The public call out for the inaugural CIRCA x Dazed Class of 2021 initiative asked audiences to submit a 2.5 minute film in response to the theme ‘Communion’ set by interdisciplinary artist and lecturer, Angel Rose. After receiving 2,000 applications, we are proud to present the 30 finalists who will each receive access to the Dazed Space and have their work exhibited as part of the CIRCA programme, appearing across public screens in London, Tokyo and Seoul this September.
Expanding on their commitment to help support the talent of tomorrow, CIRCA and Dazed appointed a community of jurors including Cauleen Smith, Frank Lebon, Hugo Comte, Simone Rocha, Dexter Navy, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Michele Lamy to select their top 5 submissions. From this, one lucky finalist will be selected by world renowned performance artist Marina Abramović to receive the #CIRCAECONOMY cash prize of £30,000.
With public art spaces diminishing, investment in arts education being cut and artist communities at risk, this joint initiative aims to empower the next generation of artists working in moving-image by platforming new voices and points of view from local communities on a global level, giving them unrivalled media exposure and the tools to help kick start their careers.
Since the Trump era, and Facebook and Google’s algorithm scandal, younger communities are shaping new ideologies in hopes of finding possible futures outside of our capitalist reality. These communities are now in the glare of the surveillance state and social media spectacle.
In Mall Goth, the viewer is situated as a parental 360° panopticon in a teen’s bedroom, a space recognised for its utmost secrecy, privacy and identity. Yet, the room’s inhabitants seem aware they’re being watched, and what ensues is a dance between surveyor and surveyed.
By taking inspiration from the ‘mall goth’, a pejorative term used by goths in identifying their consumer counterparts, we can compare how online radical politics risk the same commercialisation as past countercultures have. In a sense, we are all mall goths in today’s climate – hybrid beings on the border between imagined alternatives and late-stage capital.
Hogan Schia is a multidisciplinary artist based in London. His practice concerns political and cultural adaptation with globalisation. He recently completed his MFA at Ruskin School of Art as a scholarship recipient of Langaardsstiftelsen, and a winner of the Mansfield-Ruddock Prize.
How did you become an artist and what was your route to your current practice?
I was always transfixed by the limitlessness with art and technology. Growing up queer in a conservative environment pushed me to seek other forms of existence online. It was there in the virtual worlds of film and video games that my creativity was stimulated. Even so, as industries, these fields are restricted by creative norms and technical limitations. I strongly believe that no medium can tackle every topic. As such, I pursued a multidisciplinary art practice.
I took my undergrad at Goldsmiths University – a hotspot for contemporary art and media studies. My practice was moulded there through guidance from renowned artists like Zach Blas and Claire Makhlouf Carter, as well as my introduction to queer theory, postmodern critique and the writings of Mark Fisher. This was during Brexit and the Trump era, when we saw a rise of white nationalism and conspiracies, but also a rebirth of ideologies online. The past games, forums and communities I engaged in had spawned a generation of radicals on both sides of the political spectrum. I saw my chance to further study these topics when the pandemic hit by taking an MFA at Ruskin School of Art, when much of the world temporarily moved on online.
What inspires you to make your work?
It is my belief that the simulated realms of high fantasy and science-fiction are generating utopian ideas amongst our younger generations. The out-of-body experiences, various in-game civilizations and dystopian outcomes act as test kits for users to see possibilities beyond our capitalist reality. It is captivating to see how much imagination, aesthetics and worldbuilding have not only ignited political engagement among digital natives, but how it is reflected in the political itself. New concepts have been created like e-deologies (mixing and matching the best parts of established ideologies) and communities like politigram (political discourses found on Instagram). This usage of creativity and solidarity is what motivates my practice.
On a broader level, I am interested in emerging politics within cultures that are either adapting or colliding with globalization. This year, I focused on soft power tactics like Americanization, neo-liberal expansion or technology that affect identities and communities.
Can you identify any elements of your community or collaborators that have had a strong influence?
My tutor Oreet Ashery’s knowledge and vision of performance art really shaped my work this year. She encouraged me to experiment with video, installation and performance on a transdisciplinary level. This is reflected in the work, and especially how our course and degree show adapted to online practices or virtual exhibitions during covid. My current research is heavily influenced by artists and theorists like Joshua Citarella and Legacy Russell. Russell’s manifesto Glitch Feminism had such an impact on my work in tackling questions around community and identity in the post-internet age. I relate to her upbringing and outlook on how important the internet was for young queer people in America. My early childhood was spent in the states, and my disposition was very shaped on the border between American and Norwegian culture.
