My MA in Contemporary Art Practice at Edinburgh College of Art concludes this August. Like many 2020 graduates, the realisation of completing studies in such unprecedented circumstances threw all ideas and plans into the unknown.
My practice before lockdown looked at the connections between new media technology and archaic power, looking at site specific geology, materiality of technology and the environmental implications and sustainability concerns with our future use of technology. I wanted to visualise what our technological devices would become in say 100 million years’ time, fossilised, buried and extracted again. I had sourced large pieces of coal from the last remaining active quarry in Ayrshire and had planned to cast, sculpt, scale up and create ambitious installation pieces that combined both my glitched digital photography printed onto aluminum connected to the physical edges of the rock.
With no access to a studio or workshops I adapted to using skills in digital photography and computer software’s to create virtual renders of these sculptures in realistic environments and I immediately started to connect my work to the abandoned streets of Edinburgh. The city provided a perfect backdrop for me to situate the ‘techno-fossils’, to bring humor and intrigue into the idea of coming across one of these large lumps of digital coal on a walk around the city and to compare and contrast with the construction and materials used within a modern urban environments.
Walking around the famous narrow cobbles streets and walkways of Edinburgh felt eerie, calm and very atmospheric. I normally went out during the day and early evenings to photograph my locations and I expect I will never get to experience the city as I have seen it during the last months being so quiet. The light quality and weather in Scotland can be unpredictable at times but this lent itself perfectly to my selection of locations as some of the sculptures I imagined to be hiding in shadows or appearing out of the mist on Arthur’s Seat! My walks lasted a few hours at a time and although I got puzzling looks from standing in the middle of abandoned car parks and zebra crossings, it was amazing to explore the city without the normal hustle and bustle of the everyday. The images in this collection seem to have a powerful presence, as if the sculptural objects waited until they had this space to dominantly place themselves in these awkward and unhelpful spaces. Without the time for me to explore and imagine these artworks during the pandemic, I would have made a completely different and perhaps not such a successful outcome.
My practice is predominantly photography based and the isolation time during Covid19 has transformed the way I create work, how I see the city I live in and how I now plan to create outdoor sculptural work and public art moving forward. Although these art works inevitably became digital in production and promotion this prompted me to look differently at how I used online platforms to showcase my practice. During lockdown I have been involved in digital artist residencies, livestream art events, designed a virtual art exhibition and sold work through new online art initiatives such as the Artist Support Pledge. The pandemic has transformed the way we promote, view, buy and discuss art online and I have actively grown a broader network of support during lockdown especially at a time when physical degree shows would have been happening.
The importance of a degree show for any creative graduate is not to be underestimated as it provides a valuable launch for your career as a practicing artist to be discovered by potential collectors, gallery’s and curators. With the sudden restrictions and changes within the current situation, everyone has had to adapt extremely quickly and as a result this has opened brand new possibilities of working, collaborating and networking and has had a direct and positive effect on my creative practice. I am especially grateful to New Blood Art which been a fantastic project to be involved in as a new graduate and emerging artist. The exposure for all artists involved through their professional online website and promotions has been well curated and communicated nationally. There is no doubt that the artworld and art graduates have been affected but with such fantastic support from dedicated online platforms and opportunities to grow as an artist there can only be a positive impact and direction ahead.
View all available work by Katie Hallam here