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©2018 by Courtney Askey.

Creating a body that has meaning

Text, digital print

59.4 x 84.1cm 

 

The Lovelace Test 2.0 

Digital photographic print

84.1 x 59.4cm 

“Here, in a seed, is a cyborg: A bleeding girl, dragging a knife through the sand.
An imaginary girl who dreams of becoming trash.
Can machines think / come here let me show you / ask me again”

Franny Choi, Soft Science, 2019



“But if making art gives substance to your sense of self, the corresponding fear is that you're not up to the task… Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between what you know you should be, and what you fear you might be.”
David Bayles, Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, 1985

Creating a body that has meaning and The Lovelace Test 2.0 make up a two-part artwork addressing identity, technology, and the role of the creator. The Lovelace Test 2.0 was developed by Mark Riedl as a more advanced alternative to the Turing Test. The test, named after the 19th-century mathematician Ada Lovelace, aims to establish an AI’s intelligence by evaluating its ability to create. In the test, a human judge interacts with the AI via computer and asks for it to complete a task with two parts, part one being the type of creative artefact the AI is to create and part two is a defining criterion. The judge will evaluate the result and if satisfied make a second and more complicated request for a creation. The tasks continue with increased difficulty until the judge decides whether the AI has failed or they are satisfied it has depicted sufficient intelligence. 
The Lovelace Test 2.0 depicts the artist’s mother in the foreground in the role of the judge and the artist in the background in the role of the AI. The AI grapples with a laptop, a desktop computer, a television screen, and a VR headset as she creates the artwork for the judge. The judge observes the process from a separate room with a live stream to the test room projected behind her as she interacts with computer equipment.
Creating a body that has meaning is a poem telling the story of the taking of the test told from the perspective of the female AI. The opening line of the poem; “My mother draws my joints/bolts the seals blue” tenderly positions the AI’s programmer as her mother, and refers to the artist’s mother assisting in the makeup process for the photographing of The Lovelace Test 2.0 in which she is pictured with blue lines painted on her body. The poem uses language often used to describe machinery, evoking images of the cold science fiction cyborg, and contrasts this with the warm and familial relationship existing between the AI and her creator. 
This artwork explores the anxieties of working as an artist and the act of creating work. The presence of the artist’s mother in the piece is ambiguous. Whereas she is the creator of the artist in actuality, it is unclear as to whether in the photograph she is the AI’s judge or programmer. One viewer may read her expression as tense, that of a programmer anxiously awaiting the results of the test to see if her AI has succeeded or failed. Another may see her finger poised over the mysterious button as the judge sending off the first task to the AI. The judge/creator character in the photograph is representative of the expectations we face from those in our networks, be they online or familial. The AI in this photograph represents a means of creation, communication, pressure and the search for validation. 
Creating a body that has meaning and The Lovelace Test 2.0 ultimately depict the artist as she navigates her role and responsibilities as an artist in a post-internet world. 
Courtney’s practice is rooted in the exploration of digital spaces, changing technology, and identity. This piece is a further development of its predecessor Ever Idle Never Idol, a video made for Phoenix’s Idle Index as part of Leicester Art Week; a work that explored performative productivity, intimacy, and the workplace.
A range of fictional and non-fictional resources, from Donna Haraway’s 1985 text A Cyborg Manifesto to the 2019 poetry collection Soft Science by Franny Choi, and works by contemporary artists such as cyberfeminist, Signe Pierce, have informed this work.  
 

Ever Idle Never Idol

Video

4 minutes 59 seconds


'Ever Idle Never Idol' is a video that responds to the anxiety of modern productivity. As we take our work with us on our phones, every area of our life can become a workspace. Areas that were once reserved for intimate and solitary moments no longer have a natural boundary and the line between public and private diminishes. When we try to rest we can feel on edge, like we must be productive or occupied at every moment. Our moments of deserved idleness are laden with guilt.
This artwork explores the pressures of working as an artist and the many workplaces that entails. The performance is simultaneously candid and contrived, alternating between informal and theatrical as the artist tries to navigate where her place is amongst a changing landscape.
The sounds from a "relaxing ASMR breathing" video play across the piece. Though the sounds were initially intended to relax the listener, when they are placed in this new context they create a feeling that the artist is being watched, heightening the sense of anxiety and performative productivity.

