Commissioned by Temple University’s Tyler School of Art and Architecture
Soundtrack by Jesse Stiles
With Contributing Performers and TYL Class of 2021 Participants:
Allison Anderson, MFA, Painting, ‘21 | Connor Kennedy, BS, Community Development, ‘21 | Emily Kleaver, BFA, Ceramics ‘21 | Luke Chellew, BFA, Printmaking, ‘21 | Madyson Bryan, BA, Visual Studies, ‘21 | Mollie Schaidt, MFA, Photography, ‘21 | Nicole Kish, BFA, GAID ‘21 | Sixuan Zhu, MFA, Glass, ‘21
Made for the 2021 graduating class of the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Always On is a virtual social practice performance documented via screen capture. On March 21, 2021, I facilitated a conversation with eight students inside the multi-user online environment Habbo – a multi-user digital environment and online community that is over 20 years old and still active. Situated inside a custom room I designed to feel emblematic of the utopian idealism of the early web, I facilitated a conversation about how our social experiences, art practices, and relationship to technology have changed as a result of a year spent in the global pandemic. We also imagined what intentional and meaningful future technologically mediated experiences we would like to see in the world as alternatives to the limitations of digital life we have now experienced across social, educational, and artistic contexts.
The video documentation of the performance features a new experimental sound piece by Jesse Stiles. Stiles’ piece is an algorithmic reconstruction of Erik Satie's piano composition "Gymnopedie No. 1." In Satie's score for the source material, the performer is instructed that the music should be performed "Lent et douloureux" (slow and painful). Stiles’ interpretation of the composition divides the score into many small packets of notes that overlap and shift slowly to present the entire composition over a very long period of time.
Ultimately the performance and accompanying sound piece explores the fragmentation and collapse between digital/physical, public/private, and work/not work that has occurred during this remote year which one student described as “always on” because “we never log off.”