Eileen Isagon Skyers is an artist and curator currently residing in New York City. She primarily works in manipulating image, sound, text and found footage to create environments that explore how people are inextricably connected through the shared digital conscious that permeates our daily lives.
Where did you grow up and how did your environment influence you?
I grew up in Tampa, Florida but I was born in Manila, which is important to note, because I feel like certain circumstances arise when you’re born on an archipelago, and raised on a peninsula.
There are certain undercurrents that roll recklessly together and shift the ways you absorb and perceive things. I still think that the ocean, the gulf, and the expanses between my family in my early life bear a lot of influence on the ways I reconcile with our failure to communicate today, despite the wealth of tools we have at our disposal.
What is your background in art and media?
I’ve studied art since I was twelve, but I’ve always been illustrating and writing stories. I was initially interested in printmaking in high school, and I was obsessed with Rauschenberg. Then in undergrad I began to recontextualize the screen, and the window, and all the preconceptions we bring to them—like why do they have to be rectangular, or what is the appropriate length of time to sustain an image.
I was looking closely at interface history, so I started creating visual content in attempt to breach and blur those boundaries: projecting moving lips into coffee cups and eyeballs into picture frames. It all sort of continued from there.
As an introduction, how would you describe the work you create?
I work primarily with digital media.
I tend to splice together disparate moments and eras, allowing them to coalesce within a compressed period of time. I might cut between several iterations of the same rainstorm, captured and uploaded by several different users on YouTube. In essence, I’m really interested in looking at restrained self-expression, tactility and material histories now that the Internet has permeated all of these aspects of our daily lives.
I remember you mentioned that you love working in photography but wanted to be able to manipulate it more. How has photography influenced your work?
Photography has always moved me, because it is storytelling. I think that some people just have a keen eye for stories. I’ve always admired Lina Scheynius’ work, for instance, and my sister’s, but I’ve never personally felt like I could quite capture the entire narrative in one instant, centered. One thing I’ve learned in practice, though, is how to slow down.
Photography really asks us to interrogate the image, and seek what's behind it, and invested in it, and I think the same is true for each video frame. There is always something at stake.
What themes does your work generally revolve around?
I use my work to explore how we're inextricably linked as dispersed spectators. I can find mutual excitement, affect, and anxiety in series of posts about the same thing—it’s almost cathartic to me, even if it’s as simple as a tutorial, or an unboxing video. These people are in constant dialogue with one another, whether they’re aware of it or not. I’d like to think that somehow, by manipulating sound and image, found footage and text, I can tap into our shared anxieties to produce something subtle, or earnest.
A lot of your work involves creating environments and spaces that others can interact with. Can you describe your process in more detail?
I think we’re massively privileged as spectators, by virtue of the fact that we interact with visual fields on a constant basis. In order to influence, or contradict, those expectations, I guess, we have to experience something that vastly outcompetes our own approach to understanding the world. Some forms of VR approach can simulate this, but there are other aspects I like to explore in my installations: projecting into window panes, shifting scale, or using mirrored surfaces to conceal or reveal the viewer. It always starts with the footage though, the image is never arbitrary.
You were recently in a show titled No Domain presented at Littman Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Can you describe the show and your part in it?
Of course. No Domain is a two-person exhibition featuring myself and Carly Mandel. For this occasion, I was looking closely at material production. We take for granted that the very objects we depend on have material histories behind them. Liquid crystal displays, batteries and hardware are finite, and they each have a predictable connection to history. I actually looked at a lot of content—from marble being cut out of a mountain, to assembly lines, or earthquakes.
I found myself deeply invested in how these destinations are later reproduced in the form of interface points, or domains: digital destinations that could be inhabited through imaginary on-boarding bridges like apps, or websites. This pattern of thought culminated in three individual pieces. I also included an older video, twenty thousand miles (2016), which I felt was topical.
Alongside of personal work, you are also an editorial fellow at Rhizome based out of the New Museum in New York City. How has that experience been like for you?
I’ve been really grateful for the opportunity. Even familiarizing myself with the dialogues and individual practices of their Seven on Seven participants this year turned out to be equal parts intriguing and rewarding. I guess it made me feel a bit less like I’m on an island, and more like I’m in a crowded New Museum elevator.
What’s in your forecast for 2017?
I’m heading to Hawaii for a residency this summer. I want to stop texting so much, and talk to family more often. I look forward to forgetting how fortuitous and strange it is that I can order prepared food to my front door.
One book and one film recommendation.
Book: The Carnal Prayer Mat by Li Yu
Film: Jellyfish (2007)
Favorite instagram account of the moment?
@conversa__ is always good.