During the UK lockdown of January 2021, the students of MA Interaction Design at UAL’s London College of Communication were isolated in their homes, most of them having only arrived in the country two months previously. At this time, the students started a short practice brief we called “Desktop Cinema”: a hybrid form of digital performance and filmmaking that uses the computer desktop as its stage, using on-screen text files, images, webcams, laptop microphones, and found footage from YouTube as common components of storytelling. For Ars Electronica 2021 we present the desktop cinema performances that the students produced during the long lockdown: a series of moving and personal works, captured through the intimate environment that had become their window to the world in their isolation: the desktop. These stories of discovery, loss, hope, and mystery remind us that amidst all the reactionary claims that our screens are reducing us to less-than-humans, there are deep and intimate aspects of humanity that can be found within them. The performances will be from: Mat Denney (UK), Céleste Mueth (FR), Nella Piatek (PL), Joana Nuñes (PT), Qingyi Ren (CN), Jiayi Liu (CN), Em Argiro (US), Tinayi Ren (CN), Shrey Kathuria (IN), Shenghe Xuan (CN), Melissa Schwarz (DE).
Nella Piatek: Nella Piatek is a researcher and anthropological future designer studying the values, motivations and systems behind human interaction, and the way technology intervenes in it. Her work intends to rethink how we interact with technology, space, and beings to explore ways human values can be translated into tangible experiences. Her focus lies in creating poetic, introspective and ritualistic work, which touches upon the themes of faith, impermanence, and the infinite search for a sense of self.
Joana Nuñes: Joana Nuñes is a visual artist and designer interested in the possibilities of the intersection of speculative fiction and anthropology. Their body of work delves into the questioning of human values and behavior, rethinking relationships between human and non-human systems. They decipher this investigation into a hybrid experiential practice across the various disciplines of art, design, animation, film and technology.
Céleste Mueth: Céleste Mueth is a French multidisciplinary visual artist. Her work ranges from video projection installation to sound exploration. Through her project, she aims to bring science communication and education to the public space through interaction design.
Mat Denney: Mat Denney is a multi-disciplinary artist, lecturer and creative director living in London. His work plays at the boundary of analogue and digital, encompassing interaction design, film, sound, code, photography and printmaking. His practice is concerned with materiality, the agency of processes and matter, “the invisible”, magic and affect.
Jiayi Liu: As a digital artist and designer, I pay attention to technology, environment, and humanities. I think about the value and impact of technology as an intermediary on mankind and how to use technology to make people pay more attention to social issues and people’s future living environment. Technical methods involve VR interaction, web and mobile interface design.
Em Argiro: Em Argiro is a multi-disciplinary graphic and motion designer from the United States. Alongside a background working within the music industry, their main research interests include queerness, the challenging of gendered “norms”, and radical autoethnography.
Shrey Kathuria: Shrey Kathuria is a New Delhi-born, London-based communication designer whose body of work investigates speculative landscapes in the human-tech relationship. Through a hybrid practice in graphic design, moving image and sound art, I aim to create experiences that reimagine the essence and purpose of being in the realm of screens. With my ever-developing interest in experimental music, I am constantly in search of sound-based methods of practice to develop a critical body of work. Currently pursuing my Masters in Interaction Design at London College of Communication (University of the Arts London).
Melissa Schwarz: I’m an art director and designer, working across a spectrum of mediums from interaction design over fashion to 3D art. My main themes are ecology, environments and our relationship to them. I’m especially interested in ecosystems, their symbiotic relationships and reassessing the non-human centered/human-centered design divide.
Tianyi Ren: I’m an artist and designer exploring materials and mediums recently. Mainly focus on themes about human and social relations.
Qingyi Ren: Qingyi Ren, a non-binary artist from China, devotes themself to using artworks to increase the exposure and visibility of the LGBTQ+ group in China, raising the public’s awareness of the relevant issue. Broadly, I am interested in gender identity theory, AI ethics, and digital identity. I explore the real-world implications of machine learning for those with historically marginalized identities.