Interview with Georgia Gendall
Georgia Gendall is an artist and gardener living and working in Falmouth, Cornwall. Her multidisciplinary practice mixes humor, low and high tech and immersive experiences challenging our perception of what is 'real' and what is not. Using sculpture, performance, sound and video Georgia reflects on our experience of space, time and self.
The definition between the real and the authentic is really fine. I’ve always been so fascinated with experimenting with my viewers concept of the ‘real’ or ‘almost real’ and the kind of coloration between demand and the fabrication of the absolute fake, and then furthermore the immortality of the absolute fake. But then there is the experience of the real and then the simulation of the experience and of the real. Essentially the simulation is no less real – it still existed and exists as an experience – but does ‘real’ mean ‘authentic’? I think the idea of the authentic is particularly subjective and I think the answer to the realness of the authentic lies within how comfortable we feel with this idea. I am very ambivalent towards the idea of the authentic, I whole-heartedly embrace it as a tool within my practice, yet reject it as an alternative.
Georgia Gendall, Virtual Holiday, 2014. Video still.
I think it is very interesting how technology has expanded the possibility of being somewhere or with someone without requiring a physical presence. Like in your work Virtual Holiday: you are having dinner with other people without being physically with them in the restaurant. Is that what you mean with the simulation of the experience? And what relationship is there between real and simulation of the real?
The simulation and the virtual image are different things, the simulation is not just an image, but an image which, to quote Bogard: ‘Threatens the difference between “true” and “false”, between “real” and “imaginary”’ (Bogard, 1996, p.10), the simulation is in effect an image of the future, rendered and obscuring the real. The actual image (whether that be seen on a screen or not) is already actualised; it is already over, past made possible in the present.
These different experiences of representation of time exist in our now, on our screens. But for me simulation occurs in the viewing of the image, how one experiences the image. In the piece Virtual Holiday the representation of the restaurant is a simulation not because it is dematerialised and distant but because of its simulation of space (although this is not possible to see in the image – but the whole restaurant spins 360 degrees) people poised and static, forks to their mouths, conversations interrupted by my presence. The restaurant scene from Virtual Holiday inspired another project for me called Virtual Lunch and further Virtual Lunch Booth – both projects were a collection of videos of myself and others eating in solitude in these spinning locations, accumulating in dizzy endurances of space: this post-modern disposition to dine in from the comfort of our televisions, monotonously forking from plate to mouth, I liked the idea of replacing the entertainment of the screen with a contemplation of location and space. We access these spaces from the comfort of our 4 walls, the solitude of our spaces and these pieces weren’t necessarily about the possibility of being with others, but really the absence of the other, highlighted though the presence of those distant and ceaseless others.
Georgia Gendall, ARG. NO. PLZ. I WANT TO GO THERE. PLZ, 2014.
People who ‘experienced’ your installation piece ARG. NO. PLZ. I WANT TO GO THERE. PLZ seem enjoying it. Yet we desire more because we can’t be fully satisfied with that ‘ephemeral’ experience. Is that because we refuse to think of (yet?) the possibility that the virtual experience can be as much real as, but just different to, the physical one?
It’s interesting you use the word ephemeral because I was always really interested in the idea of spending time within the work and how the amount of time within the piece would affect people’s experiences of it. I had this logic that when I return back to my Mums house in Cornwall, it had to be short enough to keep myself longing but long enough to remember why i left: and its this tension between the fleeting experience and the satisfied which has always been a constant for me. Maybe the idea of something being ephemeral is that you look back in lust, temporality has a certain romantic filter over it: it’s longing and it’s a lack and it’s not satisfaction but I would argue that we are never fully satisfied. Particularly, we experience a lack within our location because we are constantly sold this concept of ‘wish you were here’, the ‘perfect’ location is commodified to keep us desiring.
I think if you spent your whole life within the virtual space it wouldn’t make your time any less real, maybe less meaningful (but then that again is subjective). It’s that fleeting and ungraspable space of the virtual that keeps us desiring and returning to the screen, but it’s the very deep lack of the experience within the virtual that means that it cannot act as a surrogate for the real.
Georgia Gendall, ARG. NO. PLZ. I WANT TO GO THERE. PLZ. Installation view. Central Saint Martins, London. Final Degree Show, June 2014.
I’ve always been interested in the uselessness of the body within the virtual, the redundancy of your limbs, futile legs and arms similarly dangling upon the tepid body of the laptop. The Space of the Computer wanted to both restrict the body within the created space and return space to the 2 dimensional landscapes. This kinda restless tension between a sense of claustrophobia and a spectacle of space.
As I mentioned earlier: if you spent your whole life within the virtual space it wouldn’t make your time any less real. We are all on a quest to find belonging, to find our location. Dwelling in the corners of our universes – whether that’s on top of mountains or gazing at screens, reality or virtual, we are all just finding belonging. However, the looming certainty of the blurring of reality’s will produce a problem for me in the lack of the alternative place to dwell, if they are mixed then we are never going to be free of either. Forever estranged from belonging.
The word ‘instant’ makes me think of our digital age; a continuous stream of instant images overwhelms us. How do you relate your practice in response to this? Do you feel that your practice resists this somehow?
In some ways I think it’s more a questioning of it; because things are so instant, we question reality a lot more. Now there so many competing sources that people are much more suspicious of the information they receive. A lot of my work is a kind of suspicion of how truthful something is; how truthful are this objects as artefacts of something? They are physical evidence that this memory happened but are they really? Or are they just surrogates of the moment? I think these kinds of questions are what I am examining in relation to the instant.
A lot of my work stems from a certain resentment towards technology robbing our attention, deliberation and threatening our concept of space. As much as my work is a celebration of the technical revolution, it is also a critique of our lavish use of the virtual. I just want people to go outside more, and when I can’t be within landscape at least I can be part of the discourse.
I recently begun to question why my work primarily questions space (as opposed to anything else) in both the virtual form and the ‘real’ form, and begun to realize that it’s possibly because of a slight grievance for space, pissed off that my sense of space has been robbed off me by my laptop. I’m pissed off that new generations are growing up without a sense of space and enjoyment of space.
Thinking about your series My Laptop is a Sculpture; the computer has become almost an entity in our lives… we relate to it on a daily basis: is it an object or a subject in our lives? – Will we breathe the USB(REEZE)?
Of course, our laptops are just objects with a projection of a symptom upon them: our heartbeats upon the trackpad. We give our objects a higher form of consciousness through our constant interactions with its surface. The piece My Laptop is a Sculpture wanted to ground this object as an untouchable and desirable form. The new flesh of technology offers us a new consciousness of life, becoming subjects, becoming surrogates.