Rebecca Daynes: Sea is Lonely

A friend I spoke to soon after viewing Rebecca Daynes’ work suggested that there is something so intimate about sitting sans clothes in front of your own computer. The nudity is a metonym for just how intimate our interactions with the computer are. You and your computer privately foster a wholly guards-down, unselfconscious relationship. At the same time our computers contain and offer easy access to a cache of public information. Amelia Jones made the astute examination that ‘a rapidly growing number of people in the world spend more time negotiating televisual bodies … than they do out on the streets or in other public spaces engaging breathing, space-taking human bodies with multi-sensual simultaneity’ [1]. Our personal engagements and information exchanges are all happening on screen.

An artist creatively distributing this communal information and their televised body through a video format seems the most responsive medium. Daynes does exactly this. She creates home videos that employ repurposed graphic visuals with her own self as the telecast subject. Hers are a comment on the phenomenon of unrestricted online behaviour and, with the imagery she uses, a search for sincerity.

Daynes attaches impersonal stock images she freely attains from the Internet to a green screen. She superimposes these found images – temporary tattoo art if it were digital, a clunky computer game from the nineties – onto a single channel video with herself in the foreground. The works are deliberately rudimentary and raw and fail to adhere to the post-production effects of video making. The image quality is low and Daynes embraces it. It is the experimental ‘It’s not very polished but I can do it too!’ The fast-paced, colourful personality of the collaged clip art and graphic screen savers predicate the intended ‘bad-taste’ of the video. It is the art production that anyone can do. Search for ‘lush floral gold glitter roses’ or ‘animated dolphin sparkle GIF’s’ and you can generate your own Rebecca Daynes video. Daynes’ partiality to the do-it-yourself video making comes as a comment on the oversaturation of public image assemblage.

Boris Groys writes: ‘Today it is not only professional artists, but all of us who must learn to live in a state of media exposure by producing artificial personas, doubles, or avatars with a double purpose – to situate ourselves in visual media and conceal our biological bodies form the media’s gaze’ [2]. The sincerity hides within the performing subject. Using herself as the only body within the work is what the artist refers to as unapologetic outpouring of the self. Her identity is not real; rather it is an acting subject. There is a necessity for the corporeal to activate the sincere self on the public screen. Situating herself within the video, even if in a contrived state, opens the video to the curious shadow of sincerity.

In Heroics of Sincerity, the artist walks into centre stage of a front yard, picks up a Ryobi leaf blower and stands in an unnatural power stance. The subject and her power tool wait for an a cappella version of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding out for a Hero to play. The music and pose are both nods to artificial power. This one is friendly and fast. It is a five-minute production of cute animal clip art and kaleidoscopic explosions moving to an outlandish eighties power ballad.

When asked ‘Why the kittens? Why the unicorns?’ Daynes answers by describing it as a tacky but well intended hallmark card. It is a response to the tension between sincerity and insincerity. While its face may appear shallow and cliché, the inscription inside the card is heartfelt and earnest so you let the low art aspect slide. The same goes for Daynes’ videos. With good intentions and the capacity for affective response, the tastelessness of imagery is an aesthetic and intentional addition.

Video one ends and video two begins. In this video, Sea is Lonely, Daynes stands (rather abjectly) holding a garden hose, waist deep in a digital ocean. She is pouring water into a can that eventually fills, which is probably emblematic of the tears that appear to be welling in her eyes. The mood is tonally dim and dramatically aural. Dolphins dance across the screen, the ocean tide comes in and out, and boats and sharks fins reel to the accompanying crescendo of O Fortuna. The visual content of the second video is similar to its predecessor: the subject is centered, holding a utilitarian object, and in comes a barrage of kitsch digital imagery.

Both videos have a real emotional energy. Heroics of Sincerity, with its soundtrack and dizzying stock images, is playful and humorous. Sea is Lonely is quiet, slower and sad. Daynes’ videos get to be a little sincere and a little insincere. The onslaughts of kitsch graphics help it to not peer too far over the fence of sincerity. They are constant reminders of the tacky and unlimited computer-generated beginnings. Like our relationship with the computer though, the videos are emotionally fueled enough to be contemplative and intimate. It is hard to laugh at the glitchy sea and flashing bright red bubble text that reads ‘Subscribe More Videos’ when the subject is wiping tears from her eyes.

Written by Lily Heenan 

1. Jones, A 2006, Self/image: technology, representation and the contemporary subject, Routledge, New York

2. Groys, B 2010, Going public, Sternberg Press, New York


Essay courtesy of Cut Thumb ARI from exhibition Rebecca Daynes: Sea is Lonely 

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