding the extensive data they hold about individual lives and their complex movements online from one website to the next. Frequently this data is collated via different services and analytics to create a virtual portrait of all who interact with these services online. They therefore represent a powerful top-down hierarchical structure. Google is extremely effective at searching and finding the right stuff that you’re looking for online, but this comes with a cost to privacy – it’s possibly a more effective search engine to date because it’s tracking you all over the Internet.

Projects mostly have their origins in adapting You Tube tutorials and by incorporating other processes learned previously - enjoying the experimentation necessary to discover new approaches and output resulting from adopting new techniques. I choose to use free/open source software rather than (expensive) off-the shelf versions in order to get unexpected results that are not pre-determined by fixed menus and filters.

Overall, I am working with Internet debris, processing that and then sending it back out to the Internet again via online display or sharing. My Practise is playful and intuitive with an undercurrent of critique about contemporary life.


Perpetual browse_r 2

Video still from Perpetual browse_r 2, 2019 (duration 00:03:11) [Borrowed media clips used as surface textures]

Techniques used for perpetual browse_r 2 video overlaps with Data_scape images but rather than using static visuals video clips are used to “texture map” the surfaces of 3d models. Free screencasting software is used to capture media clips from You Tube, various international media outlets etc. The resulting .MP4 video file is pretty degraded in comparison to the original, which I like - traces of the “original”, a conundrum in light of ubiquitous digital files.

Increasing automation and ubiquitous algorithmic process interwoven into 21st Century life is also a key theme. Humour, irony or contemporary context are all reasons I will single out any particular clip – for example, the absurdity of a clunky postal delivery robot ambling up a garden path or the almost balletic appearance of multiple Amazon robots operating in sequence within their warehouse world.

Perpetual browse_r 2, 2019

At the time of making perpetual browse_r 2 in 2019 many protests appeared in the news such as climate-based, #me #too etc. A clip was used in the video that depicts lines of marching protestors demonstrating against climate legislation intended to protect the environment, surging forward with hand-written banners, “No Carbon Tax”, I reversed their movement, back-and-forth, back-and-forth repetitively to heighten a sense of the absurd.

Video still from Perpetual browse_r 2, 2019 [Anti-climate protest scene]

Today, during lockdown and through its gradual release, media and information seem ever more heightened as we are sensitised to the ebb and flow of new data each day, every slight change has an impact on how we relate to Covid 24/7. Everything feels on edge, unpredictable, and rather unstable. Contradictions in media stories abound - right now the debate is: Are masks beneficial in preventing virus transmission? When apparently, they weren’t two months ago. Becoming politicised.

Our minds ever more in the virtual world than physical reality as we communicate through zoom and social media/messaging.

perpetual browse_r 2 also depicts rapidly developing techniques such as voice and facial recognition, AI fakery. How will we know what is real or simulated in the future?

Each recycled media clip also forms a time marker, an archive or digital memory indicating a specific point in time byre-presenting media collectively digested via 24/7 rolling news, social media etc. Shared and circulated. These clips glimpsed briefly in the video hopefully resonate on a subconscious or conscious level with the viewer, as they may well have seen them before in mass circulation…


Sandra Crisp LG (b. Wirral, UK) graduated MA Fine Art Printmaking Wimbledon School of Art in 1995 and now works primarily with digital media. Her practice is influenced by today’s saturation of images and information, creating multi-layered and complex imagery using video, GIF, experimental 3D images and sometimes code. Recent awards and exhibitions include; (2017) The Schauerman Digital Art Prize; (2018) The Lumen Prize shortlist; The Art of No Likes, Hervisions for Arebyte on Screen; ADAF, Athens Digital Art Festival, Greece; Visions in the Nunnery, Bow Arts, London; FILE Festival, Brazil. In 2018 she was elected a member of The London Group.

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