Meet Graeme Gerard Halliday: artist, visionary, thinker. His paintings and collaborative works explore how (and why) to consume safe media, the evolution of man, and the difference between reality and simulation. He questions our tethers to technology, the actual definition of fake news, and the idea of flesh anxiety. At our February Zealous Meetup, Graeme met Monica Nicolaides, the founding director of dance company MonixArts – and a collaboration blossomed! Graeme’s upcoming exhibition at the Joseph Fine Art Gallery, Cyborgia Manifesto, includes live music and dance (and a robot, if you can believe it!), choreographed by Monica herself. We’re delighted to share this double-header feature interview and celebrate the vast potential that comes when creative choose to come together and build from the ground up.
LAB: Your work is inspired by your “Cyborgia Manifesto” – could you describe this in more detail? When/where did this manifesto come about, and what is its core message/purpose? What is the manifesto’s greatest impact on your work?
GGH: While at I was at university, the philosophy of post-modernism really transfixed me – I recall reading “The Beginners Guide to Post-modernism.” One section summarises cyborgs in pop culture. I learned that cyborgs symbolised humanity’s post-human condition. I read a text by Jean Baudrillard (“Simulacrum and Simulations”), which started my journey into the realm of the hyperreal and the concept of reality in a media-infested world. I observed cyborgs and saw them as lacking humanity – they represent our internal existentialist struggle. I knew this was the route I had to go, as I felt a real affinity to this concept. The cyborg is not just a representation anymore – it has an ontology. It is real. Our ever-evolving technology has brought us into a post-human state. I want to create an ongoing narrative like the frescoes of the renaissance, a period that celebrated the divine. I see my work as the neo-renaissance. My visual vocabulary is a warning for the flesh.
LAB: What is “flesh anxiety?” (What are its symptoms and cures?)
GGH: Cure? Night nurse maybe? Haha! For me, “flesh anxiety” defines our chain to technology – we’re connected, but through our connectedness, we have become sociably unsociable. I imagine a dystopia in which the human race ceases to be human, in which we aren’t empathetic to one another. I fear our time within the flesh is coming to an end. My manifesto conveys a broad overview of contemporary society and highlights my influences by acknowledging my past (childhood during the Cold War, living under the threat of destructive technology) and my output in the present (in a place where technology looks like the only way we will succeed within a techno labyrinth).
To keep up with our rapidly advancing technological advancements, sooner or later we will need to augment our existing bodies. My work is a warning for the flesh. Just because we can create something doesn’t necessarily mean we should – yet as a species, we share a burning curiosity to transcend nature. Ironically, everything we have created comes from nature – the symbiosis of our technological creations into our bodies paradoxical will contribute to man’s evolution. I’m fearful of this transformation: individual, autonomous, lost, no identity, no procreation, no emotion. However, technological augmentation could improve our bodies: more knowledge, no illness, immorality. It’s a fine line for me and I offer no cure – just an observation of our time…
LAB: Which writers influence you most? Why?
GGH: French philosopher Jean Baudrillard: “Simulacra and Simulations” had a profound effect on me. His discourse explores and critiques how we view reality from the media’s perspective; ideological narratives are constructed or subverted to further an agenda. What we consume affects us (from our eyes to our stomachs). Our world is full of “hyperreality” – hyperreality is our consciousness’ inability to distinguish reality from a simulation of it, especially in technologically advanced postmodern society. This simulation of the “real” is fantasy: through media consumption and the products it sells, we gain legitimacy through consumption and thus are consumed. This world subverts our notion of reality – take the concept of “fake news,” for example – who’s to say that most news isn’t a fabrication of some sort? Baudrillard fuelled my scepticism of what media I consume, and reminds me to pick my realties wisely (I hope…).
LAB: Describe your ideal working environment / studio space.
GGH: At the moment, my studio is a spare in my uncle’s flat – a small(ish) room. It’s a godsend and will certainly do for the time being! I can create, but space is a necessity for working, storage etc. (I’ll add the ad nauseam phrase “London is too expensive.”)
LAB: How did you meet Monica? What were your first impressions? What inspired you to collaborate?
GGH: I met Monica at my first Zealous Meetup this February. The Meetup had a meet-and-greet scenario, and one of the people I was talking to introduced me to Monica. She was engaging and easy to talk to. I gave her a brief overview of my practice and my concept for a performance piece I had created (and that I was in need of a choreographer). We exchanged cards and Monica contacted me the next day, she was very taken with work and the manifesto. We met the following week and discussed all elements regarding possible funding. Monica suggested we try through the Arts Council. She is very professional, knowledgeable, and a pleasure to work with. I have learned a few things from Monica regarding funding, and am looking forward to seeing the rehearsals of the Cyborg performance piece in the coming weeks.
LAB: What are your hopes for your collaboration(s) with Monica?
GGH: My hopes…. I hope the performance goes well on the night! I have been in touch with some of my NYC contacts, so I am hoping to take the piece there and collaborate with Monica again.
LAB: In general, how do you think collaboration enhances creativity? How has it positively impacted your work in the past?
GGH: Collaboration can help us develop new skillsets and fulfill projects that we couldn’t complete on our own. It builds a professional relationship (organization, fees, adaptability, realization, experimentation). Collaboration can be a gratifying venture when the project(s) are a success – it teaches you to overcome obstacles or even personality clashes, helps you to evolve, and prepares you for the good or bad.
LAB: Tell us more about your upcoming exhibition!
GGH: Cyborgia Manifesto is a collaboration with other artistic luminaries who explore the rise of artificial intelligence in an interactive multimedia event at London’s prestigious Joseph Fine Art Gallery. Cyborgia Manifesto is an exhibition of provocative paintings but it’s also much more! A real-time dance, music, and robotic performance will take place outside the gallery (both for the general public and an online, interactive audience). The performance was choreographed by Monica, accompanied by pianist improvisor Tom Donald London School of Contemporary Piano, CEO) and styled by myself and award-winning designer Sophie Donaldson. As Tom interprets the choreographed movement, Jaxon (a robot / mechanised skeleton that appeared at the Tate Modern) will interpret Tom’s music with dance.
I was recently invited to take part in a technical demonstration of Googletilt, an innovative virtual reality drawing software package. I created a visual representation of a cyborg with one continuous line, which was transformed into a sculpture using the latest 3D printing technology. In a similar vein and also exclusive to the exhibition is a collaboration with Hob’s Studio: “Birth of a Cyborg.” As the largest 3D printing bureau in the UK, Hob’s are proud to continue their tradition of collaborating with innovative artists, having previously worked with Grayson Perry and Antony Gormley. The event will be filmed by Virtual Futures Salon, a collective of artists, writers, cultural theorists, technological entrepreneurs, philosophers and filmmakers who meet at regular events to share their work and insights.