Project Development.

In the first draft of my proposal I set out my interest in exploring the female viewpoint in the film Computer Chess. My interest in this film went further than enjoying the dry wit of this mumlecore comedy. What bothered me was the lack of recognition given to the female role, who is actually the most significant character, or player, in the movie. With further research it appeared that from the filmmaker to the critics, the female role is dismissed. Far from a maguffin or muse, she is the key to the success of the story, she is the hero, the saviour. However, her essential part is seemingly unacknowledged. Because I felt so strongly about this lack of recognition, I made a comicstrip/visual narrative in response. I decided to do this after reading a copy of the journal ‘Beneficial Shock’ which “aims to use illustration … in humorous and irreverent ways to expressively interpret film related content” (

These are some of the images from the comicstrip I developed. The strip is eighteen frames long and the text is taken directly from the film script. Using examples of rhetoric from the male characters when they are being particularly boastful and/or sexist. The majority of the images are drawn from film stills with some coloured images of chess pieces and a chess clock.

Frame 4.
Frame 11.

I called the comic ‘Shelly’s Conference’ as it is her experience of the computer chess conference.

Frame 5.
Frame 17.
Frame 15.

Whilst making this comic strip I began thinking about technology in terms of male and female spaces, and then began thinking about the differences between computer hardware and software, and what unexplored spaces there might be. I then began to research the space of computer software as an environment for artistic expression. I came across many interesting ideas including manifestos claiming digital space for the unheard creatives.

One of my foremost areas of enquiry is finding or creating a space for my voice. It has been difficult to build on spaces and voices defined by previous female practitioners. I have found it difficult to find a way of speaking that is not understood through a particular way of reading. I have explored painting, I have explored the use of textile and knit, I have explored film and photography. All wonderful vehicles for expression, but not for real communication. The message is interfered by the language of the medium. With panting and film the message struggles alongside the narratives of “feminist painting” or “female film”. Textile and knit as the feminine medium. Therefore, opening up a space for illustration in ‘digital’ or ‘video’ whose narrative is yet to be defined, is very seductive.

My working title is ‘Exploring Video as a platform for the voiceless. To discover if the aphonic can exist in the space of Video’. Or ‘Can video be defined as a language or distinct system of communication?’ The aim of the project is to explore the relatively new space created by video game software as a potential vehicle for illustration and art. Objectives within this aim are to define or understand this space, which I’m referring to as ‘Video’. Understand how to use this space for visual communication. Discover the neutrality, language and politics of the space.

As such the next stages of my practical research began with drawing images of redundant video game technologies. A selection from a number of images I have made:

Alongside drawing these consoles and computers, I am also investigating how to use redundant technologies as a medium for drawing. There are USB attachments that can be used to enable C64 machines improve the range of user interfaces and to increase speed and memory. Also there is a new version of Atari 2600, in a mini and planned full size model, with digital drawing programs and wireless interfaces. I have begun exploring the potential of 8 bit grids as a structure for illustration.

Grids have been a theme for me during my creative career, beginning when studying painting at Winchester School of Art, through exploring knit, and in storyboarding for film.I have a background rooted in the writings of Krauss and Barthes, semiotics, post-structuralism and grids as visual languages. So it is not a surprise to me that grids are significant in these early stages of research. Chess relies on a grid, the visual narrative/comic in response to Computer Chess is  a grid. Pixels are a grid and drawing in bytes uses a grid.

Recently I backed a Kickstarter campaign to re-print an early work by Emily Noyes Vanderpoel. I had not been aware of her before, however colour investigations and descriptions of objects, communicated through a 10×10 grid are fascinating to me (fig.1). Another practitioner new to me is Lorena Lohr, an American photographer who uses old film point and shoot cameras to document the drab realities of life as she travels around the southern states (fig.2).

(fig.1) Emily Noyes VanderPoel, (1901) Plate LVIII, The Circadian Press, accessed 05.01.2019 ‘

(fig.2) Lorena Lohr, (2016) Untitled Downtown el Paso 2, accessed 05.01.2019 ‘

Inspired by Noyes Vanderpoel colour grids, I began making colour palettes of Lohr’s photographs. I changed the grid to 8×8, 64 squares, to be in line with drawing in bytes. Here are some sketchbook pages working through this process.

I continued to make these colour palettes and included works by Agnes Martin and Wayne Thiebaud in the experiment.

With colour palettes and drawing redundant technology, however I am planning the next steps. I am in the midst of setting up a Commodore 64 console with old TV screen and have acquired a copy of original C64 drawing software and a Trojan screen drawing pen. Next I will be beginning an experimental journey into 8 bit drawing.

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