'I've got composer'

Exhibition

January 2019

Exhibited at Nottingham Writers' Studio

'I've got composer' was the culmination of eight months of work with the children at Grosvenor House Day Nursery in Nottingham. The two-day exhibition held at Nottingham Writers' Studio displayed work created by children from ten months old to four years old during an artist-led project in music and sound. The exhibition raised questions about authorship, conscious and unconscious creation, and intention vs outcome. It explored our relationship with sound and how that develops from the very beginning of our lives. Why does the children’s work warrant an exhibition? What does it mean to exhibit artwork that is not created by an artist? What is an artist? Is the artist only valid once they have self-described as such? Is it their first paycheck that is the signifier? Are we artists once we are told we are? When do we become an artist? Do we feel differently looking at artwork by a child when it is placed in the context of a gallery? “Place making, world picturing, and connectivity are the most common concerns of artists these days because they are the substance of contemporary being” (Terry Smith, The State of Art History). Is that not what a child does when they are creating artwork? Differently, yes, but there are similarities. Artists have been trying to regain a childish sense of freedom in their artwork for decades. Is it a case of child trying to be artist and artist trying to be child

The Autonomous Altar

Mixed media installation

November 2018

Exhibited at Two Queens

The Autonomous Altar was created for the DMU Graduate Award Exhibition running from November 2018 to December 2018.​

The internet gave me brain tingles (a brief history of ASMR)

Multi-channel video installation, LED lighting and book

25 minutes

2017 - 2018

Exhibited at De Montfort University Degree Show 2018

Awarded Two Queens Graduate Prize

The internet gave me brain tingles (a brief history of ASMR) is an installation consisting of multiple screens, appropriated video, graphics, and a book. It is lit with a bask of blue LED lighting that mirrors the blue colour used in computer and mobile phone screens. On a small screen, the titles of the presented videos and their creator’s names appear. 

ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, refers to the physical sensation often likened to synaesthesia experienced by some people in response to external sensory triggers. The sensation is most often characterised by a tingling sensation in the neck and spine, followed by a state of calmness and well-being. The sensation is a real, physical thing, a sensation on the skin and in the body triggered haptically, sonically or visually, but despite its innate physical presence, it has found its home in the digital realm. 

The films presented consist of appropriated videos created by the expansive ASMR community in which the ASMRtists use techniques described as “triggers” (eg. whispering, tapping, hair brushing, roleplaying) specifically to evoke the response in the viewer. Each video presented is an example of a different category of ASMR. The phenomenon is likened to a type of audio synaesthesia, as not all people experience the response; some people exhibit no response whereas others intensely dislike the sounds. The sounds and images ebb and flow in tone, volume, and landscape, each jutting up against each other and talking over one another, creating new narratives and allowing new themes and focuses to emerge. 

ASMR videos are shared online by people of all ages and nationalities, with a community of thousands of channels receiving millions of views. And yet, the community remains online and somewhat secret, something that people stumble upon on the ‘weird side of YouTube’. There is a lot of misunderstanding around ASMR. Though ASMR videos are not sexual, many people and news outlets are quick to dismiss ASMR videos as sexual and fetishistic. The videos are characterised by the use of close proximity audio recording and direct address, creating a sense of intimacy between viewer and creator. The videos are created purely for sensory enjoyment, so there is a link between ASMR derived relaxation and sexual arousal in this sense, but to dismiss all of ASMR as sexual is incorrect and problematic, particularly when taking into account the age range of those making the videos.

The installation encourages the viewer to engage with it however they choose. The pathway through the space is ambiguous, meaning the viewer does not take a predetermined route through the space; instead, they are driven by their response to the sounds and images presented. The book is presented as a source of information, official and educational on its lone plinth. It can remain closed, or it can be opened and the viewer can choose to learn more. We react to a sensory source on a primal level (the immediate gut reaction response) and on a more reflective level once we understand the context. In the gallery, these videos have no context. Therefore, the viewer must seek out further information to fully understand. The positioning of this educational resource is reflective of the way in which we approach things we do not necessarily understand: we engage or we dismiss. 

 

 

 

Masculin/Féminin 

Giclée prints

2017

Exhibited in De Montfort University Staircase Partnership June 2017 - June 2018

I Can't Handle Your Atmosphere (self portrait) 

Giclée Print

2016

Exhibited in Art at Orange Tree One in Leicester and Loughborough

'I Can't Handle Your Atmosphere' sees the artist explore identity and displacement through the use of makeup and costume. Silver body paint and fake blood are applied to create an alien-like effect on the body. Blood from the eyes and nose denotes that this presence is not able to survive in our 'atmosphere'. 

