HYPER|RELICS was in some part inspired by a ceramic object that my eight year old daughter made at school. The clay receptacle was roughly fashioned by hand and had been stamped and indented with various textured objects then painted a flat neon blue with some details picked out in bronze. This primitive object was born out of our instinct to touch, manipulate and understand materiality and the finished artefact bears the code of this engagement and exploration. How removed this idea seems to the art practice that I frequently engage in where touch becomes a virtual act. And yet this process of sculpting is common practice in contemporary 3D design where the digital artist is presented with a set of tools not unlike those found in the ceramic artist’s studio. This simulation enables us to engage with a virtual form of material with its own set of properties in much the same way that we might shape a mound of clay. Our primitive instinct to evaluate the properties of an unknown material presents itself in the virtual studio as it does in the physical environment.

Where previous work has taken the hybridisation of the physical and digital landscape as subject for portraiture, HYPER|RELICS engages with the digital dimension as a surrogate art studio environment where art practice and experimentation can take place. In this series of work the artist plays the role of V I R T U A L _ S C U P L T 0 R™ and sets about producing a body of work using materials, tools and methods that are unique to the virtual studio yet simultaneously representative of the most ancient acts of creativity. Mathematically governed geometry becomes akin to slabs of clay and is moulded, pressed, scraped, sliced and stamped to form objects which may suggest functional, decorative or spiritual purpose. These digital-primitive forms are in some way reminiscent of ‘folk craft’ as fashioned by traditional processes and appear at once organically textural yet at the same time other-worldly, spectral and empty. They belong to a history of ancient cultural activity whilst existing outside of any comprehensible temporal framework, in an imaginary time-frame or in ‘digital-time’. These fluctuations between real-time and unknown-time, virtual and physical practice, and organic and computed form might be seen to produce an artefact that becomes heavily charged with data from across these multiple dimensions and temporalities, becoming an augmented hybrid object or an example of HYPER|RELICS.

But how are these hybridised S U P E R 0 B J E C T S™ to be distributed, displayed experienced and presented? This becomes an important aspect of this work and presents some interesting and challenging debate not only concerning the work of art in an age of digitality, but also how these ideas bleed out into other areas of culture and society. We see a redefinition of form, reality, space and environment emerging as a consequence of our intensified application of the digital where we exist in a hybrid state of physicality and virtuality. We accept the reality of the digital to be equal to the reality of the analogue. In this sense we might argue that the virtual-sculptural form that appears on screen is equal to an actual-sculptural form that exists in real-space. We could take this idea further by suggesting that the digital artefact is in some ways ‘more real than real’ in that it enables greater accessibility through an open-source culture of sharing. Technologies which are rapidly becoming commonplace such as 3D printing, touch-screen devices and virtual or augmented reality promote engagement and interaction with digitally constructed forms in ways that could not be possible with physical artworks. From this point of view, the HYPER|RELICS become more real than their authentic counterparts, securely locked away under a protective glass case in a museum on the other side of the world that you will never visit.

Dewi Williams, HYPER|RELIC #5, digital still image, 2015

Olive Bennison-Williams, HYPER|RELIC #0, painted clay plate, 2015
[1] Dewi Williams, HYPER|RELIC #23, digital still image, 2017
[2] Dewi Williams, HYPER|RELIC #12, digital still image, 2015
[3] Dewi Williams, HYPER|RELIC #5, digital still image, 2015
[4] Olive Bennison-Williams, HYPER|RELIC #1, painted clay plate, 2015
[5] Dewi Williams, HYPER|RELIC #3, digital still image, 2017