The CharacterMart exhibition took place at The Biscuit Factory in Edinburgh in December 2015. This exhibition featured the work of 11 artists or illustrators all creating work around the theme of character design.
‘KeepAskingQuestions’ is title of the body of work produced by Gutless Wonder for this exhibition. The artist has created characters as a tool to explore concepts in a fictional setting. The work is inspired by research into the internet and the potential struggles or dangers that humans face as they rely more on services and communication on the world wide web. The exhibition piece consists of a series of nine A2 digital prints accompanied by an 8-page zine.
Gutless Wonder grew up in a time that saw the invention of the web and the rapid growth of its importance in humans day to day life. Many now rely upon services and communications online on a daily basis yet there is a feeling that people aren’t really aware of what is happening underneath the surface or the future consequences they may face because of the information they publish online.
Throughout history humans have often used spirituality and religion as a way to bring meaning, understanding and guidance into their lives. Yet as the world changes and evolves it seems reasonable that religion should also adapt and update itself to the new challenges faced or discoveries that are made.
Considering the above, Gutless Wonder became interested in the concept of a new ‘digital religion’ with the purpose of aiding and guiding humans in their usage and understanding of the internet. For this religion the artist creates ‘digital deities’ who seek to inform, guide and protect the users of the internet.
The title of the work ‘KeepAskingQuestions’ encourages viewers to seek answers and conduct their own research into the themes discussed. Many people use services and sign user agreement forms without necessarily considering the potential consequences of what they are giving away or agreeing to and the artist hopes to encourage people to question more the services that they may use on a day to day basis.
Aside from asking questions the key themes that Gutless Wonder was inspired by are surveillance, trolling, virus’, followers, creation and maintenance. It was also essential that the work embodied a sense of hope and encouragement because although many of the themes can potentially be scary or daunting there is also an enormous amount of potential for good to happen online. Each of the prints produced relates to or represents one or more of these themes.
Weavers are the those who act selflessly for the good of the people.
In 1990 Sir Tim Berners-Lee created World Wide Web, the first browser enabling users to view the internet. In 1991 he published the first web site to educate others on how to use the World Wide Web and released it to the world for free.
Progress for the people comes from sharing ideas and creations to enrich the lives of ourselves and those around us (not just our wallets).
Like weavers, the followers have the potential to impact their environment and change it for the good of all. They could easily be considered as the most powerful of all the forces in the digital realm. This is mainly due to the fact that they have the largest numbers and most diverse experiences.
However, the followers must take action to create impact. It is felt by some that this begins with the simple act of asking a question. Questioning surroundings and being unafraid of the unknown allows a follower to flourish. As each individual follower flourishes they can help both themselves and followers as a whole by sharing their knowledge in many ways. One example could be the use of memes. Keeping an open mind, encouraging diversity and providing room for growth allows the maximum potential for new and life enriching discoveries.
The internet is a public space. In theory this means that everything you do online can be seen, tracked, stored etc.
Imagine walking through the park. As you go a person follows you and takes notes on everything you do. Maybe you eat a snack, hum a tune or pick your nose. It’s all written down and you can’t control who has access to it from there. The thought of a stranger following you around the park is not a particularly nice one but this is essentially what happens each time you go online. These strangers are the watchers and there are lots more than one.
We are all being followed by the watchers. It doesn’t seem as though the average person has much choice in the matter. We could at least choose to watch back though. Through research we can begin to understand who the stranger following us through this digital park is and why they are doing it.
Inspired by the idea of memes and also computer virus scares. The two virus’ focus on different topics. One is a warning and the other an encouragement.
The ‘WatcherVirus’ represents how an internet users actions online can be watched and stored. The watchers are represented through the use of the eye as a symbol. Whilst internet users may think one company has access to data it may actually be the case that what they share has been passed from one company to the next. It is possible that it becomes like a virus where data is sold and shared and the people who have access to it begin to multiply like a virus.
The second is the smiley virus. This is based on the concept of a shared smile multiplying and spreading like a virus. Rather than being an online troll or spreading negativity through online communications the smile virus suggests that we spread a smile instead.
The smiley encourages hope and happiness online. By creating the golden smiley the artist is suggesting that the smile is also an idol or deity to be worshipped, appreciated and shared.