Kate Geck is a visual artist working in interactive installation, sensory space, sound works, augmented reality, illustration, animation and textile mediums. Based in Melbourne Geck’s practice is themed around many current social discussions such as social media anxiety, feminism as a female artist and what she likes to call “mediated vs. unmediated immediacy”.
Geck’s eclectic style has taken her to many global destinations but is now having time out to focus on interactive surface design with a 3 month residency in New York.
Words by Mel Fletcher
MF: Your work seems to be themed around the internet, particularly social media and the readily available information it provides. Being able to become "friends" with people over the other side of the world and having the tools to be more interactive and observant, do you believe today we are closer to one another or becoming more detached?
KG: Both! Because my phone is always with me, and I'm always checking it...sometimes it is the people who write to me online that I feel closest too. Their faces seem blurry in my head, but ---we chat, we write and that real time relationship is more immediate than it is for lots of my friends who are in the same city as me. It's weird...sometimes I find myself framing experiences as mails or messages because I know I might not end up talking to anyone about them face to face. My best friends and I - we're pretty busy, and sometimes I don't get to see them for weeks. The void that creates ends up being filled by emojis, chat stickers and gifs. It's so weird. I wonder how it's actually changing the way we think and interact as a whole.
MF: The prints you create have patterns and symbolic references to the internet that are overwhelmingly contrasting and busy - almost like a cluster of digital data lost in space. How are these patterns/ collages made and where do they begin?
KG: I screencap glitches and also generate them using different software, and make animations from them. I often screencap parts of the animation and use that to make the textiles. A lot of the imagery comes from those animations. I just have a bunch of swatch libraries and folders of screencaps....and try to make the right amount of hectic :) It's really relaxing to engage in repetitive processes, I think that's why I ended up with RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) lol.
MF: What do your installations consist of and what are you trying to communicate?
KG: My installations work with digital and sensory
Soft Tomb #2
Blindside 2013 Image © Kate Geck
space. I'm interested in connectivity and experience - what I call 'mediated vs. unmediated immediacy' - our device mediated exchanges with one another as opposed to mindful moments in time. I work a lot with acrylic - making video sculptures with screens and mirrors embedded in them as well as projections and digitally printed substrates - like fabric and curved aluminium. Recently I have been working with augmented reality - making works that people can scan with apps to access digital content. I make space for 'unmediated immediacy' – absorptive installations sensorially overloaded with colour and AV texture. These spaces are meditative - the wash of activity reinvigorates screen eyes; the soft spaces let hunched bodies stretch out. They disrupt the timestamps and binaries of interaction with quiet contemplation and reconnection to mind and body. Increasingly, my work investigates the anxieties connectivity generates, and the way we might attempt to manage these anxieties through the very platforms that trigger them.
I made a work called RLX:tech where people could come in to a relaxing space, download a free app and then scan the artworks. This triggered a series of tongue-in-cheek guided meditations that people could listen to in order to deal with various kinds of social media anxiety - like being unfriended or no one liking your selfie. I presented that at ISEA in Vancouver, which is a festival and conference on electronic art. While I was there, I found myself being othered quite significantly based on my gender. Basically there were more men there than women, and a lot of those guys - particularly the older ones - would just completely ignore me in conversations but talk to the guys I was with, or in some cases just discuss my appearance or clothing. It's something my female friends and I call 'hitting on u or shitting on u". This is a recurring thing being a girl working with technology. That and some guys kindly explaining which end of the plug goes into the socket etc.
A1 Digital print 2012 Image © Kate Geck
I had been asked to make a work for Liquid Architecture, a festival in Melbourne running a program examining Feminist Methodologies in sound art. After ISEA, I decided to make an amulet which you could hold or wear, and when scanned with the app provided a guided meditation on being othered - treated differently based on the aspect of your gender presentation in this case.