Would you consider your practice to have a positive social impact, and if so in what way?
Politics has undergone a dangerous adjustment to mass media. Populists are using misinformation and spectacle to milk the desperation found amongst the struggling youths and the laboring class. In order to challenge this the left needs to reinvent its rhetoric. In my opinion, these online communities are forming a language with visual imagery, memes and philosophy that is a refreshing update worth studying and contributing to.
I want to appropriate or subvert the very spaces used by capital – like publicity or mainstream media – for radical gain. CIRCA has offered such a platform, and we need coverage in order to spread the word. We can expand the Overton window and put radical thinking on the map again. Art is after all the practice of finding new ways to communicate outside of our traditional customs.
Has your work been recognised by any public bodies or organisations in the past?
I was awarded a Highly Commendable Mansfield-Ruddock Prize for my degree show pieces Framfortid (2021) and Ut av Naturen (2021), as one of our cohort’s winners at Ruskin School of Art. The video projects will be exhibited at Mansfield College’s Prize Show throughout September in Oxford. By using literary techniques found in science-fiction, like worldbuilding and mirroring, the pieces tackle how the Norwegian national identity adjusts to the issues posed by Americanization and neo-liberalism. They can be viewed here: https://salon.io/hogan-schia/hoganschia
How is your project tied to the Circa x Dazed Class of 2021 theme of ‘Communion’?:
The rise of youth-centered utopian discourse is a result of austerity measures, economic downfall and a lack of quality of life among millennials and Gen Z. Social platforms have acted as hubs for these communities, yet there are risks in debating within the social media spectacle. The mainstream’s fear of the Alt-Right and extremism has resulted in a tightening of content, which consequently has given tech companies free roam to banish any radical left content-creation. Furthermore, these political movements risk being convoluted, performed or accessorized into products in consumer culture. The worst-case scenario is if the market will successfully find a way to commodify these ideologies into mere merchandise.
Central to my project is the mall goth, a fitting entity that embodies our time. Originally a pejorative term, it was used by “authentic” goths to shun their suburban counterparts who bought their studded belts and eyeliner at the local mall. In a sense, we are all mall goths in today’s climate -hybrid beings existing on the border between imagined alternatives and consumer capital.
Mall Goth (2021) is situated in a messy teen’s bedroom – a space often perceived with utmost privacy, secrecy and identity in western culture. Yet, it has been penetrated by a 360° parental panopticon. The viewer partakes as a voyeur who observes through the lens a private communion among friends. Yet, the inhabitants seem aware that they are being watched. What transpires is a dance between cat and mouse, where the powers of gazing, signs and spectacle are constantly renegotiated.
How would the #CIRCAECONOMY prize of £30,000 impact your future practice?
Such a prize would offer great stability, independence and time for me to focus on my projects in the coming years.
What would you do with the money, and If you are awarded the #CIRCAECONOMY prize, how might this affect your community?
I am considering pursuing a Ph.D. in Art, Culture and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and this grant could really help me fund my research. I hope to further study the implications technology will have on politics, media and visual art. Especially artificial intelligence, since the resurgence of ideologies is many thanks to the “mistakes” made by the platform algorithms. Mall Goth’s soundtrack is a collection of national anthems and gaming audio that has been put through an AI jukebox. Its neural networks emulate the anthems and generate new songs by using pop music references. Thus, the video’s audio further reflects the crucial undertones of technological influence.
The aforementioned spaces for radical thinking are threatened because the liberal establishment has demanded tighter restrictions and surveillance on content. Instagram and YouTube are currently wiping out anything that is not compliant with the heteronormative and centrist mainstream. Social media is quickly shaping users into passive consumers with no room for learning and debating. I am looking into how gaming engines can create safe and engaging spaces for ideological discourse. A platform that can act as an archive for theory and philosophy, but also a playground for enacting, visualizing and manifesting greater schemes for political try-outs. There have already been made similar efforts in games like Minecraft, Second Life and free online libraries and resources. This is a growing field within art that can produce the potential for larger collaborations. My hope is with the right support such a project could be realized or taken a step further towards a social hub for exchanging ideas on futurity and utopian thinking.