Labour of Love, 2020-ongoing

‘Labour of Love: Laboriously Processed Algorithmic Drawing Series‘, 2020-ongoing

Materials: Tracing paper, highlighters, black pigment ink

Dimensions: A1

“A life thus names a restless activeness, a destructive-creative force-presence that does not coincide fully with any specific body. A life tears the fabric of the actual without ever coming fully ‘out’ in a person, place, or thing. A life points to… ‘matter in variation that enters assemblages and leaves them. A life is a vitality proper not to any individual but to ‘pure immanence,’ or that protean swarm that is not actual though it is real: ‘A life contains only virtuals. It is made of virtualities.”

Bennett, Jane. ‘Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things’. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. p54

In 2020, Michelle Forrest-Beckett was awarded a Data Fellowship by the South-West Creative Technology Network (SWCTN). Funded by Research England and in partnership between the University of the West of England, Bath Spa University, University of Plymouth, Falmouth University, Watershed, and Kaleider, she was invited as a New Talent Artistic Researcher to creatively reflect upon data, alongside 23 fellows from academic, industry and creative backgrounds.

The Data Fellowship began when the pandemic hit and following her divorce. Though divorce proceedings were amicable, as the Data Fellowship moved online and she became confined indoors with her laptop as her source for communication, it was during this extraordinary time of solitude that she began to mourn the loss of her long-term relationship and her heartache began to surface.

Opening-up her heart to Google’s search engine this tool became her closest confidante.

While looking for a means to process heartache in a matter-of-fact way, with some emotional distance, she discovered Robert Sternberg’s Triarchic Theorem for Love.

Curious to see if she could visually exhaust the psychometric model that underpinned Sternberg’s measurement theory, she adopted his triangulated forms and began executing a pattern making process, as a means to slowly-process heartache.

Following a colour-coding system that she tracked within a spreadsheet to map her permutations, she became transfixed by this triarchic process and sensed a symbiotic relationship form with machine learning.

Becoming a form of slow-processing algorithm, to date, 50+ unique pattern formations have accumulated, titled ‘Labour of Love: Laboriously Processed Algorithmic Drawing Series’, 2020-ongoing.

As means to share this process with her Data fellows during the pandemic lockdowns, she transfigured her algorithmic drawings into a series of digital images, accompanied by a disjointed, instruction-esque form of storytelling. Titled ‘Labour of Love: Episode I Matters of the Heart and Mind’, it spoke through an artificial intelligent voice; named Michael, who utters word associations concerning matters of the heart and mind, which are loosely formed from a multiplicity of factors (playlists, poetry, facts, fiction, hearsay, and the odd advertisement). Overflowing with unbounded sequences, iterations, and potentialities, too much exposure to Michael’s wholehearted performance (or even a performance full of holes) can leave you susceptible to his uncanny spell, that sways between the comical, the empathetic and the eerie.

In Jane Bennett’s, 2010 text ‘Vibrant Matter: A political Ecology of Things’, Bennett shifts the focus from human experience to nonhuman forces and speaks to a ‘destructive-creative force-presence’ as an active energy that has the potential to impact change and bring renewed vitality. Distorting a human-centric worldview by pointing to the agency of the digital medium, to consider how the digital effects human thoughts and shapes aspects of life, the ‘Labour of Love’ series has become a work-in-process that is centred around transfiguring the digital into the hand-made, and vice versa.

While thinking about datum in its digital form and how it can become out of date if not maintained, the ‘Labour of Love: Stratified Relations Spreadsheet Series’, 2022-ongoing, came into being to highlight the misconceptions of data if presented out of context, which speaks to the unstable nature of digital forms of referencing once web links become broken.

'Love by Proxy: Stratified Spreadsheet Drawing, Exhibit A', 2022

'Love by Proxy: Stratified Spreadsheet Drawing, Exhibit B', 2022

In 2010, Sean O’Hagan reviewed David Shields Reality Hunger and described Shields style of writing as a ‘raw’, ‘unprocessed’, and ‘uncensored…genre-blurring 21st-century prose’ that ‘questions ownership’ in our ‘technology-driven culture’ [1].

With Shields in mind, Michelle Forrest-Beckett envisages the ‘Labour of Love: Stratified Relations Spreadsheet Series’, 2022-ongoing, as printed monolithic, aluminium panels, in which the unruly, often untrustworthy and dynamic nature of electronic publishing becomes solidified, which she proposes as an act of petrification, in which, the fluidity of hyperlink references is lost and only image and object remain. 

As a form of constellation installation, she envisages the ‘Labour of Love: Laboriously Processed Diagrammatic Drawing Series‘ to be installed in a white cube, cathedral-like room, on one wall, as an altar piece faced by a row of individual white prayer stands, on which, headphones will be placed to listen to Michael’s disjointed, instruction-esque form of storytelling. But unlike a preacher, Michael’s artificial intelligent voice will not captivate you with eye contact and he will misinterpret what he preaches.

Entering the white cube, cathedral-like room, through a dark black, narrow corridor, floor to ceiling monolithic, aluminium panels will lean against the adjacent sides of the corridor, spot lit from above. The ‘Labour of Love: Stratified Relations Spreadsheet Series’ will be printed onto the aluminium panels, but only the stratified layers of colour and the associated cloud formation of broken weblinks, since Michael will speak to the assemblage of word associations through the headphones, which can be heard while kneeling at one of the individual altars.

Opposite the altar of the white cube room will be another, dark black, narrow corridor, leading to a black room with an illuminated dance floor, which replicates all the pattern formations mapped in the ‘Laboriously Processed Diagrammatic Drawing Series’. This would be accompanied by a silent disco, in which the ‘Labour of Love: Dancing with Data Episode I and II’ playlists can be accessed by scanning one of several QR codes, which will be installed as large, black and white screen prints, whose florescent glow will draw the eye up towards the heavens, since they will be installed on the surrounding walls, above the illuminated dance floor.

[1] O’Hagan, S. (2010, February). Reality Hunger by David Shields. Retrieved from: Source cited: 20th May, 2022