Feminism has done amazing things for women, particularly white middle class women. But there's still lots to be done across the entire strata. In my day to day, I come across a lot of inequality in the way I'm treated, what I'm able to do in terms of my personal safety, and I am actually paid less than the men I work with to do the same and sometimes more in one of my jobs. In Australia, fewer men go
Digital print 2012 Image © Kate Geck
to art school than women, yet there is a wildly disproportionate number of men represented by galleries, major festivals and in public collections compared to women.
The site Countesses by artist Elvis Richardson is a fantastic resource, and to be fair has demonstrated over the last few years that this is fortunately slowly changing. Do men make better art than women? Probably not. In actuality, there are simply fewer barriers in place for men than women to practice and participate, and there is a historical structure in place that positions the work of men above that of women. This observation is in addition to the fact that millions of women in Australia and elsewhere continually face differing and often far more pronounced inequality and danger based solely on their gender. So a feminist mindset underpins the work I make - it isn't overt in the work itself, but it's something I like to try to discuss when I have the opportunity. <3 I think that it is cool when curators consider gender in their programming - not to arbitrarily enforce 50/50 splits - but to consider why women might be missing from the picture. Sometimes you actually just have to look a little bit harder to find a women practising in a certain way. I have to say though, I am really proud of my female friends in the arts because they have worked incredibly hard to find success and in part because of them, I do think that the gender inequality of exhibiting and represented artists will change.
I also really think that being able to show and make art is a huge privilege, and I'm super grateful to be able to do it.
MF: Where does your style of work take you?
KG: I have done lots of different projects in the last few years! I work 2 days a week at an amazing art studio called Artful Dodgers in Collingwood. It's a not-for-profit art space for young people to come and make art. We have a pretty incredible group of young people there, many who might be experiencing very difficult circumstances. The space is free and we have workers who wrap around the studio and can help with stuff like housing, health and support. I also work 3 days a week lecturing in Illustration at Melbourne Polytechnic.
Aside from that, I take on freelance jobs, and this year have sort of learnt the hard way not to say yes so much. I've done lots of work with Signal, which is an amazing art space for young artists run by Amanda Haskard at City of Melbourne. I've done work for an incredible tech company Metaverse Makeovers - created by Thea Baumann and run by women. They are the world's first 'appcessory' company and make augmented reality fingernails (sooo amazing). I was lucky to work on some web and costume stuff with Polyglot Theatre who are so inspiring and cool, and also made a 30 minute animation for e1 for a kid's fest in Singapore.....I've done lots of festival work and workshops for places like Channels and Nextwave.....It's awesome actually - all these things I'm mentioning have been run by and in most cases initiated by hard workin' gals. I got to work on a costume for Kimbra with the amazing robot designers Cake Industries and costume designer Cass Scott-Finn. I do lots of design work for Not for Profits and bands....and I just shot a video and made a costume for Melbourne musician Britefight which I need to edit..lol. I also do custom commissions for people - knit wear and lycra, did some stuff with The Lifted Brow.... Anything really lol.
MF: Do you have any upcoming projects you would like to share?
KG: After a very intense year I am having time off to just do art! I got funding from Ozco and the Ian Potter Trust to come and do a residency for 3 months here in NYC through the NARS residency program. I'm researching interactive surface design, and have a class working with neon lights on the weekend! So I am really excited about working hard on my art for a while without the distraction of 70 hour work weeks :) When I get back, I have a really fun workshop series in place with Signal and my friend/artist Halszka Masash where we will be working with young artists to create an augmented reality forest...and I am part of a cool project that's part of Nextwave called Sisters Akousmatica, dreamed up by Julia Drouhin and Pip Stafford. In this, a number of female artists create sound work that is broadcast around the city on giant stacks of radios! And my amazing boss Marianna Codognotto at Dodgers has dreamed up a Knit for refugees project with the Grandmothers Against Refugee Children in Detention, so I believe we will be knitting some kind of giant scarf for that.....? She is so great! <3
Article written by Mel Fletcher
Text by Mel Fletcher 2016
Images © Kate Geck
Soft Tomb #2
Blindside 2013 Image © Kate Geck