Bjarki and Thomas Harrington Rawle skewer online personas on ‘I Wish I Was A Model’

Stock footage and AI techniques combine on Rawle’s sardonic visual for Bjarki’s new single. Bjarki’s ‘I Wish I Was A Model’ is the latest release on Differance, the new label from the Icelandic techno producer and visual artist Thomas Harrington Rawle. The track’s visual is an extension of Rawle’s previous work in his Care More…
Bjarki and Thomas Harrington Rawle skewer online personas on ‘I Wish I Was A Model’

Stock footage and AI techniques combine on Rawle’s sardonic visual for Bjarki’s new single.

Bjarki’s ‘I Wish I Was A Model’ is the latest release on Differance, the new label from the Icelandic techno producer and visual artist Thomas Harrington Rawle. The track’s visual is an extension of Rawle’s previous work in his Care More universe, which exposes the absurdity of contemporary narratives of self-care through the fictional Care Corporation. His previous work, Affirmation Chamber, saw a human being gradually worn away into a smooth metallic humanoid, an idea that is explored from a different perspective in ‘I Wish I Was A Model’, whose video and repeated lyrical refrain function as a wry comment on how people view themselves in relation to their online personas.

“Care More is basically a response to that feeling,” Rawle says. “I’ve always felt making art is such a joyous and wonderful experience, the thru line of my experience in making things has been this. The Care More world is really just a mirror of this world and it helps me tie together my own visual language. I didn’t go to art school or have any formal education in doing what I do so putting it in an imaginary world which I can idly dream about helps makes the process make sense to me.”

While the previous two films in the Care More universe were made primarily with animation, the use of stock footage on ‘I Wish I Was A Model’ together with 3D graphics software Blender and text-to-image AI tool Stable Diffusion adds a new layer of disturbing realism to the ongoing narrative.

“I liked the idea of using Stable Diffusion to warp footage then selectively mask it out,” he says. “I was trying to find the most aspirational footage and throw it into what essentially feels like a meat grinder. I think essentially it feels like our world is becoming more and more fractured and in a state of decline. At the same time though there is this surge in technology. Also increasingly surreal ‘aspirational’ visions about how the world can work or what is important. It’s almost like normal, happy stress-free living is boarding a UFO and slowly taking off. Or sometimes I think of it like the titanic as one side sinks the other side is getting momentarily raised up sky high but then everybody slides down. So in that sense I liked the idea of viewing aspirational imagery and then throwing it through AI to make it somewhat abrasive.”

‘I Wish I Was A Model’ is also the latest in an ongoing collaboration between Rawle and Bjarki, which includes Affirmation Chamber and an AV live show, Look At Yourself. “I like to think the live shows are a bit like a live broadcast from that world.” Rawle says. The difference with the show is that we actively ask people to send pictures, videos and audio in so we can use it as a dataset and also as an input for the visuals. It was amazing when we did it in Amsterdam because people would see themselves on the screen or in the magazine and they had basically been processed in such a way that they would see a picture of someone that looked like them but not quite them, so it creates a bit of an uncanny valley experience.”

‘I Wish I Was A Model’ is the first single to be released on Bjarki and Rawle’s new label, Differance, which will also house Bjarki’s existing bbbbbb imprint. An extension of their ongoing audiovisual collaboration on and off stage, Differance is described as a new home to release and showcase AV projects, and will also incorporate a print magazine called GUM. “It’s the natural next step in our relationship, we can’t be together in a room without coming up with new ideas or stuff we would like to make,” Bjarki says. “Better to have one umbrella under all the things we would like to do, whether it is to start a strange magazine or an airline.”

GUM Magazine’s name comes from the idea that magazines are sometimes seen as disposable items. “Magazines are usually just like chewing gum, it’s single use. you look at it and throw it away – unless you are on the cover,” says Bjarki. “We like to create a magazine that can be based on maybe one person only, or a party. Focusing on forward-thinking art that is inspiring, a bit uncomfortable with volume of vulnerability and truth – candy for the brain.” The magazine will also use QR codes to link the reader direct to AV material that can’t be viewed on the printed page.

“Imagine a chewing gum that boosts your serotonin levels so much into a euphoric state but will taste like rotten horse marinated in chlorine. It will be something like that,” Bjarki says.

‘I Wish I Was A Model’ is out now. The track features on Bjarki’s new EP, ‘Look At Yourself Part 1’, which lands on Differance in January 2023. Bjarki and Rawle will also be playing live in forthcoming Foligno, Italy on 29 December and in London in the New Year.

Watch next: Richard Mosse on the making of Broken Sceptre

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