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Interview: Welcome to Cyberdelic

The Camberwell Stories team asked me a few questions about my MA Graduate Showcase 'Cyberdelic'.

Where are you currently based?

I’ve been living in London, UK for over 10 years. Having spent most of my time in East London, I moved to Peckham in March this year (in the first week of lockdown!). I fell for Peckham whilst attending Camberwell and also wanted to be close to college for my final year. Didn’t work out as planned given college closed because of COVID, but I still love the area!

Following winning the Mercers’ Arts Award in July 2020, I’ve started renting a studio in Southwark, managed by the charity Artists Studio Company (ASC).

o Can you please describe your art/design practice?

My practice uses print, film, new media and audio-visual installation to explore altered states of consciousness. Through synthesising Eastern philosophy and Western science I create mindful experiences for audiences to nurture a presence of mind, contemplating perception, reality and illusion. By engaging with the properties of ink, water, light and sound, I create sensuous, abstract aesthetics to surprise and delight.

- How have you adapted your practice for working outside of the studio/college?

I was keen to adapt my work for a virtual environment. Rather than presenting physical work digitally, I created digital work to explore the experiential qualities of online media. I had to develop new skills and processes using 2D and 3D digital design tools.

Being able to build a virtual space for my work, rather than adapting my work to physical space (as is usually the case), was a true revelation. Through collaborating with a developer, I created a fully customised virtual environment developed for the user’s experience.

VR experience by artist Danielle Jacques
Screenshot of VR experience 'Welcome to Cyberdelic"

A concern that the construction of digital tools is counterproductive to meditative art techniques, such as Shambala Art drove my research paper topic. Through experimenting in Adobe Photoshop during lockdown I realised that the issue was ‘overchoice’ and by enforcing creative limitations I could achieve a mindful state free of anxiety.

o Please tell us more about your Graduate Showcase upload/project

What were the inspirations/idea behind it?

My latest project, ‘CYBERDELIC’ explores the psychedelic state, famous for saturated colours, visual hallucinations and mystical experiences. ‘Cyberdelic’ was a term coined to describe the fusion of cyberculture and psychedelic counterculture in the 1980s and 1990s. This movement was a utopian vision which promoted using computers, virtual reality and the internet to create transcendental experiences.

In my project, CYBERDELIC I echo cyberdelic spokesman Timothy Leary’s call to “turn on, boot up and jack in” and explore the relationship between cyberspace and altered states of consciousness.

Psychedelic digital collage by visual artist Danielle Jacques
'Turn On, Boot Up, Jack In II', Digital Collage

The project is both a presentation of my research, and research in progress. I invite users to complete a self-assessment survey of their state of mind after experiencing CYBERDELIC. I designed the survey based on ‘The Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory’ (Pekala) and the 5D-ASC questionnaire (A. Dittrich, D. Lamparter, M. Maurer). Survey results will assess the phenomenological qualities of CYBERDELIC and inform future work.

Pyschedelic video by visual artist Danielle Jacques
'Cyberdelic', Video, 35m07s

The processes and materials used?

I explore the properties of ink, water, and light, in a process of “meditation-in-action”. By acting in the moment, the aesthetic is discovered rather than created. Documenting my actions through photography and video allows me to solidify these visual meditations, so I may elongate, interpret, and share the experience.

Photos and videos are recycled and transformed through digital and analogue processes, shifting from one level of abstraction to another. The result is a vast archive of photos and videos to draw from and explore their juxtapositions and experiential qualities.

I created the digital collage series Turn On, Boot Up, Jack In in Adobe Photoshop using a still from a video work created for club night visuals and photographs of mixed media ink paintings.

By adopting the threefold Shambala Art principle of ‘heaven, earth and human’ I created the work intuitively in a mindful state. Experimental ink film Cyberdelic used the same club night visuals as a backdrop and then underwent 3D effects in Adobe Premiere to create a mirror box illusion. To emulate a heightened state of consciousness, I used Audacity to create binaural beats and layered these with distorted electronic music by producer Simpl_Machine.

3D sketch of tunnel with windows
3D sketch of virtual reality environment

To create the VR experience Welcome to Cyberdelic, I used 3D design software SketchUp to mock-up the space. Working with a developer we brought it to life using open-source visual programming language, cables. The digital collage series Turn On, Boot Up, Jack In and a clip from experimental film Cyberdelic were integrated into the VR environment.

o Have you got any future creative plans you’d like to share with us? new project ideas, a collaboration, residency, group exhibition? career options - Is there a particular studio or company you’d love to work with?

So many!

I’m represented by Made in Arts London (MiAL), a non-profit initiative which nurtures UAL students throughout the early stages of their career. I’ll be exhibiting with MiAL at the Hampstead Affordable Art Fair in May 2021.

In 2018 I cofounded the Altered States Collective, a community of artists, theatre-makers and designers examining altered states of consciousness. We are planning our first group exhibition in London to take place in 2020/2021.

Winning the Mercers’ Arts Award has been a game-changer. It’s given me the confidence and financial support to springboard my career. The award provided funding for studio space and materials. This will allow me to refine my process and create more experimental work focused on audiovisual installation. I’d like to get involved with organisations like Art in Flux who create public events to explore the relationship between technology, transcendental experiences, and positive social changes.

I’m also seeking opportunities to collaborate with academics across the fields of philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and neuropharmacology. Organisations like Imperial College, King’s College London and the Science Gallery have a strong history of providing opportunities to combine perspectives from artists and scientists and engage the public. Ultimately, I am interested in widening the circle of shared attention relating to our understanding of consciousness. By shining a light on one of the great unknowns of the universe, perhaps I can play my small part in the ancient project of expanding human cognition and enhancing human culture.

Do you have any advice for students considering studying on your course?

Do it! It’s an amazing course. It’s been running online for over 15 years, so it’s well suited to the current environment. Despite the distance learning, there’s a great sense of community and the course leader is highly skilled at bringing out your artistic voice. Being part of the wider university also presents lots of opportunities to meet other students and develop. The Students Union, Careers and Employability and Post Graduate Community have a great calendar of events and pool of opportunities to apply for. It’s been a life-changing experience, I wish I could be a student forever!


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