The walls of our ivory tower have already been hurdled over by great ad boffins, despite us only being at SCA for a month and a half. So, as we packed up our scraps of paper and parched Sharpies, ready for half term, I made a mental note of the name that Marc whispered. “Graham Fink”. A cautionary tale, or a promise of approaching brilliance? With one snoop on Google, the latter was affirmed. My fingers tip-tapping on a sweating laptop, I found an artist. Graham is a mastermind perching on the intersection of performance art, psychology, and the power of robotics.
His work is a testimony to pareidolia – the very human tendency to see faces in the inanimate, the everyday. Once associated with psychosis, it is now witness to a playful, childlike way of seeing. When Graham was fourteen, his DIY telescope lent him the power to see shapes/faces/animals in the night sky. He conjured forms out of darkness, facial features out of stars. One can almost imagine his mind’s eye creeping out at night-time, giving him a single gigantic mode of seeing – a bit like a Cyclops. Perhaps his 1989 ‘Face’ for British Airways is a nod to this.
Later in life, his ‘Drawing With My Eyes’ project at Riflemaker Gallery gives invisible faces a ghostly, virtual existence. Tripping up the old familiar medium of charcoal, he produces digital contour drawings. Tobii Technology eye-tracking software grants his subconscious command over the canvas. I’m uncannily reminded of Etch A Sketch, an old-school mechanical drawing toy. I remember how the lines would dart out in unpredictable ways, taking charge of itself, butting you out of your so-called creation. Graham’s process is similarly erratic – any distraction in the room suddenly becomes part of the art.
I liked how this erraticism brought an element of storytelling to his work. It’s like a frantic dialogue between the inside of his mind and the environment he sits in. This idea of using technology to help us tell a difficult story made me think of AI art. A shadowy place where spoken language becomes visual language. @weavingwithAI on Twitter is indeed a virtual seamstress – he takes passages from books and turns them into AI-generated short films. These moving images seem to grow and come alive in front of us. They flash, wobble and contort in a similar way to how the imagination works. We don’t daydream in smooth visual sequences, but in jolts and weird distortions. The example below is inspired by ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’, a novel by Milan Kundera.