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Pippa Eason

Interview by Bob Bicknell-Knight

Originally published in the first issue of the isthisit? magazine in March 2017

Pippa Eason’s (b. 1993, Leeds, UK) work makes observations of the abstraction/perception of nature, the tangible, the everyday, and considers it within the accelerating art world. They act as props for the near fictional imagery displayed, they come to life, crumbling from the cocoon of reality, into the pixel generated sub-human culture. The use of symbols for example: dollar signs, cacti, chains, written word, and so on articulate the separation of art in life, against art on screen. These multi layered objects, or digital works serve as a signifier for the aesthetics of contemporary commerce, and viewing. Those aesthetics are then translated into the cyber world, reiterating itself over and over again.


In this exclusive interview artist Pippa Eason talks to artist and curator Bob Bicknell-Knight about slime, the importance of an artists' social media presence and the use of the problematic uses of the term 'post-internet'.


Bob Bicknell-Knight: So, do you want to start by talking briefly about the work that you're currently producing, the ideas and the forms that are coming to fruition, and how that relates to your artworks relationship with the internet?


Pippa Eason: Yes, the current works I'm making are studies as an outcome of the research I've been undertaking into Instagram aesthetics making crossovers into the 'physicality's' of the art world. A particular material I have been using lately is foam clay, or 'slime' as many of the videos I have found featuring this material call it. This material comes in a variant of textures, but the texture I chose was the more doughy malleable type. Often in the videos the person playing with the material is prodding, poking and rolling it, which makes crackling/squelching noises. Those noises are used in ASMR (Autonomous sensory meridian response) videos to prompt tingling in the head, neck, etc. These are largely found on YouTube, but are now also occurring on Instagram, with pages dedicated to the material, namely an account called 'justslimw'. Theres a huge variety of slime/foam, with glitter, polystyrene balls, and so on, but I chose to avoid any overtly garish ones, working with the in-keeping aesthetic of Instagram. The real focus of me employing the same idea is to use it as an 'art object', to see how far the lines can be blurred between the playful enjoyment of the ASMR videos, and the material being a serious medium.


Alongside these ideas, the use of actual hardware technology to form the shapes is a theme in this body of work. I have so far used iPhone cables as a tool for moulding the clay, memory sticks, iPhones and Macbooks to form the shapes. They prove to be pretty nifty tools, and leave their imprint in a tactile sense, as opposed to purely memory based. I have long had a a fascination with the tangibility of the aftermath of technology, and this is my articulation of that notion, making them into artefacts.


B: So theoretically, by labelling them as artefacts, you're creating art works to be looked at by future generations, in order to get a sense of the 'digital revolution' that's currently occurring. How are they perceived as artworks in the present? Are these works critiquing the moment we're currently living in, or celebrating the fetishisation of technology?


P: I see it that way. I create them in the same sense as writing a diary, with the thought of someone perhaps reading it far in the future. They're often perceived as internet responsive works, existing in the real, but often existing temporarily. They're seen as collages, drawings, and comments on the current digital activity, celebrating the moment we're living in whilst savouring the current digital revolution. I enjoy the excess of social media in particular, and think it’s important to celebrate it.


B: Does this 'enjoyment of the excess' translate into your own social media presence?


P: Definitely. I see social media as a large part of an artist’s existence currently. I conduct my research from reflection of not only other people’s accounts, but from my own too.

Pippa Eason, Growin My Profile, 2017.

Sponge, clay, glaze, foam clay, wood.

Courtesy of the artist and The Trophy Room, Liverpool.

B: I do think apps like Instagram are important for people working in the creative industry, enabling artists to be discovered and promote their work to a wider audience, although it's difficult to know when virtual 'likes' translate into physical opportunities, as well as the problematic notion of followers dictating the work you make in some way, even at a subconscious level. What do you think of this community led aspect of an artists practice in the internet era, and how does it affect your own, especially in this current Instagram inspired work?


P: It's true that sometimes artists sell themselves short for Instagram likes. They make their Instagram aesthetic on point, but for the physical exhibition it just doesn't match up. Not sure if that's a totally bad thing. I see my own practice almost benefiting from this notion, I make works both for the online and the physical. I do have struggles with understanding both worlds as one entity, as I see them as rather separate. I have been focusing on this lately in my practice. I make objects, document them online, then exhibit them in 'reality'. It creates a persona for the works almost. Though I do make sure I make works exciting in reality also, as I think it's important to do both.

Pippa Eason, Trending, 2017.

Sponge, clay, glaze, foam clay.

Courtesy of the artist and The Trophy Room, Liverpool.

B: Speaking of making work solely for an online space, what are your thoughts on net art, and how the medium has slowly changed over the years since the original movement?


P: I see net art currently as almost a response to itself. It comments on far more than the internet as a medium, but as a format for art making, and how that could be problematic/proactive for the art world. As far as I can tell, net art as it currently stands is breaking gallery boundaries, allowing work to be passed through only 'cyber space' as it were, and still be validated. I see more of the ego involved in net art now, particularly as we're in the middle of the prolific selfie era. It allows artists to make a more direct reflection of themselves, as well as using the web as a medium. As with much of art making, the artist is responding to all that is current, though net art as it stands is sophisticated, well curated, and makes use of the crasser/more grotesque sides of the internet.


B: Yeah, I think more and more nowadays artists are trying to find the niche in net art, attempting to discover new ways to use the technology available to them rather than looking to the early net artists, sometimes leading to fixations on the aesthetics of the web 2.0 landscape, progressing to exploring the 'dark side' of the internet... In previous conversations we've had you've described yourself as a 'post internet sculptor', what does that term mean to you, and what do you think of the negative connotations surrounding the over-use of the phrase alongside it's institutional background?


P: I think the concern of artists not looking to the 'original' net artists is that they pluck out only the negative, dangerous side of the internet, because of the intense layers of information now available to us. I think it’s good to sometimes look at the original net art, to remind us of the artistic merits of it, giving us reason to utilise concepts that have always been integral to web based work. 'Post Internet' is a term I almost use to mock the term itself. I think it’s an over-exhausted term in many respects, but also highlights elements of my work that directly address our lives as artists since the breakthrough of internet use, or moreover internet addiction. I try to connect the hands on world of crafted sculpture, with the immediacy of Instagram etc, using them both as tools alongside one another. The term can also be used lazily, without true consideration of what it means. Post-internet could mean literally anything after the existence of the internet, but needs to be narrowed down to make it less nonsensical and broad.

B: I like the idea of harnessing this clichéd term and using it as a metaphor for the obsession that people have for the internet in general, it's definitely become the very definition of a buzzword... So what’s next for you?

P: Totally, I don't 'like' the term as such, but I think in the case of my practice, it works. I'm currently working on several works, and newly based in Berlin. I have several projects ongoing, some are for Serf in Leeds. I'm trying to put a lot of research into what 'post internet' truly means.

Pippa Eason, Am I Interesting [no], 2017.

Sponge, clay, glaze, foam clay, foam lettering.

Courtesy of the artist and The Trophy Room, Liverpool.

Bob Bicknell-Knight is a London based artist and curator working in installation, sculpture, moving image, net art and other digital mediums. Online and offline surveillance accompanied by the consumer capitalist culture within today’s society are the main issues surrounding his work in association with current and future utopian environments, the continued automation of our daily lives in relation to the internet of things and the various cultures associated with online communities. Recent curated shows include The Museum Has Abandoned Us at State of the Art in Berlin, The Choice of a New Generation at The Muse Gallery in London.

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