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Recent Work

PLEASE PAY ATTENTION

2019, looped three-channel HD video for smartphones, color, stereo sound, 04:30 minutes

Partly inspired by Bruce Nauman’s “Please Pay Attention Please,” and reimagining it for the Internet age, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION explores the tension between our newest commodity, attention, and the “context collapse” in meaning that occurs on digital screens, small and large.

A principle of modern economics is that human attention is itself a fungible commodity, as valuable as oil or electricity. Thus, people try to garner the attention of strangers as a means of earning income and status. Like all commodities, attention becomes more valuable as it grows scarce. Attention deficit disorders continue to rise.

In 2008, Cultural Anthropologist Michael Wesch use the term “context collapse,” referring to YouTube vloggers, describing it as “…an infinite number of contexts collapsing upon one another into that single moment of recording. The images, actions, and words captured by the lens at any moment can be transported to anywhere on the planet and preserved … for all time. The little glass lens becomes the gateway to a black hole, sucking all of time and space – virtually all possible contexts – in upon itself.”

These images and sounds continually collide and overlap in unanticipated ways, and presents a total chaos of the formerly well-ordered self. By alternating attention-robbing, common Internet visual memes with diverse performers repeating variations of three common words, PLEASE PAY ATTENTION attempts to make sense of that chaos.

© Copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

THROWING MONEY AT THE PROBLEM

Throwing Money at the Problem examines the effects this course of action might yield, and whether we can even agree on what the problem is or where it resides.

© Copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

COMMUNE

2019, single-channel HD video, color, mono sound, 05:10 minutes

Commune: (1) to communicate intensely. (2) The smallest community unit in many European countries.

In COMMUNE, a grid of nine people communicates with the viewer non-verbally while interacting with others via their smartphones. They are at once together yet separate, intense but removed, expressive yet occluded, connected to us and to the unseen people they interact with, yet also separated by the same technologies (video and smartphones) that facilitate this communication. Their arrangement and body language, as their collective gaze focuses downward to the texts they read while also projecting their thoughts into the ether, is reminiscent of a church choir with their hymnals.

© Copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE

HD Video (Excerpt)

2018, HD Video, color, two-channel mono sound, 03:00 minutes

Global warming is serious business – and I mean business. Last year, the big five oil companies made a combined $93 million in profit, while coal companies earned roughly $78 million. Meanwhile as the world warms, storm seasons will become longer and the storms more violent; shorelines will erode; energy demand will skyrocket for air conditioning and refrigeration; and more frequent droughts will put stress on dwindling clean water supplies. Money is reshaping our world. For Americans also, it's projected to cost roughly $275 million a year by 2025.

“Foundation and Empire” suspends $1,000, in the form of 10 x $100 bills, in a block of ice and records a time lapse of it melting. The cotton and linen paper of the currency traps heat more efficiently than the surrounding ice or air, causing the money to have a direct, observable impact on its frozen surroundings, just as the impacts of climate change are most notable in the arctic. The more that the cash becomes exposed and warms, the more it warps the ice, until the entire structure becomes unsustainable. The sum of $1,000 was chosen as the smallest “large sum” of money that most people can envision, making it easier to extrapolate into the vast sums listed above.

© copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

THE INTERNET KNOWS ME SO WELL

2019, HD video, color, silent, 03:16 minutes

We imagine ourselves to be unique, but artificial intelligence (AI) disagrees. Does that say more about us, or AI? “The Internet Knows Me So Well” examines how these algorithms prioritize what they see – and what they value – when scrubbing the web for information, and how they manufacture connections where none really exist.

I used three commercially available artificial intelligence programs designed to locate strangers with physical features that are similar to me. It took only seconds to find more than 30 matches from public sources around the world. There were photos from corporate reports, sales brochures, actor’s publicity photos, criminal mugshots, news articles, and an image of treatment from a medical journal. These came mainly from North America and Europe, but the Middle East, South America, and Australia were also represented. From these “matches,” I chose 24 where the photo was of higher resolution, and the face was facing forward, similar to my own. From there, I substituted features such as eyes, nose, mouth, jawline, and hairline for my own, starting with the closest matches and working my way out. Except for my original photo, which was used to locate my “twins,” all of the faces depicted are composites. At no point in this video is any one of my “twins” fully visible. Thus, a nearly endless array of doppelgangers emerges, close in appearance to me, and yet distinct even from their original sources.

© Copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

THE MINIMUM

HD Video (Excerpt)

2018, HD Video, color, 60:00 minutes

A common perception among middle and upper class Americans is that low-income workers are both lazy and slow. In reality, minimum wage work is often highly stressful and active to the point of exhaustion. Think of warehouse workers, unskilled factory laborers, farmhands, delivery people and janitors. The work is typically repetitious and mentally unchallenging, yet demanding of constant, conscious attention. It is not unusual for companies to establish strict productivity quotas that regulate even a worker’s water and bathroom breaks.

In “The Minimum,” this type of work is gamified. A worker must earn his minimum wage (still unchanged nationally at $7.25 an hour) by collecting 725 pennies thrown at him in an anonymous conference room, by an anonymous person, and successfully bank them in a small glass bowl within 60 minutes.

© copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

TWO DEGREES

HD Video (Excerpt)

2018, HD Video, color, silent
Animal: 02:43 minutes
Vegetal: 01:49 minutes
Liquid / Ice: 01:55 minutes
Combined loop: 06:27 minutes

Everyone talks about global warming, yet it’s difficult to see directly and harder to grasp. We hear the average world temperature will rise by two degrees Celsius over the next decade, but what is the real impact? Two degrees doesn’t sound like much, yet the consequences will be harsh.

The “Two Degrees” series contains three time-lapse HD videos of sumptuous food: animal flesh, vegetation, and iced drinks and ice cream, representing the areas of greatest climate impact. At first they resemble in-store sales displays, but with the application of an additional two degrees Celsius of heat applied from film lights, the food decays gradually, so that the casual viewer might initially miss what is happening. Filmed over six hours, the time-lapse makes the degradation and devastation palpable to the viewer.

© copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.

NAILS ON A BLACKBOARD

HD Video (Excerpt)

2018, HD Video, color, stereo sound, 55:00 minutes

In “Nails on a Blackboard,” the hand of an unseen performer repeatedly writes and then erases the word “NAILS” on a blackboard for 55 minutes, the length of a class in my high school. Is this educational, or is it punishment?

Traditionally, blackboards wielded dual roles: first as the transmission of information, and secondly as an instrument of punishment. Sometimes the punishment is accidental, in the form of a scrape of a fingernail on the board, and sometimes the punishment is systemic: the rote repetition of a phrase, written endlessly by a transgressive pupil. Equally, sometimes the ideas that a student learns are not the ones intended by the instructor.

“Nails on a Blackboard” explores these dualities, asking the viewer to question what, if anything, will be gained at the risk of possible discomfort by engaging with the work. Finally, the work plays with a fundamental principle of physics: that matter (information) cannot be created or destroyed. This becomes clearer as the pristine board takes on more abstract patterns of the erased chalk, until eventually remnants of the word NAILS remain imbued into its surface.

© copyright K. Frech. All rights reserved.