Work in Progress: Kate Geck

For the month of March, we were thrilled to host Kate Geck as our Work in Progress (WIP) resident. Kate is a Melbourne-based textile and new media artist, pushing the boundaries of textile art and challenging her viewers to think in new ways about social media and its role in our lives. Kate is a woman of many trades; her wall pieces often includes textile, cut acrylic and digital content. She creates jewelry and clothing with her digital imagery, and she is university instructor and staff member at a free art studio for youth. Her maximalist aesthetic is equally at home on digitally augmented wall hangings and leggings alike, and her work infuses thoughtful critiques of social media culture with an energy, humor and sense of fun. She filled the front window of our Manhattan studio with an inspiring array of colorful garments, samples, cut acrylic icons, and materials. I was so glad to have the opportunity to sit down with Kate and hear her thoughts on the Augmented Reality project she has been working on at the NARS Foundation Residency, digital anxieties, and the possible coming technological apocalypse.

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On her Augmented Reality wall hangings: ”I created a free app that people can use to scan the textiles and there are markers embedded in them that trigger digital content. So your phone will play animations that kind of interact with the fabric. At the moment, the series plays guided meditations to help you deal with different social media anxieties that you might have. The idea for that was a bit tongue-in-cheek. It’s sort of a recursive nod to using devices to mediate the anxiety that the devices cause. The project is loosely been what I’ve been researching: therapeutic devices, but then really maximalist surfaces to activate those apps and interactions. I think what has become a point of interest for me is the idea of devices being therapeutic and apps being therapeutic. It’s not really tenable for most people to just not have a device and just disengage with technology. A lot of people struggle with device-related anxieties.”

“A lot of the stuff I’ve been researching and writing about is related to this dichotomy of the real and the virtual. Often they’re set up as two poles, but the reality is that they’re really overlapping, especially now with ubiquitous devices, so I’ve been trying to research more about these ideas of how the immaterial shapes the material. That’s what the guided meditations with tactile objects and augmented content are trying to do.”

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On the culture of guided meditation: ”I listened to some guided meditations before I wrote the ones for my project and they’re all really focused on the sensory aspects of really calming spaces like oceans and rainforests, and so it’s kind of funny to set that scene but then to bring back the viewer back to this really digital, manmade aspect, like screen based-problems such as not having enough likes on your selfie or being unfollowed. That was funny to me because it pointed out how absurd those guided meditations can be.”

“At the moment, my guided meditation project is pretty tongue-in-cheek. It’s definitely artwork and not a genuine attempt at facilitating meditation. But I showed the work in Vancouver and in Melbourne, and the feedback I got was that people genuinely found the meditations relaxing and therapeutic, and definitely funny as well, because the language is funny. I’m still a little bit dubious of it. I’m sort of critiquing of the device of mindfulness and the idea that if you just breathe deeply and think positively things will work out. It’s not actually true. You need more robust coping strategies in life than just deep breathing, but it does have its benefits.”

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On living in the Information Age: “Obviously the internet and connectivity permeate my actual life as well as my artistic life, and I suppose it’s interesting for me to try and translate that connectivity and the aesthetics of the internet into material objects. Transposing that immateriality of the internet into tangible real things. A lot of my practice is interested in like sensory emotion, and it’s hard to activate that without having tangible, tactile objects.”

“Allowing the deluge of information to sort of wash over you in Facebook and Instagram feeds can be sort of like a relaxing and disconnecting experience, you know, especially when you’re like waiting on line, or on public transport, I find I turn to these endless scrolls of mindless information consumption to get through it. I see it as a pretty fraught relationship between myself and social media platforms. I’m on Instagram constantly. It can be a real endless-scroll kind of click-hole. It’s so weird to just consume that many images. And I watch people on the train all the time doing it, and they’re the same as me. They’re just scrolling. It almost looks like they’re not taking it in, and then every once in awhile they’ll stop and look at something and then maybe double tap it and then keep going.”

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“I definitely think technology affects the way we communicate and perceive and consume information. And that’s what’s really interesting to me. I think there’s a real flatness of information and time now, and we’re in this permanent present. You can equally access information from now and from 500 years ago. Time is crunching up more and we can just access any information from any source. There’s kind of no real hierarchy any more to knowledge and to information. Plus, I think it really affects attention spans. You can’t hold a consistent thought often for a long time anymore. I really notice that with people. I definitely think that there are changes happening with the way we communicate and understand information and access it. And it’s kind of interesting to see how that will change in the long-term.”

Looking toward the future: ”I think that augmented reality is going to be much more integrated into our lives, because it just makes sense. We have these devices that can read the world around us, and then link content from the digital world to that object. So I think that augmented reality and wearable tech is going to become a lot more a part of our lives. I think we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift as well. In ten or twenty years, this period now and the preceding five or ten years will be like a real marker in cultural change in the world. You know, kind of like turn-of-the-century, from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, was, and the middle of the last century, the sixties, was. We’re in the middle of that kind of thing now as well.”

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“People are starting to research and write and understand and articulate how all of these devices and modes of connecting and accessing information are affecting us.  It’s pretty interesting. I notice with some of my first year students at uni, they’re 18, 19, so they’ve grown up always having the internet. They’re from a different era to me. Their way of accessing information and understanding the world is like completely different from mine in my formative years. The first generation of young people who have always had technology are coming of age. That’s interesting to me. Also, the disparity between people who have technology and who don’t have technology is becoming greater. It’s becoming more of a cultural divide and a class divide, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens there as well. At the moment we’re in the middle of it so the perspective’s not quite there yet, but the answers may start to emerge. Maybe there’ll be a technological apocalypse. That’s what we thought Y2K was gonna be. I think at the end of the day, any apocalypse will still be manmade. Devices might facilitate it, but it’s definitely gonna be the result of some tactile, tangible human judgment error.”

Check out more of Kate’s work on her website, and follow her on Instagram, where you can see videos of her digitally augmented wall hangings in action!

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