Resident: Joshanne Dar

Project concept: Homo Ex-Machina, Now Playable

I intend to build on an ongoing preoccupation with our relationship with digital technology;  how it has permeated into our bodies and psyche; and how we can isolate the line where we end and the machine begins. I call this potential of man-machine cooperation, the cyborg phenomenology. I’ve become interested in the idea of the video game as an art medium. It represents an entirely simulated and virtual risk and emotional response in the digital space. The game, as a work of active fiction; is a medium the demands that the site of the experience be contained within the virtual; it does not enter the tethering plane of collective experience that is the physical reality. I would therefore like to play with how our cyborg phenomenology can exist purely within this virtual space and bypass our bodies; take on an entirely simulated meaning.  

Words from the curator

A Playful Discussion between “Human” Invigilators and Digital Art

Amiel Maucade | Ed. Peter Traynor | 2 July 2021

Homo Ex-Machina – Now Playable is Digital Art you have to play. Joshanne Dar presents a creative New Media video game where navigation is at your own leisure… or at your own risk. The game offers an immersive platform that relies on human instinct, and there’s a tension created by the fear of losing one’s self in the meditative and exploratory realm the game creates that raises fascinating topical questions.

Agora Digital Art presents Joshanne Dar, an Asian-Australian artist whose practice merges art direction, filmmaking, moving images, performance, sculpture and digital installation. Her interests incorporate science, math and psychology and she uses these to create alternative discourses around social topics, through deconstruction and experimentation with atmosphere and subject matter. 

Dar’s Homo Ex-Machina – Now Playable builds on the preoccupation with our relationship with New Media art. Joshanne wonderfully uses all the media within this creative umbrella term, including artworks designed and produced by means of new media technologies, comprising virtual art, computer graphics, computer animation, digital art, interactive art, video games and cyborg art.

The artwork Homo Ex-Machina asks how technology has permeated into our bodies and psyches, and wonders how we can observe the line where we end and the machine begins. Her work continuously naturalizes the man-machine cooperation and sheds light on the phenomenology of cyborgs, meaning the ways in which they experience both life and their own consciousness. This artwork’s ethos is a dialectical discussion: mechanizing humans while simultaneously humanizing the machine. 

Dar’s impetus exists in the exploration of the video game as an art medium. It represents an entirely simulated and virtual risk guided by an emotional response in the digital space. The game, Homo Ex-Machina as a work of active fiction, is a medium that demands that the site of the experience be contained within the virtual; it does not enter the tethering plane of collective experience that is our physical reality. Yet the ex-nihilo digital realm plunges the player into survival mode where instinct is the only remaining human logic. 

What makes the game really intricate is that there’s no winning or losing, yet there’s a possibility of endlessly falling into the void. The audience experiences a unique bending in the temporality of the digital space. 

This thought-provoking work would like to play with ideas of how our cyborg phenomenology can exist purely within the virtual space and therefore bypass our physical bodies. The New Media game takes on an entirely simulated meaning, creating an intentional forgetfulness of matter, at least for the time we’re playing the art game. 

Dar’s work is designed to be experienced remotely and on personal devices. The intention is to create a conscious dialogue between the user and the device. As per the technology chosen, the game behaves slightly differently depending on the device (make, model, brand) it is played on; and therefore highlights the fragmentation of phenomenological experience afforded by the varied ubiquity of the device prosthesis. The curious intention of the game is to shift awareness from the virtual back to the physical and choreograph button controls that revert attention back to the physical keyboard. In this way, the site of experience shifts in and out of the screen.

Homo Ex-Machina – Now Playable’s timeline is current and ongoing. By exploring the limitations and heightened possibilities of the digital medium, as it develops exponentially, the work’s meaning is in constant flux with the technology, and therefore the expectations of the viewer, thereby changing the relational meaning of the work. The game invites you to be ready to “play” the exhibition. 

Women in Digital Art: Joshanne Dar - Homo Ex-Machina (2021) screenshot 1
Joshanne Dar, Homo Ex-Machina (2021) screenshot 1 © Courtesy of the artist.
Women in Digital Art: Joshanne Dar - Homo Ex-Machina (2021) screenshot 2
Joshanne Dar, Homo Ex-Machina (2021) screenshot 2 © Courtesy of the artist.

Agora Talk

Lots of shine to Amiel Maucade, Digital Curator and Moderator.

More info

Joshanne Dar, Trans-human portrait – assisted many handheld apps (2021) © Courtesy of the artist.
Joshanne Dar, Cyborg manifesting in digi space (2021) © Courtesy of the artist.

About the artist

Joshanne Dar for Agora Digital Art
Website

Joshanne Dar (b. 1996) is an Asian-Australian artist; her practice merges art direction, filmmaking, moving image, performance, sculpture and digital installation.  

Her interests incorporate science, math and psychology; attempting to create alternative discourses around social topics through deconstruction and experiments with atmosphere and subject matter. 

While pursuing a BA of Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, she has and curated at numerous exhibitions, and produced multiple performance shows – including a performance piece at the 2019 Tate Exchange at the Tate Modern.  

Joshanne Dar’s art remains multidisciplinary, adapting her medium of choice based on the project itself; versatility and eclecticism exemplify her practice. In addition to her individual art practice, she also designs productions for film, which have brought on a sensitivity to narrative through spaces and objects, as well as an interest in pop culture.  She shows however, a particular interest in digital mediums, and is currently interested in coexisting virtual and real spaces. She curiously explores the meaning of humanhood in this age of technology: studying the digital prosthesis and specific devices in AI, defining the digital not as a medium but a subject matter of her art.

Artist’s statement

My work continues to come to terms with the digital period of our long lineage of auto-enhancement via technology. The imagery seeks to construct a theology around humankind and digital machines. The theology is the cyborg theology; I consider the machine and human body not as separate and divided, but as symbiotic; distinguishable only by invented structural constraints. 

My work aims to evade escapism through screens but bring ease to the relationship between biological and non-biological life; specifically, now AI threatens the intellectual anthropocentrism that has hallmarked this lineage of Humanistic development – and dissolves the mystique of a higher being. I go about this by revealing hidden digital structures, and the physicality of machines that presents us with digital imagery. I seek to develop an artist body in the digital realm – one that has the ability to mould and explore a world seemingly covered in glass screens. In this way, my work is about the process of making work in the digital age. My mediums are not a matter of preference but selected to demonstrate their function. In this way, it is aware of contributing to the subjective representation of data and reality that the virtual acts as; and therefore the ability to almost instantaneously generate meaning. 

My digital experiments playfully demonstrate my cynical approach to digital art as an exploration of my personal sense of uncanny. It mirrors my ethos of thinking beyond what is given, which I then incorporate into digital art itself; a medium that I detach from the human ego. My work is a negotiation of relationships with extended digital faculties. It aims to deconstruct prejudices and mysticism surrounding humans and technology – decontextualise this relationship in a more fluid and integrated way. 

Exploring the abject sublime of the digital. Imagining textures and entities, visual artefacts from imagined dreams of virtual lands and inhabitants. My work is placed firmly in a post-Humanist, deconstructing discourse – seeking to invent new ideologies now that AI has rendered anthropocentrism obsolete. Though far from a didactic approach – this is an imagined narrative that sits alongside other pillars of a social construct as being only as valid as collective. Stemming from vigorous, cross-disciplinary research, of Artificial Intelligence – I am working to build a philosophical, phenomenological and sensory understanding of our brushings with this tech; whose impact remains only largely explored through science fiction. A fast becoming reality now that these externalised machine minds are already built into our smart devices and permeating into our bodies.