If I show you more, am I less?
2020 - Film: 13:09 - Ben Dawson
“What does it mean to be human? – A digital deep dive in to materialist mortality, asking the question of what it is to have a body physically and digitally” My work orbits around our physical and digital identities and their symbiotic convergence and divergence, the question between real and virtual in the age of the internet Omni presence plagues me, Owning a body is a complex and nuanced condition, what if a body exist without knowing(non body’s), thus proposing the question of ownership and autonomy , these ethical question frame a dissection in to digital materiality. CGI rendered slippages forming, as cowboys that have been digitally sculpted by my hand exist purely on software where the question of postproduction and creation are endless a digital infinity (the wild west) things never die on screen they get reborn as JPEGS or FBX files. Renderings transform in to scripts then films and soundscapes that ponder, creation myths, technology automation of self and digital alchemy. I have an obsessiveness for images the use of the cowboy and the western has become a surrogate, cowboy images becoming cloaked as texture maps morphing from flat to virtual parody, the authenticity of images is null and void, they become embossing, its funny to see an image of a horse on a virtual horse, literalness has a certain humour. Dichotomy and diametric conditions oscillate in my practice , narrative is crafted in and out if screen to sculpt a whole , world building articulates extensive research in away that feels human and more emotional than sleek sterile digitalness.
‘Are you lonely, cowboy?’
Text by Francesca Cavolina
Ben Dawson is a weaver, a constructor, a stitcher and a choreographer. He revels in magic-making. Through his skills in 3D rendering and environment building, magic undeniably glistens through the aesthetics and craftsmanship of this film despite being through an unnerving and melancholic rhetoric.
If i show you more, am i less? Is a 13-minute film in which Ben just about unpicks everything you think you know about the digital space in which fractions of us all, live. Utilising realistic detail in his rendered imagery, this film tantalises you with moments of presumed reality. Nothing has been left to chance, Ben carefully and masterfully crafts a digital western dystopia as a catalyst to provoke a personal enquiry into how we construct ourselves online. In 13 minutes, Ben defies physics through shape-shifting bodies, vast sets, and dancing horses to demonstrate a fictional world in which our digital neophilia is questioned.
The start of the film boasts a string of rapid frames with manoeuvred glitches and texture movements, drawing the eye to the wavering text on the screen. We are joined by a familiar voice who presses us with new and seemingly specialised terminology such as phrases like ‘otherised objects’. Immediately we are forced to vigilantly pay attention so as not to miss a single word or image, unsure of a narrative, unsure of our role in watching, and unsure of what comes next. Your eyes and ears are transfixed to the screen in an ironic parallel to our relationship with digital devices. The voice echoes like a tannoy, providing us with an overload of information and bold statements. One in particular that resonates especially loud is ‘data always find a way’, a reminder that our data is everywhere, seeping into this immortal and infinite unknown non-space, where the consequences of sharing ourselves are undetermined, yet all of us offer up ourselves daily in this uncontrollable contemporary digital ritual. The cowboy is the theophany in this digital wild west.
Sound permeates the entire film. With country-esque chords provided by Daisy Tortuga, Ben knits together an enveloping sphere of sound to accompany us whilst we view the film. He seems to be abundantly aware of the connotative qualities of both the western imagery and sounds and draws on these to create such a convincing set to host his philosophical questions into our anthropological needs to divulge ourselves in digital space. The whistles of wind and bird call assist in creating a barren and infinite landscape and his ability to teeter on the tones of both Daisy’s guitar chords and on the digital synths and mesh them somehow together, echoes our own abilities to assimilate to the falsities that we present online.
With imagery of cowboys, taverns, horses and the west saturating our western entertainment and cultural reference points; you could be forgiven in thinking that you have seen this before. I can assure you, you haven’t. Ben ingeniously weaves both magic and himself into this market, by exploiting everything you know about the cowboy and his nuances, from the homoerotic references, to heroism, in order to trigger self-reflection. If anyone can be anything online, what have we all chosen to be? We take refuge in the fictionality of Ben’s work because we know Ben made it. We know Ben. We need Ben’s humanity to make this make sense. There is a comfort in knowing other humans ponder the incomprehensible notion of a digital infinity and our place within it. A non-space. The film continues with a single cowboy’s realisation of self-awareness.
Ben offers up what seems like momentary insights into the fabrication of this digital oblivion, DNA-like structures dart and bounce around, allowing us to tunnel and travel between them, a lone cowboy stands on what looks like it could be the edge, and yet we are plunged quickly back into the dark. The 13-minute film is chaotic, it’s technical, but most strikingly it is still deeply personal and generous. It questions our abilities to employ coping mechanisms to all dimensions of our reality. Are the ways in which we deal with real life echoed in our virtual spaces? Ben allows you an insight into his personal quest for clarity and truth.
Destined to wander an infinite digital west accompanied only by the sound of whinnying horses reverberating in the distance,
Are you lonely, cowboy?
Read Ben Dawson’s essay on Francesca Cavolina’s work HERE.