My practice revolves around the exploration of human identity and value in the context of increasingly confused and uncertain times. Examining the complexities and paradoxes of contemporary existence, I have come to appreciate the significance of the shared experience of vulnerability as an inherent part of being human. Furthermore, my practice considers the tension between the digital and the physical, the sublime and the mundane in human experience through sculpture and painting with allusions to traditional folklore, internet culture and discourse around identity.
I’ve been developing a concept in my practice called ‘Doodooism’. This idea emerged during the pandemic as I reflected on the emotional and mental exhaustion experienced in the midst of lockdown that left me ‘feeling like crap’. The name itself is a blend of ‘Dadaism’ and ‘doodoo’, an American colloquial word for excrement. Just as Dadaism emerged as an artistic response to the chaos of World War I, Doodooism is my response to living in a generation shaped by complex layers of Internet culture, economic turmoil and identity crisis, especially following the pandemic. Doodooism uses infantile and memetic humour to explore human vulnerability and its potential to foster equality and encourage empathy in society. These motifs are expressed throughout my work using the imagery of poo and bottoms. I incorporate images of poo into my practice because of its fundamental mundanity – defecation is an inescapable process that happens to every human being, regardless of wealth or status. In this way, poo serves as the great equalizer, offering a powerful, and slightly absurd, reminder of our shared humanity.
In contemplation of contemporary expressions of human identity, I consider the Korean folktale ‘The Mouse that Ate Fingernails’ to be deeply relevant to our current technological moment. Throughout my work, I use mice and nail clippings to provoke discourse regarding digital identities. This folktale tells of a young man who unwittingly discards his nail clippings only to have a mouse eat them and transform into his doppelganger. When he finally returns home, the young man’s family reject him as an imposter because the mouse has taken his place as their son. As a child, this tale caused me great anxiety and made me wonder how I would prove my identity to my parents if something similar were to happen to me. In hindsight, this fear may seem trivial. However, in a world characterized by technological advancements, where the line between truth and lies is increasingly blurred, concerns about falsified and fractured identities take on legitimacy. My work explores the potential for vulnerability in a world where identities are constantly questioned, fragmented, stolen and reassembled. Knowingly and unknowingly, every person has the potential to embody both the son and the mouse through their online interactions and meanderings. The rise of artificial intelligence further raises questions about the identification of people in online spaces. It appears to be important to us that we should be able to distinguish between humans and machines in conversation. The prospect of a machine possessing human-like qualities, while riveting in its futuristic potential, generates a sense of unease. This is demonstrated by concerns as voiced by those like Stephen Hawking that ‘the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race’.
Moreover, the expansion of the internet and the metaverse has ushered in the expansion and multiplicity of identities with the prospect of extending ourselves beyond the physical realm into and across digital platforms. People can now adapt their appearances, personalities and beliefs to fit different contexts offering the opportunity to digitally embody different facets of oneself. However, the influence of capitalism and the abundance of choice it presents – both materially and relationally - complicates the process of self-definition and -recreation. Major corporations make it their responsibility to show us what we want, leading us towards a ‘more complete’ version of ourselves via consumerism. This notion challenges the nature of autonomy, questioning whether our choices are truly our own or mere responses to algorithms. The presence of authority and spectacle in my work is juxtaposed with embarrassment and exposure, suggesting a paradoxical coexistence of power and vulnerability produced by the interplay of digital and physical realms.
With shared vulnerability in one hand, Doodooism considers human value in the other. The erosion of meritocracy in the face of AI provokes inquiry into the value and uniqueness of human beings. For so long, hard work and talent have been the staple of everyday existence by which people have proved their worth and competency. However, with the increasing influence of AI in various aspects of daily life, this notion of meritocracy is challenged, and the value of individuals is re-evaluated. The matter of human value has already been considered in light of research on diseases such as Alzheimer's. As life expectancy increases, so does the potential for experiencing Alzheimer's. The clocks in my work draw inspiration from those created by individuals affected by Alzheimer's, exploring memory, experience, and knowledge in relation to identity. These clocks ask what it means to be alive and to age and yet lose a sense of time and progress. They beckon us to consider the worth and uniqueness of the human when acquired knowledge and status fade away leaving us vulnerable and dependent on others.
Underlying its absurdity and playfulness, Doodooism explores the possibility of the mundane reflecting the sublime. Rather than overtly portraying the sublime in my work, its focus lies in depicting the profoundly mundane, hoping to uncover glimpses of the sublime by exploring vulnerable human experiences. In my work, defecation, a process both universally common and instinctively concealed due to its taboo nature, becomes a powerful vehicle for exploring themes of equality and empathy. These themes, which I perceive as profoundly spiritual in nature, in juxtaposition with poo paradoxically introduce the possibility of a connection between the physical and the spiritual. The coexistence of the spiritual and physical is also explored in the Christian tradition where the notion of God incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ embodies both the mundane nature of the physical body and the divine transcendence of his deity. Doodooism invites contemplation on the profound interplay between the mundane and sublime revealed by the coexistence of the deeply physical realities of being human and the spiritual nature of our aspirations for an improved society.