Eastern Surf began two years ago when we as a group of artists working in the UK and Croatia started a conversation, following on from our MFA education together. An initially straightforward exhibition proposal has gradually formed into a ever-growing multiple collaboration and method which has now spanned across several events including public performance photoshoots, mass collated video work, ambient sound work, live online TV and gallery based installation.
The metamodel is at the centre of the body of work we have made with Eastern Surf. It is important to point out that I say ‘with’ and not ‘as’ because we started off imagining Eastern Surf as a methodology for working together rather than a name for a static collective of artists. Eastern Surf was always intended as a way of making across timezones and geographies, with any number of people. We have remained the same number for the last year but we are ideologically open to limitless collaboration, as a kind of open source franchise for making art without sole authorship. So with that in mind the metamodel began as a way of interacting in a shared space without being physically present to one another, in a practical sense of those in Croatia being able to act on a space in Edinburgh and vice versa, without having to travel.
The centre of the model is Rhubaba gallery and studios in Edinburgh where we had our first presentation of Eastern Surf. On the walls are fragments of our posts and references, which we had shared through a facebook group as a way to find common interests and have dialogue. The way that facebook as a tool forms conversation in its limitations as well as convenience; equal precedence being given to video, image and links, serious and light alongside in depth discussion and practical chat has allowed themes to build. The way its chronology works moves things along fast, details are lost and ideas can only be brought to the surface if reoccurring, the private group format functions as a kind of micro crowd sourced sifting through research in order to make decisions. We feel this has had an effect on the work we have made in terms of its cyclical nature.
In the next step we swapped 3D models of our own domestic environments and intervened virtually in the other’s space which was then realised by the inhabitant and streamed online as a live five channel video. Through amateur experiments with tools such as the Google Sketchup software, Skype, Bambuser, Dropbox, Google documents, tools common in the shared collaboration of the international creative class, Eastern Surf has taken it into a more intrusive field and is interested in how our naivety can create a positive glitch in the smooth surface world of digital culture, accentuating the miscommunication and ruptures that occur across filesharing, and between real and virtual worlds. Our position as a kind of lost generation floating between states of digital immigrant and digital native, old enough to remember lived analogue but young enough to adapt and be fascinated by ramification of the digital, also informs our work.
Interested in tactics of identification and mimicry, we looked at business models and language in terms of visual thinking and created pseudo-rational diagrams and graphic design to form a formula to predict our work. The next phase came from a logical development from domestic to semi public space, also in a reflection of the online semi publicity of our TV event. We began to look at our immediate lived environment and the meaning of semi public but privately controlled space. We identified sites where gentrification was in process and looked at the digital representation of its new architecture and lifestyle, its online and billboard identity in advertising and the stark contrast of recession reality. In mimicry of these digital representations we have recreated the “render ghosts” of their scenes, using real people in semi public space to stage an artificial reality. Through the staging of a photoshoot we also test the parameters of the “public” and how people are permitted to interact with a space. The process becomes the performance. Indicators of hyper idealised normality and the game of private control imposes the limits of the photographs. In private spaces which are represented as public and have a projected image, the intrusions we make could be seen as a reclamation of territory in the sense of consequential powerlessness rather that empowerment.
The accidental and unaware collaborator, the passerby caught on camera, or indeed the uploader of the audio or model content that we sample, is a key figure in the work, working equally with the Eastern Surf method. We are very much embroiled with the ethics of open source and data accumulation, and how to work in the ever narrowing freedoms of the internet. An interest in levels of privacy, the function of data collection and with it the fragile yet at once infinite digital materiality of the online archive is reflected in the process of the metamodel. It has a function as documentation, as a representation of our actions and the events and exhibitions we have been part of. It also functions as documentation of the collaboration process. Everything seems framed around the action or performance, so the filming of a billboard or the making of a photoshoot is a performance in itself as is the participation in an exhibition. The model represents these events on a level field, in a space as a whole. It is a potentially infinite growing model of the spaces we are subject to, “we” as in “you” and “I”. As a representation of Eastern Surf history the chronology is not linear, as history is not linear, consisting of competing multiple histories across cultures. As it is of events past and its architecture is unfinished it resembles a ruin but I think it can also be seen as a proposition. A proposition towards a reclaiming of space as one might experience it now; fragmented, connected, controlled, online, offline, and the line between public and private diminishing.