Wendy McMurdo | The Digital Mirror


Photography has always grown and developed,
and been inextricably linked to technology. In that respect, it’s very much a mirror
of our time. When I first started working with a computer
in the mid-90s, there just seemed to be endless possibilities. It was a very kind of nascent
time for digital technologies, and similarly of course all of these ideas were starting
to really interest artists. There were lots and lots of interesting, quite prophetic texts
about the impact that digital culture might have in all of our lives, and later in the
lives of children. So, these are some of the hundreds of transparency
sheets that were shot at the museum. There’s something very lovely about containing yourself
just to 12 or 24 exposures, I mean now you can shoot until you have what is technically
a perfect image. I started trailing school parties as they
worked their way around the museum. For me, it’s an interesting space, because when I was young the museum was a place where everything was held that was important. Absolutely everything.
But now of course, the museum’s really changed, it’s almost like the glass screen of the
vitrines became like the computer screen. I was very interested in the way that my own
children actually at that point were using these computer games like Nintendo Skater,
extreme sport type games. I worked with a young figure skater in Dundee actually, and on one screen she was shown moving through her routine, and then on the other screen
a young girl was shown copying the moves on screen, very much looking at the culture of
digital gaming. I began to think about how childhood was constructing;
there was two major institutions that dominated: one was the family, and the other was school.
It did strike me when you’re in a classroom in a school; it’s a very traditional sort
of Victorian space that hasn’t changed since the school was built. I think that children’s’
world now is so different, and I wanted to somehow work with that. In the ‘Indeterminate Objects’ work, (the
‘Classrooms’ work) which is moving image, crystalline, clear type forms can just be
seen rotating or hovering in a space very much like the classroom we’re sitting in
now. Using a combination of traditional lens-based
technologies and digital techniques can really inject an element of not only surprise, but
also an uncomfortable sort of feeling, or this feeling you get when you look at something
that’s new. ‘Let’s go to a place’ which was a series of composite portraits based on one class, a group of children who were moving
really in a way from childhood to adolescence. I set up a photo booth and photographed all
of the children in front of a very neutral backdrop, very similar to the way that school
photographers work. I think that the way we photograph ourselves,
and photograph our children does tell us quite a lot about attitudes towards photography
and reproduction of childhood, so that all feeds in. But I knew I wanted to do something very very
different with these images that was much more to do with both gaming and the way that
I saw children using images of themselves, exchanging images of themselves. I do think that especially when you’re young,
you are very much using, or can be using, social media as a kind of mirror, so you’re
constantly seeking validation. I mean there is actually something in your body that is
produced every time you get positive affirmation, so I think you can become really quite dependent
on that. It really affects the way that you move in the world. That there is this kind
of almost apocalyptical view of the relationship between childhood and technology, and that’s
not new. But I think rather than getting too anxious about these, we should rather try
and document it in a slightly more measured way. I consider myself very very fortunate because
I did find a subject that I found very very interesting, and it’s continued to be endlessly
fascinating and continues to be so.

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