Updated: Dec 21, 2021
Today we are talking to Madeleine Washbrook, whose practice interrogates how technology intersects in our daily lives and aims to expose how technology has impacted us. Madeleine also discusses her inspiration for her collage 'Fortunate', which is currently featured in our A4 group exhibition.
Image description: a black and white poster depicting swirling black lines weaving from the right hand side. Bold white text in the centre reads Madeleine Washbrook, underneath in a smaller font reads @MadsWashbrook.
Can you give us a brief overview of your practice?
My practice explores technology using multi-media, by interrogating our relationship to technology and our habits. I'm fascinated by what we just seem to accept in our daily lives and passivity in response to catastrophic events. There is much to critique and explore when it comes to Western docility.
Your multimedia A4 artwork Fortunate is currently on show in our A4 group exhibition. Can you tell us the inspiration behind this piece?
The piece comes from the process of developing a film for my BA dissertation. I finished a day of research and reading about Generation Z mental health and IPCC reports on climate change, so I decided to drink some tea and open up a fortune cookie to cheer myself up only to be met with this ominous message; optimists build castles in the sky. I immediately felt a bit threatened by it, like it was suggesting if you're an optimist - you die and make a home in heaven. I did eventually google it but the meaning wasn't much kinder. I talk a lot in the film I'm developing about how we imagine the end of the world as the world exploding so I combined these two ideas into Fortunate.
Madeleine Washbrook, Fortunate, fortune cookie fortune and ink on paper, 2021.
Image description: in the centre of the A4 page is a circle of black ink with wavy lines bursting out from it. Near the centre of the circle is a fortune cookie fortune.
How did you find the experience of creating artwork under the strict constraints of scale? I didn't find it too difficult. I do feel constantly at odds with myself in adding too much to a work and knowing when to stop, but I think this was a perfect opportunity to keep it simple and let the piece speak for itself a bit more.
Your work contains a very interesting element of layering. Is this an important aspect to your work? Extremely important. Collage was crucial for my practice during lockdown when I didn't have a lot of space or material and I think the collaging seeped across my practice. Even when I'm not collaging, I always feel like I am with video, paint, sound, etc. I connected to the fragmentation, as I often describe the Internet in my research as fragmented and I believe this has had an impact on the way I think and function. Creating new images from pre-existing images is intrinsically digital.
This process of layering is also taken into your film work. It's exciting to see how you are using found footage as well. Has this been a new approach for your work? Technically I've had this particular approach for over a year, but it feels new every time as I am using different found footage every time and manipulating, transforming that footage is always different. I've only been able to make 2 films over a year, alongside short experiments, so there is so much room to develop.
Madeleine Washbrook, "In the name of all things material", video, 7:04 min, 2020
Video description: a collage of found footage from adverts to short films in a range of black and white and colour, building upon fragments of soundtracks and voiceovers.
What is it about technology that interests you the most? Online cultures and spaces. I love technology as both a physical art material and creating digital art with collaging images, video and sound. But my love for technology started on the internet. I did build my first computer at 12, but that was a short process and all my memories with that computer are spending time on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and any other platform I probably shouldn't have been on.
In what way are you presenting the impacts of technology, is this entirely positive or negative or somewhere in between?
Somewhere in between. I'm in fear of being one of those out of touch artists who make weird caricatures of Gen Z and how Gen Z are dumb for their attachment to technology. All good things have a dark side. That attachment is not all good. I think a lot of Generation Z are traumatised and negatively impacted by their persistent use of the internet and the negative, traumatising images and interactions they have witnessed. I'm sure all generations on the internet are but I focus on Generation Z as they are the first generation without a "pre-internet brain".
Madeleine Washbrook, If only you knew, punch needle rug; yarn, rug backing and ribbon, 73 cm x 49 cm, 2021.
Image description: a yellow and green rectangular rug hanging in front of a black backdrop. Red text reads "THE CRACK REACHES FAR BEYOND THE PHONE".
Is there one thing that would you like to change about the art industry today?
Secrecy of opportunities. This is the issue I'm running into. There are a lot of opportunities I'm not aware of and sometimes I'll find out about something because of who I know. I don't think that's fair.
Do you know what projects you will be doing next? As I mentioned, I'm currently developing a film for my dissertation, which should be available within the next month or two. As for outside of university, anything could happen!
Madeleine's work alongside others can still be viewed in our A4 group exhibition on our website as well as physical locations around Digbeth.