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The Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Arts (CIRCA) commissions new ideas from emerging and established artists.


Theo Ellison

Theo Ellison is a London-based artist whose work both indulges and teases out our vulnerability to romanticised imagery and the absurdities that emerge within the dynamic between image and viewer. In tapping into these vulnerabilities, Ellison uses video, photography, sculpture and text to peel back the layers of illusion that lure us in, testing the boundaries between pathos and humour; observation and voyeurism; and nature and artifice. His work has been exhibited at Arebyte Gallery, Quad, Palfrey Gallery, Saatchi Gallery and Giant Gallery among others.

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Q. How is your project tied to the CIRCA x Dazed Class of 2022 theme of ‘A Future World’?

A. My video Fancier features an absurdist faux-conversational monologue from a tearful feral pigeon – the omnipresent animal of London and Piccadilly Circus – as a reflection on Romanticism, technology and language. The most immediate contact point is the overly-pristine uncanniness of the CGI, as it attempts to mimic lens-based film and photography pointing towards the rapidly evolving state of images. As CGI continues to reverse engineer and reconstruct our reality how will our relationship to images, objects and interactions change? Is it a race towards a computer-generated utopia or a solipsistic recreation of our own reality? Or something else? Through anthropomorphism, the work both elevates and undercuts the image of the pigeon via its transformation into a romanticised flaneur who picks apart mundanity, self-obsession and its attachment to nostalgia that technology often amplifies. The video ends with the pigeon’s absurdist yet hopeful navel-gazing on the future in a post-lockdown world.

Q. What would you create with the £30,000 #CIRCAECONOMY cash prize?

A. If granted the prize, my proposal for a video would explore the relationship between nostalgia, technology, and video games, and how that feeds into the preservation of memory. Once viewed as a potentially fatal medical illness in the 19th century, nostalgia is that unique, wistful longing for the past as we realise our cultural capital is fleeting, and our experiences, places, acquaintances, and conditions – once so tangible and present – became ephemeral when we were not looking. What unique role do video games play in evoking fond memories of the past in their capacity as a rapidly evolving high-tech medium? The video would feature a first-person walkthrough around an archetypal gothic mansion akin to Miss Havisham’s house, with clues and trinkets, phone numbers and websites that viewers can interact with on their phones. I will also use part of the budget to acquire a new set of graphics cards and a video camera to ease technical limitations and expand the scope on future projects.

Q. What does A Future World look like to you?

A. Despite ecological and technological concerns, I’m cautiously optimistic about A Future World. Perhaps we’re sleep-walking into the singularity, but there always seem to be fears – largely unfounded – when new tech emerges. Let’s navigate carefully!

Vote for this artist

New for the Class of 2022, CIRCA and Dazed have introduced an additional cash prize of £10,000 powered by Piccadilly Lights that will be awarded to a finalist who receives the most public votes. Global audiences have until midday on 10 October to watch the final 30 films and vote for your favourite finalist to win the Piccadilly Lights Prize.