Memories to the Machine: Artificial Landscapes, Joshua Chaplin, 2021
Joshua Chaplin, born in Nottingham but currently based in London, is a virtual reality designer and multidisciplinary digital artist who, through experimenting with the digital medium, attempts to gain greater access to ways of understanding modernity and contemporary ideas and techniques. In his work an examination of the relationship between these technologies and the natural environment is clear. The complexities that fuel the way these two opposing forces interact create a great dynamic force throughout his digital compositions. He positions nature and the digital on an axis through which we are able to bear witness to the ways in which they correspond and compliment each other but also the points where they exist at the most extreme contrast.
His series ‘Future Landscapes’ explores the potentiality of digitally created environments. Looking ahead to the future of nature, Chaplin imagines the intersection between online data and natural landscapes. To bring this idea into visual existence, he utilises real-world heightmap data. He notes the way that nature’s forms permeate the composition even when translated using such data. Looking at the images, there is certainly no doubt that they represent a landscape yet one that has undergone a seismic shift into the future.
The patterns and structures familiar to us retain familiarity even when conveyed using the hard and specific lines of computation. This makes these works an intriguing and fascinating visual experience of two worlds simultaneously complementing and contrasting each other. ‘Future Landscapes’ sparks the viewer to question how landscapes that we understand and are familiar with will transform within the metaverse and how our communication with it will be affected. Across the series we see the continuation of nature’s beauty transposed within compact digital pockets, condensing the expansive into a manageable space. Despite this exchange of visual medium (the real world to the digital) and textural/sensual space, the otherworldly aspects of great sprawling natural spaces such as mountain ranges and deep-sea trenches are maintained in the 3D manifestation of data.
Chaplin is a big advocate of increasingly digital existence, at least in terms of working space. Using the pressures and new demands of the Covid-19 crisis, he developed a system of working desktops that ‘position themselves in a virtual working space, with a 360-degree display ability, enhancing productivity, focus and efficiency as stated on his blog. He experienced a greater sense of a shared, collaborative working experience whilst engaging with this software, highlighting the complicated nature of the online world and its abilities to establish a sense of community amongst individual, spatially isolated users. Though Chaplin admits that he does not believe in a fully web-based existence, he certainly predicts a more significant dependence on such systems in our increasingly digital world.
Explore these works and others created by Joshua Chaplin by visiting his website (joshuachaplin.com) or Instagram (@joshuachaplin)
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