Creator to Creator: Amanda Low

The first adjective that comes to my mind when I think of Amanda’s work is “addictive”. I fell into the rabbit hole of endlessly clicking through and restarting to take alternate routes on Eternally Moving MANY times. The confusing poetry(?) of hyperlinks erratically placed around the large white space imitates a broken page, or rather appears like a scheme to deliberately trick people.

The early Internet aesthetic of her web-based art with seemingly existential, dystopian undertone brings out a smirk or a giggle (or both) as you navigate through an unknown journey you have no clue where you’re going (or why). When I first discovered Origin of the Net, the same rabbit hole cycle continued. Its game-like playfulness creates anticipation that keeps the audience/users affixed. As I discovered more of Amanda’s work, including animations and digital paintings, I became curious about what her creative and thought processes are while working so closely with technology. Read below as she shares those insights (including a note from Pete the Peacock) and who her “favourite” (text-based installation!) Asian. Canadian artist is. – Mirae.

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Photo by Lucy Lu

Mirae: Tell us briefly about your creative practice. How did you get into digital and media art?

Amanda: I’ve been coding ever since Neopets 2005. Remember when we had pet pages and NeoSignatures on the NeoForums and how you could customize everything with just a few simple lines of code? Neopets was my first introduction to this computer magic. As a teen, I spent way too much time on the Internet and found these weird art websites by Rafaël Rozendaal. All I thought at the time was, “hey, this is pretty cool.”

I don’t know why I didn’t pursue code after that. Maybe I was too busy drawing horses and hyper-realistic eyes instead. I ended up in art school anyways, in OCAD’s Drawing and Painting program. When I realized in 3rd year that I didn’t know what to paint anymore and that paint was expensive, I decided to code again after being inspired by Rozendaal’s web art. Additionally, websites are cheap and you don’t have to awkwardly carry them onto the subway, so digital art came out of economy for me.

Screenshot of “Eternally Moving,” 2018

During my endless journeying through Eternally Moving, I ended up on a page that read: “it is NOT my fault that my links ROT. i am not responsible for moving around”, and began thinking about broken links, invalid pages, and the numerous times I’ve encountered them to feel immense frustration. Acknowledging the “broken links” and using first-person narrative, you treat the Internet as a “living” entity that can think, regenerate, and even trick us. For Internet Mythos, you write that it is a collaborative art project between you and the Internet. What philosophy do you carry when interacting with and creating art using the Internet? 

I like to imagine that the Internet is an ever-growing, amorphous blob of knowledge and content. Hidden behind the scenes are bots, trackers, and web crawlers, but these aren’t things we usually think about when we’re online. Often, browsing the Internet is a passive action, so I like to make websites that talk to the user in first person, so that the user is aware that their clicks have consequences.

For Internet Mythos, I wrote that it was an art project between me and the internet because it was a collaborative story that was written and rewritten by strangers online. Unbeknownst to me, the best story I received actually had lines from the musical, Hamilton. (“Oceans rise, empires fall…”) That definitely wasn’t expected, but I kept it in anyway as it was a testament to how little influence I had in making the story.

I remember reading an interview with media artist Gerfried Stocker and he says “there is no contemporary art outside of media art”, and contemporary art is art that “tak[es] deep into the reality of our times, that is able to unveil, and that is able to show us how the mechanisms of our time are working”. What are your thoughts on the possibilities that media art have in talking about current issues? Do you agree that media art exists simultaneously with the notion of contemporary art?

I think it’s very difficult for media art to not talk about current issues, as media art is made possible because of current technologies (and there’s so many politics to unpack there). I agree with Stocker’s idea that contemporary art is art that responds to contemporary times, and that contemporary phenomenon is dominated by technology, though I’m not sure if I’m bold enough to proclaim that there is “no contemporary art outside of media art”. It’s true, however, that technology’s influence on our way of life also affects the type of art we make and are able to make. Artists have always expressed their thoughts on current issues and media technologies hasn’t changed that. It has just provided us with a new way to express our thoughts.

Screenshot of “Pete the Peacock,” 2018

So I really love Pete. He’s the coolest peacock I’ve ever seen. He seems like a very fun peacock who definitely knows how to party unlike me. I find his video amusing, and I think humour is definitely a characteristic in all your work, including the visual aesthetic and existential poetry of Eternally Moving. How important is humour in your work? What role does animation play in your creative expression?

I like to consider myself as a generally humorous person, so I think it’s natural that my work has funny elements too. Generally, I think of my web work to be on the serious side, but my animations are the opposite.

My animation career and web work are two completely different sides to my practice, and they don’t really overlap, and I still haven’t found a way to combine the two. Nonetheless, I appreciate the animation side since it allows me to make work that’s less serious. My animations also don’t require lots of research and theory-reading, so it gives me the chance to take a break from the seriousness of my web work and make something lighter.

(By the way, Pete took a break from a really sick house party to tell me to tell you that he appreciates that you think he’s cool.)

Screenshot of “Origin of the Net,” 2017

What themes or questions are your currently pondering about?

Currently, I’m reading up on Michel de Certeau’s theory of strategy and tactic. I’m grossly oversimplifying, but basically de Certeau argues that there are things we do unconsciously everyday that are ways of subverting powerful hegemonies. I’m especially interested in the way his theory works in the digital space, online.

In this political climate, resistance is necessary for survival. I’m trying to figure out if the things we do everyday (like selling used textbooks on Facebook, or reading the voices of pan-Asian creators in a blog) are actually unconscious ways of resisting (resistance to the capitalist influence on education, and resistance to racism, respectively). How else do we (unconsciously) subvert oppressive hegemonies, especially online?

What’s coming up next for you in your creative career?

I hope to curate more shows and maybe dive back into animation (Pete the Peacock was the last thing I’ve animated and I am itching to go through that laborious-but-rewarding process again). I’ve also got a project that’s been fermenting in the back of my head about the psychology of scrolling webpages, so I’d like to materialize that into a website soon. I think there’s a lot of valuable information in UX design that I can apply to my web work, so I’m doing some research into that as well!

Screenshot of “parallelsbetweenus.com,” 2019

Lastly, what does being a part of the Canadian art scene mean to you?

Being part of the Canadian art scene means that I have a great support system of friends and peers that understand the struggles I go through. It also means that I have the support from the government (via grants) to facilitate learning and community activation. Not everyone is lucky enough to grow up in a country where the art scene is so widely supported. So I am grateful that 1) there is an art scene at all, and 2) that it is inclusive and intersectional.

I used to feel that it was necessary as a woman of colour to make work about being a woman of colour. But I think I’ve realized that just being a woman of colour making work at all, was enough. Being an immigrant among immigrants means just taking up space is important, and I take up space whenever my name is on a wall vinyl, or whenever I give a talk. My expression as an Asian.Canadian artist is enough.

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View Hiba’s portfolio here. And get to know more about Amanda’s work here.

New Creator to Creator feature every other Thursday!

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