 

All Your Loving Care and Attention 

Sound Installation and website

2017

Exhibited at De Montfort University Year 2 Show 

All Your Loving Care and Attention is a sound installation employing the use of lo-fi sound recording devices and players with accompanying website. The piece explores the constant demanding of attention in the modern technological world. In today’s age of knowledge and news at our fingertips it is difficult to ignore the incessant stream of information that we are faced with, a new, world-changing “BREAKING NEWS” story to anticipate more and more regularly in the current political climate. We consider our online interactions with care and consideration as to how they affect our presence. 
Creating a space reminiscent of a child’s gender neutral bedroom from the late nighties and using the media, equipment and aesthetic of the nineties and noughties, the millennial artist addresses misplaced nostalgia and evokes memories of the childhood of the twenty something. The sounds from 1990s and early 2000s toys, in particular those that demand care or interaction to function, alongside sounds of modern technology create a soundscape combining sounds of leisure and play with sounds we, in 2017, link to the receipt of news and online social interaction. The toys that need human interaction and attention to survive evoke a feeling of urgency and responsibility mirrored in our lives today as we must continually stay up to date with the world around us through interaction and uncontrollable constant availability.

As the soundscape progress, the natural distortion and clipping of the cassettes paired with a frantic and busy build up causes the sounds to become more ambiguous, creating an unpleasant cacophony of electronic noises, emulating the overload of information in our technically-laden lives. The electronic sounds of the children’s toys sometimes parallel those made by digital messaging and online notifications, whilst at other times sound wholly belonging to toys, drifting in an out of play and more current, routine familiarity. The bedroom-like space creates a visual link to the toys without revealing the full truth; in providing few visual cues the sounds within the work remain ambiguous. The space is false and un-lived in, as the nostalgia for a simpler previous time is a false, unrealistic ideal.

The accompanying website uses internet aesthetics of the late 90s and early to mid 2000s to explore websites and games in which care and attention are required; be it in looking after a pet or creating a carefully plotted online presence. The website examines virtual pet games like Neopets and Petz 5 that require the user to care for their pet and encourage an emotional bond, using emotive language and imagery in adoption settings, as well as identity representation in multiplayer games such as Habbo Hotel. The website references the aesthetic of early social media sites like MySpace, Bebo and Piczo. 

Call Me, Tell Me

Poster for online live performance

2017

'Call Me, Tell Me' was an online performance broadcast live on YouTube. The performance saw the artist accept phonecalls on a number of mobile phones from the early to mid 2000s and talk to callers about their childhood toys. 

The description from the performance reads:

"Call Me, Tell Me about your childhood toys. What were they called? Did you have a lot of favourites or just one? Did you take them anywhere? Did you take them everywhere? Where did they go? Did you collect anything? Do you still have them? What did they look like? What colour? How big? Where did they go when you slept? Did you talk to them? Did you lose them? When? Where? How many do you remember? How many were there? How old were you? What did it feel like against your skin?"

Creation II 

Silent video 

2017

Exhibited at Handmade Festival 2017

'Creation II' was commissioned for Totally Festivals Ltd. The piece is a 45 minute long silent video created for the projection backdrop of the O2 Academy Queens Hall stage for the 2017 festival. The piece ran for the entirety of one day of the festival and became the backdrop for bands as Cabage, Demob Happy, Shame, Goat Girl, Baba Naga, Van Zeller, and the artist's band, Courtney Askey (pictured). 

The Fallen Woman

Video and sound installation

2015

Exhibited at Points of Departure, Queen of Bradgate and De Montfort University 

‘The Fallen Woman’ explores stereotypes inflicted on women throughout the ages, using the literary convention and societal norm of the “fallen woman”. The film follows the story of an immortal woman physically falling from the Heavens to Earth, and socially falling from grace. The term “fallen woman” stemmed from the deeply moralistic Victorian period in Britain and was used frequently in visual arts and literature. It was claimed that if a woman had lost her virtue to sex, alcohol or another vice, she could never lead a normal life and was cast to the margins of society; she would inevitably die prematurely. Women were portrayed in the arts and literature as victims of their own poor decisions, rather than the victims of a morally conservative society. 
‘The Fallen Woman’ takes stereotypes, tropes and sins from throughout the ages, from decadence to purity, and presents the story of a woman taking a morally corrupted path. As a modern viewer, we don’t apply the same conventions and restraints of Victorian society, but we do apply the stereotypes and tropes absorbed from pop culture today- which are often not so distant from the beliefs of the past we think is bygone.