Michael Black was born in Whitehaven - Cumbria, in the UK, but was raised in Liverpool. He picked up photography in college at age seventeen, where he also experimented with sculpture, while studying art. He attended Falmouth University, studying photography,... Read More
Michael Black was born in Whitehaven - Cumbria, in the UK, but was raised in Liverpool. He picked up photography in college at age seventeen, where he also experimented with sculpture, while studying art. He attended Falmouth University, studying photography, and graduated in 2015. The graduate show was held at The Old Truman Brewery, London. While studying at Falmouth, he extended his practice past that of conventional straight photography and produced several bodies of work that were either camera-less or incorporated 3D/virtual elements. Like many people born in the 80’s and 90’s, he was raised with access to the internet and video games which would come to have a profound effect on his later work. Instant access to media online, the ability to play as characters in simulated scenarios, and the ability to create and become an “avatar” of your own (or someone else’s design), meant he had grown up as himself and many others. While his experiences may have been primarily through online fantasy games, those were not the only examples. Once social media became mainstream, most people had constructed multiple profiles for themselves and began colonizing the new and networked digital territory. The ability to plug into different roles inspired his earlier work like Avatars and Avatars II, before eventually investigating the medium itself, and producing The Shortest Distance Between Two Points for his graduate show in London. The two backlit images that were presented, resembling screens, showed characters passing through each other like noncollision objects in a rendering program or avatars in a game; so intimately close that they’re inside one another but unaware of the distance between themselves. It’s similar to how digital devices allow us to forget the distance between places - acting as windows to other places and connections to people an unknown distance away.Black now lives in Tokyo. His work is still digital, and still touches on avatar themes and digital networks, but recently has taken a more Japanese turn. Being immersed in another culture, and another culture’s visual language, offered an opportunity to reflect on how he had understood it from abroad, and how it affected the people living in it. Finding that his past experiences with Japanese media, like anime and video games, had already shaped his idea of Japan, he produced 1 PLAYER START for Tokyo Art Book Fair. The book was not accepted but is available for viewing online. It is a collection of images taken around Japan, often jarringly fused with snapshots of arcade game machines’ screens. Around the same time, he also produced Lovers, a series of 3D sculptures of 3D scanned figurines fused with sex toy designs - a reflection on images becoming as desirable as their real counterparts. Lovers was exhibited at CICA Museum, South Korea, as part of their International New Media Exhibition, and will be published in their New Media art book in December 2018.